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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

how about 'make politics relevant?'

In his column yesterday, Graham Thomson wrote about a plan proposed by the Alberta Federation of Labour to forge a "United Alternative" between the Alberta Liberals and NDP to battle the 37-year old Progressive Conservative regime in Alberta. A friendly reader emailed me a copy of the AFL memo proposing this a couple weeks ago, so I wasn't surprised when it hit the mainstream media.

The AFL plan proposes that:

1) The Liberals, NDP and Greens would "divvy up" all Alberta ridings and agree not to run candidates against each other.

2) The parties would maintain their autonomy and run their own election campaigns but would agree on a list of "core priorities to act upon if they are able to form a government after the next election."

3) If they form government, the parties would look at major electoral reform, possibly adopting a system of proportional representation for future elections where political parties would receive a percentage of seats based on their percentage of votes.

If you're interested in a plan that theoretically might help the currently existing opposition parties win a handful of more seats in Edmonton, this plan is for you. I'm interested in a plan that will make politics relevant to people, which this plan doesn't accomplish. Without relevant politics, it doesn't really matter who has how many seats, and it is clear that the three current parties in the Alberta Legislature aren't making politics relevant to Albertans.

With 42% voter turnout, it is clear that no candidate, MLA, or political party successfully engaged Albertans in the last election. This is what needs to be changed. As long as parties are more interested in winning seats than actually accomplishing good, I can hardly see anyone getting excited about electoral democracy. This is why I was interested to hear the work that Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann has been doing since the election.

Calgary Liberal MLA David Swann has been quietly meeting with MLAs and other interested people about starting a new party based on green politics, accountability and democratic reform.

Swann has held two meetings in Calgary over the past months that have attracted around 25 to 30 people, mostly Liberal and NDP supporters and some Greens, including rural land activist and Green candidate Joe Anglin. Swann has also held individual meetings with other interested people.

The purpose, for now, is to simply start a discussion among those who feel left out of the process of governance.

"How do we re-engage the citizens of Alberta?" Swann asked. "If the issues with the citizens of Alberta are not being reflected in either of the mainstream opposition parties, then we have to talk about the possibility of forming a new party. "

Swann said he plans to meet with former Reform Party leader Preston Manning to talk about his experiences starting a new party and about green politics and democratic accountability, favourite issues of Manning's.

Now this sounds more like a plan to me.


Anonymous said...

Further fracturing the left by forming a FOURTH party?!? Only David Swann would think that's a good idea.

Oh wait, you do to eh Dave?

The AFL plan is reasonable and needs championship from all sides. Such an arrangement would likely lead to a few more seats, but more importantly it would open the door to one large & unified progressive party.

One large party that engages voters is a great goal, but trying to create it from outside of the Liberals and the NDP will only server to further fracture the already small left-wing vote base.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused as to who actually thinks the Green Party is anywhere close to the NDP or Liberals? Why does the left wing believe they have a monopoly on environmental concerns?

Has anyone actually read the Green party platform? If anything they are more ideologically similair to conservatives, especially on tax policy and other areas. This whole thing about left wing=environmentalism has got to stop. I believe in a clean environment, but i'm damn sure a fiscal conservative.

Things like this make me laugh, Gil McGowan thinks that offending people's beliefs is worth it in the name of victory...that is definitely not the way to increase voter turnout.

Anonymous said...

Some day, under some circumstances, I could very well vote for a Alberta Liberal with the hope a Liberal government is formed. But hell would freeze over before I voted for a Liberal-NDP-Green government.

Only the strategy geniuses at the Alberta Liberals would think that moving their party further to the left is the solution to a thorough electoral trouncing. Here's a helpful wikipedia page, guys:

Anonymous said...

the plan would have a better chance at success if Gil McGowan were not the one pushing it. His stupid 'Albertans for change' campaign cost both the Liberals and the NDP seats, and he's supposed to be the one they should turn to for strategy???

The Alberta Report Editorial Collective said...

I don't know if parts of the Gil McGowan scheme are that bad - I don't mind the idea of trading off a handful of seats between the Liberals and the NDP in order to have a bigger opposition and build toward a change of govt. I think it makes a bit of sense. I don't know if it's smart to do it for the whole province. That would make it harder for the two parties to call themselves province-wide entities.

A new party would be out of the question for people with real social democratic principles. In fact, a new 'big tent' party would inevitably abandon those principles entirely. I fail to see how shutting a whole way of thinking about the relationships between state, market, and society can be good for democracy. That's probably why I'm not a Liberal.

Anonymous said...

Gil is a bit of an accomplished loser. For as long as left wing groups keep embracing his type of thinking they will lose seats and remain a mere opposition in Alberta.

When will they ever learn?

I think we'll have to look at the question of how to engage voters in a much larger sense - most western countries have seen their voter participation plummet regardless of government or what type of electoral process they have (even PR). I think our answer lies more in that answer.

Anonymous said...

Dave, the trick would be to come up with a party that both thinkers such as you and thinkers such as I could vote for. Then that party may have a chance.

The AFL proposal is certainly not that. Swann does not strike me as the kind of individual who could come up with something like that either.

Matt Dow said...

They need to create an "other alberta" (modelled after the "other russia" against putin, a reasonable comparison) then once in power enact electoral reform likely a MMP or STV system, party finance laws, new rules in the legislature and everything else the PC's haven't done since the 60's. Then hold an election and disband under the new system...

Anonymous said...

That would either result in electing no one (if you were honest about your intentions) or the previous party immediately returning to power because the populace was so angry at you (if you weren't honest).

The key is to stop trying to fool people and/or calling them names.

Rob Butz said...

I'd be really curious to know why the more Liberal people commenting on Dave's post would be wait for hell to freeze over before they would vote for a green / lib / social democrat government. Do you honestly prefer what we have now?

Also, I haven't heard any reasoning in these comments, but I've heard plenty of pejoratives and finger-pointing at various people for "messing up the election." AS IF it was something simple or single-cause, like the third-party ads.

A lot of this circular conversation makes me wonder if the solution is n't hardcore grassroots organizing to make business as usual impossible in some way. I'm thinking of massive walkouts and strikes, etc. Alberta's just successfully structured out democracy, and that's why both the AFL and Swann plans sound to me like (as they say) rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.