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Municipal Politics 101: What You’re Voting For

Lethbridge votes on a new mayor and eight city council members on October 16.

Municipal politics are notorious for low engagement. There are three levels of government in Canada: federal, provincial, and municipal. Voter turnout is lowest by far at the municipal level.

There’s an interest from the general public to participate in the municipal election, but it is overwhelming to try to make sense of. Unfortunately, this means a lot of people just don’t participate. Let’s change this!

Since we created our election section of Your Quintessential Lethbridge with survey questions of all 32 candidates, we’ve received tremendous feedback from Lethbians who find municipal politics uninteresting or unapproachable. They’re excited to read something relatable! But we’ve been asked several times to also provide a basic explanation of how municipal politics work.

This article is not for the political junkies. This is for the majority that care about our community but don’t follow politics closely.

What They Do

Municipal governments are within the jurisdiction of the provincial government. The power of the municipality is chiefly in creating local by-laws. Municipalities also manage transportation, public utilities, planning and development, social programs, culture and recreation, and local police and firefighting stations.

The municipality raises funds primarily through property tax, which are used to pay for all of these services. And municipalities are different from provincial and federal governments in that it is not lawful for a municipality to operate on a funding deficit.

While a municipality does receive some provincial funding and can also access some federal funding through specific programs (like for major transit projects), municipalities are largely funded by the local taxpayer base.

How It Works

 Lethbridge City Council Chambers  (Photo:  Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce )
Lethbridge City Council Chambers (Photo: Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce )

In Lethbridge, eight city councillors and one mayor are elected for a four-year term. The mayor presides at council meetings, but otherwise doesn’t have much more power than the council members.

Committees are formed around individual issues (like curbside recycling), and make recommendations to the council who then vote on whether to approve or reject the recommendation.

Election Day

On October 16, from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., all Lethbridge residents who are at least 18 years of age, are Canadian citizens, and have lived in Alberta for the past six months, will have the opportunity to help shape our city.

When you vote, you will be able to vote for one or none of the three mayoral candidates. You’ll also vote for city councillors. Out of the 29 individuals running, you can choose to vote for any number up to eight councillor candidates.

For more details about the candidates, when to vote, where to vote, and everything else, we have provided another article outlining all of that information.

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