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.
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