This Magazine

Progressive politics, ideas & culture

November-December 2009

How to bring democracy back to Alberta

Lindsay Kneteman

There’s voter apathy and then there’s Alberta. In the 2008 provincial election, a mere 41 percent of eligible voters came out. The provincial Conservative government went on to claim a historic 11th straight victory, a win that Athabasca University history professor Alvin Finkel believes was the result of Albertans not believing that there’s a viable alternative to the Tories.

So this past June, Finkel teamed up with some change-hungry Albertans and created the Democratic Renewal Project. Its goal is “to provide Albertans with a united progressive alternative government to the Conservative dynasty.” Here’s its plan:

1. Form a united alternative: Says Finkel, “We need to create the sense that there is a real contest in Alberta, and that can only happen if the centre-left parties, whose current policies are virtually indistinguishable even if their political cultures are different, form a united alternative.” But this doesn’t mean a new party. Instead, the DRP wants the existing Alberta Liberal Party and NDP to cooperate to get fed-up Albertans to the polls by promoting such common topics as greater social justice, diversifying the economy, and environmental sustainability, under a “United Alternative” banner.

2. Get proportional representation: The DRP believes that ditching the province’s current past-the-post electoral system is vital to ditching the Tories. But, says Finkel, since the Conservatives would never agree to a referendum on the topic, the switch would have to be pushed through the Legislature by the United Alternative, once it had enough seats.

3. Adopt a non-compete policy: To get those seats, the DRP is calling for the Liberals and the NDP to run only one centre-left candidate per riding. Had this been done in 2008, at least an additional 12 left-centre candidates would have been elected, more than doubling the progressive presence.

4. Get the Liberals & NDP on board: Of course, for any of this to happen, the provincial Liberals and NDP need to agree to it. Finkel says Liberal leader David Swann already supports the DRP and that “there are many individuals in both parties that recognize that we cannot go on like this, with two centre-left parties battling each other and allowing the Tories an automatic victory.”

Show Comments