File it under “Politics make strange bedfellows.” When Jason Kenney’s UCP government revised the rules for municipal elections, it paved the way for unlimited corporate and union donations to Third Party Advertisers (TPAs).
TPAs support candidates for city council and school boards with advertising campaigns, social media mobilization and door-to-door organizing. Although they do not select candidates for municipal elections and cannot coordinate with them, they provide well-funded, centralized and professional political support to candidates – political parties in all but name.
And while a few businesses and independent voters dipped their toes into the municipal campaigns of the year with their own TPAs, unions representing Calgary municipal workers rose to the occasion with enthusiasm.
Calgary for a Progressive Futurethe leading third-party advertiser backed by the City Hall and Calgary Transit unions, promoted a slate of candidates including Jyoti Gondek, the city’s new mayor.
Funding increased pay rates and staffing levels for the City’s unionized jobs means future increases in property taxes, increases that will do little to attract investment to the City and its downtown core. city under threat.
Only one major mayoral candidate has promised a four-year municipal tax holiday, and he has suggested that city hall workers could take a pay freeze to help make the tax freeze work. This candidate was attacked by Calgary for a Progressive Future and finished a distant second on election night.
Unions are an essential part of our political system in Canada. Everyone is free to organize and participate in elections. Unions, however, enjoy a great advantage under the UCP reforms, since donations from union members are tax deductible. When the rest of us are in favor of an APR, we do so with after-tax dollars.
Elections work best when voters have a choice and when all parties do their best to organize themselves. City hall unions are going to be deeply involved in city politics, and it’s high time the taxpayers got a TPA on their side as well.
Or, better yet, why not recognize that politics is a team sport and simply recognize that PTAs operate like political parties and should be organized like political parties.
Political parties bring many benefits to elections. They identify voters and bring them to the polls – which can only improve local politics when turnout is so low.
Parties make it easier for voters to determine where candidates stand on key municipal issues — another benefit in an election like this month’s Calgary race where so many incumbents were retiring and so many new faces were involved. And, finally, political parties check their candidates’ life histories for skeletons that should disqualify some from running. It’s hard to believe a municipal party would have let Sean Chu run given his checkered history. Municipal parties are reportedly on the lookout for similar problems with candidates running for other parties.
Although federal and provincial parties often apply rigid party discipline, municipal parties are unlikely to be such monoliths. Municipal politics is too close to the issues that matter to voters for city councilors to be held hostage by party leaders. And since the mayor is directly elected, council members can vote however they wish without unseating the mayor in the same way that a prime minister or prime minister can be unseated by losing votes on a budget bill.
For the provincial NDP, the Calgary election was a dry run for its 2023 provincial campaign.
Calgary for a Progressive Future is made up of the same public sector unions that form the backbone of the Alberta NDP. During the municipal campaign, they collected voter data, trained and organized teams of field workers, and identified candidates who will all be back in the field to defeat the UCP and return the NDP to power in less than two years. .
The UCP has opened the door to political party organizations at the municipal level, but it is time for the Kenney government to finish the job.
Municipal politics where only city hall unions are organized to support candidates will not help any municipality improve and will ultimately hurt the UCP at the provincial level.
Let the town hall unions throw a party, and let everyone throw parties to balance union influence.