Amendments are coming to the Alberta government's Bill 20.

The bill, known as the Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act, was immediately met with backlash after its April 25 unveiling due to its proposed amendments to the Local Authorities Election Act and the Municipal Government Act that would bring about significant changes to municipal elections and governance.

That includes giving the provincial cabinet the ability to remove elected municipal councillors, and to require the repeal or amendment of bylaws to, in the words of Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver, "to protect the provincial interests."

It would also introduce party affiliations into local elections, starting in Calgary and Edmonton as a pilot project.

Several of Alberta's municipal leaders, including Okotoks Mayor Tanya Thorn, have been vocal in their opposition to the bill since its announcement, with many feeling the changes would undermine the role of elected municipal officials and change local elections for the worse.

This morning (May 2), a week after the bill's announcement, Minister McIver released a statement seemingly in response to the criticism.

The statement outlines planned amendments to the bill, to be made in consultation from municipalities.

"When a councillor has betrayed the public trust and it’s in the public interest to remove them, swift action should be taken to remove them. As municipal councillors and mayors are locally elected by their constituents, Alberta’s government recognizes this authority should only be used as a last resort, which was always the intent of this legislation," reads the statement.

McIver was quoted as saying the province will be working with municipalities to propose amendments to Bill 20, emphasizing that the power to remove elected officials "would only be used in very limited circumstances."

Specifics on what those circumstances would be have not yet been outlined by the provincial government.

The same consultation will be done for the cabinet's power to amend or repeal bylaws, should the bill pass.

Again, McIver emphasized that such action would only be taken in certain cases.

"This is quite serious, and we would not do this lightly. We will also be working with municipalities to propose amendments for the legislation and clarify that this would only be used in very limited circumstances related to areas that are primarily overseen by the province, like health care, education, the provincial economy or public safety."

During the April 25 announcement of Bill 20, Minister McIver was asked for an example of the kind of bylaw the Province would order to be repealed or amended. 

The example he gave was the City of Edmonton's masking bylaw that was maintained during the COVID-19 pandemic after the provincial government eased their mask mandate.

McIver closed his May 2 statement by reaffirming the intent of Bill 20.

"The role of an elected official is one with tremendous responsibility and expectations. The Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act will strengthen the accountability of locally elected officials and councils while balancing the need to support local autonomy in areas of municipal oversight."