Gateway Gazette

The Alberta Party: Make government more effective and efficient by reducing the number of MLAs by 30%

By Greg Clark

The Alberta Legislature is the most ineffective legislature in Canada

Most of the government of Alberta’s business is done behind closed doors in cabinet or in the PC caucus room, far from public scrutiny. The Alberta Legislature also works far less than other Canadian legislatures – only PEI and Nunavut sat for fewer days last year. For example, Alberta MLAs only sat for 42 days last year, compared to 77 for Ontario Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs).

What’s even more astonishing, is that Alberta has significantly more MLAs per capita than many other provinces. So we have a lot more people doing a lot less work.

Learning from Alberta’s big cities and other provinces 

Alberta could learn a lot from other jurisdictions, including the governments of its two largest cities, which have fewer elected representatives governing more people. The table below compares the number of legislators or council members in various jurisdictions.

Chart - Alberta partyWhy do city councillors in Calgary and Edmonton represent far more people than the MLAs in those cities?

Councillors in Calgary and Edmonton represent far more people than MLAs in each city. If we applied the same ratio of representatives to our big city councils, Calgary would have 25 councillors, instead of 14, and Edmonton would have 18 councillors, instead of 12.

Currently, Alberta has 87 MLAs and a population of 4.1 million, which equates to 47,000 people per MLA. Compare this to Ontario, which has 107 MPPs and a population of 12.8 million, which equates to 119,000 people per MPP.  Even British Columbia which, despite having a larger population of 4.7 million individuals, has two fewer MLAs than Alberta.

Fewer MLAs, better government

If Alberta were to reduce the number of MLAs by 30 percent to 61 MLAs, each MLA would represent approximately 67,000 constituents, which would still be well below the number of people represented by elected officials in Ontario, or the city councils in Calgary and Edmonton.

We believe that having fewer MLAs will lead to better government for the following reasons:

1. Save money.  

Reducing the number of MLAs will save taxpayers nearly $32 million over four years. We would reallocate this money to more urgent priorities, such as healthcare and education.

2. Make the decision-making process in the Alberta legislature more efficient. 

It is well understood that smaller groups can make decisions faster. With 87 MLAs, its very difficult to allocate sufficient time for each MLA to express their constituents views in the legislature. By reducing the number of MLAs we can expect the quality of the debate to improve.

3. Increase the profile and effectiveness of individual MLAs. 

Currently, there are so many MLAs, it is difficult for constituents to know who their representative is and to keep track of what their representative is doing on their behalf.

4. Increase resources for rural MLAs to provide better service.

A reduction in the number of MLAs means that rural constituencies will will get larger. MLAs with large geographic areas could be provided with additional resources to better serve constituents. For example, these MLAs may be allowed to have multiple offices and extra staff to serve citizens. MLAs could also be equipped with more technology to better connect with citizens.

We note that rural Federal MPs currently represent far larger geographic areas than Alberta provincial constituencies. Even after the reduction in the number of MLAs, provincial constituencies will be far smaller than Federal electoral districts.

How would this plan be implemented?

The Alberta Party would appoint an independent boundary commission to establish new constituency boundaries. These new boundaries would take effect for the next general election. The independent commission would also establish a reasonable limit for population variances between constituencies, so that all Albertans are represented fairly.

The Alberta Party has a better way.

Reduce MLAs by 30% – Backgrounder

On Thursday, the Alberta Party announced its plan to save money and make government more effective by reducing the number of MLAs by 30%.

The following backgrounder explains this plan more in-depth.

1. How many MLAs would be eliminated under the Alberta Party plan?

The current 87 MLAs would be reduced by 26 for a new total of 61.

2. How would the boundaries be redrawn?

The Alberta Party would appoint an independent boundary commission to establish new boundaries for all constituencies.  The independent boundary commission would be required to conduct extensive public engagement prior to establishing the boundaries.

3. How much variation in population should be allowed for each constituency?

The Alberta Party believes in representation by population and variations between constituencies should be minimized and held within the guidelines established by the Supreme Court of Canada.

4. When would the MLA reduction take effect?

The new constituencies would be in place for the next general election.

5. Has any other province reduced the number of politicians?

Yes. Ontario reduced the number of Members of Provincial Parliament in 1996 with the Fewer Politicians Act. In Ontario, the provincial constituency boundaries now match the federal boundaries.

6. How much money could be saved by cutting 30% of the MLAs?

We estimate that over four years, nearly $32 million could be saved by reducing the number of MLAs by 30%. See the table below for the calculation.

MLA Indemnity (salary)

$127,296

Salary for MLA. Excludes additional compensation for Ministers and other MLAs who hold appointed positions are additional duties.

Office Operations

$30,388

Office for an MLA in an urban location is $27,262 and  allowance for rural MLAs is higher at $33,151. For the purposes of this example we used the average.

MLA Home security system

$1,500

MLA Temporary residence security system

$1,500

Staffing

$88,324

Supplies

$2,940

Amount equal to $1.30 x (E / 1.5) where E is equal to the number of electors in the constituency

$30,333.33

For this example we are assuming that there are 35,000 electors in each constituency.

Amount equal to $2,923 + ($0.0757 x (C – 14,000) where C is equal to the population in the constituency.

$5,421.10

For this example we are assuming 47,000 people per constituency

Plus adjustment amount set out in the matrix table in the Constituency Service Order.

$15,399.50

The amounts range from $6,120 to $24,679. For this example we used the median amount of $15,399.50.

Total amount per MLA

$303,101.93

Annual estimated savings for eliminating 26 MLAs

$7,880,650.27

This estimate is based on the assumptions set forth above and that all 26 ridings are identical.

Total savings over four years

$31,522,601.07

Sources: https://www.assembly.ab.ca/lao/hr/MLA/MLA%20Remuneration.htm

https://www.assembly.ab.ca/pro/standing/members_services_orders.pdf

https://www.assembly.ab.ca/pro/Expenditure_Guidelines_Members.pdf

7. Won’t reducing the number of MLAs make it more difficult for rural MLAs?

For MLAs that live in large rural ridings we would increase the resources available to those MLA in order to better serve citizens.  For example, large rural constituencies could have more than one office and additional staff. We also note that all MLAs should improve how they use technology in order to serve citizens better.

We note that other elected representatives represent more people than MLAs, who represent on average 47,000 people. For example, councillors in Calgary and Edmonton represent 85,000 and 73,000 people respectively. Federal MPs, on average, represent approximately 114,000 people.

8. Why does the Alberta Party believe that fewer MLAs will lead to better government?

It is well understood that smaller groups can make decisions faster. With 87 MLAs it is very difficult to allocate sufficient time for each MLA to express their constituents views in the Legislature. By reducing the number of MLAs we expect the quality of the debate to improve.

Read our full platform >

Related Articles

Leave a Reply