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Council discusses implications of Bill 20

Town council hosted a lengthy discussion on how Bill 20 can impact both Cochrane, and the municipal sector as a whole, at the July 2 committee of the whole meeting.
Council held a lengthy discussion regarding Bill 20, and what it means for Cochrane and the municipal sector as a whole.

A presentation at the July 2 committee of the whole meeting examined what the possible future of Bill 20 can have for the future of local politics in Cochrane.

In a presentation by Cochrane’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Mike Derricott, he outlined that Bill 20, The Municipal Affairs and Statues Amendment Act, would have impacts on the municipal sector as a whole.

Bill 20

Bill 20 aims to introduce several changes to the Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA) and the Municipal government Act. It is expected to largely surround municipal elections, including school board elections, and also address councillor conduct, recall, corporate and union donations and reporting, and housing.

The intention of the report was to draw attention to particular areas in the proposed legislation where there would be direct impacts to Cochrane.

“And that’s not to say that there might not be broader impacts in the municipal industry and some of those other areas,” Derricott said.

The most immediate impacts fall under changes to the LAEA. This includes financial reporting for candidates, and the ability for local jurisdictions to require a criminal record check as part of the candidacy process.

“To our understanding at this point, that doesn’t mean that someone can’t run, it just means that it could be known that they have that kind of a background as that part of the process,” Derricott said.


Without question, Derricott said the most practical piece of the report is the restriction against using electronic vote tabulators.

“Through general dialogue in the municipal industry, this one seems the concerning,” Derricott said. “And I say without any substantial understanding of how this improves our current processes, certainly our perspective is that this actually makes things worse in a couple of meaningful ways.”

Derricott says this will make calculating election results take longer, adding that the current process allows for results to be calculated within a few hours an election closing.

“Under a format where we would have to go to manual counting, we wouldn’t expect to have results probably well into the next day at least, and perhaps even longer, depending on the number of voters and other processes,” he explained.

He added that this would cost also cost Cochrane more money.

With discussion at the provincial level to include some funding for this change for municipalities, Derricott said it’s fair to say that at minimum there hasn’t been any firm commitments, and he is skeptical that there will be a meaningful program that will cover the costs for municipalities to make the switch.

Local Political Parties

One topic surrounding Bill 20 that many municipalities are concerned about involves the introduction of political parties at the local level.

“The current bill only contemplates this in our two largest cities in Alberta, Calgary and Edmonton,” Derricott said. “However, I do think that there is a reasonable concern that this could be the sharp edge of the wedge that starts a changing process as part of that.”

Derricott noted that according to feedback and submissions from Alberta Municipalities, it outlined that this makes direct changes to what makes local governments the most effective, and an overall practical order of government.

“In that, those that sit at a bench like yourselves as elected officials are unburdened by partisanship and that can act in the best interests of the community, in all that they do,” he said.

By switching to more party-based or a more politically-charged environment, he said it would erode the best parts of what’s observed at the local government level.

“Not an immediate concern in our community, however I think that I would be noted and be aware of,” Derricott said.


Before moving to questions from council, Derricott included two responses from the Mid-sized Cities Mayor Caucus (MCMC) and Alberta Municipalities.

The MCMC, currently chaired by Mayor Jeff Genung, is concerned about the consultation and information aspect, and request to the province be more directly involved in development of some of the regulation.

Derricott said the second submission from Alberta Municipalities is more critical on the legislation, which lists how it will degrade local government, while stressing the relationship between municipalities and the province.

Mayor Genung wanted to clarify the MCMC’s approach, explaining that the caucus took criticism from other associations saw the group as in favour of Bill 20.

“That is not accurate at all,” Genung said. “We actually didn’t take a stance at all. We did not choose to criticize the province for legislation they were proposing at that time. We chose to ask questions and that actually got us a couple of meetings.”

Genung said that this led to five phone calls and an in-person meeting with Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver, where it made it possible to ask questions and give feedback on the topic, prior to the legislation passing.

