Monday, April 30, 2012

Public Policy Based on Scientific Experiementation


In this article, David Brooks presents a strong case for public policy supported by scientific rigor. He argues that the world is too competitive to allow for unsupported public policy. The idea is to use models within controlled environments and trail-and-error processes. Of course, these models cannot capture every variable, but at least they have more rigor than intuitive public policy.

In the recent Alberta election, candidates and parties were pledging large sums of public monies in what appeared to be an attempt to use public tax dollars to win votes. For example, the PC Party offered about 1 billion in public funding, and about 3 billion in surplus contingent public funding. Is democracy inconsistent with scientific rigor? Or is it just a matter of having a party which is committed to objectification of public policy? Does the majority of voters evaluate candidates and parties with any scientific rigor? Or is it just a matter of which candidate and parties appeals on an intuitive or ideological level?

Is Our Adults Learning?

In 2009, we had a big debate about whether to pass a stimulus package. Many esteemed and/or Nobel Prize-winning economists like Joseph Stiglitz, Larry Summers and Christina Romer argued that it would help lift the economy out of recession. Many other esteemed and/or Nobel Prize-winning economists like Robert Barro, Edward Prescott and James Buchanan argued that positive effects would be small and the package wouldn’t be worth the long-term cost.

We went ahead and spent the roughly $800 billion. What have we learned?

For certain, nothing. The economists who supported the stimulus now argue the economy would have been worse off without it. Those who opposed it argue that the results have been meager. It’s hard to think of anybody whose mind has been changed by what happened.

This is not entirely surprising. Nearly 80 years later, it’s hard to know if the New Deal did much to end the Great Depression. Still, it would be nice if we could learn from experience. To avoid national catastrophe, we’re going to have to figure out how to control health care costs, improve schools and do other things.

Jim Manzi has spent his career helping businesses learn from experience — first at ATT Laboratories, then as a consultant with Strategic Planning Associates and then as founder of Applied Predictive Technologies, a successful software firm.

In his new book, “Uncontrolled,” Manzi notes that many experts tackle policy problems by creating big pattern-finding models and then running simulations to see how proposals will work. That’s essentially what the proponents and opponents of the stimulus package did.

The problem is that no model can capture enough of the world’s complexity to yield definitive conclusions or make nonobvious predictions. A lot depends on what assumptions you build into them.

In “Uncontrolled,” Manzi looks at two celebrated model-building exercises. Larry Bartels of Princeton produced a model finding that presidential policies exercise the single biggest influence on income distribution. The authors of “Freakonomics” produced a model showing legalized abortions subsequently reduced crime rates.

Manzi argues that by slightly tweaking the technical assumptions in these models, you eliminate the headline-grabbing results. He also points out that regression models that try to explain crime rates have not become more accurate over the past 30 years. All this model-building hasn’t even helped us get better at understanding the problem.

What you really need to achieve sustained learning, Manzi argues, is controlled experiments. Try something out. Compare the results against a control group. Build up an information feedback loop. This is how businesses learn. By 2000, the credit card company Capital One was running 60,000 randomized tests a year — trying out different innovations and strategies. Google ran about 12,000 randomized experiments in 2009 alone.

These randomized tests actually do vindicate or disprove theories. For example, a few years ago, one experiment suggested that if you give people too many choices they get overwhelmed and experience less satisfaction. But researchers conducted dozens more experiments, trying to replicate the phenomenon. They couldn’t.

Businesses conduct hundreds of thousands of randomized trials each year. Pharmaceutical companies conduct thousands more. But government? Hardly any. Government agencies conduct only a smattering of controlled experiments to test policies in the justice system, education, welfare and so on.

Why doesn’t government want to learn? First, there’s no infrastructure. There are few agencies designed to supervise such experiments. Second, there is no way to conduct a randomized experiment to test big economywide policies like the stimulus package.

Finally, the general lesson of randomized experiments is that the vast majority of new proposals do not work, and those that do work only do so to a limited extent and only under certain circumstances. This is true in business and government. Politicians are not inclined to set up rigorous testing methods showing that their favorite ideas don’t work.

Manzi wants to infuse government with a culture of experimentation. Set up an F.D.A.-like agency to institute thousands of randomized testing experiments throughout government. Decentralize policy experimentation as much as possible to encourage maximum variation.

His tour through the history of government learning is sobering, suggesting there may be a growing policy gap. The world is changing fast, producing enormous benefits and problems. Our ability to understand these problems is slow. Social policies designed to address them usually fail and almost always produce limited results. Most problems have too many interlocking causes to be explicable through modeling.

Still, things don’t have to be this bad. The first step to wisdom is admitting how little we know and constructing a trial-and-error process on the basis of our own ignorance. Inject controlled experiments throughout government. Feel your way forward. Fail less badly every day.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Concept of Unexceptionalism

In this opinion piece from the New York Times, E. L. Doctorow argues that the United States is in phase four state of unexceptionalism. The opposite of unexceptionalism is exceptionalism. In the context of the United States, unexceptionalism is a refutation of the view that the United States is exceptional in the world by promoting democracy, liberty etc. Doctorow shows through facts that the United States' exceptionalism is a mask of unexceptionalism, whereby minority interests control American society for their own benefit.

Does unexceptionalism increasingly apply to Canada and Alberta?

Unexceptionalism: A Primer

TO achieve unexceptionalism, the political ideal that would render the United States indistinguishable from the impoverished, traditionally undemocratic, brutal or catatonic countries of the world, do the following:

PHASE ONE

If you’re a justice of the Supreme Court, ignore the first sacrament of a democracy and suspend the counting of ballots in a presidential election. Appoint the candidate of your choice as president.

If you’re the newly anointed president, react to a terrorist attack by invading a nonterrorist country. Despite the loss or disablement of untold numbers of lives, manage your war so that its results will be indeterminate.

Using the state of war as justification, order secret surveillance of American citizens, data mine their phone calls and e-mail, make business, medical and public library records available to government agencies, perform illegal warrantless searches of homes and offices.

Take to torturing terrorism suspects, here or abroad, in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. Unilaterally abrogate the Convention Against Torture as well as the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. Commit to indeterminate detention without trial those you decide are enemies. For good measure, trust that legislative supporters will eventually apply this policy as well to American citizens.

Suspend progressive taxation so that the wealthiest pay less proportionately than the middle class. See to it that the wealth of the country accumulates to a small fraction of the population so that the gap between rich and poor widens exponentially.

By cutting taxes and raising wartime expenditures, deplete the national treasury so that Congress and state and municipal legislatures cut back on domestic services, ensuring that there will be less money for the education of the young, for government health programs, for the care of veterans, for the maintenance of roads and bridges, for free public libraries, and so forth.

Deregulate the banking industry so as to create a severe recession in which enormous numbers of people lose their homes and jobs.

Before you leave office add to the Supreme Court justices like the ones who awarded you the presidency.

PHASE TWO

If you’re one of the conservative majority of a refurbished Supreme Court, rule that corporations, no less than human beings, have the right under the First Amendment to express their political point of view. To come to this judgment, do not acknowledge that corporations lack the range of feelings or values that define what it is to be human. That humans can act against their own interest, whereas corporations cannot act otherwise than in their own interest. That the corporation’s only purpose is to produce wealth, regardless of social consequences.

This decision of the court will ensure tremendous infusions of corporate money into the political process and lead to the election in national and state legislatures of majorities of de facto corporate lobbyists.

PHASE THREE

Given corporate control of legislative bodies, enact laws to the benefit of corporate interests. For example, those laws sponsored by weapons manufacturers wherein people may carry concealed weapons and shoot and kill anyone by whom they feel threatened.

Give the running of state prisons over to private corporations whose profits increase with the increase in inmate populations. See to it that a majority of prisoners are African-American.

When possible, treat immigrants as criminals.

Deplete and underfinance a viable system of free public schools and give the education of children over to private for-profit corporations.

Make college education unaffordable.

Inject religious precepts into public policy so as to control women’s bodies.

Enact laws prohibiting collective bargaining. Portray trade unions as un-American.

Enact laws restricting the voting rights of possibly unruly constituencies.

Propagandize against scientific facts that would affect corporate profits. Portray global warming as a conspiracy of scientists.

Having subverted the Constitution and enervated the nation with these measures, portray the federal government as unwieldy, bumbling and shot through with elitist liberals. Create mental states of maladaptive populism among the citizenry to support this view.

PHASE FOUR

If you’re a justice of the Supreme Court, decide that the police of any and all cities and towns and villages have the absolute authority to strip-search any person whom they, for whatever reason, put under arrest.

With this ruling, the reduction of America to unexceptionalism is complete.

E. L. Doctorow is the author, most recently of the novel “Homer and Langley.”

The Alberta Election Games?

The recent movie, The Hunger Games, refers to the theme of social control through fear and a glimmer of hope. Viz., one individual out of the 24 participants is guaranteed survival from the hunger games. Interestingly, through public protest about the games, this formula was changed to include two individuals from the same district, which resulted in the demise of the person who made the decision. The idea behind fear with small amount of hope is captured in a quote from the movie: "Hope. It's the only thing stronger than fear."

Does the Alberta electoral system work along with the same premises: by creating a glimmer of hope (of electoral success) in smaller and new political parties and segments of society, while the electoral system is profoundly stacked against the small and new parties, in favor of establishment parties which represent the dominant minority interests? (The same argument may apply to the Canadian federal electoral system as well.)

