Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Alberta's electoral system ailing, says democracy watchdog

By Bill Kaufmann, Calgary Sun

First posted: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 04:21 PM MST | Updated: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 04:35 PM MST

Alberta’s electoral system is ailing under the weight of big-money influence and other inequities, charges a democracy advocate group.

After gauging Alberta’s media and campaign funding laws and electoral system, the province earned a mediocre grade of 54%, said Stephen Garvey, executive director of Calgary-based Foundation for Democratic Advancement (FDA).

“It’s very close to a fail zone — it’s not acceptable to be in that zone,” said Garvey.

In comparison, France, which Garvey says has a much more representative democratic electoral process, scores close to 100%.

Playing too big a factor in Alberta’s scenario is a $30,000 limit on single donations to a political party, compared to $6,000 in France he said.

And there’s no expenditure limit in Alberta for parties or candidates, argued Garvey, who said his group has done 30 such audits worldwide.

“It favours the more wealthy side, which favours corporations,” he said, adding that heightens the risk of corporate influence on government.

During the 2008 provincial election, the Tories acquired 36% more in campaign funding than all the other parties combined, said Garvey.

That, along with government setting election rules, he said, tilts the advantage to the 41-year-old PC dynasty.

“The root of it is, it’s a self-serving agenda,” said Garvey.

Media laws suspected of skewing election results fared worst in the group’s grading with a 45% score.

Even South America’s Bolivia had more equitable media laws, with a requirement that press ownership be divided equally between government, private business and social groups, said Garvey.

“If the media is imbalanced to one or two parties, people won’t be properly informed,” he said.

He noted Alberta’s PCs won 86.7% of the seats by garnering 52.7% of the vote in 2008, only one factor that discouraged 60% of voters from casting a ballot, said Garvey.

“A lot of people see the system for what it is,” he said.

He called Premier Alison Redford’s proposals to reform the electoral system “cosmetic.”



 "Alberta's electoral system ailing, says democracy watchdog

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