Last night the Calgary Leadership Forum sponsored an all-candidates debate and forum for the Calgary-Foothills by-election at Foothills Alliance Church in Edgemont. The six party-affiliated candidates were present, Antoni Grochowski (Independent) was absent. The event was reported in the Herald and on CBC and CTV last night.
Fair Vote Calgary was also present to explain Fair Voting and Proportional representation at our table in the lobby. A number of people were interested and took tabloids, business cards and promised to learn more. Some of the interested people mentioned that they had used PR in other countries before coming to Canada. We were able to explain that any PR system used in Canada would be designed here, for use here, and the poor experiences of the often quoted examples of why PR is ‘bad’ were relevant only to that country and were not representative of PR everywhere. Some of the table visitors signed the Declaration of Voters’ Rights or promised to do so on line. A few conservative-oriented people said they prefer the present FPTP voting method, including the Interim Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, Ric McIver.
Fair Vote Calgary’s web site shows where – or if! – the candidates stand on PR; there’s more information here, which will be updated as we find out more.
If you are a Calgary-Foothills Voter, please make sure you get out to vote either at the Advance Polls or on Election Day. More information at Elections Alberta’s web site.
That’s the headline in DeSmog Canada’s latest on-line edition. You can read the article here.
Emma Gilchrist, author of the article and now Executive Director of DeSmog Canada, is a former Calgarian. Emma initiated the Herald’s Green Guide several years ago.
I have received calls and emails asking how would the result have been different under proportional representation? In my earlier post below ‘New Democrats Must Fix the Voting System’ I offered a very simple version of what might have been, just converting the Elections Alberta Interim Results into seats. Wilf Day has written a much deeper analysis and sophisticated projection in his blog.
It is clear that proportional representation would end the false majorities we have been experiencing in many recent federal and provincial elections. Instead of the FPTP ‘winner’ being able to ride roughshod over the opposition and push through whatever policy or legislation it wanted in a ‘winner takes all’ result, debate in the legislature or parliament would have to change. The legislature becomes a debating and negotiating chamber. Policies and legislation reflect what all Albertans want. If every vote were a free vote (I can dream!) the end of each debate would be reached in a consensus or group decision. Democracy wins.
Congratulations to the Alberta New Democrats on ‘winning’ the 2015 Alberta general election. Everyone put in a tremendous effort, led by new NDP Leader Rachel Notley and a Notley Crûe of candidates, volunteers and eventually voters who turfed the 44 year Progressive Conservative dynasty. Another ‘orange crush’. Democracy is great, when it works.
What Alberta voted for is not what Alberta got because of the archaic First Past The Post (FPTP) voting system we continue to use. While the television reporters and pundits were wondering at the magnitude of the NDP ‘win’, others were looking behind the numbers on the screen.
There are about 2.5 million ‘electors’ in Alberta and about 58% turned out to vote, according to Elections Alberta which also says 1,162,877 votes were cast. My Vote Should Count says 797,564 votes did not help to elect anybody. That’s 797,564 / 1,162,877 (53.82%) wasted or ‘unrepresented’ votes. So if just over half the electorate voted, and less than half of those votes served to elect someone – was democracy served? Since the NDP obtained 41% of the popular vote, did they really ‘win’ the election?
Because of inherent bias in our FPTP system (which was designed for two-candidate elections), the results are a grossly distorted ‘false majority’ (as were the 2012 provincial general election, the 2011 federal general election, and most others before that).
The MLAs we voted for if we had province-wide proportional representation [PR] would have been:
NDP: 36, PC: 24, WRP: 21, ALP: 4, Alberta Party: 2 seats.
What we got was:
NDP: 53, PC: 10, WRP: 21, ALP: 1, Alberta Party: 1 seat.
That assumes that everyone would have voted under PR the way they did under FPTP, which is unlikely. Under PR there would probably have been a larger turnout of the electorate since more votes would have helped to elect someone.
FPTP leads to strategic voting which further distorts the results of an election: ‘I have to vote for A (who has a better chance of winning) so as to defeat B (who I don’t like and don’t want to win) when I would prefer to vote for C (whose policies I really agree with and want to see implemented)’. How many voted like that on May 5, to ‘punish’ the party or candidate that ‘misbehaved’ in the eyes of a voter? Would a different result have come about if no-one ‘had to’ vote strategically? That is the biggest advantage of PR. A voter can be confident that the candidate, or at least the party they represent, will be elected to the legislature in proportion to the popular vote so everyone’s voice is heard to some extent.
