Time change, equalization and Senate choices on Alberta's municipal ballots this fall

Albertans will have a long list of issues to decide on other than who will be their next community leader this fall.

Premier Jason Kenney announced another set of referendum questions that will be added to the ballots in the province-wide October municipal election. He says by adding the questions, it's giving Albertans a chance to speak on the issues that are important to them.

"On Oct. 18, as we committed to in our platform, Albertans will go to the polls to vote on reforming equalization on saying 'yes' to a fair deal," Kenney said Thursday.

He said the decision would "maximize our leverage" with the federal government over the issue.

The province had previously announced there will be a question on the fairness of equalization payments that the premier believes unfairly compensates other provinces with wealth generated in Alberta.

Ending equalization payments is not within provincial jurisdiction as it would require the removal of the arrangement from the constitution, a move that would need to be approved by the House of Commons, the Senate and at least two-thirds of the provincial legislative assemblies.

Kenney has stated the vote would make Albertans' views on equalization a 'political fact' that could lead to further negotiations with Ottawa.

QUESTION ON TIME CHANGE ADDED

Albertans will also be able to weigh in on a pressing issue for many people – whether or not to ditch the concept of shifting the clock twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall.

"This is an issue that Albertans have voted on twice in referendums in the past," Kenney said. "Back in the 1950s – and they chose the current system which has us changing the clock once a year."

He also noted that B.C., territories north of Alberta and U.S. states to the south have all already decided to stick with one time year-round.

"We think it's a good opportunity for Albertans to speak to an issue, which we think will affect them in a very direct way."

Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish says the government received more than 141,000 responses on a survey about time change that was conducted in late 2019.

"Since that time, my office has continued to receive a significant number of questions and correspondence on this issue," he said.

Glubish said the government would have already acted on those responses, but the COVID-19 pandemic began and forced legislators to focus on different priorities.

Now that the province is reopening, it's time to take another look at the "important question", he said.

"It is clear that Albertans are passionate about this and a change on this matter should not be taken lightly. How Albertans calculate time affects nearly every one of us including those outside our border."

The Oct. 18 ballot will also ask Albertans whether senators should be elected instead of being federally appointed.

"I raised this issue with Prime Minister Trudeau during his trip to Calgary last week, asking that the two current vacancies in the Canadian Senate for Alberta be left open so that they may be filled by the top two vote-getters of the Senate election on Oct. 18," Kenney said.

However, other issues, such as the removal of Alberta from the Canada Pension Plan or the creation of a provincial police agency, will not be on the ballot.

The government said it decided against including questions about those elements because it would be too much of an undertaking and further consultation would be needed.

The province has pledged $10 million to help municipalities deal with the added cost of referendum questions.

In Calgary, the voting process will include selecting a mayor from a field of 20 current candidates and a question on potentially returning fluoride to drinking water.