Blog | February 19, 2016

The Public Interest Alberta proposal, entitled Strengthening our Democracy, has been submitted to the all-party legislative committee.

Democratic reform needs you! Those who care about democratic reform in Alberta have the best opportunity in decades to do something about it. Take action now to make a difference in our democracy!

Why is there a strong need for democratic reform in Alberta today?

Alberta is among the least democratic jurisdictions in Canada. Consider the following examples of the many aspects of Alberta’s democratic deficit:

  • Our campaign and party finance legislation lags far behind most other provinces and the federal government. While Alberta’s new NDP government has banned corporate and union political contributions under Bill 1, there is much more to be done.
  • Contribution limits are far too high ($30,000 per person in an election year) so wealthy individuals can continue to have undue influence.
  • Alberta is the only province without spending limits during campaign periods; meanwhile, federal limits have been in place for more than a decade.
  • Party leadership and constituency contests are largely unregulated and are open to interference by wealthy interests.
  • Alberta’s electoral system is manifestly undemocratic and undermines the fundamental principles of political equality, majority rule, and minority rights.
  • Governments are routinely elected with a minority of votes but with a majority of seats due to our flawed first-past-the-post system. At the same time, minority groups are underrepresented in seats compared to their popular vote.
  • The principle of representation by population is dramatically undermined by our current voting system. For example, in the 2012 election, one constituency in Alberta had 14,334 eligible voters, while another had 34,552.

Why is there an opportunity for change today?

Alberta’s new government has made a clear commitment to moving ahead on democratic reform, and the first legislation enacted after they took office was Bill 1, which eliminated campaign contributions by corporations and unions. This action was followed by the creation of the all-party Select Special Ethics and Accountability Committee to consider four further areas of democratic reform and the recent appointment of a Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal, MLA Christina Gray.

The Ethics and Accountability Committee is currently calling for submissions on the four areas of democratic reform (including campaign and party finance, and electoral reform), which must be submitted by February 26.

Public Interest Alberta’s Democracy Task Force has made a comprehensive submission, but it is very important that the Committee and MLAs also hears directly from citizens about the need for democratic reform in our province.  We encourage you to make a submission!

What can I do to make a difference?

February 26 is coming up quickly!  It would be extremely helpful if you could send a brief submission by email (ethicsandaccountability.committee@assembly.ab.ca) to the Committee by February 26. Here are some suggestions on how to proceed:

  • Read our Democracy Task Force’s submission, entitled Strengthening our Democracy to the Committee.
  • Identify the items that you feel strongly about, and write to the Committee.  If you support our proposals, it would be helpful to communicate that in your email. Submit to the Committee at: ethicsandaccountability.committee@assembly.ab.ca.
  • Be sure to send a copy of your submission to your MLA.  You can find your MLA and their contact information here.
  • If you can’t make the formal February 26 deadline, it is still important to let the committee members and MLAs know your views on democratic reform in the near future.
  • The Committee will continue its work until September of this year. In the coming months, Public Interest Alberta will continue its advocacy with the Committee on a wide range of democratic reform issues and proposals.
  • The appointment of a Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal means that there will be further opportunities for advocacy after the Committee finishes its work. We encourage you to regularly check our website for more opportunities to make a difference on these important issues.

For the first time in decades, we have a government that is committed to democratic reform. We need your help to make it happen.

 

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