Peeling the bandaid off ever so slowly.

In reviewing the events and behaviour in Alberta politics in the last few weeks, it becomes clear that the need for fixed election dates is more acute than ever.

For those who watch twitter, the traditional hashtag #ableg has become almost completely dysfunctional as partisan supporters of all stripes from literally cabinet ministers to anonymous accounts engage in an ever-heightening  vitriolic battle to win the hearts of the one or two undecided people who may follow that hashtag.

 In the news, editorials are becoming more harsh and investigative journos have been engaged in an ongoing game of “gotcha” as increased general political scrutiny exposes slips and scandals of varying degrees of severity and importance.

 Alison Redford broke her promise for fixed election dates and instead substituted this “fixed election period” which has led us to this politically toxic mess. For weeks now we have been in an election that is not officially an election. Frustrated opposition members watch as a Progressive Conservative campaign bus tours the province, tax funded radio ads for the government of Alberta fill the airwaves and taxpayers fund fancy election planning retreats in Jasper for PC candidates while non-PC parties can’t even place a lawn sign yet.

 Doors are being knocked as they have been for months but the early contacts are becoming stale as an easily distracted populace forgets a past candidates visit.

 Candidates are being worn down and frustrated as their literature goes out of date and signs gather dust in garages or expensive campaign offices that can’t be fully opened yet. Expensive phone lines sit idle while volunteers tire and lose interest. The human cost can’t be understated here. While many don’t participate in politics it has to be kept in mind that the vast majority of people who do are volunteers whether candidates or campaign managers. These people are taking time off work and time out in their lives in order to pursue political change and having no real schedule makes this nearly impossible and terribly taxing physically and emotionally.

 Elections Alberta tries to maintain the temporary staff that they have trained and they pay for booked office spaces while they wait for the formal election call that Redford appears afraid to make.

 Worst of all an already cynical and increasingly apathetic electorate is becoming disgusted with politics as we live in this circus of a hybrid almost-campaign period. A fixed election date would not solve everything but it at least would put a light at the end of the tunnel and a deadline to the show.

 Simply picking a day and sticking to it would have been Redford’s easiest promise to keep yet she broke it. The reason for this is clear. This election date tinkering provides a huge advantage to the party in power while it demoralizes and tires out opposition campaigns. It also however abuses and tires the electorate. Unfortunately Redford has demonstrated like so many other PC leaders that she cares about the retention of personal power far more than the interests of Albertans.

 Just call the election and get it over with already Redford. Show a little glimmer of principle for the first time in your short leadership.

More on Stelmach’s lie about fixed election dates.

 Yes I will come right out and call Stelmach a liar now as I am seeing more detail on his prior statements regarding fixed election dates.

 The Calgary Herald has been kind enough to point out Special Ed’s flip-flop in an article today.

At last year’s Tory party convention, the premier vowed he would adopt fixed election dates if party members approved the measure in a resolution. “I’ll live by whatever the party decides,” the premier told the Herald at the time.

Conservative members voted for fixed election dates at their 2006 convention, approving a resolution from the Battle River-Wainwright constituency association. This issue came up again in the spring legislature, when Edmonton-area Tory MLA Ken Allred proposed fixed election dates in an unsuccessful private member’s bill.

Henry Czarnota, president of the Battle River-Wainwright Tory association when it proposed fixed election dates, said Wednesday it would be a “disappointment” if the Stelmach government doesn’t adopt fixed voting days.

“We feel that it’s in the best interests of democracy if people know when there is going to be a date,” Czarnota said, “and, therefore, we don’t have any gamesmanship.” 


The rest of the article is here.

 Ummmm, hey Ed, is not a party resolution supporting fixed election dates sort of an indication that the party supports fixed election dates?

 Some PC tactics have not changed since Klein. Klein used to always speak in support of bringing in a law for citizen initiated referendums in Alberta. Then the PCs would present a private members bill for such a law, find what they feel is an error in the bill, and vote down their own bill. That was done multiple times with direct democracy bills and it looks like they will do the same with fixed election dates.

 To begin with, if Stelmach had any interest in real debate on this issue, it would be a government bill not a private members bill.

 In reading the Hansard, I have seen that all of the opposition members and some government members were very supportive of the bill for fixed election dates when it was introduced.

 The attitude of the members certainly changed by second reading. It looks like somebody laid down the law and told the PC members to get this bill out of there. Suddenly the PC members were all rising and speaking against fixed election dates. Most of the members fell back on the old canard of saying such a move would Americanize our system.

 After attacking the bill, a hoist amendment was proposed and accepted by the house. A hoist amendment is a parliamentary trick where the government can reject a bill without appearing to actually vote it down. The bill then gets deferred to the next session for second reading if indeed it is ever seen again. It is a cowardly abuse of legislative power and the PCs used it and supported it in lock-step (including the member who put the bill on the floor in the first place).

