Alberta legislation would permit cabinet ministers to get involved in referendums

Alberta’s cabinet ministers may soon be allowed to get involved in referendum issues.

The Alberta government introduced the Election Status Amendment Act Monday, which would ensure members of cabinet could express their views on topics in referendums and participate in public debate.

Read more: Alberta premier promises referendum on equalization reform

Under the current rules, only MLAs who are not cabinet members can make public statements about matters in referendums.

“It is not appropriate for cabinet ministers who are elected by their constituents to not have the same privilege and opportunity that every other MLA in this province has to weigh in on referendum topics,” Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said.

Click to play video: 'Alberta premier promises referendum on equalization reform' Alberta premier promises referendum on equalization reform

Alberta premier promises referendum on equalization reform – Jun 18, 2020

Premier Jason Kenney has said a referendum on equalization payments will take place and should coincide with municipal elections in the province in October 2021.

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A referendum would not change the equalization formula, something that requires action by the federal government and other provinces, but the panel said it would compel federal officials to at least negotiate.

In addition to equalization, Kenney said he wanted to add more provincial issues to the municipal ballot. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi called the move disrespectful to citizens who want to focus on local issues during municipal elections.

READ MORE: Alberta Opposition NDP calls UCP referendum bill a covert Jason Kenney power grab

The proposed legislation brought forward Monday would also expand those eligible to run to be a trustee in francophone regional school authorities under the Education Act.

“We support strong francophone schools as part of a vibrant education system in our province,” Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said.

“That’s why Alberta’s government is amending the Education Act to broaden eligibility for francophone school board trustees as requested by the francophone community.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

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