Political parties which conform to the controlling minority interests then become part of the establishment, which in turns further creates a facade of democracy through electoral competition. Entry into the political establishment means greater access to funds, political coverage, and favorable laws and regulations. It may be argued that the Wildrose Alliance became firmly part of the establishment in 2011 as evidenced by the surge in 2011 corporate contributions to the Wildrose Alliance, in which the party raised 2.7 million. Big money and Alberta politics

As the FDA established in its Alberta Report, the Alberta electoral system is bordering on a failed state in terms of electoral fairness, and the electoral finance aspect is in the failed zone by favoring minority and special interests over the interests of the people. (Links to the reports are below.)

Shortly, the FDA will produce reports showing factually gross disparities in the electoral finances and media coverage of the nine registered Alberta political parties.

What can be done?

Albertans need to be informed, and be given viable choice for change (rather than rhetorical change), and have an Alberta revolution if their fundamental democratic rights are denied systematically....

2012 FDA Canadian Provinces Electoral Finance Study

2012 FDA Electoral Fairness Report on Alberta

Friday, April 27, 2012

Mass Media and Democracy

This article by Bagehot of The Economist discusses the tenuous relationship between mass media corporations and UK democracy. The author points out that mass media can have significant influence on an election outcome and public policy, and may work in favor of incumbent political parties or against them. Mass media corporations are driven by profit and thereby readership, and may be driven exclusively by a particular agenda or ideology (with profit as a secondary consideration). See the Reemergence of Media Barons. Mass media can also shape the discourse of an election, and thereby impact the election outcome. The FDA acknowledges that this ability to shape discourse is decreasing through the rise of social media. However, most recently in the 2012 Alberta election, the FDA believes that the Alberta mass media played a decisive role in shaping the discourse through biased coverage throughout the 28 day campaign period, and including inclusion of leaders from only four of the nine registered parties in the only televised debate. Shortly, the FDA will be publishing a report on mass media coverage during the Alberta election. The report is based on data collected by the FDA in the Alberta press, radio, and television during the last 14 days of the campaign period.

Interestingly, Bagehot attributes the first-past-the-post system with the power of mass media over elected officials and election outcomes. The rationale is that the first-past-the-post system forces parties into the center in order to attain the most votes; whereas proportional representation systems by making most votes count allow for broadness in political perspective (and more diverse mass media). Paradoxically, another reason in favor of proportional representation: more diverse points of view in government and society as opposed to the status quo and narrowness in government and society....A democracy and society based on proportional representation would in theory would be significantly more interesting, inspirational, diverse etc. than the archaic, rigid first-past-the-post system and any governments which emerge from it.
 
This article in the UK Guardian sheds light on the relationship between mass media and the UK government, and how mass media influences public policy:

Murdoch Apologises Leveson Inquiry

Are British newspapers a menace to democracy?

BAGEHOT spent today in Singapore on the final leg of a trip watching the British foreign secretary at work in Asia. A future column will discuss Britain's new foreign policy plans, but this week's print column—written from the road—examines a furore back home triggered by the latest hearings of the Leveson inquiry into press ethics. Ripples from the debate about the British press, and its unhealthily swaggering relations with the country's political leaders, reached Asia all week. To my slight surprise, I found myself watching Leveson coverage live at Hong Kong airport, courtesy of CNN, caught up on more footage late at night on streaming video, and my Blackberry hummed with endless headlines.

Why is a row about British domestic press regulation global news? Is it because British newspapers and newspaper tycoons really are a menace to democracy? I am not sure. In part, of course, it is because Ruper Murdoch, the tycoon whose evidence made most waves this week, is a global media baron. But in part, I argue in this column, Britain simply has a very odd media market. Here's the column:

WHEN Britain’s biggest tabloid claimed credit for a Conservative general election victory with the front-page headline “It’s the Sun wot won it”, its proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, was not pleased. Giving evidence on April 25th to a public inquiry on press ethics, Mr Murdoch explained that he had administered “a terrible bollocking” to the Sun’s then editor, Kelvin MacKenzie. A “tasteless” claim, he said. “We don’t have that sort of power.”

The inquiry—chaired by Lord Justice Leveson, a judge—this week shone a light on ties between the media and politicians. The most dangerous revelations were e-mails apparently detailing contacts between News Corporation, Mr Murdoch’s company, and David Cameron’s government during the firm’s abortive bid to buy BSkyB, a satellite-television outfit. The relationship was sometimes friendly, sometimes tense, but always close—and rarely craven on the part of the media firm.

Another milestone in the Sun’s political coverage does not seem to have earned a proprietorial rebuke. It happened in 1992, on the night that Britain was forced out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. The prime minister of the day, John Major, telephoned Mr MacKenzie to ask how the Sun would be covering the story. “Actually,” Mr MacKenzie replied, “I have a bucket of shit on my desk, prime minister, and I’m going to pour it all over you.” Asked if this tale was true during his own appearance at the Leveson Inquiry, Mr MacKenzie enthusiastically re-enacted it.

Mr Mackenzie’s cheerful thuggery is unusual, even in Fleet Street. But the fact that he talked to a prime minister that way and kept his job suggests that relations between the British press and politicians are pretty unusual. Does that mean that the press wields democracy-threatening power?

The answer is complicated by the oddity of Britain’s media market. In America, News Corporation is just one of five important media firms. In contrast, its British arm is a local titan. The Sun has 2.6m readers in a country of 60m people: scale that up, and an American equivalent would sell 13m copies a day. Seven British dailies have circulations larger than the biggest-selling French national newspaper.

That many titles have been out of control is not in dispute. Just ask Lord Justice Leveson, hearing allegations of illegal phone-hacking, bribery and paparazzi intruding on funerals. But press savagery towards the rich and powerful also taps into an ancient British tradition, that of instinctive derision for the strutting toff or politician, amid the battle-cry: “Who does he think he is?”

If prodded, politicians will insist (through gritted teeth) that press savagery is vital to democracy. They are more skittish about whether they think newspapers decide elections.

In his memoirs, Tony Blair—whose 1997 win was preceded by an endorsement by the Murdoch press—writes about a 1995 flight to address a News Corporation conference in Australia (a pilgrimage that outraged the left). Mr Blair explains himself with a rhetorical question. Murdoch newspapers had hitherto been “rancorous in their opposition to the Labour Party”. On being invited into the “lion’s den”, Mr Blair argues: “You go, don’t you?”

Addressing the Leveson inquiry, Mr Murdoch told how relations with Mr Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, soured after his newspapers switched their support from Labour to Mr Cameron’s Conservatives. Once he and Mr Brown swapped tales of Scottish ancestors and their young children played together, he said. When his papers turned, Mr Murdoch claims that Mr Brown called to declare “war” on his companies. As for Mr Cameron, when the furore about press abuses took off in 2011, he declared that all party leaders had turned a blind eye to warning signs, because they were “so keen to win the support of newspapers”.

Newspaper campaigns clearly influence policy-making. Former Blair aides have credited Mr Murdoch, a tireless Eurosceptic, with helping to keep Britain out of the euro. But arguably their greatest day-to-day influence is indirect. British political leaders are drawn from an increasingly narrow, metropolitan pool. When tabloids bellow that they know the mind of the ordinary voter, it requires some self-confidence for an Oxbridge-educated, sushi-munching minister to ignore them.

Britain is an outlier in other ways. In lots of European countries politics encompasses angry extremes, with the hard-right and far-left attracting hefty votes. By contrast, newspapers in such countries are often small-circulation, centrist, and prim. Britain does things the other way round. Partly because of first-past-the-post voting, the big parties cluster at the political centre. The brass-band blare of dissent comes from a fiercely partisan press.

Call my diary secretary

Optimism may be hard this week. But the current stink could signal a general cleaning of the stables. Political leaders have already opened their diaries to disclose meetings with proprietors and editors. In parallel, fresh scandals over party fund-raising have revived efforts to reach a cross-party deal on donations, perhaps by capping the sums that individual donors can give.

Such reforms could help, says a senior politician. Donors, editors and proprietors have less influence than is commonly assumed. But they have enjoyed excessive access to party leaders, who for years devoted too much time to meeting them. Transparency over diaries should reduce such contacts. A cap on donations would do the same. If politicians meet media bosses and donors more sparingly and simply as professional contacts, that would be a good thing.

Such a change is overdue. Journalists and politicians can never be truly friends. Lowly reporters and MPs always knew this: given a big enough story, each will turn on the other. For too long, their respective bosses seemed to forget. Not any more.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

2012 Alberta Election Results under Preferential Voting and Proportional Representation

In his article "Possible Outcome of 2012 Alberta General Election with Preferential Voting", Dr. Tim Trudgian from the University of Lethbridge shows a possible outcome of the 2012 Alberta General Election with preferential voting. Preferential voting is a voting system based on ranking voter preferences using a threshold of 50 percent of popular support to determine who wins a seat, and transfer of the candidate with the lowest number votes' secondary preferences to the remaining candidates, until the 50 percent threshold is reached. The value of this system is that the winning candidate must have at least 50% of popular support through voter preferences. In contrast, the first-past-the-post system allows candidates with popular support well below 50 percent to win, case in point the 2011 federal election and the 2012 Alberta provincial election.

Dr. Trudgian's possible preferential outcome focuses on the NDP, Liberals, PC, and Wildrose for the sake of simplicity. Also, he assumes the voter preferences for these parties. The FDA believes these assumptions are reasonable. The preferential voting resulted in:

NDP 2 seats
Liberal 2 seats
PC Party 73 seats
Wildrose 10 seats

The actual election results were

NDP 4 seats
Liberal 5 seats
PC Party 61 seats
Wildrose 17 seats

The Liberal Party, the only party to support preferential voting actually lost 2 seats under the system, while the PC Party increased its seats by 12 and the Wildrose lost 7 seats and the NDP lost 2 seats. Dr. Trudgian accounts for the differences based partly on the PC Party having only one third place finish (and second and first in all other ridings), and the NDP preferences flowing to the PC Party.

