In a few days a small group of private club UCP partisans will impose a new Premier on the rest of us Albertans. We could have had a say in the outcome by buying a UCP membership and voting in the party leadership selection.
But why bother? For most of us the preferred leadership choice would be None of the Above. Sadly, that is not an option. And what good is the futility of spending $10 for a membership only to spoil a ballot? Spoiled ballots would most likely be ignored in reporting the results anyway. What’s the point of a protest vote if it goes unnoticed?
RANK CHOICE IS BETTER THAN FIRST-PAST-THE-POST
All eligible Albertans who showed up in a general election three years ago elected Kenney and “his” UCP. Albertans gave the Kenney UCPs a majority government with a definitive 56% of the total votes cast and 64 seats. Also, remember the participation level in that election was 67.5%, the second largest election turnout in modern Alberta history.
The democratic deformity of the first-past-the-post electoral system gave the KenneyCons 75% of the Seats in the Legislature with only 56% of the vote. The NDP’s got only 24 seats notwithstanding getting 33% of the popular vote. It is even more unfair when you look at the Alberta Party who got over 9% of total votes but zero seats.
So the big question for the citizens of Alberta, coming out of the UCP leadership contest is what happens to the government agenda with a new leader and an imposed Premier? What will the next regime do to Albertans from October 6, 2022, the day the UCP gets another leader, up to May 29, 2023, the legally established “fixed date” of the next General Election?
WHEN IS THE NEXT ELECTION?
Here’s a sobering thought: under Democracy Rights of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 4.1 says a legislative assembly cannot go on longer than FIVE YEARS before calling an election. May 0f 2023 is only FOUR years since the last election in Alberta. So what is to stop the next unelected Premier from extending the time they continue in office and delay the next election for another year? At law, it seems nothing. In politics however, only public pressure.
During the time to the next election, she, or he, will inherit the absolute power of the majority government won by Jason Kenney in the 2019 election. So, the next version of the UCP government, under a different leader, of their choice only, will continue to do pretty much as it pleases. That is, unless we the citizens take effective action against those efforts and that unelected Premier.
The primary first purpose of a political party is to win elections. That goal will motivate the UCP membership as they distinguish between the leadership candidates and decide the rank order of their personally preferred candidates. From the campaign rhetoric I have read and heard, the successful candidate will be selected based on a perception of who is most likely to beat the Notley NDP in the next election.
Many UCP leadership selection voters will also be deciding based on separation-serving myths of an Albertan economic entitlement and the over-blown beliefs in some constitutionally-imposed provincial victimhood by the Government of Canada. Those UCP members will therefore be looking for the “toughest champion” for Alberta. So who wins is more than likely to be seen as the most overtly aggressive and hostile towards Justin Trudeau and the Federal government.
HOW MANY UCP MEMBER VOTES WILL IT TAKE TO WIN?
How many UCP members will it take to “decide” who is to be the next Premier of Alberta? We will know for sure on October 6th, unless the Smith camp loses and goes full-tilt Trumpian claiming the selection process was “rigged.” It could happen and I would not be surprised if it did.
Remember the Election Commissioner found serious irregularities in the 2017 UCP leadership process, allegedly won by Kenney. It was seen to be so badly flawed that Elections Alberta referred the matter to the RCMP. They are still conducting a criminal fraud investigation into the integrity of that UCP political process.
Who will win surmising is the stuff of office pools, pundit palavering, and special-interest speculation. How they will win is just as intriguing to me. How many votes it will take to win and where they will come from is worth some serious reflection.
I don’t know the answer, but I do love to speculate with scenarios. In the ranked-choice ballot process the victor will have at least 50% plus 1 of the total votes cast in the final tally of the last tranche of the counting. So second and even third choices matter.
SO LET’S PLAY A UCP VERSION OF FAMILY FEUD
Speculation requires assumptions. So I am assuming a good proxy for the October 6th results could be the May 2022 outcomes of the UCP Leadership Review vote. That exercise, also about partisan infighting, caused Kenney to resign…but still reign. That was a simple yes or no vote. If you liked Kenney and thought he would win the next election you voted no for a review. If the opposite was your position, you voted yes for a review.
New party memberships were sold for that event as well. The party reported its numbers had grown dramatically. The UCP said they had about 60,000 members eligible to vote on the leadership review question. And about 34,000 actually did. Kenney got only 51% of party members wanting him to stay on. To call his support tepid is generous.
So, last May, about 17,000 politically-motivated and power-driven UCP partisan Albertans, personally determined that Jason Kenney was no longer going to continue to be Premier of Alberta. So he quit the leadership of the party he invented, and resigned the Premiership, effective on selection of his replacement.
So now what? Based on no science, other than an artful application of some political “science,” and my life experiences in party leadership, let’s speculate. How many UCPs will now decide who will take over the party and therefore be personally given all the political power of the Premier’s Office?
Here’s a possible scenario of the numbers game. The UCP reports 120,000 party members eligible to vote in the Leadership selection. That is double the total who could vote on the Kenney Leadership Review question. About 66% of those eligible Kenney Review voters actually did.
So let’s presume that about 66% of the eligible UCP members show up and vote this time too. That means about 80,000 votes would be cast. Apply some simple arithmetic, and accepting the validity of my assumptions, the winner needs to get about 40,000 total votes in the final count.
If 50%+1 is achieved on the first round of counting, the decision is made. Polls, such as they are, do not indicate that will happen, but who knows at this stage. For the purpose of keeping our game going, lets assume there is not first ballot winner.
If so, it will likely be less than 40,000 total votes, perhaps even significantly less, to win. That is because the back-of-the-pack candidates in the first round(s) get eliminated or choose to drop out early. Ironically, they often do this dropping out as a group for personal political survival reasons. They would not like the eventual winner to know the actual level of ballot support they got from also-ran candidates in each round of counting.
Many of the early eliminated candidates may not have many supporters who contributed ballot support for the eventual winner. If that happens, it would reduce the number of vote counting sessions from a possible six to three and even maybe two voting sessions.
But even if 40,000 votes is the threshold to win,and the race is that close, that is only marginally more than the 34,000 votes it took to turf Kenney. A major decision will be based on the choices of a miniscule fraction of the 1,560,000 Albertans who actually did vote in a free, fair, and open election in 2019.
ELECTORAL REFORM IS NEEDED TO PROTECT DEMOCRACY
The moral of this story of political immorality is that political parties have too much power and influence over our democracy. They are mostly unaccountable, opaque private clubs controlled by powerful anonymous self-serving factions inside their membership and donor base.
We need to turn political parties into accountable, open, transparent democratic institutions dedicated to better government instead of self-serving, power-pursuing, and anti-democratic private clubs with too much control over our political culture.
Electoral reform and updating democratic institutions will not be championed by the legacy political parties, especially as Alberta seems destined to become an American-style two-party system. Changes in this aspect of political culture change will have to come from citizen initiatives using direct and deliberative approaches. More on that will have to come in later blog posts.