“They did make amendments, which I think softened some of the approach that they had taken initially,” he said. “But I want to be clear that we took a different approach than most, and I think It worked in our favour as we received meetings and we’re actually getting a follow up with Minister McIver and Premier during Stampede next week.”

Letter to Minister McIver

Genung suggested that a letter should be written to Minister McIver regarding their concerns. Although he didn’t promise anything, Genung said council should still outline the financial implications it could have.

“We don’t know exactly the amount, but the concerns of at least the financial implications,” Genung said. “Minister McIver did outline - if you’re having impacts in your community financially, please outline them to me.”

Council agreed with the idea of sending a letter to Minister McIver, with a suggestion by Coun. Tara McFadden to also include levels of concern, financial impacts for municipalities, and non-statutory studies as requirements for building and development.

With summer looming, and council gone for summer recess, administration will prepare and circulate it by email for general approval, in order to remain timely.

Jeff’s Political Party for Cochrane

Prior to discussing political parties at the local level, Genung outlined that he has been on record saying that political parties should stay out of municipal politics.

“When I asked Minister McIver about that directly, he said there’s a lot of misinformation around what that means,” Genung said. “It’s not provincial or federal affiliated parties, it is a slate of candidates or their outline of a party.”

He believes that they’ve done a poor job of outlining the thought process behind this, jokingly adding that it wouldn’t be something along the lines of ‘Jeff’s Party for Cochrane.’

“There’s already one that sprung up in Edmonton for a cause, and they’re trying to attract candidates to run under that slate as a party,” Genung explained. “Minister McIver said that’s already happening, we might as well make it transparent.”

One aspect of the legislation Genung agrees with is the province being responsible for the recall of elected officials. Traditionally, CAO’s would be responsible for the process, but Genung thinks it’s a good move by the province to deal with that since they enacted the legislation.


One question by Coun. Patrick Wilson regarding cost imposed on municipalities, brought forward a discussion on how this would bring an estimated $150,000 ongoing annual cost.

This would increase costs to the reserve fund to ensure that there is enough to run both elections back-to-back. Some costs haven’t been reflected as the full impact remains unknown until more regulation comes forward. It is anticipated that these costs would be reflected in the upcoming winter budget.

Deputy Mayor Morgan Nagel commented on the ballot boxes, adding he supports paper ballots Canada-wide.

“I know the whole thing’s been mired by the craziness in the United States, but I think as we look to the long-term future, I think cyber security is incredibly important,” Nagel said. “We have seen things in recent years where suspected international actors have shut down entire pipelines in countries, and there’s been looming threats with financial systems and stuff like that.

“I think when the world looks to the next 50 to 100 years in a world of AI and stuff like that, I think paper ballots is a good way to protect democracy in Canada. So, even though it sounds crazy, I think it’s a great idea.”

Like everyone on Council, Nagel said he supports the criminal record check. It was also explained that if a criminal record check is not filed with the nomination paperwork, the returning officer cannot accept it.

Furthermore, a question posed by Coun. Wilson clarified that this does not prohibit people from running if they have a criminal record, it just allows for transparency for potential voters to know and understand the potential background of a candidate.

In closing, Derricott said that there is a lot of conversation in the municipality industry outlining that Bill 20 is a poor piece of legislation, but he believes there are some really positive aspects in it.

He also addressed two pieces of note; the province’s ability to overturn a bylaw, and the cabinet’s ability to remove an elected official.

“These are major powers that largely exist already for the province, and that they’re trying to create better process around that,” he said. “We’ve seen some communities in our region that struggled with this process, and I think you can understand why the province would be wanting to ensure those tools are functioning, so that when they’re needed, they’re available.”

Daniel Gonzalez

About the Author: Daniel Gonzalez

Daniel Gonzalez joined the Cochrane Eagle in 2022. He is a graduate of the Mount Royal University Journalism program. He has worked for the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta and as a reporter in rural Alberta for the ECA Review.
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