Dr. Trudgian's possible outcome is limited because the election data is based on the actual first-the-past-post results and likely high strategic voting. In a preferential voting system, as Dr. Trudgian notes, there would be no cause for strategic voting, and some or many voters would have voted different in a preferential voting system.

In addition, the FDA determined a possible outcome of the Alberta election based on proportional representation. The same limitations to Dr. Trudgian's outcome applies to the FDA's.

To simplify the calculation, the FDA focuses on Calgary, dividing the city into five sectors made up of five seats each. Then the FDA totals the number votes per party for each sector and applies the modified Sainte-Laguë method as used in Norway and Sweden:
Seat distribution is divided by the following sequence: 1.4, 3, 5, 7, etc. (The number of votes of the winning party in each round is reduced by the sequence.)

Number of seats won under first-past-the-post:

In Calgary:

Alberta Liberals 2 seats
Alberta NDP 0 seats
PC Party 20 seats
Wildrose 3 seats

Popular vote in Calgary:

5 Sectors (comprised of 5 ridings each)

Acadia/Bow/Buffalo/Cross Currie

Alberta Liberals 10, 902
Alberta NDP 3, 350
PC Party 30, 338
Wildrose 24, 065

Application of modified Sainte-Laguë method:

1. PC Party 1 seat, 30,338 (21,670)
2. Wildrose 1 seat, 24, 065 (8, 021)
3. PC Party 1 seat, 21, 670 (4334)
4. Alberta Liberals 1 seat, 10, 902
5. Wildrose 1 seat, 8, 021

East/Elbow/Fish Creek/Foothills/Fort

Alberta Liberals 5, 685
Alberta NDP 4, 234
PC Party 47, 545
Wildrose 28, 114

Application of modified Sainte-Laguë method:

1. PC Party 1 seat, 47, 234 (33, 738)
2. PC Party 1 seat, 33, 738 (11, 246)
3. Wildrose 1 seat, 28, 114 (5, 622)
4. PC Party 1 seat, 11, 246
5. Alberta Liberals 1 seat, 5, 685

Glemore/Greenway/Hawkwook/Hays/Klein

Alberta Liberals 7, 228
Alberta NDP 4, 234
PC Party 47, 545
Wildrose 30, 249

Application of modified Sainte-Laguë method:

1. PC Party 1 seat, 47, 545 (33, 960)
2. PC Party 1 seat, 33, 960 (11, 320)
3. Wildrose 1 seat, 30, 249 (6, 049)
4. PC Party 1 seat, 11, 320
5. Alberta Liberals 1 seat, 7, 228

Lougheed/Mackay-Nose Hill/McCall/Mountain View/North West

Alberta Liberals 14, 127
Alberta NDP 3, 096
PC Party 31, 497
Wildrose 25, 457

Application of modified Sainte-Laguë method:

1. PC Party 1 seat, 31, 497 (22, 497)
2. Wildrose 1 seat, 25, 457 (8, 485)
3. PC Party 1 seat, 22, 497
4. Alberta Liberals 1 seat, 14, 127
5. Wildrose 1 seat, 8, 485

Northern Hills/Shaw/South East/Varsity/West

Alberta Liberals 6, 773
Alberta NDP 3, 201
PC Party 37, 626
Wildrose 29, 977

Application of modified Sainte-Laguë method:

1. PC Party 1 seat, 37, 626 (26, 875)
2. Wildrose 1 seat, 29, 977 (9, 992)
3. PC Party 1 seat, 26, 875 (5, 375)
4. Wildrose 1 seat, 9, 992
5. Alberta Liberals 1 seat, 6, 773

(Source of popular vote figures: Elections Alberta, Unofficial Election Results as of April 25, 2012; calculations by the Foundation for Democratic Advancement)

First-past-the-post election results for Calgary:

Alberta Liberals 2 seats
Alberta NDP 0 seats
PC Party 20 seats
Wildrose 3 seats

Proportional representation results for Calgary:

Alberta Liberals 5 seats (+3)
Alberta NDP 0 seats (0)
PC Party 14 seats (-6)
Wildrose 8 seats (+5)

As evidenced by the results above, the Wildrose, Alberta Liberals, and possibly the Alberta NDP (depending on the results in other regions) are at a disadvantage under the first-past-the-post system.

The first-past-the-post rewards the first candidate past the line; whereas proportional representation rewards popular vote. Popular vote is at the essence of democracy.

If we apply the percentages from Calgary to the rest of the province, a proportional representation system would have yielded possibly:

Alberta Liberals 6 seats (20 percent increase; Liberals and NDP have similar popular vote totals)
Alberta NDP 5 seats (20 percent increase)
PC Party 43 seats (30 percent reduction)
Wildrose 33 seats (43 percent increase)

Conclusion: 

Under proportional representation, the PC Party would have a minority government, or there would be a coalition government. This result is more democratic and fair than the Alberta election result in which the PC Party received a 61 seat majority, because the PC Party had only 43.89% of the popular vote and 30.91% voter support overall. The FDA believes that the PC Party is unworthy of a majority government. In the 2012 Alberta election, five parties campaigned for proportional representation, and the Wildrose Alliance Party (which stood most to benefit from it) did not support proportional representation (although it did in 2008).

Foundation for Democratic Advancement

Possible Outcome of 2012 Alberta General Election with Preferential Voting

2012 Alberta Proportional Representation Election Results 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Most Pollsters Did Not Pick Up Alberta Swing Voters

In this article by Ira Basen, the pollsters involved in the Alberta election rely on the Alberta election results to confirm their polls. As most Albertans know, most pollsters were far off the mark with about a 22 percent error rate.

Six polls were conducted between April 16 to April 21. The Wildrose Alliance Party scored between 40% to 41%, and the PC Party scored 31% to 34%. The actual election results were almost the reverse: PC Party 43.98% and the Wildrose Alliance Party 34.51%. The pollsters failed to record accurately the voting intentions of Alberta. Although these intentions may change overtime.

Interestingly, Forum Research was the only pollster to conduct polls in the last days of the election:
Saturday April 21: Wildrose Alliance Party 41% and PC Party 32%
Sunday April 22: Wildrose Alliance Party 38% and PC Party 36%
Monday April 23: Wildrose Alliance Party 34% and PC Party 44% (almost identical to the actual election results.)

The constant stream of poll results which favored the Wildrose Alliance Party may have worked against this party, by creating fear of a government further to the right. The federal Conservative Party of Canada, an offshoot of the Alberta Reform Party and with similar ideology to the Wildrose Alliance Party, have given Canadians a taste of the far right. In an Alberta election with no polls, the Wildrose Alliance Party may have squeaked in with a majority.


Polling, accuracy, and the contest for bragging rights

Everyone expects this race to be close, perhaps decided by just a fraction of a percentage point. There are several strongcandidates. But none belongs to a political party.

This is a race between pollsters, not politicians.

For Canada's highly competitive, billion-dollar market research industry, election night is the equivalent of Grey Cup Sunday.

When the votes are all counted, which polling firm will have come closest to getting the numbers right, and how close will that be?

Public opinion polling has been around since the 1930s and has been shown to yield remarkably accurate results, 19 times out of 20.

But for many people, polling still carries the whiff of snake oil.

How can 1,000 people, chosen at random, represent the views of 33 million? How can a pollster know what I'm thinking when none of them have ever asked me?

That's why the polling industry's credibility is on the line every election campaign.

Many people wouldn't mind seeing pollsters get knocked down a few notches. They can be irritating and arrogant on TV, pontificating about what "Canadians" are thinking.

If nothing else, we want to show that we're not as predictable as we might appear.

Indeed, that almost happened in 2004.

That was not a good election for Canada's pollsters. All the big firms seriously over-stated the Conservative and NDP vote, while under-estimating the Liberals by amounts that lay outside their margins of error.

The NDP won 15.7 per cent of the vote in 2004, far less that the 19 per cent predicted in the final Ekos poll, and the 20 in the SES (now Nanos) one.

The Liberals ended up with 36.7 per cent of the vote, not the 32 per cent predicted in the final Ipsos poll.

Despite these results, the polling industry was unapologetic.

Polls, they reminded us, are "snapshots in time." They are designed to tell you what people are thinking when they are asked a question, and are supposed to have no predictive value.

This can be quite handy when doing political polling. Pollsters stop polling a day or two before the voting starts. So if the actual results don't match the latest polling data, don't blame the pollster.

Maybe they're right. Maybe large numbers of people did change their minds at the last minute. We don't know. But it must be nice to be in a business where you can never be proven wrong.

If you are keeping score, the past two campaigns have been better for the pollsters.

2006 was a particularly good year. Nanos won the crown for most accurate polling. Its last poll, taken the day before the vote, came within 0.01 per cent of the final totals for all four major parties.

You can't get much closer than that. Other major polling firms were not far behind.

2008 was not as good. Bragging rights that time went to Angus Reid. Its final, online poll proved to be the most accurate. But it was still about a percentage point off the actual vote total for each of the parties.

Most of the other companies floundered when it came to the Conservative vote, under-estimating it by around three percentage points.

This year's election campaign comes at a time when the industry is under scrutiny as never before.