The final votes and debate are in the hansard here.

 As I said before and as I will say again, one of the leading causes of the growing cynical apathy in the electorate is the chronic lying on the part of elected officials. How long will people continue to participate in the process when they are continually told one thing and seeing another?

 Ed Stelmach clearly does not even respect the wishes of his own party, much less the wishes of the electorate.

 While I don’t see such dishonesty inspiring more people to vote, I do hope it does inspire more of those who do vote to reject these liars in future elections. The only cure for lying politicians is to have them take it on the nose in elections. Unfortunately Albertans (and Canadians for that matter) have proven to be willing to re-elect liars. I still hold out hope that this trend can be changed.

Fixed election dates.

 Fixed election dates are a simple and basic electoral reform that should have been instituted generations ago. When I speak to American friends about our system that allows Premiers and Prime Ministers to call elections whenever they please, the response from those I have spoken to is invariably astonishment.

 A lack of fixed election dates is an affront to basic democracy. Having the power to choose the date of an election gives a governing party an incredible advantage thus while many leaders pay lip service to the issue on the way up, the leaders quickly forget their commitments upon achieving power. Klein used to revel in his cute hints about making election calls and watching opposition parties scramble in efforts to prepare for an election that often never came. Stelmach is enjoying the same power as was demonstrated in the months of election speculation that began in Alberta last fall and continued until an election was finally called last spring.

 Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer released 182 recommendations for Alberta’s electoral process yesterday. The scorn with which Stelmach rejected the concept of fixed election dates was insulting in his arrogance. In a petulant way, Stelmach gladly accepted handing off added responsibilities to the Chief Electoral officer. The prior appointments of returning officers by the governing party was a joke and even Stelmach could see that. Stelmach is happily accepting of increased advertising controls at election time as well. Stelmach is still bitter about those union commercials that were mean to him in the last election and in his usual anti-democratic ways is pursuing gag-law legislation.

 The increased responsibilities given to the Chief Electoral Officer are a good thing, but it will be difficult for him to act upon them without fixed election dates. I truly do not envy the task that Alberta’s elections staff have. Elections get called unexpectedly and elections Alberta has less than a month to arrange the hiring and management of enough people to conduct and election in 83 constituencies. This is a nearly impossible task considering Alberta’s labor shortage. It is little wonder that there was mass confusion at the polls in last spring’s election. It is not like a hiring and training program can be implemented when the election date is unknown.

 Fixed election dates would greatly improve the preparation for and management of elections. Special Ed clearly will not implent that simple and critical electoral reform. Stelmach has already demonstrated a trend of protecting his power jealously.

 When rejecting fixed election dates, Stelmach snapped that it would have no impact on voter turnout. Voter turnout alone is not the reason we need this reform. To put it simply, fixed election dates are needed for a proper democratic system. One thing that is leading to our dismal voter turnouts is increasing voter cynicism due to being lied to by their elected leaders. Stelmach barely got out of the gate as Premier before flip-flopping on the promise to reduce cabinet to 17 members. Special Ed quickly learned that the plum of cabinet appointments is his best method of caucus control. The more cabinet positions Stelmach has, the more incentive MLAs have to kiss the Premier’s ass.

 Harper’s reversal on his commitment to fixed election dates did little to instill faith in the electorate. Harper’s shaky excuse of having a dysfunctional parliament hardly cuts it. Joe Clark proved what happens when a minority leader acts as if he has a majority. Harper could very well have simply governed as he pleased and called every vote a confidence vote. In that case, either his bills would be passed (parliament would have been functional), or the opposition would bring the government down and Harper would get the election that he desired without breaking the spirit of his own law. Using the aforementioned strategy would have taken the power from Harper’s hands to have an election when it best benefits his own party however thus he simply ignored his own commitments and dissolved parliament.

 As somebody who has ran in a few elections I have always had to deal with hearing people spout about how all politicians are the same and how all politicians are liars. I do not agree with that assessment, but our examples in our legislatures certainly do not make it easy to counter the assertions of the bitter. It is up to the electorate to vote out politicians when they lie to us. Rest assured if enough MLAs and MPs lose their jobs over the course of a couple elections, we will see a great change in attitude among those elected. Sadly, instead of taking an increased role in democracy as we need them to, many voters are simply sinking into a cynical funk and are not voting at all. It is a sad and dangerous trend for us all.

 While I generally loath Canada’s version of Pravda (the CBC), one gem the CBC does retain is Rex Murphy. Murphy stands up for free speech and does not hesitate to be critical of any party when it is warranted whether Liberal or Conservative. He sums up Harper’s flip-flop quite well.