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Does one-third add up to more than two-thirds in Wildrose democratic arithmetic?

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Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith

Let me get this straight: If two thirds of the electorate in a given constituency elect an MLA, the Wildrose Party proposes that one third of that electorate should be able to have her recalled?

I must have missed something in the Wildrose Party's latest policy proposal. Although, as they say, "God is in the details." That’s especially true here in Alberta, one supposes.

Unfortunately, the details aren't really in the policy document, charmingly entitled, "The Wildrose Pledge to Albertans."

Just a thought, though, before the future Wildrose government we’ve all been persuaded by the pollsters is a certainty introduces its proposed Accountability Act to the Legislature. They may want to submit it to a judge along with the referendum questions on abortion, "conscience rights" and water fluoridation for a quick constitutionality check.

As I recall, our Canadian Constitution says something about there being a requirement for our constitutional arrangement to be "similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom."

A politician facing possible removal from office on the strength of the signatures of a minority of constituents -- or even merely having to deal with the nuisance of fending off a politically motivated recall vote -- might make an argument this one doesn't quite meet the Constitution’s similar-in-principle test.

Moreover, of course, if it were a Wildrose politician facing recall -- heaven forfend! -- I think we could assume this process would be treated with all the solemnity of Prime Minister Stephen Harper contemplating the inconvenience of his "fixed-election-date" law.

Speaking of which, that's another meaningless and effectively unconstitutional part of the Wildrose Accountability Act: An actual fixed election date, not merely the silly fixed-election period that is now about to hoist Premier Alison Redford by her own petard, is promised.

Since it will be of no constitutional validity, given the point above, we can expect it to be honoured by the government only as long as it is convenient to the same government.

Moving on, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said the Accountability Act will also ensure that "MLAs will be free to vote however they wish on all votes in the Legislature."

The undoubted popularity of this sort of thing makes me despair for the future of our democracy. Here's a bulletin, people: Right now, right here, in Alberta and every other legislature in Canada, members are free to vote however they wish on all votes in the Legislature. All they require is the courage to stand for their principles!

So how is what the Wildrose Party proposing any different? Are they seriously trying to tell us they won't have a party whip, they won’t try to exert pressure on MLAs to vote with the party on key policies, or that they’ll allow the government to fall because of a lack of party discipline?


Then there's the business of voter referenda. The Wildrose Party is right, lots of jurisdictions allow referenda, especially in the United States. In fact, Alberta can organize them now through a vote of the Legislature for each proposed referendum.

More often than not, the kind of referenda proposed by the Wildrose document are designed to tie the hands of legislators who don't share the market fundamentalist philosophies of their drafters, to slow and block change another properly elected government might want to implement, or to animate the far right's base at election time with spurious social conservative causes. However, I suppose any party could live with all that if the process is truly democratic.

But is a Wildrose government also prepared to also pass a "Clarity Act" to ensure that the question asked in any Alberta referendum means what it says? Fat chance. This will just become a hobbyhorse for homophobes, anti-abortionists and anyone prepared to call an increase in royalties a "tax increase."

The Wildrose Accountability Act is not bereft of good ideas. Alberta needs whistleblower legislation -- especially if we're about to elect a far-right government that's certain to hide behind "confidentiality agreements" with corporations to keep the public from learning the true costs of "public private partnerships" and other expensive and inefficient market nostrums. And we could use cheaper and fairer access to government information.

So kudos to the Wildrose Party for suggesting those two ideas -- if indeed they mean what they say.

But, really, if they think we Albertans should adopt the American separation-of-powers model of government with its legislative sclerosis, corporate domination and unelected cabinets, why don't they just say so?

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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