A few months ago, two of its leading lights, Allan Gregg of Harris Decima and Frank Graves of Ekos, complained to the Canadian Press that the industry needed to address serious methodological challenges if it hoped to remain credible.

In response, the industry's trade association, the Market Research and Intelligence Association, took out a full-page ad in Ottawa's Hill Times newspaper declaring its "confidence in the results of our polling and in the value that we provide to Canadians."

But the reality is that the polling business is changing dramatically.

Randomized telephone polling, which has been the backbone of the industry for decades, is rapidly giving way to online polling. See my earlier post.

This may be the last campaign where the telephone is the primary instrument of choice for pollsters. Everyone in the industry is scrambling to figure out where things are heading next.

For proof, you just have to look at the wide range of approaches that three of Canada's leading pollsters are employing.

Nanos continues to use randomized telephone surveys.

Ekos also uses the telephone, but it has replaced humans with machines. People who receive an Ekos robo-call are asked to punch in their answers to machine-generated questions on the keypads of their telephones.

Angus Reid uses an online survey. It randomly selects 2,000 people who have been non-randomly selected to participate in the company's marketing surveys, and asks them to answer questions about their political preferences.

All of the companies ask some variation of the "If a federal election were held today who would you vote for" question, but again, there are important differences.

Nanos asks people to name their favourite party. Unlike the others, it doesn't prompt them by providing the names.

All of them follow up the voter preference question with other questions designed to test, among other things, how strong the respondent's commitment is to their chosen party, and how likely they are to vote.

After all, with voter turnout now hovering below 60 per cent, roughly four out of every 10 people surveyed by pollsters probably won't wind up voting at all.

Figuring out who those people are, and properly factoring them into the equation, is critical to arriving at an accurate number.

All of these questions and methodologies reflect the latest in social science research and all are focused on one objective: to come closest to predicting how Canadians will vote on May 2.

Right now, there are still some fairly wide gaps among the polls, up to five percentage points difference in assessments of the NDP as well as the Conservative vote.

Over the next few days, you can expect to see those gaps narrow, as voters firm up their decisions, and pollsters increase the number of people they survey in order to reduce their margin of error.

It's a high-stakes, high-profile game that no one wants to lose.

Which is why politicians will not be the only people watching with sweaty palms as the votes are counted on Monday night.

Final Poll Records Swing to the PC Party


Evidence of Alberta Media Bias After Alberta Election

The CBC's overall Alberta election results only show five Alberta parties. There were nine registered Alberta parties. The Evergreen Party of Alberta, Communist Party--Alberta, Alberta Social Credit Party, and Separation Party of Alberta are not mentioned. Surely, based on their party registration, they should at least be mentioned in the results.

CBC's Alberta Election Results

Global Television shows the same overall results as the CBC:

Global Television's Overall Results

2012 Alberta Election Results Expose Shortcomings of the Alberta Electoral System

The 2012 Alberta election results were as follows:

1. PC Party 61 seats, 43.89% (567, 191 votes)
2. Wildrose Alliance Party 17 seats, 34.35% (442, 467 votes)
3. Alberta Liberal Party 5 seats, 9.88% (127, 662 votes)
4. Alberta NDP 4 seats, 9.84% (126, 742 votes)
5. Alberta Party, 0 seats, 1.36% (17, 171 votes)
6. Evergreen Party of Alberta 0 seats, .39% (5, 079 votes)
7. Alberta Social Credit 0 seats, 0% (294 votes)
8. Communist Party-Alberta 0 seats, 0% (210 votes)
9. Separation Party of Alberta 0 seats, 0% (68 votes)

42% of Albertans did not vote.

Notable facts: 

1. The PC Party received 70.1% majority of the Alberta legislative, and yet only 43.89% of the popular vote, and 30.91% support overall. The PC Party campaigned for "change", but did not have a democracy reform platform. (Under the first-past-the-post system, in 2011 the federal Conservative Party of Canada received 54% majority of the Canadian parliament, and yet 39.6% of the popular vote and 24.3% support overall.)

2. The Wildrose Alliance Party received 19.5% of the seats in the Alberta legislature, and yet 34.35% of the popular vote, and 24.2% support overall. In 2012, the Wildrose Alliance Party dropped its policy of a referendum process on proportional representation.

3. The Alberta NDP and Liberals received 10.3% of the seats in the Alberta legislature, and yet 19.72% of the popular vote and 13.7% support overall. The Alberta NDP supported proportional representation, and the Alberta Liberal supported preferential voting.

4. More Albertans chose not to vote than those Albertans who supported the PC Party: 42% to 30.91%.

5. Alberta's two right wing parties account for 78.24% of the popular vote and 55.11% support overall. 

The FDA is in the process of completing a media and electoral finance studies on the Alberta election. The preliminary results indicate that Alberta's election results correspond to the differences in the parties' electoral finances and media coverage. 

2012 Alberta Proportional Representation Election Results

Monday, April 23, 2012

Provinces' Voter Turnout does not Correlate Exactly to the FDA's Electoral Finance Results

In its recent Canadian Provinces Electoral Finance study, the FDA measured electoral finance fairness in Canada's provinces as follows:

1. Québec (100 percent)
2. Manitoba (85.1 percent)
3. Nova Scotia (77.4 percent)
4. New Brunswick (72.1 percent)
5. Ontario (66.3 percent)
6. Newfoundland and Labrador (51.3 percent)
7. British Columbia (49.1 percent)
8. Saskatchewan (49 percent)
9. Prince Edward Island (48.4 percent)
10. Alberta (47.7 percent)

Turnout in Provincial Elections, 1965 to 2009 Provinces:

Alberta
40.6% (2008) Minimum Turnout (Year)
72.0% (1971) Maximum Turnout (Year)
 
British Columbia
51.0% (2009) Minimum Turnout (Year)
77.7% (1983) Maximum Turnout (Year)

Manitoba
54.2% (2003) Minimum Turnout (Year)
78.3% (1973) Maximum Turnout (Year)

Newfoundland and Labrador
61.3% (2007) Minimum Turnout (Year)
83.6% (1993) Maximum Turnout (Year)

New Brunswick
67.5% (2006) Minimum Turnout (Year)
82.1% (1967) Maximum Turnout (Year)

Nova Scotia
58.0% (2009) Minimum Turnout (Year)
78.2% (1978) Maximum Turnout (Year
 
Ontario
52.1% (2007) Minimum Turnout (Year)
73.5% (1971) Maximum Turnout (Year)

Prince Edward Island
78.2% (1982) Minimum Turnout (Year)
87.3% (1970) Maximum Turnout (Year)

Quebec
57.4% (2008) Minimum Turnout (Year)
85.3% (1976) Maximum Turnout (Year)

Saskatchewan
64.6% (1995) Minimum Turnout (Year)
83.9% (1982) Maximum Turnout (Year)

All
40.6% (AB 2008) Minimum Turnout (Year)
87.3% (PE 1970) Maximum Turnout (Year)
71.5% Overall mean

Mean Turnout (Ranking out of 10) (1965-2009)

1. Prince Edward Island 83.8%
2. Saskatchewan 77.0%
3. Quebec 76.3%
4. New Brunswick 76.9%
5. Newfoundland and Labrador 74.2%
6. Nova Scotia 71.1%
7. British Columbia 69.2%
8. Manitoba 67.9%
9. Ontario 62.5%
10. Alberta 56.4%

Source: Reports of Chief Electoral Officers, calculations by Jared J. Wesley

Analysis: 

Alberta is last in voter turnout percentages and electoral finance fairness. However, Manitoba's low voter turnout does not correlate to its high score for electoral finance. Also, Prince Edward Island's and Newfoundland and Labrador's high voter turnout do not correlate to their low electoral finance scores. Quebec's high voter turnout correlates somewhat to its very high electoral finance score. Saskatchewan's high voter turnout does not correlate to its low electoral finance score.

The FDA believes that there are many factors behind voter turnout. This complexity likely explains the lack of exact correlation between voter turnout and fairness of electoral finance legislation. In addition, electoral finance legislation is only one main part of the electoral process. There are other areas such as media laws and candidate and party regulations which also have an impact.

Further, the FDA electoral finance study is based on 2011 legislation, while the voter turnout percentages are based on 1965 to 2009. In the case of Quebec, for example, it has made recent improvements in its legislation including lower caps on electoral contributions. Prince Edward Island has a population of about 150,000, which may encourage higher voter turnout. Another issue is how many voters from 1965 to 2009 were aware of the fairness of their province's electoral finance legislation? If there is minimal awareness, then fairness of electoral fairness would have minimal potential impact. 

2012 FDA Canadian Provinces Electoral Finance Study

Turnout in Canadian Provincial Elections 1965-2009 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Reemergence of Newspaper Barons

In the article by David Carr of the New York Times, Carr argues that there is a reemergence of newspaper barons in the United States, similar to how it was prior to W.W. II. With the North American newspaper industry in overall steady decline, it is prime target for takeover by special interests. A newspaper baron refers to a newspaper owner or ownership group who use newspapers to promote special interests, rather than objective journalism for the greater good of society. Newspapers owned by barons are similar to congressional lobbyists who are paid by corporations and other special interests. Perhaps this newspaper baron phenomenon will further erode the newspaper industry, and what about barons of radio and television? The FDA is in the process of completing a media study on Alberta in terms major media election content and ownership concentration. The report will be released in May of 2012. Canada's Postmedia Network Canada Corporation, for example, which owns a number of national and provincial newspapers such as the Ottawa Citizen, National Post, and Calgary Herald may be considered a corporate newspaper baron in the sense that it is promoting a particular ideology, and thereby special interest. Also, there may be connections between the Postmedia Network Canada Corporation and the Canadian federal government (Conservative Party of Canada), as the ideologies of both entities in the FDA's view are in sync. The point being that newspaper barons are not exclusive to corporations and political persons, but may include governments and political parties.

