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Vote-anywhere in Alberta made it easier to cast a vote against the NDP

Soon-to-be-Alberta-premier Jason Kenney. Photo: David J. Climenhaga

Well, God bless the NDP, I guess, who could apparently be depended upon to do the right thing, even if it killed them.

Alberta's official vote results are now in and they suggest how the province's new "vote anywhere" provisions did no favours for the departing government.

Elections Alberta published its official election results yesterday, and they show a startling 36.7 per cent of voters chose to vote in advance polls, and of those nearly a third took advantage of the new "vote anywhere" procedure introduced on the NDP's watch.

In all, more than 1.9 million ballots were cast in the April 16 general election -- with about 10,500 spoiled. Elections Alberta initially said more than 70 per cent of the eligible electorate voted, although they've now reduced that estimate to 64 per cent.

Remember, the actual NDP vote went up marginally from 2015, when the party won a majority government, to 2019, when it was shut out of most of the province except the city of Edmonton -- to 619,147 votes from 604,518. But without the vote split on the right and a rush to the polls by Conservative voters who sat it out last time, the party's share of the popular vote declined significantly, to 33 per cent from 41 per cent.

Vote-anywhere balloting made it easier to cast a vote against the government from, well, anywhere.

Well, that's your first-past-the-post system for you. Maybe the NDP shoulda-coulda-woulda done some electoral reform -- alas, the illusion runs strong among parties in a parliamentary system that having won one majority they can always win another.

It will be interesting to see if the incoming United Conservative Party government led by Jason Kenney keeps these easy-vote provisions in future elections, since they certainly run counter to the traditional conservative approach of encouraging a judicious amount of vote suppression.

Meanwhile, as the parties get ready to switch sides of the legislature, there's more evidence that the United Conservative Party can be depended upon to do the wrong thing, although the jury's still out -- not necessarily an inappropriate metaphor -- on whether it will do them any harm.

The day before yesterday, the Office of the Election Commissioner announced it had levied another $10,500 in fines in the sordid "Kamikaze Campaign" during the 2017 United Conservative Party leadership election won by Jason Kenney.

Two administrative penalties of $5,250 were levied against Jeffrey Parks, one for giving his wife Michelle Parks money to donate to Jeff Callaway's campaign and the other was passing through a donation to Callaway with money given to him by another person.

Employed as Callaway's executive assistant, Parks said he believed he was just being a team player when he handed over the cash to his boss's campaign -- now known to have been set up for the purpose of scuttling Kenney's chief rival, former Wildrose leader Brian Jean, in concert with the supposedly kinder, gentler Kenney campaign.

The total number of penalties handed out in the Kamikaze affair has now reached $46,000.

It's hard to believe that once he's sworn in, Kenney will allow the Office of the Election Commissioner to continue to exist, at least under the leadership of Commissioner Lorne Gibson. But we'll have to wait to see what happens on that front.

Yesterday afternoon, the CBC revealed that RCMP investigators were going door to door in some Edmonton neighbourhoods Thursday holding unannounced interviews with voters in the 2017 UCP leadership election.

News reports have indicated email addresses fraudulently associated with UCP memberships were used to vote in the UCP leadership race in 2017.

Whatever the outcome of the police investigation turns out to be, there's not much the UCP can do to shut it down.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post is also found on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: David J. Climenhaga.

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