A classic definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome. It is also a classic definition of wishful thinking.
In the upcoming Alberta election, Albertans should consider two different questions as they prepare to vote.
Question #1 – Would a minority or coalition government be a bad thing? The answer is, not likely.
Canadian politics, both federally and provincially, is founded on the myth – perpetrated by the mainstream parties – that minority or coalition governments are bad; something to be avoided at all costs. They are not. There are many jurisdictions around the world that are generally governed by coalitions: they are governed better than Alberta has been for the past 20 years.
Albertans should ask themselves –
- What would be wrong with a government that could draw a Cabinet from among the best M.L.A.s elected by 2 or 3 different parties?
- What would be wrong with parties having to modify tendencies toward outlier positions because of the need to cooperate?
- What would be wrong with minority parties having a genuinely effective voice in the workings of the Alberta Legislature?
- What would be wrong with turning away from the idea of the paramount leader and developing a team approach?
The reason dominant parties favour majority government is simple: they can do what they want, when they want. The don’t need to consult until they are in the red zone just before the next election. They don’t need to modify their position, regardless of evidence. They can argue that speed is of the essence when they want to move quickly. They can argue that time is required for deliberation when they want to move slowly. Time is theirs, no matter what is happening in the lives of citizens.
The argument that citizens need to elect a majority government leads inevitably to the argument that citizens should vote strategically in order to prevent the “worst” party from forming a government. In other words, it is argued, many voters should abandon their preferred candidate and vote against the candidate of one party by coalescing around the “blocking” candidate of the alternative party with the best chance of winning the most seats (and forming an alternative majority government just as likely as the current one to become arrogant and full of a sense of entitlement).
Strategic voting actually perpetuates the idea of a bi-polar legislature that ignores the reality of diversity in the province. Strategic voting confirms adversarial politics and ignores the value of discussion, collaboration, and power- with (rather than power-over).
Question #2 – What is the alternative to strategic voting?
This is an election in which Albertans should get to know all the candidates in their own constituency. Forget the provincial campaign. Explore the character of the local candidates. Find out who has done extensive volunteer work in the constituency. Find out who actually get things done. Find out which candidate fellow citizens enjoy working with, and respect. Find out who knows the constituency, including its warts, and is prepared to attend to the dark places as well as the bright places. Find out who has character, regardless of personality. Find out who has integrity and has demonstrated a willingness to speak truth to power. Find out who has sacrificed for some worthwhile cause. Find out who makes evidence-based decisions. Find out who rejects ideology. Find out who believes in transparency in everything they do. Find out who believes in free speech. Find out who lives within his/her means, and humbly. Find out who has a vision of the future of the province – a vision they can articulate without reference to their Leader. (Surely Albertans do not want to simply elect candidates who say, “Elect me so that I can help [name of leader] achieve his/her vision for the future of our great province.” What on earth does that say about the candidate? That candidate is going to be cannon fodder for the Leader/Party at some point in the future.)
Alberta would be better off than today if the result of the upcoming election gave 3 parties about 22 seats each and three parties about 7 seats each.