Newspaper Barons Resurface

Is there anything more forlorn than the American metropolitan newspaper? First readers began deserting in droves, then the advertisers followed. Family owners headed for the exits and then hedge funds and other financial players scooped up newspapers thinking they were buying at the bottom of the market. Greater fools came and went, each saying they could cut their way to former glory and renewed profitability. They got a haircut instead.

Many smaller community newspapers remain stable and newspapers with a large national footprint have generally done better. But quite a few of the midsize regional and metropolitan dailies that form the core of the industry have gone off a cliff: over all, the newspaper industry is half as big as it was seven years ago.

So if most newspapers are an uneconomical proposition incapable of sustaining profits, let alone pay off the debt so many buyers have larded on them, who is left to own them?

Rich guys.

Not the merely well off, but the kind of men with who long ago separated themselves from humdrum economic realities of life. Sure there are other expensive hobbies, but how many antique cars or 19th-century landscapes can you own? Newspapers may be short on profits, but they have become a new form of ostentation. How rich is he? He can afford to own a newspaper, for crying out loud.

At the end of last year, Warren E. Buffett bought The Omaha World-Herald through his company, Berkshire Hathaway. This would be the same Mr. Buffett who told his annual shareholder meeting in 2009 that newspapers faced “unending losses” and that he would not buy most of them “at any price.” Yet there he was, ponying up $200 million for a relatively small regional newspaper in Berkshire Hathaway’s hometown.

And he is not alone. Douglas F. Manchester, a very rich developer, bought The San Diego Union Tribune at about the same time, for a reported $110 million. At the end of last month, S. Donald Sussman, a hedge fund manager and philanthropist who is married to a congresswoman, Chellie Pingree, bought a stake in the company that owns The Portland Press Herald in Maine.

And then word came at the beginning of last week that a group of very rich, very influential Philadelphia businessmen — including George E. Norcross III, a Democratic power broker in Southern New Jersey, and Lewis Katz, the parking magnate — bought the Philadelphia Media Network, which owns The Inquirer, The Daily News and Philly.com.

Does all this smart money see something the rest of us have failed to? Some hidden, unlocked riches in these distressed assets? No. In each instance, the buyer was motivated, at least in part, by the fact that the newspapers faced an existential threat: but for the new owners and their deep pockets, they might go away.

The benefactors also stand to benefit in ways that may not go directly to the bottom line, but have significant value. We will give the Oracle of Omaha a bye here because no newspaper can touch him — newsprint spitballs against a battleship — but in San Diego, Mr. Manchester has been frank about using the paper to prosecute a pro-development, pro-new-stadium agenda.

Mr. Sussman is now wed to both a member of Congress and one of the largest newspapers in Maine, so the conflict there is manifest. And the men involved in the Philadelphia purchase have received frequent and sometimes rugged coverage from the papers there.

At this point, the media columnist is supposed to make tsk-tsk noises about editorial independence. But that moralism is a luxury that mostly belongs to another era, when newspapers had functional monopolies and everyone was dying to get their hands on them. Now selling a newspaper is akin to peddling a used Humvee, a hulking beast that has lost relevance in a changed landscape.

Besides, who is to say that it will turn out badly, at least in terms of sustaining much-needed coverage in important American cities? The Philadelphia properties have had four owners in the last five years and the recent sale price of $55 million was just 10 percent of what they were worth in 2006. One of the ownership groups was led by Brian P. Tierney, a public relations executive who was assailed for harboring all manner of agendas when he helped buy the newspapers.

At the time, a former Inquirer reporter, Ralph Cipriano, said of Mr. Tierney: “He doesn’t understand what we do. He doesn’t respect what we do, and he doesn’t think we should be doing it.” He added: “I don’t see how a guy like that can run a newspaper and not just turn it into another extension of the spin machine.”

It didn’t turn out that way. Mr. Tierney eventually lost control of the papers for business reasons, but when he did, the staffs and many people in Philadelphia hailed him as a hero, a man who rigorously oversaw the editorial independence of a newspaper he once fought with.

One reason he got such high marks is that he hired William K. Marimow, formerly a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at The Inquirer. Mr. Marimow was quickly dismissed after Mr. Tierney lost control of the newspapers to his lenders.

Mr. Katz and Mr. Norcross faced similar skepticism in the run-up to their purchase. Just before the sale was announced, The Inquirer quoted a report by the New Jersey comptroller accusing Mr. Norcross of orchestrating an insurance payback scheme. Arriving with a big credibility gap, the new owners responded by bringing back Mr. Marimow from Arizona State, where he had been teaching, and reinstalling him as editor in chief.

If you pull back a few thousand feet, you can see newspapers coming full circle. Before World War II, newspapers were mostly owned by political and business interests who used them to push an agenda. People like William Randolph Hearst and Robert McCormick wielded their newspapers as cudgels to get their way. It was only when newspapers began making all kinds of money in the postwar era that they were professionalized and infused with editorial standards.

“We are going back to a form of ownership that dominated in an earlier era,” said Alan D. Mutter, a newspaper and technology consultant. “As newspapers become less impressive businesses, people are going to buy them as trophies or bully pulpits or some other form of personal expression.”

David Nasaw, a professor of history at the CUNY Graduate Center, has written extensively about the newspaper barons of old. He is skeptical about the motives of their modern descendants. “People just have to be aware that other agendas exist, and the owners should be clear about that, but any time a big city newspaper is saved, I think we should stand up and salute.”

The Philly newspapers may end up being a cat toy for the new owners. Or the owners could catch the journalism bug and access the angels of their better natures.

Mr. Marimow, speaking before he had to run off to teach a class, said that it beats the alternative.

“I am coming back because I strongly believe that this ownership group, despite their connections, is interested in producing news in print and online that is going to be distinguished and will serve the public in the Philadelphia area,” he said. “I also believe that over the long term, they will produce a highly profitable business.”

I’m both a journalism geek and an optimist, so I’ll choose to believe most of what he believes. Except that last part about “highly profitable.”

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Alberta Parties' Democracy Reform Platforms Examined



At the April 17, 2012 Public Forum on Alberta Democracy Reform, FDA executive director Stephen Garvey discusses the 2012 democracy reform platforms of the nine Alberta political parties. The discussion includes a comparison of the 2008 platforms to the 2012 platforms.

Alberta Parties 2008 Democracy Reform Platforms Compared to 2012 Platforms

FDA Power Point from the Public Forum on Alberta Democracy Reform (Slides: 12 to 18 referred to in video)


Friday, April 20, 2012

More Perspective on the 2012 Alberta Provincial Election

This recent article by Jason Fekete for the Ottawa Citizen captures some elements of the Alberta provincial election. (The Ottawa Citizen is part of the Postmedia Network Canada Corporation, which owns a number of right wing national and provincial newspapers across Canada including the National Post and Calgary Herald.) With Alberta having the third largest reserve of oil in the world, it may not be surprising that there has been a lot interest in the Alberta provincial election. The FDA is conducting a major media study which will show that the election had nothing to do with the people of Alberta, but everything to do with Alberta minority and special interests. The FDA Alberta Media Report will be published in May.

The article below focuses on the Wildrose Alliance Party and the PC Party, and sheds light on the ideological connection between the Wildrose Alliance Party and the federal Conservative Party of Canada. As most Canadians know, the Conservative Party of Canada resurrected itself in 1990s through the Reform Party based out of Alberta and which has strong libertarian leanings. It is highly questionable that the Alberta election outcome will have national implications because the Wildrose Alliance and PC Party are both pro-oil sands development. The difference between the two parties' ideologies comes down to the amount of government social expenditure, with the Wildrose Alliance favoring less. After the Alberta election, it will be business as usual in Alberta. It should noted as well, based on the constant stream of Alberta polls results, Alberta Liberals and NDP cannot be considered main challengers. The Alberta election has been lopsided in favor of right wing parties from the start of the election. There is a lot at stake. Interestingly of all nine Alberta parties, it is only the Alberta NDP which is willing to tilt the Alberta electoral system in favor of the people of Alberta, while the Wildrose Alliance Party offers insignificant reforms of the legislative process and the PC Party ignores democracy reform.


Alberta election will have national implications

OTTAWA — The Alberta provincial election campaign heads into its final sprint this weekend, leading up to Monday's vote, in a race that is as exciting as it is important for the rest of the country.
Danielle Smith's upstart Wildrose party is ahead in the polls and appears on the verge of defeating Alison Redford's ruling Progressive Conservatives and toppling the 41-year Tory dynasty.
At stake are the keys to the premier's office and control over one of the richest jurisdictions in North America, as two conservative parties battle it out in what's a messy political civil war.

Yet, all Canadians arguably have an enormous amount riding on the results of the election — both politically and economically.

"It matters (to Canadians), given that the population centre and the economic centre of gravity is starting to move West," said Duane Bratt, political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

"The premier of Alberta should be playing a larger role on the national stage."
Huge resource, huge target:

Indeed, resource-rich Alberta has become an economic juggernaut in Confederation.
The northern Alberta oilsands contribute tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs across the country and billions of dollars to the national economy.

