Fair Vote Calgary has been vigorously trying to determine the positions of the candidates on proportional representation (PR). Janet Keeping, candidate and Leader, Alberta Green Party and Mark Taylor, candidate, Alberta Party, are the only candidates who actively support PR. In choosing for whom to vote, if PR is their over-riding concern Calgary-Foothills electors are advised to select one of these candidates . For more about the candidates and party policies, see this page.
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.
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
Dear Jim Prentice:
Some days ago you stirred up Albertans by seeming to imply that we were all responsible for the present provincial fiscal situation.
In the last three provincial general elections the Progressive Conservatives obtained only 48% of the popular vote even though electing on average 65 (77%) members of the legislature of an average 84.33 available seats.
These types of distorted results are inevitable when we attempt to use the present Plurality-Majority or First-Past-The-Post electoral system, designed to cope with two-candidate or two-party electoral situations. There were nine parties (in the last three elections) and usually some four or five candidates in each electoral district.
In the October 2014 by-elections, The Progressive Conservatives won all four seats with only 44% of the popular vote. Gordon Dirks claimed his seat with only 33% of the popular vote and you were the sole candidate to win with an ‘absolute’ majority of 58% (meaning 42% of the electorate cast votes which did not help to elect anyone).
I ask for your commitment now, before the coming election, to announce your intention to introduce a suitable form of proportional representation which more accurately reflects the popular vote, not the distortions of the present system. This would make 2016 (or 2015 if you choose to drop the writ early) ‘The Last Unfair Election in Alberta’.
As I wrote to the Calgary Herald immediately after the 2012 General Election:
“It is now time to start the conversation about a proportional representation system. If the new legislature were representative of the popular vote, we would have nine MLAs of each of the Liberal and New Democratic Parties and one Alberta Party MLA. Most interesting of all there would be 30 Wild Rose and 38 Progressive Conservative MLAs”.
If that legislature had been elected (without any allowance for people who didn’t vote or who voted strategically), you could fairly claim that we could look in the mirror and state that we are all in this together. Those numbers would have ensured debate in the legislature and decisions would have been made collectively, not presidentially.
A.M. (Mark) Hambridge
C.C. Doug Bailey, President, Fair Vote Canada
Anita Nickerson, Director, Fair Vote Canada
Kelly Carmichael, Executive Director, Fair Vote Canada
Greg Clarke, Leader, Alberta Party
Dr. David Swann, Acting Leader, Alberta Liberal Party
Rachel Notley, Leader, Alberta New Democrats
Janet Keeping, Leader, Alberta Green Party
Heather Forsythe, Acting Leader, Wild Rose Party
Tories Sweep By-Elections – Oh, Really?
So, we had four provincial legislature by-elections on Monday 27 October 2014 and according to the Calgary Herald and most other media, ‘Tories sweep byelections’. However if you carefully examine the count and turnout – that’s a good headline but not entirely accurate.
According to the Calgary Sun, “Interest at the ballot boxes in the three Calgary and one Edmonton riding ranged from about 35% to 40%. The highest turnout was in Edmonton-Whitemud, with 40% of eligible voters taking part”. So the sweeper had less than half the bristles in the broom, and only about one-third in Calgary; not a very effective sweeping tool.
Only in Calgary-Foothills, where Progressive Conservative Jim Prentice took 58% of the vote, could anyone legitimately claim anything approaching a ‘sweep’. The other 42% of the vote was scattered among six other candidates and ‘wasted’ in that those votes didn’t help to elect anyone.
In Calgary-Elbow, PC Gordon Dirks took only 33% of the vote and was declared elected (with a false majority) and two thirds of the votes were wasted.
In Calgary-West only 2% separated the PC and Wildrose candidates at 44% and 42% respectively; even so, 56% of the votes were wasted and the PC candidate was elected with a false majority.
In Edmonton-Whitemud, PC Stephen Mandel was elected with only 42% of the vote, giving him a false majority and leaving 58% of the (wasted) votes split between the Green, Liberal, NDP and Wildrose parties.
In summary, 44% of the people who did vote elected 100% of the four new members of the legislature, perpetuating the distorted results of the 2012 general election.
The irony is that if there were an effective, well designed proportional representation (PR) system in place, the by-elections would have been unnecessary and we could have saved a lot of time and tax-payers’ money. Electoral System Design: The New International IDEA Handbook* at paragraph 218 suggests that –
“If a seat becomes vacant between elections, List PR systems often simply fill it with the next candidate on the list of the party of the former representative, thus eliminating the need to hold another election”.
Assuming the PC party would have modified its list so that its preferred candidates were at the top, Jim Prentice, Stephen Mandel and Gordon Dirks would have been saved the cost, wasted time and embarrassment of having to persuade the voters to give them a seat. The fourth vacancy might or might not have been filled with the new candidate in Calgary West.
An effective PR system would have elected a legislature in 2012 that reflected the popular vote at that time. That legislature could have continued to the next general election in 2016. The present vote shows that no change occurred in the by-elections, so presumably the voters in those electoral districts are reasonably happy with the present situation – except that democracy is not served when a majority of the votes are wasted, and do not help to elect anyone.
One can speculate how the electorate might have acted in a general election under PR — less strategic voting, a better turnout knowing that almost every vote would count toward electing a member of the legislature, greater participation by marginalised voters — might well have produced a different result and certainly a more balanced and effective legislature.
