In search of true democracy
In his letter to the editor on March the 24, Joe Bower observes that many Albertans were ready for a change in the election of 2012 and that two years later even more are ready for change and yet change isn’t happening. Change, he says, will not happen until Albertans elect an alternative to the PC’s and the Wildrose.
Citizens in other provinces do sometimes elect governments with different political/ economic/ social perspectives, but that does not seem to be likely here, at least not in the near future.
Nevertheless, we could have a fairer, more balanced representation of the political will of Albertans in the legislature if we replaced our present winner-take-all electoral system with a system of representation based on the percentage of votes received (proportional representation).
A proportional representation system would produce a much different distribution of seats.
In the last election the PC Party won the majority of seats (61) but not the majority of votes (44 per cent). Sixty-six per cent of voters voted for another party: the Wildrose 34 per cent, the Liberals 10 per cent, the NDP 10 per cent and the Alberta Party .01 per cent.
An electoral system based on the percentage of votes received would have increased Wildrose seats from 17 to 29, Liberal seats from five to nine, and NDP seats from four to nine. Seats for the PC Party would have decreased from 61 to 38.
Obviously the present legislative assembly does not accurately reflect the political perspectives and values of the majority of Albertans. It is much less democratic than it could be, and much less fair than it should be.
Since the concentration of party support in key geographical areas can result in winning a disproportionate number of seats, the Wildrose Party, if present trends continue, will probably win the next election. But it probably will also be a government based on a false majority, that is, on less than 50 per cent of the votes cast.
So we will still have a legislature that does not even come close to accurately representing the political will of the Alberta electorate.
Although an electoral system based on proportional representation would not produce change to the extent which Bower wants, it would be a long overdue move in the right direction. Who knows, maybe we could eventually become like the rest of Canada. Perhaps we could sometimes elect a centrist or left-of-centre government.
There are 81 other democracies in the world where proportional representation electoral systems are in place. To check out how the system works in a country like New Zealand, go to: YouTube Mixed Member Proportional Representation in New Zealand.
For more information on electoral reform go to FairVoteCanada.ca.
Dale L. Watson
On behalf of the Red Deer Action Team
Fair Vote Canada