Moreover, the federal Conservative government's environmental policies and regulatory reforms for oil and gas projects are influenced by Alberta's petroleum-powered economy.
But the province also remains a lightning rod within Canada — and around the world — for the environmental footprint of carbon-intensive oilsands developments on land, air and water.

Also, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has complained the high "petro-dollar" is hobbling Central Canada's manufacturing sector.

The oilsands are the third-largest proven oil reserves in the world next to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, but also the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

Certainly, Wild Rose Country remains a polarizing province. Alberta's role in Confederation and how Canadians view the province could be heavily shaped by the results of Monday's vote.

"Twenty years ago, people wouldn't have cared because Alberta was not the economic powerhouse that it now is," said David Taras, a political analyst at Mount Royal University.

"It's very hard to ignore (Alberta's economic clout). It may not be the elephant in the room, but it certainly is in the room and getting bigger all the time."

The incumbent:

Redford, 47, is a one-term Calgary legislative member, former provincial justice minister and human rights lawyer by training, who captured the PC party crown and premiership in October.

She proudly trumpets her progressive values, has long roots in the provincial PC party, as well as the federal Conservatives dating back to Joe Clark's time in the Prime Minister's Office.

But Redford has been fighting the provincial PCs' record, as well as recent political headaches, including revelations that members on a Tory-dominated legislature committee were paid $1,000 a month despite the fact they had not met since 2008.

Redford has since ordered all PC members on the committee to return every penny they were paid for serving on the panel, but not before political damage was done.

Many observers believe the PCs will need to snare progressive voters from the opposition Liberals and NDP, as well as hold on to their bases in Calgary and Edmonton, if they're to retain power.

The No. 1 contender:

Smith, 41, is a former small business advocate, journalist and past PC member who captured the leadership in the fall of 2009 of what was then the newly formed Wildrose Alliance party.

Now known simply as Wildrose, the right-of-centre party — with the charismatic Smith at the helm — has attracted disillusioned Progressive Conservatives and poses the most serious threat to the Tories in their 41 years of consecutive majority rule.

Smith is a libertarian and landowners' rights advocate who's targeting true-blue conservative voters and appears to have strong support across the province, especially in rural Alberta.

It's believed a majority of Alberta's 26 federal Conservative MPs support Wildrose, an organization with many supporters and organizers, whose political roots trace back to the former Reform party.

Results of several polls have Wildrose leading the PCs and on pace to form a majority government on Monday, despite only holding four of 83 seats in the Conservative-dominated legislature heading into the election.

The other main challengers:

The Alberta Liberals, the official Opposition heading into the election, are led by Raj Sherman, a 45-year-old emergency room physician who was punted from the PC caucus in late 2010 for criticizing the government's handling of the health-care file.

NDP leader Brian Mason, 58, is a former bus driver and Edmonton city councillor who has been at the helm of his party since 2004. The NDP held only two seats in the provincial legislature heading into the election.
Poll results suggest the Liberals and NDP are well back of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties and may only win a handful of seats each.

Campaign highlights and lowlights:

The 28-day race started inauspiciously for Smith, after the Wildrose unveiled a campaign "bust bus" covered in a decal with the party logo and a picture of Smith's head and neckline right above the rear wheels. The party quickly changed the decal.

While Wildrose is ahead in the polls, the party's momentum has stalled somewhat in the last week following controversial remarks from some of its candidates.

An Edmonton Wildrose candidate sparked backlash for a blog he wrote last year that warned homosexuals will suffer for eternity in a "lake of fire." Also, a Calgary Wildrose hopeful said during a radio interview he thinks he has an electoral advantage because he is "Caucasian." He later apologized, saying the comment didn't reflect his true feelings.

Smith is also facing criticism for Wildrose's promise to explore what opponents say are insular "firewall" policies, such as a provincial police force, an aggressive stance on equalization and an Alberta Pension Plan to replace the Canada Pension Plan.

However, Smith and her party received a boost Thursday when Reform party founder Preston Manning, the patriarch of the modern-day federal Conservatives, appeared to endorse the Wildrose in an op-ed article he penned.

Redford and the Conservatives, meanwhile, have been fighting public outrage over the committee pay scandal, and trying to shore up their health-care credentials following continued accusations that physicians have been intimidated and bullied by the PC government.

The Tory leader also was thrown on the defensive for a few days after a PC staffer resigned from her job in the premier's Calgary office after questioning on Twitter why Smith doesn't have children. Smith later explained she and her husband wanted to have children but could not.

Redford, however, got her own boost via an influential endorsement from former Alberta PC premier Peter Lougheed, a political god in the province, who did battle with the federal Liberal governments in the 1970s and 80s.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Audio Recording of the FDA Public Forum on Alberta Democracy Reform

This podcast is of the FDA presentation at the FDA Public Forum on Alberta Democracy Reform. FDA Executive Director Stephen Garvey presents the FDA findings from the 2012 FDA Alberta Report, 2012 FDA Canadian Province Report, and summaries the democracy reform platforms of the 2012 Alberta political parties. In addition, Garvey identifies the changes in the Alberta parties' democracy reform platforms from 2008 to 2012. Following the presentation are segments of the question and answer from the forum.

Audio Recording of the FDA Public Forum on Alberta Democracy Reform

FDA Power Point Presentation from FDA Public Forum

2012 FDA Canadian Provinces Electoral Finance Report

2012 FDA Alberta Electoral Fairness Report

Alberta citizen says Canadians need to stand up for their democracy

At the April 17 FDA Public Forum on Alberta Democracy Reform, the FDA interviewed Mrs. Marian White, photographer and writer from Calgary, on the forum and Canadian democracy. Mrs. White says that Canadians need to wake up and start protecting their democracy or allow minority interests to continue to erode it:


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Albertans' Election Dilemma: not who to vote for, but how to mitigate election damage

Apparently, many Albertans are struggling with the idea of how to mitigate the impact of Alberta's election outcome, rather than vote simply for candidates and parties which more truly represent theirs views and beliefs. The phenomenon is called strategic voting: the use of one's vote to support an outcome which results in the lesser of two evils or preventing a particular party from winning an election.

Albertans are facing the far right wing libertarian Wildrose Alliance Party and the right wing and more socially oriented PC Party (and seven others parties aligned from the middle to the far left of the political spectrum).

Due partly to major media bias, and election finance laws which favor parties with strong ties to corporate and wealthy interests, the Alberta election discourse has been biased, significantly, to the Wildrose Alliance and PC Party. For example, just two days into the election, the Calgary Herald ran a front page article with photographs and referencing survey results it co-sponsored, about a two party race, and only mentioned four parties out of the nine registered Alberta parties.

Since 75% of Albertans make less than $49.999 a year (Statistics Canada, 2011), the prospects of a Wildrose Alliance government is somewhat terrifying for some Albertans, because middle and lower income Albertans will be left to fend more for themselves as social programs are cut.

So do Albertans vote for the PC Party, the lesser of two evils, or do they vote for the party which truly represents their interests and beliefs? In recent Alberta elections, the number of strategic voters has been around 22 percent, which is about 1 in 5 voters. The number could be higher in this election.

What should Albertans do?

The FDA advises that Albertans evaluate the threat that the Wildrose Alliance proposes, and if that threat is deemed very serious, then Albertans should vote for the PC Party, the next viable option to form government (in order to quell/prevent the greater evil). Canadians are aware of the consequences of doing otherwise, as the federal Conservative Party of Canada, which has a similar agenda to the Wildrose Alliance Party, is dismantling Canada's civil society, silencing opposition voices, and pursuing a narrow, short-term economic agenda at the expense of Canadian society and environment.


In terms of democracy reform and from a non-partisan perspective, the Alberta NDP has the most progressive and sound democracy reform platform of all nine Alberta parties, by banning corporations and trade unions from making electoral contributions, and supporting campaign expenditure limits and proportional representation. But what good is voting for the Alberta NDP if the greater evil gets into power? Can Albertans, especially middle and lower income earners bear four years of the libertarian agenda of the Wildrose Alliance; can Alberta civil society bear four years of it; can Alberta's environment bear four years of it....?
 
Evidence of Media Bias Early in Alberta Election

Wildrose Inducing Votes?

2012 FDA Canadian Provinces Report 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Conservative Party of Canada (fed government) takes its ideological aim at Suzuki and other environmental groups

Conservative Party of Canada (through the federal government) takes ideological aim at Suzuki Foundation and other environmental groups. David Suzuki resigned from his Foundation in an attempt to thwart attacks from Canada's conservative government.

The Conservative federal government has been on an ideological mission to weaken and silence opposition to its neo-conservative ideology.

Below are links to only a few of the attacks on Canada's civil society.  

Suzuki Resigns from Foundation Amidst Pressure from Conservative federal government

Conservative federal government closes democracy and human rights agency

Nature Journal Criticizes Canadian Government's Censorship

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Interesting Commentary on the FDA's Canadian Provinces Report

The commentary below was collected from the comments to the CBC-Radio Canada article "Financement électoral: note de F pour 3 provinces de l'Ouest, A+ pour le Manitoba et le Québec"

The FDA did a google translate of the comments and made minor edits of the google translation. The original comments in French also appear below.

As a related side note, in 2011 the FDA produced an electoral fairness audit report on Canada, in which Canada performed very poorly. The report was ignored by Canada's major media.

Comments on "Financement électoral: note de F pour 3 provinces de l'Ouest, A+ pour le Manitoba et le Québec":

1. By Dominic Marin (12th April, 2012)

“What crap.

Should we be made very low in our society because of mediocre and corrupt media.”

Original French comment:

“Quelle connerie.

