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 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
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”.