Municipal political parties not popular with Albertans, Leger poll shows

A new Leger poll shows Bills 18, 20 and 21 all fail to hold the support of a majority of Albertans, with strong opposition to measures designed to give cabinet the power to dismiss a mayor or councillor or ban the use of voting tabulators

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There are no big wins for three UCP government bills when it comes to public opinion, with the May Leger polls showing voters rejecting provincial encroachment on municipal affairs.

A new Leger poll shows Bills 18, 20 and 21 all fail to hold the support of a majority of Albertans, with strong opposition to measures designed to create municipal political parties or give cabinet the power to dismiss a mayor or councillor.

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“None are a particular slam-dunk for the government in terms of, ‘Wow, this is fantastic,’” said Andrew Enns, Leger’s executive vice-president for Central Canada.

Bill 20 a mixed bag

One of the most contentious pieces of legislation this spring, Bill 20 — the Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment — would mandate changes in how municipal elections are held, and how the provincial government can intervene.

Those polled were told the goal of Bill 20 is “to enhance the integrity of local elections, strengthen Albertans’ trust in local democracy and help municipalities accelerate housing development.”

About 40 per cent of Albertans polled agreed or somewhat agreed Bill 20 was a good bill, 26 per cent didn’t think it was a good bill, and 18 per cent didn’t have an opinion.

The less popular measures of the UCP government’s bill seeks to give the Cabinet new powers to compel city councils to amend or repeal municipal bylaws and to remove councillors, while also allowing party affiliations to be listed on municipal election ballots.

Forty per cent of Calgarians strongly/somewhat agreed the bill would be beneficial to municipalities and Albertans, while the number was 29 per cent in Edmonton. But 22 per cent of people in Edmonton strongly oppose it.

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When it comes to the breakdown of the main features of the bill, capping union and corporate donations has the highest net support, with 68 per cent, with 18 opposed, while creating political parties has the lowest, with 35 per cent, and 38 opposed.

“Across Alberta, Calgary, Edmonton and the rest of Alberta, we see really good support for the idea of limiting donations from unions and businesses to candidates in municipal elections (to $5,000),” Enns said.

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Municipal parties

Although UCP voters as a whole are far more likely than NDP voters to support Bill 20, the poll found the creation of municipal political parties appeared to get the lowest support, at 52 per cent.

“Of all the measures in Bill 20, … the creation of municipal political parties is the least supported one among UCP supporters,” Enns said.

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That compares to compared to 21 per cent support among NDP supporters, with just seven per cent strongly agreeing with the idea.

One quirky number connects some distant dots among Edmonton and Calgary municipal voters: those who would vote for someone other than Edmonton’s Amarjeet Sohi or Calgary’s Jyoti Gondek if an election were called are more supportive of all aspects of Bill 20 — apart from allowing for the creation of municipal political parties.

Dismissing councillors

Just 35 per cent of Albertans either favoured or strongly favoured the Bill 20 measure making the provincial government cabinet capable of dismissing a mayor or councillor.

Support ran a bit higher with 47 per cent support in Calgary, but lower in Edmonton at 34 per cent, and just 39 per cent in the rest of Alberta.

The current provincial Municipal Government Act lets citizens recall a council member through a recall petition process.

Support for tabulators

Just 36 per cent were in favour/somewhat in favour of Bill 20’s prohibition on electronic tabulators for election night counts, with a rural/urban divide on the matter.

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Support for the prohibition was lowest in the bigger cities, at 33 per cent in both Calgary, and Edmonton, where big vote counts could be slowed by paper ballots.

Support for banning tabulators was a bit higher in the rest of the province — still just at 44 per cent.

“Smaller municipalities … probably just don’t have the same number of electors, as opposed to (larger cities) that can get pretty busy at some polling stations,” Enns said.

Bill 18’s partisan divide

Albertans are torn regarding Bill 18, the Provincial Priorities Act.

Introduced April 10 by the UCP government, it would enact a mechanism for the provincial government to challenge actions by the federal government that are “deemed to overreach into provincial jurisdictions, such as federal influencing of housing and municipal zoning regulations.”

The Act would require municipalities, universities and other provincial entities to get provincial government approval for all funding arrangements with the federal government.

Asked how much they support or oppose the introduction of the bill, Albertans’s support and opposition were tied at roughly 40 per cent.

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However, 68 per cent of UCP voters support the bill, compared to 71 per cent of NDP voters opposed to it, with 58 per cent strongly opposed.

“Bill 18 is certainly a little bit divided in terms of support and opposition,” Enns said.

“This is a very partisan bill. It breaks quite starkly on partisan lines.”

Bill 21 less controversial

Introduced on May 9, the Emergency Statutes Amendment Act, 2024 didn’t offer the polled much to oppose. It was pitched as a bill supporting quicker wildfire response times, an area the majority of those polled already felt the government was doing a good job on.

The polled were told Bill 21 “would amend three acts to enhance the provincial government’s authority and ability to respond to emergencies like wildfires, floods or drought in a timely and efficient way.”

Just less than half of Albertans agree that Bill 21 would be beneficial, while an additional two in five are either neutral or unsure.

Albertans aged 55+ are more likely to agree that Bill 21 would be beneficial, as are UCP voters.

The pollster questioned 1,009 adult Albertans, 415 Calgary adults and 409 Edmonton adults, between May 22 and May 25. The poll yields a margin of error no greater than ±3.1% (19 times out of 20), Enns said.

The questions of the poll accept the UCP definition of what the bills’ intentions are, pulling definitions from government media releases, Enns said, with pollsters citing the stated UCP goal of the bill as the the goal of the bill.

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