Faut-il que nous soyons rendu bien bas dans notre société pour avoir des médias aussi médiocres et corrompus.”


2. By Francois Viedange (12th April, 2012)

“Today we just fell in F.”

Original French comment:

“Aujourd'hui on vient de tomber à F.”


3. By Jean-Francois Asselin (April 11th, 2012)

"I would note that the provinces with the highest score, are French;

Franco-Ontarians are in absolute numbers the largest community of francophone Canada outside Quebec. There are 51,146 francophones in Manitoba. There are 510,240 mother-tongue Francophones in Ontario....”

Original French comment:

"Je ferais remarquer que les provinces qui ont la meilleure note, sont francophones;

Les Franco-ontariens représentent en nombre absolu la plus grande communauté de francophones du Canada après celle du Québec. Il y a 51 146 francophones au Manitoba. Il y a 510 240 francophones de langue maternelle en Ontario....”


4. By Jacques Simard (April 11th, 2012)

“Curious that Quebec here gets an A and the same day an article above is intended to denounce a system of slush funds established for the benefit of the PLQ is true that the land of the blind eyed man is king ...”

Original French comment:

“curieux qu'ici le Québec se mérite un A et que dans la même journée un article plus haut se veut dénoncer un système de caisses occultes institué au profit du PLQ, c'est vrai qu'au pays des aveugles les borgnes sont rois...”


5. By Isabelle Caron (11th April, 2012 in response to Jacques Simard)

“The benefit of all parties. Give the correct time.”

Original French comment:

“Au profit de tous les partis. Donnez l'heure juste.”


6. By Yvan Dubois (11th April, 2012)

“Why was not Canada's scored? It was only the provinces but the federal government also must be funded.

Original French Comment:

“Pourquoi on a pas la note du Canada? On a seulement les provinces mais le fédéral lui aussi doit être financé.”


7. By Alexander Q. Poitras (11th April, 2012 in response to Yvan Dubois)

“Canada was a note too weak, since the arrival of Art Fear, to be published.....”

Original French Comment:

“C'était une note trop médiocre, depuis l'arrivé d'Art-Peur, pour être publié.....”


8. By Danielle Turcotte (11th April, 2012)

“We forgot to talk with Gilles Cloutier....”

Original French Comment:

“On a oublié de parler avec Gilles Cloutier....”


9. By Pierre Delisle (April 11th, 2012)

“This is flat: This is good news. Nothing to criticize”

Original French comment:

“C'est plate: C'est une bonne nouvelle. Rien à critique”


10. By Stephen Sauve (April 11th, 2012)

“It appears that Mr. Harper wants federal standards that are based on Alberta ... it speaks volumes...”

Original French comment:

“Il semble que M. Harper veuille que les normes au fédéral soit basé sur l'Alberta... cela en dit long...”


11. By Claude Jacques (April 11th, 2012)

“I would note that the provinces have the highest rating, are francophone; by cons, we must believe that the richest are perhaps undemocratic.”

Original French comment:

“Je ferais remarquer que les provinces qui ont la meilleure note, sont francophones; par contre, il faut croire que les plus riches sont peut-être antidémocratiques.”


12. By Pat Lachance (April 11th, 2012)

“Yep! There's a big problem of corruption and intimidation here. I hope that the immigrant population grandissate from the best provinces will help us!

It would be nice if these standards are based on federal and provincial levels too.”

Original French comment:

“Ouep! Y'a un gros problème de corruption et d'intimidation ici. J'espère que la population immigrante grandissate en provenance des meilleures provinces va nous aider!

Ce serait bien que ces normes soient fédérales et basées sur les deux provinces championnes.”


13. By Isabelle Caron (11th April, 2012 in response to Pat Lachance)

“With Harper abolishing public funding of parties, we went straight into a wall. Multinationals will fund the hand that feeds. This system was set up precisely to avoid corruption. Harper plunges us there. You draw the necessary conclusions.”

Original French comment:

“Avec Harper qui abolit le financement public des partis, on s'en va droit dans un mur. Les multinationales vont financer la main qui les nourrit. Ce système avait été mis en place justement pour éviter la corruption. Harper nous y replonge. À vous de tirer les conclusions qui s'imposent.”


CBC Radio Canada Article on the FDA's Canadian Provinces Report

2012 FDA Canadian Provinces Report

FDA Media Advisory on the 2011 FDA Canada Report

FDA Media Advisory on the 2012 FDA Canadian Provinces Report

2012 Quebec Kickback Allegations in Construction Industry

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Alberta Political Parties: 2008 Democracy Reform Platforms Compared to 2012 Platforms

Alberta Party

2008:

It is existed as a different entity, and therefore, the FDA does not show the 2008 democracy reform platforms.

2012:

The Alberta Party's platform on democratic reform is made up of the following: increased public engagement for the budget and major decisions; abolish the Public Affairs Bureau; increased engagement of MLAs with their constituents; an increase in the number of free votes; a ten-year limit on the Premier's term; fixed election dates; decreased tax exemptions for, and increased transparency of MLA salaries, which will be determined by an independent committee; a decrease in contribution limits to candidates and parties; a decrease on candidate and party expenditure limits; more advance polls; disclosure of contribution information prior to election
day (Alberta Party, 2012).

Notable fact: The Alberta Party and the Alberta NDP are the only 2012 parties to propose limits on campaign expenditures.


Alberta Liberal Party

2008:

Establish fixed election dates.
Create a citizen's assembly on electoral reform to study other voting systems.
Reform election finance laws.
Enact whistle blower legislation.
Eliminate Public Affairs Bureau and replace with a non-partisan government
communications service (2008 Alberta Liberal Party Democracy Reform Platform; retrieved from the Alberta Liberal website in 2008).

2012:

The Alberta Liberal Party's platform on democratic reform is made up of the following:
all votes in the legislature by MLAs would be free votes, except when the vote concerns their platform; a reduction in the total number of MLAs; a simplified MLA pay structure; the introduction of recall elections; candidate leave legislation, in order to make running as a candidate easier; instant run-off elections; increased transparency of government contract issuing; increased accessibility of government finance documents; fixed election dates; and the disbanding of the Public Affairs Bureau (Alberta Liberal Party, 2012). In the last week of the 2012 election campaign, the Alberta Liberal party announces its support for preferential voting.

Notable facts: In 2012, the Alberta Liberal Party has dropped a citizen's assembly on electoral reform and reform of electoral finance laws, and it has added free votes for MLAs, restructure of aspects of the Alberta legislature, recall elections, instant run-off elections, and increased government transparency. The Alberta Liberal Party is the only party to support preferential voting.


Alberta NDP:

2008:

Prohibit political donations from corporations and unions to political parties. Table legislation binding all leadership and nomination contests to the same disclosure rules and donation limits of federal political parties (2008 Alberta NDP Democracy Reform Platform; retrieved from the Alberta NDP website in 2008).

2012:

The Alberta's New Democratic Party's platform on democratic reforms is made up of the following: the requirement of leadership candidates to disclose contributors; banning corporate and union donations to political parties; a set campaign expenditure limit; introducing proportional representation; abolish the Senate; decreased funding to the Public Affairs Bureau; ensuring the Public Affairs Bureau is non-partisan; making Freedom of Information and Privacy requests faster and less expensive; and the creation of a Status of Women minister (Alberta's New Democratic Party, 2012a, 2012b).

Notable facts: The Alberta NDP is the only Alberta party (in both 2008 and 2012) to ban corporations and trade unions from making electoral contributions. In addition, the Alberta NDP and Alberta Party are the only parties to limit campaign expenditures. The limit on campaign expenditures is a new 2012 policy of the Alberta NDP. The 2008 policy of disclosure of leadership contests and contribution limits on federal parties are now part of Alberta law, and consequently the Alberta party has dropped that policy in 2012. Further, unlike in 2008, the Alberta NDP now supports proportional representation and no Alberta Senate.


Alberta Social Credit Party:

2008:

