A group of citizens met in Red Deer on Saturday to discuss ways provincial left-leaning parties could gain a greater chunk of the seats in the next general provincial election.
The 11 participants from Calgary and Edmonton are part a of group known as the Democratic Renewal Project, which formed after the landslide victory by the Alberta Progressive Conservatives in the last provincial election.
The DRP is trying to push the provincial Liberal, NDP and Green parties to work together in a coalition, with the parties agreeing to a fair division of the seats and running just one candidate amongst them per riding. The idea is that if all of the left-leaning votes went to one candidate — rather than being split among three or more — then that person would have a better chance of winning the seat.
Phil Elder, who is a retired University of Calgary professor and the president of the Calgary DRP, said if the parties don’t agree to the strategy it could be a matter of persuading local organizations to make those agreements themselves or publicly endorsing the strongest candidate in each of those ridings that are winnable.
The new left-wing coalition idea comes at a time when a relatively new right-wing party, the Wildrose Alliance Party, has started to gain momentum in the province.
Alvin Finkel, a professor of history at Athabasca University, is the co-chair of the DRP.
He has lived in Alberta for more than 30 years, moving here from Manitoba.
He said after the last provincial election he thought something has to change.
“As Albert Einstein said, ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’ and I think that’s what the NDP, the Liberals and the Greens have been doing,” Finkel said.
“They think that they can each run and they’ll somehow galvanize the entire opposition vote behind themselves, but in fact it doesn’t happen that way. People split their votes and what happens is that the Tories end up taking all the seats.”
Finkel said in this province there hasn’t been a change of government for four decades and there hasn’t been a strong contender so people get the idea that it isn’t worth voting because it doesn’t change anything. He said that mindset is hard to change unless something else changes.
Finkel said the policies of the Liberal, NDP and Green parties are similar and if the forces of the centre left could be united they account for 40 per cent of the vote.
The 2008 election results showed that there were 12 ridings in the province for which the combined vote of the Liberal, NDP and Green candidates was more than the Conservative candidate who won the riding. “So that means that if we had followed the strategy to cooperate in 2008 the opposition now would be twice what it is,” Elder said.
He said he sees a longer-term strategy, with the model first allowing for a stronger opposition after the 2012 election and then possibly a coalition government by the 2016 provincial election. More information is available at www.drproject.ca.