LETHBRIDGE, AB – Albertans want disclosure, transparency and proper reporting when it comes to campaign contributions for municipal candidates.
That, from Barry Morishita, who is the former president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association.
While we don’t usually associate partisan politics with municipal elections, it seemed to be top of mind for many voters last month and Morishita says full disclosure before the election should be a priority “because I think it does matter to people, where they would vote depending on where people collect their money.”
Morishita adds there’s this “false narrative” that disclosure pre-election would scare away potential donors.
He says “if you’re not participating by being a candidate, but you’re interested in participating by being a donor, if your goals and motivation is noble, you should not have any problem with anybody seeing that you gave to X candidate because you thought they were a great candidate.”
Candidates are not required to disclose their financial contributions until March 1, 2022 though some in Lethbridge did choose to make their list public prior to election day. Those details will be published on the City of Lethbridge website in March.
Morishita also points to third party spending as a potential inroad for partisan politics in municipal government, saying “if we don’t have disclosure, particularly now with third party advertisers being able to spend $250,000, over a period of time, if we don’t react and respond properly to this, we will have undue influence on campaigns.”
The Local Authorities Elections Act was modified by the UCP government which Morishita says allowed third party advertisers to spend up to $250,000 without disclosure, with disclosure for any spends above that amount not due until March 2022 “which is well past the election period and therefore wouldn’t likely have any bearing on what people might think of who gave what and how they gave it.”
Morishita was the guest speaker at the most recent virtual Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs presentation.
He stepped down as president of the AUPE this past summer and moved into the provincial arena, taking on leadership of the Alberta Party.