Changes to Bencher Election Rules
After each Bencher election, the Law Society looks to improve the election processes and to ensure integrity and efficiency for the next election. As the 2020 Bencher election was done completely online for the first time, the Law Society undertook a review of the election processes and recommended rule changes to improve how the 2023 election will be conducted.
As set out in Section 14 of the Legal Profession Act (the Act), the Benchers may make rules governing elections on a broad range of matters, including the procedure and eligibility requirements for the nomination of candidates, eligibility for voting, dividing Alberta into election districts and the procedure for conducting the election generally. Currently, Rules 7-17 of the Rules of the Law Society of Alberta (the Rules) set out the details of how an election is to be conducted.
As the Rules were originally drafted to give effect to a paper-based election process, they needed to be rewritten to be consistent with an online election process. The Rules currently do not provide specific dates or timelines for the various steps in the election process, including the period for nominating candidates, the date to determine voting eligibility and the date by which voting information must be provided to eligible voters.
An online election process allows for some of the election process steps to be completed in a shorter time frame, with the Rules setting out specific timing for the various steps. Creating Rules to include specific timelines for key election processes provides clarity and certainty for the Law Society and the profession.
Key Rule Changes
The Rules do not provide any timeline for the actual date of the election. Section 12 of the Act provides that the Benchers shall determine the date of the election, and that it must be held between November 1st and December 15th every third year. Therefore, to create consistency and clarity for future Bencher elections, Rule 7 now provides that in an election year, the election will open on the second Tuesday of November and close on the third Tuesday of November, establishing an election period of one week.
Another key change to the Rules are with respect to the division of the province of Alberta through three Districts. Rule 8 provides that the province shall be divided into three districts, the Northern, Central and Southern Districts, while excluding the cities of Calgary and Edmonton. New subrule 9(1) maintains the original districts, but adds the City of Calgary and the City of Edmonton as their own separate districts. This removes the confusion as to the absence of Calgary and Edmonton from the original Rule. Subrule (2) clarifies that a minimum of one Bencher will be elected from each of the Northern, Central and Southern districts when at least one candidate has been nominated in the district to ensure representation from the smaller population of active members in those three districts.
Additionally, changes to the Nomination of a Candidate process was amended to streamline and simplify the nomination process. Previously, the candidates were required to submit their nomination form with the signature of five active members. The changes to the Rules now require the candidate to nominate themselves and have their nomination endorsed by two active members.
More information will be provided to the profession prior to the next Bencher election.