The first election of 2019 is nearly complete, with Albertans heading to the polls on Tuesday, April 16th.
By now, engaged citizens already know what is at stake, with Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party, Rachel Notley’s New Democrat Party and Stephen Mandel’s the main contenders in what is essentially a winner-take-all show-down for the future of Alberta.
The winner-take-all part of that equation is crux of a problem which continues to plague the democratic process in Canada.
With the current first-past-the-post system being in place provincially and federally, the party who gains a majority of seats gains full control of the mandate of the province for four years.
It is becoming increasingly clear that this system fails to recognize the popular will of the electorate.
In the last provincial election out of a possible 87 seats, the NDP party won 54 seats, the WRP won 21, the PCs won 9 seats, the Liberals and Alberta party each won a seat respectively. This is equal to the NDP earning roughly 62 per cent of the seats, the WRP winning 24 per cent, the PCs winning 10 per cent and the Liberals and Alberta party winning one percent.
Clearly, this is in contrast to the popular vote, which saw the NDP earning 41 percent, the WRP winning 24 per cent, the PCs winning 27 per cent, the Liberals winning four per cent and the Alberta Party winning two per cent.
Is it really democratic for the 40 per cent of the popular vote earned by the NDP equaling 62 per cent of the seats? Is it really fair that the PCs earned 27 per cent of the popular vote, but only elected 10 per cent of the possible seats?
The answer, using this example, is that first-past-the-post fails to adequately represent the will of the electorate.
What is there to be done?
Well the answer I am going to suggest is unoriginal and is one that politicians, pundits, journalists and engaged citizens have already asked for.
The answer is proportional representation.
What proportional representation would give Albertans — and hopefully all of Canada — is a government that reflects the actual political will of all Albertans, rather than the current system that mostly disregards the votes of the defeated.
If a government earns 40 per cent of the vote, than they should earn 40 per cent of the available seats and thus 40 per cent of the available authority.
The main concern with this formula is that minority governments would be forced to work together in coalitions. Heaven forbid we would expect elected adults to play nice in the sandbox together.
In all seriousness though, a main concern you will hear from citizens both left and right minded is that western governments are becoming more and more polarized. What proportional government could do, along with adequately representing the public that elected them, is force people of different political stripes to work together and compromise.
Someone will win the election on Tuesday. Regardless of who that is, they will hold a considerable amount of power and that power likely will not be proportional to the electorate. While there is nothing to be done for 2019, what we should be advocating for in 2023 is a system in Alberta that elects a government that reflects the popular vote.
We should be advocating for proportional representation.