Now is the time to change the voting system, to Make Every Vote Count and ensure that 2015 is the last unfair election. The New Democratic Party has made proportional representation its policy, both federally and provincially, so here again is an opportunity for the NDP to show that Alberta is a progressive place and become the first jurisdiction in Canada to introduce PR – and catch up to most of the modern democracies in the rest of the world. In a poll conducted for LeadNow and Fair Vote Canada in 2013, 70% of Canadians were reported to be in favour of PR. All the many commissions conducted over recent years have recommended PR as the new, right way to go. It hasn’t been adopted because politicians in power have obfuscated and rejected change; the system that got them into power is just fine for them! We mustn’t let the NDP adopt that position. Now is the time to initiate this change in Alberta. There are four years ahead of us to assess and design a system which would be used in 2019.
The Calgary Herald called for letters advising the (at that time unknown) Premier what should be task #1after the election. My letter said:
• Imagine a legislature which reflected the members that Albertans voted for and wanted to see there!
• Imagine not having to vote strategically to ensure someone you didn’t want was elected, to be sure someone you really didn’t want was defeated.
• Imagine an electoral system where every vote counted to electing a legislature member.
• Imagine a legislature where the membership reflected the popular vote.
• Imagine a legislature where debate was collegial, not adversarial, in the best interest of all Albertans.
• Imagine, and work for, a proportional representation electoral system;
• Make 2015 the last unfair election.
It is up to Albertans to make sure their MLAs know our priorities and pressure them now to introduce this up to date electoral system.
Rob Lewis – a 34 year old junior high science teacher, hasn’t voted for many years. The CBC Eyeopener is asking people to persuade Rob to vote — here is Fair Vote Calgary’s effort.
Rob – your vote is important, even if it doesn’t serve to elect someone. What?
By NOT even going to vote, you are signalling that you accept the present state of affairs, which you clearly don’t. Your comments about not finding someone suitable to vote FOR are fine, but you can more effectively register a protest by going to the poll, registering to vote, and declining to accept a ballot.
Some people choose to spoil their ballot. This doesn’t tell anyone anything – you might have made a mistake in marking the paper, or you might have written ‘None of the Above’, or marked the ballot in a preferential order. None of that will be recorded – just that the ballot was spoiled and discarded.
Under the present First-Past-The-Post system only the votes for the candidate who gets the most are counted toward electing someone. In a four-candidate electoral district, that could be as low as 30% of the vote. That means 70% of the votes cast did not elect anyone – they are ‘wasted’. No wonder even those of us who DO vote are dissatisfied with the present system; there IS a better way!
Proportional representation works to make every vote count toward electing someone; the way the ballots are designed and the way the votes are counted makes all the difference. The goal is to ensure that the representation in the legislature or Parliament reflects the provincial or national popular vote. Get 39% of the vote – get 39% of the seats; not 60% of the seats (and 100% of the power!) This is not unique to the present federal government – in 2012, in Alberta, the PCs got 44% of the vote, 61 of 87 (70%) seats in the legislature, so 100% of the power.
So, Rob, carefully evaluate the parties’ policies and support — that is, get out on Tuesday (or in an advance poll) — and vote for a candidate who will support the introduction of proportional representation, regardless of political colour or stripe. You can find out a lot more on Fair Vote Calgary’s web site here and here. In Alberta, we need a simple majority, 44 of 87 MLAs (50.6%), to support proportional representation, and then you will have helped make 2015 the last unfair election.
Leader, Fair Vote Calgary – a Fair Vote Canada Action Team
Make Every Vote Count! Make 2015 the Last Unfair Election!
Alberta’s general election has been called for Tuesday 5 May 2015, and at the half-way mark:
* I have emailed (nearly#) all 150 Calgary area candidates asking them to declare their position on proportional representation (PR) by signing the Declaration of Voters’ Rights – Politician’s Pledge. So far, five have replied and signed the declaration.
* I have sought the position on PR of the various parties and their leaders – their declared positions are shown here
* This evening the four party leaders who already had representatives in the legislature at dissolution debated on television what journalists and some Albertans thought were important matters. Electoral reform was not even mentioned. The Green Party, Alberta Party, Social Credit Party and Communist Party leaders were not included in the debate.
* As campaigning proceeds and if the positions change, these pages will be updated.
# Some candidates have not published email addresses, and the Alberta Liberal Party has created a web page with a contact form which does not serve our purposes – so below there is an open letter to Liberal candidates.
Dear Alberta Liberal Party Calgary Area Candidate:
I tried to write to you individually but regrettably your web sites do not provide email addresses so I am compelled to address you openly, in the same manner as I have emailed individually all other Calgary area candidates of all political parties.
Please excuse the impersonal addressing . . .
I’m writing on behalf of Fair Vote Calgary to seek your signature to the Declaration of Voters’ Rights — Politician’s Pledge, which in short says that you will work toward getting proportional representation (PR) introduced in Alberta. The Pledge is attached; I ask you to print, sign, scan and return the document to me (or mail it back to me at the address below). Please keep a copy to display in your campaign headquarters. I have created a page on the Fair Vote Calgary web site on which I will publish the names of candidates who are in favour of PR and who have signed the Pledge.
