TLDR: Alberta’s opposition parties (especially the progressive NDP, Liberals, and Alberta Party) need to work together to give a lot more Albertans a voice in the Legislature.
Now, the long version:
So, I wouldn’t call myself a very political person. I’ve only ever volunteered to help one candidate do some door-knocking and I think I’ve only donated to one candidate (the same guy actually).
I’ve certainly been aware of politics and government, thanks to 15 years as a journalist. And, not being from Alberta, I am fascinated by a province that has had the same provincial government longer than any one party has ruled provincially or federally in Canada’s history.
Watching the opposition parties – the NDP. Alberta Liberals, Wildrose, and Alberta Party – fight amongst themselves for a few seats and a few newspaper quotes gets a guy down when he’d like to see a little evolution in political thinking and governance. Certainly the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta has stayed in power so long thanks to some re-positioning and swings around the right and centre of the political dial, but I can’t help but think they are also helped by the way we elect MLAs through a “first-past-the-post” vote (which is the standard across the country).
When we vote in a provincial election we choose the one person from the one party (or no party if they’re independent) we feel will best represent us at the Alberta Legislature. It’s a pretty good system and some of the time it gives a riding the person that most people felt was best. But, in some cases it sends a person to the Legislature who captured the most votes but fell short of convincing a majority of people in the riding they’re the best choice. When an MLA can win with 40% or 30% of the votes cast it starts to feel like there’s got to be a better way.
Now, I am in favour of changing the way we vote, using some kind of proportional representation to elect government. This might mean a preferential ballot, where you rank candidates 1,2,3 and if the leading candidate isn’t everyone’s first choice they are probably at least second best. That’s still better than the least favourite choice of more than half of voters winning (as currently could happen).
I don’t think we’re going to see that kind of change in Alberta (or maybe not even anywhere else in Canada) for at least a couple of elections. (The federal NDP is pushing for such change.) So, in the meantime I would ask the opposition parties to think about NOT running against each other in every riding.
I like to be for things instead of against them, I think it’s a better way to make change than being a hater. Instead of saying this about knocking the PC Party out (which would be a negative approach) I’m positioning this call for co-operation as a positive, in that plenty of people in Alberta cast votes that don’t get them representation so maybe shake things up for an election or two until a more permanent, better way is created and we have a new option when we vote. We certainly saw progressive voters put the PC Party back into power in 2012, some likely holding their nose to vote to keep the Wildrose from forming a right-leaning government. That election is why I think progressive voters need a better choice at the ballot box.
I think the Alberta Party has been the most vocal, along with some Liberal MLAs about working with the other progressive parties. I would add the Wildrose to the mix in some of the ridings the party still holds after a mass defection to the PC Party. The NDP and the Liberal party itself appear to be against co-operation but I think it’s to their detriment. And that means it’s to the detriment of progressive, socially-minded voters who would support those two parties.
Laurie Blakeman has managed to swing some change in her riding of Edmonton-Centre. She will be the candidate for the Alberta Liberals and also the Alberta Party and Green Party of Alberta (a non-factor in our current system with first-past-the-post voting) meaning Edmonton-Centre voters can shoose Blakeman, the PC candidate, or the NDP candidate. As the incumbent, Blakeman’s already got a headstart on challengers, but this is a good model for other ridings.
I’m not endorsing moving to a two-party system where it would be a left-leaning party and a right, or PCs vs. NDP, which is why I think co-operation is the right move right now. And once the non-PC parties can form a coalition or minority government they could table legislation to change the voting system. Then they could go back to all running candidates in every riding because everyone would have a fairer chance at winning over voters.
In practical political terms, the smaller parties are in tough against a well-funded PC Party of Alberta. That means the PCs have money to put into the dozen or two campaigns where they face a challenge and spend a lot of money on advertising. If the opposition parties worked together and made more of the races ONE candidate vs. the PC candidate the long-governing PC Party now has to spend money and work for votes in almost every riding. It spreads their election machine thinner, which means they really do need to have winning candidates and policies to form government again.
Right now, they’ll face 20 or so tough races and outspend the other parties which will be lucky to win 20 or so of Alberta’s 87 seats.
I don’t know what the right plan is, or what the political campaigns could look like, but I think the opposition parties, especially the NDP, Liberals, and Alberta Party, need to work together to run the strongest candidate they can in every riding to give progressive voters a choice against a tired, oil-reliant PC government. There may be some voters who have to hold their nose while they vote, not happy about casting a ballot for the NDP or the Alberta Party, but I think that’s better in one election than watching the PCs sweep to another majority where their governing policy seems to be hoping for high oil prices.
/unsolicited political advice
No matter what happens in the next election (expected almost immediately), if you want to know more about the political parties in Alberta, head to their websites. Once the election is called you’ll be able to learn more about their policy ideas and how to volunteer and donate for the ideals and ideas you most believe in.
Alberta Party – Currently has no MLAs elected
PC Party of Alberta – Current governing party
Wildrose Party – Current Official Opposition
Daveberta also has a candidate list, tracking everyone being nominated for each party in every riding.