6.1 Representative Democracy: The Alberta Social Credit Party supports representative democracy.
6.2 Free Votes: The Alberta Social Credit Government would institute free votes in the Legislature for MLA's. MLA's would vote according to their conscience or as indicated by the constituents through the constituency organization. Should a government bill be defeated, it would not mean a vote of non-confidence for the government but simply a defeat of that particular piece of legislation. The Alberta Social Credit Party supports free votes within the Social Credit caucus. The party position would be determined by a simple majority of the MLA's casting a vote.
6.3 Recall of MLA: The Alberta Social Credit Government would institute the right of recall of all elected officials by their constituents.
6.4 Fixed Election Dates: The Alberta Social Credit Government would institute fixed election dates for all elected officials in Alberta. MLA's would be elected for a four (4) year term. The right of the Legislature to call a vote of non-confidence in the government would still be in force.
6.5 Fixed Dates for Sessions: The Alberta Social Credit Government would institute a program whereby Throne Speeches, Budget Announcements and Legislative dates would be on a set date each year.
6.6 Cabinet Size: The Alberta Social Credit Government would reduce the size of the Provincial Cabinet.
6.7 Open Employment Applications: The Alberta Social Credit Party would institute an open application process to fill all government positions and all hiring would be based upon qualifications and merit rather than patronage.
6.9 Establishing Provincial Senate: The Social Credit government create and develop anti-cameral systems consisting of; a Lieutenant Governor, a Provincial Legislature, and the creation of a Provincial Senate. The Provincial Senate having equivalent powers to that of the Federal Senate.
6.10 Election of Commissions and Boards: The Alberta Social Credit Government would institute elections for all provincial boards and commissions every four years in conjunction with provincial legislative elections.
6.11 Conflict Of Interest: The Alberta Social Credit Government would institute strict conflict of interest guidelines facilitated through the Provincial Ethics Commissioner's office.
6.12 Constitutional Reform: The Alberta Social Credit Party supports popular ratification of all Constitutional Amendments by a simple majority vote in at least 2/3 of all the provinces (including the Territories) and representing at least 50% of the country's population in a national referendum.
6.17 Freedom Of Information: The Alberta Social Credit Government would institute the most comprehensive Freedom of Information Act in Canada which would open government dealings to all people.
6.18 Mandatory Tendering:
The Alberta Social Credit Government would institute a procurement policy whereby all major purchases by the government would be through an open tender process.
6.19 M.L.A. Salaries: The Alberta Social Credit Government would institute a reduction in the salaries of Cabinet Ministers and the Premier. The Alberta Social Credit Government would remove all tax-free allowances to MLA's.
6.19.1 M.L.A. and Government Executive salaries: The Social Credit Government would implement wage control on salaries and bonuses so that they will not increase beyond 50% of the rate of the Alberta Provincial annual inflation rate. A revaluation of salaries will be undertaken based on national averages prior to the removal of tax-free allowances.
6.22 Referenda: The Social Credit Government would strip the power from the few and put it where it belongs, with the many. A system will be established where the most important issues of the day will be decided by the electors in an annual binding referendum.
All resolutions or issues that suggest or require a referendum from Albertans must undergo the same process as all other referendum questions, including the gathering of signatures.
6.23 Senate Reform: The Alberta Social Credit Party endorses the concept of a "Triple E" Senate with effective parliamentary powers that is elected by the people of each province with equal representation from each province.
6.24 Vote of Non-Confidence: The Alberta Social Credit Government would allow for the defeat of a government through a proclaimed vote of non-confidence in the Legislature and not through the mere defeat of a bill.
6.25 Proportional Representation: The Alberta Social Credit Government endorses an electoral system where the percentage of the popular vote determines the percentage of seats held in the legislature.
6.26 Term Limit: The Social Credit Government would establish an electoral restriction where the Premier can serve a maximum of (2) two terms (2008 Alberta Social Credit Reform Platform; retrieved from the Alberta Social Credit website in 2008).

2012:

The Alberta Social Credit Party's platform on democratic reforms is made up of the following:
the introduction of free votes, recall elections, a Provincial Senate and set dates for election and sessions; a reduction in the size of the cabinet; an opposition to treating any recognizable group with a unique status; the creation of an Alberta constitution; a comprehensive Freedom of Information Act to increase government transparency; open tender for all major government Foundation for Democratic Advancement | 2012 Alberta Parties' Democracy Reform Platforms purchases; increased regulation and reduction of MLA remuneration; a referendum from the electorate for the most important issues; the introduction of a specific vote of non-confidence allowing the defeat of the government; proportional representation; a term limit for Premiers of two years; and disallowing non-Albertan lobbyists (The Alberta Social Credit Party, 2011).

Notable Facts: The Alberta Social Credits have the same democracy reform platforms in 2012 as in 2008. The Alberta Social Credits have extensive reform of the legislative processes, and some reform of the Alberta Election Act, through adoption of proportional representation, and citizen recall and referendum initiatives.


Communist Party of Alberta

2008:

Proportional representation: make every vote Count.
Public funding of all parties (2008 Communist Party--Alberta Reform Platform; retrieved from the Communist Party--Alberta's website in 2008).

2012:

The Communist Party - Alberta's platform on democratic reform is made up of the following:
proportional representation and public funding of all parties (Communist Party--Alberta, 2008). The FDA could not find an updated democracy reform platform for the Communist Party--Alberta.

Notable facts: The Communist Party--Alberta is only Alberta party that supports public subsidies for political parties.


EverGreen Party of Alberta

2008:

The EverGreen Party of Alberta existed as the Green Party of Alberta. The members of the 2012 EverGreen Party are primarily the same as the 2008 Green Party.

Fix election dates:
The time of opportunistic votes is over. The people of Alberta, in order to be fully prepared, must have
knowledge of when the election season is to begin, and time to learn the platforms and policies of their
parties. If we are to have an informed electorate we must give them a reasonable time frame within which
to educate themselves.

Establish right of recall
The tradition of voting once, and then expecting the voters to accept all decisions their elected officials
make, is undemocratic. In today’s fast-paced market, the electors’ deserve the right to recall ineffective or
unsupported politicians….we need the best people for the job, and if those hired are not doing their duty, we
must be able to elect better people.

2012:

The EverGreen Party of Alberta's platform on democracy reform is made up of the following: an increase in session length to 75 days per year; increased access to most government information; the establishment of an independent process for defining electoral boundaries; a move towards proportional representation; seats on committees granted based on popular vote; and fixed election dates (EverGreen Party of Alberta, 2012).

Notable facts: The EverGreen Party is the only party to support seats on committees based on popular support. (The FDA supports this policy in its 2012 Alberta Electoral Report.) In addition, the EverGreen Party is one of five Alberta parties to support proportional representation. In 2008, EverGreen Party supported right of recall, and in 2012, its platform does not mentioned right of recall. In both 2008 and 2012, the EverGreen Party supports fixed election dates.


Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta:

2008:

No platform or specific policies regarding democracy reform could be found for The Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta.

2012:

No platform or specific policies regarding democracy reform could be found for The Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta.

Notable fact: The PC Party of Alberta is the only Alberta party in 2008 and 2012 to have no policy on Alberta democracy reform.


Separation Party of Alberta

2008:

1. RECALL, CITIZEN INITIATIVE AND REFERENDA.
This legislation will be all-encompassing under the heading RECALL, CITIZEN INITIATIVE AND REFERENDA.
(a) We believe that all elected representatives and bureaucrats must be fully accountable to their electorate through mandated, workable and effective provisions entitling the electorate to RECALL them;
(b) The Separation Party of Alberta will implement legislation allowing Albertans to
INITIATE legislation, or repeal existing legislation, by petition at all levels of government; and
(c) The Separation Party of Alberta will implement legislation that empowers Albertans to decide by REFERENDUM, initiated by the government or the electorate, on all controversial issues and disputes affecting Albertans as a whole, to be decided at the time of a General Election or a special referendum as required.
2. Fixed election dates/fixed terms.
The Separation Party of Alberta will initiate fixed election dates for all elections. Members of the Legislature will be elected for a 5 year term on the 1st Monday of November. The term of any member to the Legislature will be limited to 10 years.
3. Proportional representation.
The Separation Party of Alberta will implement legislation, after public consultation, on voting reform providing for a system of proportional representation which more accurately reflects the voting patterns of all eligible voters (2008 Separation Party of Alberta Reform Platform; retrieved from the Separation Party of Alberta's website in 2008).

2012:

The Separation Party of Alberta's platform on democracy reform is made up of the following:
recall elections for representatives; the ability for citizens to initiate legislation through petition; referendums for controversial and Alberta-wide issues, including one on separation from Canada; fixed election dates; proportional representation; the establishment of all votes in the Legislature becoming free votes, in accordance first with the MLAs constituents and secondly, with their own conscience; a reduction in the number of MLAs, government boards and departments
(Separation Party of Alberta, 2008).

Notable facts: The Separation of Alberta has the same democracy reform platform in 2008 as 2012. The Separation Party of Alberta is one of five Alberta parties that support proportional representation.


Wildrose Alliance of Alberta:

2008:

A Wildrose Alliance Government will institute fixed election dates for all elected officials in Alberta. MLAs will be elected to a four (4) year term. The Legislative Assembly will be able to call a vote of non-confidence at any time.

A Wildrose Alliance Government will institute a Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform to assess all possible models for electing MLAs, including preferential ballots, proportional representation and our current electoral system. If the assembly recommends changes to the current electoral system the proposed changes will be put to a provincewide referendum.

A Wildrose Alliance Government will set the maximum number of terms that a Premier can serve to two consecutive four-year terms (2008 Wildrose Alliance Party Reform Platform; retrieved from the Wildrose Alliance Party's website in 2008).

2012:

The Wildrose Alliance party's platform on democracy reform is made up of the following:
establishing that all votes in the legislature be transparent free votes; establishing recall elections and referendums where this a high support for either; fixed dates for general and senate elections, as well as Legislative sessions; increased access to Freedom of Information requests, finances of Crown corporations and government investments; an independent review process for Cabinet and MLA pay and benefits; increased transparency for government budgets and expenditures; increased funding for opposition parties' research and communications, as well as increased opportunities to propose legislative amendments, access departmental documents and question the Premier and Ministers regarding their stewardship; and a reduction in partisanship and increase in fairness and impartiality to opposition parties by the Speaker's office (Wildrose Alliance Caucus, 2011).

Notable facts: In 2008, the Wildrose Alliance Party supported a citizen's assembly on proportional representation, and now in 2012, the Wildrose Alliance does not support a citizen's assembly on proportional representation. In 2008, the Wildrose Alliance Party supported a maximum two year terms for the premier, and now in 2012, the Wildrose Alliance has dropped that policy. In 2012, the Wildrose Alliance Party has added free legislative votes to its democracy reform platform.


FDA Power Point at the FDA Public Forum on Alberta Democracy Reform

2012 Alberta Parties' Democracy Reform Platforms

2012 FDA Electoral Fairness Report on Alberta

2012 FDA Canadian Provinces' Electoral Finance Report

April 17: FDA Public Forum on Alberta Democracy Reform