Gateway Gazette

Alberta Greens urge adoption of Proportional Representation  

Alberta Green Party headerOur current voting system is grossly unfair but not the worst possible alternative

In its submission to the Legislature’s Select Special Ethics and Accountability Committee, the Green Party of Alberta advocates adoption of Proportional Representation (PR) as the best alternative to replace our current system of voting, known as First Past the Post (FPTP).  The use of some form of PR would improve our democracy by ensuring that many more Albertans are represented in the Legislature.

As Janet Keeping, leader of the provincial Greens puts it, “the fundamental problem with FPTP is that it is unfair and denies many voters their right to the equal benefit and protection of our electoral laws.”

With our current winner-take-all (FPTP) system, every vote cast for someone other than the candidate who receives the most votes in the given riding – and since many candidates win with less than 50% of the total votes, that is often the majority of voters – simply disappears.  Those votes drop off into the electoral abyss and have no effect on the outcome of the election.

According to Greens, it is truly difficult to understand how retaining this method of voting can be justified when there are demonstrably fairer ways of running elections.  Indeed the overwhelming majority of the world’s most successful societies – for example, the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands – do not use FPTP.

Keeping adds:  “With citizen engagement in Alberta’s democratic process at a worrying low, it is urgent that FPTP be replaced with an electoral system that takes into account as many votes as possible thereby encouraging voting and other forms of participation.”

The Green submission to the Ethics and Accountability Committee warns that some of the electoral systems being advocated by others would make matters worse than they currently are with FPTP.  A preferential ballot, for example, exacerbates the unfairness and lack of representation problem and so is worse than the status quo.  The point of electoral reform, Keeping stresses, “is not to put in place a system that after enough rounds of voting eventually gets to the point where the voter’s 4th, 5th or 6th choice wins.  We need a system that has Albertans’ first choices represented in the Legislature.”

Keeping concludes that “Only PR will give us a Legislature the composition of which more fairly reflects the diversity of Albertans’ political views.”

For the text of the Greens’ submission to the Select Special Ethics and Accountability Committee go to the GPA website: “Green Party of Alberta’s submission to Legislative Committee studying election laws”.

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