Dear Minister Gray and Premier Notley:
Re: Urgent need for electoral reform
I am writing as I have before on the need for adoption of a more proportional voting system in Alberta. The matter is one of enduring principle, but I raise it again now because it has become especially timely: the federal government’s initiative on electoral reform has collapsed and under Jason Kenney’s leadership the right in Alberta has now started the process of uniting.
I implore you to take seriously the following points:
- Adopting a more proportional voting system is the right thing to do;
- Prior to the next general election is the right time to make the change; and
- Adoption of such a voting system would reflect well on your government and would, we expect, serve your interests better than the current system (First Past the Post) in the next election.
Adopting a more proportional system is the right thing to do
As I know you know, FPTP distorts and sometimes grossly distorts electoral outcomes and, because that is true, it does not reflect the will of the people. New Democrats have been harmed by FPTP in the past and will be again – it is virtually inevitable, and probably in the next election – if change is not made.
The question as to which electoral system should replace FPTP used to be a difficult one but really is not any longer. Much study has been given this question in Canada. The Law Commission carefully studied the issue issuing a report in 2004 which recommended “adding an element of proportionality to Canada’s electoral system, and that Canada adopt a mixed member proportional system.” In a carefully conducted 2016 plebiscite PEI voters chose Mixed Member Proportional over 4 alternatives, one of which was FPTP. The conclusion of the recently reporting federal all-party committee on electoral reform was that “of those who wanted change, the overwhelming majority of testimony was in favour of proportional representation.” There is no room for doubt: the weight of Canadian opinion and expertise over the years favours greater proportionality, usually Single Transferable Vote (STV) or a Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system.
We acknowledge that Alberta Greens would benefit from a more proportional system and of course that is one of our reasons for arguing for it. But as observed above, putting in place a more proportional system is the right, more democratic thing to do and because election outcomes would more accurately reflect Albertans’ political choices, it would reinvigorate our worryingly weak political culture.
Now is the right time to do it
Adoption of a more proportional system in time for the 2019 general election will ensure its outcome is a fairer reflection of Albertans’ political preferences. It will preclude the possibility that Alberta ends up with a majority government that does not represent anywhere near the majority of citizens’ views. And given the enormous amount of study electoral reform has received in Canada over the last few decades, we don’t see need of a prior referendum. Greens would like to see two elections conducted under the new system and only then a referendum held to give Albertans the choice – stay with the new system, now that you’ve seen how it works, or go back to FPTP.
You have both replied to me in the past that you were watching to see what was going to be done on electoral reform at the federal level. Clearly there is no further point to waiting as that initiative is dead.
Adoption of PR would reflect well on NDs
Your government is presented with an opportunity to lead on democratic renewal and improve the quality of our country’s democracy. Under your leadership Alberta could be the first Canadian jurisdiction to adopt some form of proportional representation. We expect that within a short time, other Canadian jurisdictions would follow.
Greens appreciate the work your government has done on minimizing the role of big money and big donors in Alberta politics. Now it is time to grapple with our manifestly unfair electoral system.
Alberta Greens want to be of assistance to the ND government with adoption and implementation of a more proportional electoral system. We would like to see the GPA be part of any all-party committee or working group struck to achieve these goals. But most importantly we want to see concrete movement towards change.
Janet Keeping, Leader
Green Party of Alberta