So how do we get from First Past the Post to Proportional Representation? Keep on demanding change from your member of the legislature, pointing out that being in power or in the legislature means representing all the people of an electoral district and Alberta – not just the minority who cast so-called ‘winning’ ballots in the legislative horse race to be First Past the Post.
It is time to make 2016 the last unfair election in Alberta!
Demand Proportional Representation!
* IDEA – International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, ISBN 91-85391-18-2
As you know, 70% of Canadians in several polls over many years have indicated their support for Proportional Representation (PR). This has been reinforced by the ten commissions across Canada that have studied the issue at the provincial and national level over the last 11 years and unanimously reported that we should introduce PR (More information here ) . However the politicians in power benefit (or hope to benefit at the next change of regime) from the present system of plurality/majority rule, so change doesn’t happen.
We have an opportunity to find which of our local political aspirants support PR and try to elect them in the coming by-elections on Monday 27 October 2014. This exercise will be repeated at the next national general election (probably October 2015) and at the next provincial general election, probably in 2016.
I have written to all the Calgary candidates listed below to determine their willingness to move toward PR. Voters in those electoral districts can be guided in their vote, to support those who will move to introduce PR to Alberta. As the candidates reply – if they reply – I’ll post the results in updates to this post. If you have an opportunity to raise the question with a candidate, please report the result back to firstname.lastname@example.org
Update on 2014 10 11 – no responses, except (unasked) I have been put on the mailing list for one of the parties.
Update #2 on 2014 10 17 – no responses; second request emailed to all candidates (except one independent).
Update #3 on 2014 10 17 – Alberta’s New Democrats (NDP) response received, see below at *4.
Update #4 on 2014 10 20 – Wildrose response received, see below at *6. Polly Knowlton Cockett (Green Party of Alberta) response received – see below under Calgary -Foothills.
Calgary – Elbow
Greg Clark – Alberta Party – This party, while articulating many changes to effect ‘democratic renewal’ does not mention proportional representation.*5
Gordon Dirks – Progressive Conservative – The PC Alberta Statement of Principles does not address PR or electoral reform.*2
Susan Wright – Liberal Party Alberta – “Alberta Liberals believe in … Fairness to Future Generations. We … are committed to … solutions that are based on … Social Progressiveness …” *3
Stephanie McLean – NDP Alberta – see below at *4
John Fletcher – Wild Rose Party – This party does not mention Proportional Representation on its web site, but see *6 below.
Calgary – Foothills
Michelle Glavine – Alberta Party – This party, while articulating many changes to effect ‘democratic renewal’ does not mention proportional representation.*5
Jim Prentice – Progressive Conservative – The PC Alberta Statement of Principles does not address PR or electoral reform.*2
Polly Knowlton Cockett – Green Party of Alberta – “Like all other Green Parties globally, the Green Party of Alberta supports electoral reform to introduce proportional representation in Alberta” *. Polly Knowlton Cockett has signed the Declaration of Voters’ Rights – Politicians Pledge here: Proportional Representation – Cockett
Robert Prcic – Liberal Party Alberta – “Alberta Liberals believe in … Fairness to Future Generations. We … are committed to … solutions that are based on … Social Progressiveness …” *3
Jennifer Burgess – NDP Alberta – see below at *4
Kathy Macdonald – Wild Rose Party – This party does not mention Proportional Representation on its web site, but see *6 below.
Dave Woody Phillips – Independent – Position on Proportional Representation unknown.
Calgary – West
Troy Millington – Alberta Party – This party, while articulating many changes to effect ‘democratic renewal’ does not mention proportional representation.*5
Mike Ellis – Progressive Conservative – The PC Alberta Statement of Principles does not address PR or electoral reform.**2
David Khan – Liberal Party Alberta – “Alberta Liberals believe in … Fairness to Future Generations. We … are committed to … solutions that are based on … Social Progressiveness …” *3
Brian Malkinson – NDP Alberta – see below at *4
Sheila Taylor – Wild Rose Party – This party does not mention Proportional Representation on its web site, but see *6 below.
* Quoted from the web site of the Green Party of Alberta.
*2 The PC Alberta Statement of Principles (on the party’s web site) does not address PR or electoral reform.
*3 Abstracted from the Vice President, Policy’s message at http://www.albertaliberal.com/2014_policy_convention
*4 “. . . The Alberta New Democratic Party by-election Candidates in Calgary, Jennifer Burgess, Stephanie McLean and Brian Malkinson, thank Fair Vote Calgary for it’s active participation in the election process and for powerfully advocating for electoral reform and a fairer democratic process.
“Alberta New Democrat party policy does not allow for candidates to sign declarations during an election period, but we are very supportive of proportional representation and meaningful democratic reform.
Alberta’s New Democrats are fighting to:
• Set up a system of proportional representation . . .” (Emphasis added by FVCalgary)
*6 Part of a letter received from ‘WildroseCaucus@assembly.ab.ca': “… Changing the method of electing representatives is not something our party members have raised for debate at any AGM, so on that front there seems to be broad support for the status quo. (Emphasis added) Thanks for being involved in proposing improvements to our system, and if there is anything else you or your organization want to propose for democratic reform please let us know”.