EDMONTON—Public Interest Alberta (PIA) today called on Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach to make a firm New Year’s resolution for a more democratic Alberta, and to stick to this commitment as a priority of his government. The request to the Premier came at the launch of PIA’s More Democracy! campaign, a six-point plan to address the worst features of Alberta’s troubling democratic deficit.
“Alberta is badly in need of democratic reform and renewal,” said Larry Booi, chair of PIA and head of PIA’s Democracy Task Force. “The consequences of Alberta’s vast democratic deficit are at least as serious as our province’s more obvious infrastructure deficit, and the problems must be addressed in a systematic and comprehensive way.”
PIA’s six-point proposal came after extensive consultation with individuals and groups across the province, including in eight public forums held in centres across Alberta in the spring of 2007.
“People throughout Alberta are increasingly frustrated and impatient with the breadth and depth of the problems with this lack of democracy,” said Booi. “Of all the suggestions we received, six stood out in terms of their potential to make a difference for democracy in the near future.”
The PIA proposal contains the following six recommended changes:
- Institute comprehensive reform of electoral and political party financing
- Abolish the Public Affairs Bureau, and replace it with a system that is more open and non-partisan
- Initiate a Citizens’ Assembly to make recommendations on proportional representation
- Strengthen the role of the Legislature and MLAs by further increasing the power of and support for legislative committees and officers
- Create a high-profile Commission on Gender and Democracy to develop a comprehensive approach to achieving gender equity in our political system
- Require a more open, thorough and effective approach to public consultation on issues of public policy development.
Booi acknowledged that the Stelmach government had taken some steps in the past year, but stated that the actions were extremely limited: “The small steps taken in the past year by the government were mildly helpful, but they simply do not address the fundamental problems of the lack of democracy in this province. We need more than baby-steps or band-aids – we need these six changes to get us on the road to a more democratic Alberta.”
PIA also announced an action plan to generate support for the six proposals, including making democratic renewal an important issue in the provincial election expected in the spring of 2008.
Further information on the More Democracy! campaign is available on the PIA website at www.pialberta.org.
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