There is a dire need for a better electoral system in Alberta to better reflect the variety of values, opinions, interests, and pluralist priorities of a diverse population. First Past the Post election processes are no longer adequate in representing the more diverse complex public square in today’s Alberta.
There is a real need for democratic reform in Alberta and, according to the Kenney-controlled UCP majority government, we can be assured that changes are coming. The question is will these changes make democracy more representative, transparent, accountable and open, in service of the greater good, or not?
There are significant changes being foretold by UCP musings that are potentially dire and debilitating developments that are going to irreparably change local government and school board elections. That is the introduction of unrestricted big money into local government and school board elections through Political Action Committees.
To be fair, prior to the NDP laws to eliminate corporate and union political donations, the major urban mayoralty campaigns were city-wide and very expensive. The donations are not tax-deductible so private citizen donations were hard to generate in any serious quantities. So fundraising was dominated by big-dollar donors, often from land developers and construction businesses who have serious self-interest in municipal planning, taxation, and infrastructure programs. As a result, these corporate donations can be written off as business expenses, something not available to ordinary citizens. not-for-profit or other civic-minded interests groups
The Kenney-controlled UCP government has served notice that they intend to change the campaign funding laws, provincially and at this local government level of “responsible” government.” This will undoubtedly be completed in time for the forthcoming local elections scheduled in the Fall of 2021.
We can also expect, as a result of the “reforms” that partisan politics will be enabled and introduced into local government and school board. This will likely manifest itself in the form of Slates of Candidates with formal or informal ties to Left-wing or Right-wing political parties.
This is going to make these local orders of government more beholden to the influence and interests of big-dollar self-serving funders. The introduction of slates of candidates into local elections will see candidates selected by provincial partisan organizations. Rest assured they will be “vetted” for political purity and “required” to be aligned with provincial party leadership and policy demands.
The local independent representative nature of local elections, based on individual, free from outside control, candidates, will be lost to command and control provincially imposed partisanship. The non-partisan local citizen/constituents will become less able to advance concerns and influencing issues, in their own community and neighbourhood.
We can see this now given the current experience in diminished personal effectiveness in influencing Alberta’s provincial government. You have a more effective and valued voice if you are part of a tribal base or a PAC sympathetic to one of the two parties in the Legislature.
Today the Left and the Right both have strong self-interest Bases that political party structures must appease and pander to so they can sustain political power through campaign funding and volunteers.
This erosion of a non-partisan citizen’s influence on public policy is due to the consolidation of the Left versus Right adversarial and hyperpartisanship binary political culture we have elected in the current Alberta Legislature.
This UCP approach is not a positive move towards enlighted democratic reform for effective representative government. Albertans still have time to respond and to rise up and fight back on the proposed direction we are seeing in the name of democratic reform. Will they?