I am in the process of contacting all Calgary area candidates from all parties for this information. The goal is to tell all Calgary area voters which candidates are in favour of PR so their voting intentions are informed. From the Alberta Liberal party’s web site, the policy seems not to be in favour of PR since it states under Better Democracy: “Change Alberta’s electoral system to instant-runoff (preferential) voting.” This of course is not proportional representation – it is in fact a more severe form of the present undemocratic form of First-Past-the-Post, where 50% plus one would see a candidate elected, leaving 50% minus one who would not be represented at all.
PR seeks to ‘Make Every Vote Count’ and Fair Vote Calgary’s intention is to ‘Make 2015 the Last Unfair Election’. Under PR, almost every vote would help to elect a candidate, and the resulting legislature would reflect the popular vote rather than the distortions which now result from FPTP (and would be aggravated by Instant Run-off or preferential voting, unless the preferential system incorporated a measure to achieve PR).
PR is used in advanced democracies world-wide; only a few countries still use our present outdated First-Past-the-Post majoritarian-plurality system. In a national poll conducted for Fair Vote Canada and LeadNow by Environics in 2013, 70% of Canadians strongly or somewhat supported the adoption of PR. 77% of Liberals strongly or somewhat supported the adoption of PR. If the 2012 general election had been conducted under PR, by my calculation the legislature would have “ … had nine MLAs from each of the Liberal and New Democratic Parties and one Alberta Party MLA. Most interesting of all, there could have been 30 Wildrose and 38 Progressive Conservative MLAs …” (before the by-elections and floor-crossings last fall; from my personal blog at http://hambridge.com/index.php/conservative-alberta-elections-and-fair-voting/).
There is much more information in the documents also attached ‘Why PR – Review of Evidence’ and ‘Fair Vote Canada FAQ’. I also ask you to consider the questions on Qs for Candidates and add your brief thoughts or questions. If you return them, we will do our best to address them for you before the election.
Leader, Fair Vote Calgary – a Fair Vote Canada Action Team
Make Every Vote Count! Make 2015 the Last Unfair Election!
1003-4555 Varsity Lane NW Calgary, AB T3A 2V6
Phone +1 403 239 5516
Below is a compilation taken from the Elections Alberta October 2014 by-election results. The analysis was done by Ottawa Fair Vote Canada volunteer Julien Lamarche, and will be repeated for the anticipated Alberta General Election.
Winner-take-all systems (both first past the post and preferential ballot – i.e., Instant Run-off or the Alternative Vote) have a high rate of wasted or unrepresented votes. An unrepresented vote is a vote that will not be represented in the legislature because it did not go to the winning candidate. But most democracies have moved on to some form of proportional voting system which greatly diminishes the lack of representation (to about 5% of unrepresented votes). A proportional voting system also eliminates false government majorities since representation in the legislature reflects the ‘popular vote’, that is the number of MLAs and their party affiliation reflects the way people actually voted.
Proportional representation also encourages more people to vote, since their vote is no longer unrepresented or ‘wasted’ – it actually helps to elect someone they want![table “1” not found /]
Unrepresented votes in the four by-elections, by party:
Wildrose Party: 13,808
Liberal Party: 4,946
New Democratic Party: 4,402
Alberta Party: 4,091
Green Party of Alberta: 356
Independent, Others: 23
More information: Fair Vote Canada
Fair Vote Canada National Executive Director: Kelly Carmichael firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about counting unrepresented votes and script author: Julien Lamarche email@example.com
Code available on Github
If you wish to help change this unfair system:
Sign the Declaration of Voters Rights;
Join or donate to Fair Vote Canada;
During the election: Retweet relevant @cyclingzealot, #wastedvotes tweets
After the election: follow and retweet @FairVoteCanada, #pr2015 and #fairvote
The PCs are morally obliged under the 2011 Election Amendment Act to stay in office until March 2016. To call a general election now would snub the PCs’ own legislation which is just over two years old, even though subsection 1 allows the Premier of the day to call an election when he wants. Subsection 2 was enacted to replace whimsy and established a fixed term. To replace MLAs who have resigned – call by-elections.
The PCs now hold (after floor-crossings) 70 of 87 legislature seats; a comfortable majority (albeit false with regard to the popular vote) with which to hold on to power. To now call a general election would be a blatant, extravagant waste of the taxpayers’ money at a time of diminished government revenue and supposed restraint. The 2012 general election cost the Province $13,631,864, 27% more than the 2008 general election. Squandering perhaps $28 million now (recently provided to the Elections Alberta budget, presumably for an election this year) on a ‘vanity’ election cannot be justified or condoned.
Tell or write your MLA and the Premier – don’t hold an election this year; stick to the PC plan.