It’s election day tomorrow! And after voting in the morning the best way to keep the election day vibe going is a good playlist.
I’m taking my cues from the campaigns, where the NDP have tried to offer Albertans a new kind of government (and certainly new period, as the PC Party has governed for 44 years) while the Tories have ramped up the fear-mongering (as have the Wildrose in the last days of the election, warning of the socialist takeover). Whatever happens it feels like something different is coming to Alberta on Tuesday.
So, I used hope and fear as inspiration, with some Alberta artists thrown in to keep it local.
Don’t forget to vote! And let me know what you’d put on your playlist.
The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Bob Dylan
Hope In Dirt City – Cadence Weapon
The Canadian Dream – Sam Roberts
Changes – David Bowie
Edmonton – The Rural Alberta Advantage
All Hell For A Basement – Big Sugar
Wake Up – Arcade Fire
A Change Would Do You Good – Sheryl Crow
Orange Crush – R.E.M.
No Champagne Socialist – The Arkells
Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan
Gettin’ Down On The Mountain – Corb Lund
Viva La Vida – Coldplay
All These Things That I’ve Done – The Killers
Scared – The Tragically Hip
Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Rising
The Greatest – Cat Power
How You Like Me Now – The Heavy
Everybody’s Changing – Keane
Look Happy, It’s The End Of The World – Matthew Good Band
PC Party bonus track: Burn It To The Ground – Nickelback
Alberta Bonus track: The Dethbridge in Lethbridge – The Rural Alberta Advantage
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.
After Alison Redford became Alberta’s Premier-Designate Sunday morning (and even before the results were official) some smaller-c Progressive Conservatives mused that the Alberta PC Party got hijacked by (scary, awful, terrifying, communist) non-tradidional PC members who bought a $5-membership and voted for the candidate that had more Progressive with her Conservative.
Some of those people might have even been in unions. Unions!
Those frightened and confused party members need to check their own membership card and refer to the “P” in PC Party of Alberta. Also, you don’t get to raise a bunch of money on $5-memberships without a hiccup or two in your plans.
After Gary Mar’s pitches on private healthcare and Alison Redford’s promise to stay with public healthcare, and also to instantly put $100-million into school board budgets, it is not surprising that Albertans who value a public health system and more stable funding for education decided to buy a membership with a party they may never have voted for in a general election. That’s not unions or liberals trying to rule from outside. That’s change.
I like to think this signals something important. Perhaps Albertans stopped seeing the leadership race as something just for the Tory party and got engaged in a vote that also impacts them.
My sunshine and rainbows view on this is that there were indeed lots of “two-minute Tories” because these people were looking beyond party lines. They may never vote for an Alberta Progressive Conservative again. Or maybe this will set in motion the option for them to do so.
It would be so nice to think beyond the colour of ones campaign signs.
If any of those extra thousands of people who showed up for Alison Redford are like me, they never had a PC Party of Alberta membership (or any party membership at all), they never voted for the PC party, but they are engaged citizens. They saw in Alison Redford someone who was at the cabinet table when dodgy decisions were made, but might have been on the outside of some of those calls.
Her lack of Tory MLA support signalled she was not part of the old boys club. Her support for an inquiry on healthcare queue-jumping and government transparency was refreshing. Rightly or wrongly, that pushed people to join the PC Party of Alberta, even for a day.
This leadership race says, to me, that party lines are not as solid as so many in partisan politics would like to think. People are after change, and, given the chance, people are going to defy party lines to make that happen.
Good luck to Alison Redford. Perhaps more than the last few Premiers of Alberta, she’s got an entire province waiting to see how things get done at the Alberta Legislature.