Alberta's election laws.

This is a letter that I have forwarded to several Members of Legislative Assembly on the subject of a committee that's being struck on the subject of Alberta's elections laws, FOIP, and whistle-blower legislation. My letter focuses on Alberta's elections laws.

This is a letter with regards to the upcoming committee on Alberta’s election laws.

Firstly, there is a fundamentally warping influence that obscene levels of money have on the political discourse. When we speak on the public good and having a voice in the political process the influence of money warps this dialogue. The destructive effect of vast sums of political donations, from specific special interests and from individuals can shape public policy to benefit their own private goals rather than consider the public good

Alberta has often been called the wild west of campaign contributions and with good reason. It is worse here in Albertan provincial elections than anywhere else in Canada. In Alberta campaign donations have a maximum limit of $30,000 per election year, and until recently donations could be taken from unions and corporations. Considering how there are similar or the same high limits in local elections – in the case of the Calgary Board of Education there being no limits – this is a fundamentally unsatisfactory state of affairs.

The most effective way to change this would be to sync the contribution limits to the federal level – which is currently three “pots” of $1,500 a year: with a $1,500 cap to the local riding association, $1,500 cap to the party, and then $1,500 to leadership contests (and leadership debts). Each year this cap is increased according to inflation and adjusted to rounded figures for easy communication to the greater public. This has the added benefits of simplifying donation limits and tax benefits for the average citizen while also reducing the cap by 20 times over – making it much more reasonable in the process.

Secondly, on top of banning union and corporate donations for the province it would be wise to do the very same at lower levels of government, in addition to create similar caps for political contributions. It would also be an intelligent move to have sections dedicated to school boards and their elections and having them in sync with local aldermanic races.

Thirdly, this is a unique opportunity for a discussion on the renewal of how we vote and the systems we use to select our representatives. Many on the committee are probably aware of the varying voting systems and will be presented with numerous submissions on what many feel are the best voting systems to replace our First Past the Post system. Past governments in Alberta have also used the voting system to harm their opposition and, with a change to a new fresh set of people in the legislature, now would be the time to undo that damage.

It is in the opinion of this citizen that the best way to move forward is to move to a ranked-ballot system of voting. No person should feel that their vote is wasted, and having a ranked choice would allow people to feel that their vote will count and will impact their local representation.

It also has the natural benefit of being simple, requires no boundary changes, adds no more additional politicians to an increasingly over-crowded legislature, and is easy to communicate to the public.

Furthermore, in comparison with systems like Mixed-Member or other alternatives, ranked ballots avoid party lists (where political hacks are elected and subvert representative democracy) and keeps representatives tied to specific districts where they can be held accountable locally. The relationship between the citizen and the representative must remain clear and in no uncertain terms be chipped away by voting tools that create artificial placement for those not directly elected by the citizenry.

In conclusion, I hope you can take my suggestions to heart. It is the twin ideas of keeping representation local and accountable, and for the elimination of the obscene influence of money in our politics, that has me writing this letter to you. I thank you for taking the time to read this letter and for engaging on this very important topic. I hope the dialogue that this committee and this new legislative sitting will create will improve our shared system of governance and the idea of the public good.

Sincerely,
Vincent St. Pierre