Saturday, 9 January 2016

Guide to Alberta Politics

So I guess some of you weren’t listening in Social Studies. Maybe you thought Social Studies was boring and had no impact on your life. Now the economy has tanked. You're mad. You want to blame somebody. You want to blame the government. You think if you got rid of the government, things would be better. Maybe it would help if you understood how the government is elected and how you can change it. 

Here’s a guide.

Things we have

  1. Political Parties. A political party is a group of people who share a set of beliefs about how government should operate. They make this known to the public through their platform- a set of promises they intend to keep if elected. People vote for the political party whose platform they agree with.  Follow the links to read the platform of the ruling New Democratic Party and opposition Wildrose.

    Alberta has 9 political parties.

    The political party that elects the most MLAs to the legislature forms the government. As of May 5 2015 that party is the New Democratic Party.
  2. A Premier  The Premier is the leader of the political party that holds the most seats in the legislature. Albertans do not directly elect their leader.

    Alberta's Premier is Rachel Notley, leader of the New Democratic Party.
  3. Ridings The province is divided into areas called "ridings" or electoral districts. Ridings vary in population and size. For example, the riding of Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley has just over 23,000 people while Spruce Grove-St. Albert has a population of nearly 52,000. The person in the riding who gets the most votes becomes the MLA. The party that elects the most MLAs becomes the ruling party and forms government.
  4. First Past the Post  Alberta, like all other provinces in Canada, use the "first past the post" or "plurality" system of electing representatives. This system is also known as "winner-take-all" because whoever gets the most votes wins. Let’s look at how this would work with some simple numbers. Let’s say you have 3 candidates running and 10 voters.
    Scenario #1 Majority Government In the scenario that follows, Party A wins. It has more seats than any other party. It also has more seats that all the other parties combined. It would form what is called a majority government. If Party B and C were to join forces they would have fewer seats than Party A . 
    We have a majority government in Alberta. 
    Party A
    Party B
    Party C

    Scenario #2 Minority Government In the scenario that follows, Party A wins. It has more seats than any other party but it doesn’t have the most votes overall. It would form what is called a minority government. If Party B and C were to join forces or form a coalition government, Party A could be defeated in a motion of no confidence.  
    We don’t have a minority government in Alberta.
    Party A
    Party B
    Party C
  5. Motion of No Confidence The ONLY way an elected government can be democratically removed from office is if it fails a motion of no confidence. This only happens when there is a minority government. Alberta has never had a minority government. It does not have one now. While the opposition could make a motion of no confidence, when there is a majority government it would not pass and such an action would be pointless. See above.
  6. Members of the Legislative Assembly or MLAs These are the people Albertans choose to represent them in the legislature. Each MLA in Alberta today belongs to a political party. MLAs tend to vote with their party on any laws that are proposed. There are 87 MLAs in Alberta. As of Jan 9 2016:
  • NDP 54
  • Wildrose 22 
  • Progressive Conservative 8 
  • Liberal 1
  • Alberta Party 1
  • Vacant 1
       The opposition parties combined have 32 MLAs. 
       That means the NDP is a majority government
       In other words, they hold the majority of the seats. 
       If every MLA who is not NDP voted against the NDP, they could not defeat them.
Alberta:Not as conservative as you thought

7.     Elections. In Alberta, citizens vote for the people they want to represent them in the legislature. This is called representative government. Alberta holds regular and fair elections.

Alberta’s Election Accountability Amendment Act that says elections must be held between March 1 and May 31 every four years. The last election was May 5 2015.

The next election will take place on or before May 31 2019 following a request from the Premier to the Lieutenant Governor to dissolve the legislature.

Things we don’t have

  1. Recall legislation
  2. Proportional representation
  3. Plebiscites to demand another

    Stay tuned for more Social Studies lessons!