It is safe to say the spotlight is on the most lively provincial election in decades — but it’s not the only election voters might be watching.
When Albertans go to the polls on Monday, they will also be handed a ballot for the Alberta Senate nominee race, which will allow them to pick three out of 13 nominees to be “senators-in-waiting.” This is in the expectation that they could later be appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to fill senate vacancies as they arise. Alberta is the only Canadian province that elects senators-in-waiting.
“We really are on an education tour. Ninety-five per cent of people we speak to don’t know what this is all about,” admitted Progressive Conservative Senate nominee Scott Tannas.
Tannas visited Red Deer’s Western Financial Group on Tuesday after campaigning in 35 communities across the province. He says he decided to run as a Senate nominee because he believes in public service. His father, Don Tannas, was an MLA in the Klein government for 14 years.
As president and CEO of the Western Financial Group, Tannas says he has the skills to transform the Senate.
“There is a real important role for the Senate to undertake in Canada,” he said.
“Governments are continuously running for re-election every two to four years and that means some of the really big problems in the country don’t get addressed because it takes too long, some things are too controversial and the government in election mode can’t focus on them.”
Instead of the Senate “looking over the shoulder of the House of Commons” for rare situations, Tannas says it should be focusing on what the House of Commons cannot do, such as building more essential legislation and passing laws. “Even though the vast majority of Albertans say a Senate is useless, we are wasting our money, the fact is that doesn’t need to be the case.”
Tannas said that there is a need for a citizenship and immigration strategy tied to a workforce strategy, along with a clear plan on how to deal with water.
“That is the kind of thing we need to do, but it takes too long for a government to really sink its teeth into. The Senate could do it, with thoughtful non-partisan work,” he said.
Under Alberta’s Senate Selection Act, the results of Alberta’s Senate elections are not binding on the prime minister. Current Alberta Senator Bert Brown must retire in March 2013. The second Alberta spot available is when Joyce Fairbairn retires in 2014. The third spot will not open until 2018.
Running under the Evergreen Party of Alberta is Elizabeth Johannson.
Ian Urquhart, Len Bracko, Paul Frank, William Exelby, David Fletcher and Perry Chahal are running as independents.
In additions to Tannas, the Progressive Conservatives have nominated Mike Shaikh and Doug Black.
The Wildrose Party has nominated Vitor Marciano, Raymond Germain and Rob Gregory.