Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel, a guy with no shortage of brass (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Hello, Alberta! Stephen Mandel here! My Alberta Party didn’t manage to elect a single MLA last month, but we’re good guys and we got 9.1 per cent of the vote. How about you give us some money?

That wasn’t really Stephen Mandel saying that, of course. It was me, your blogger, David Climenhaga. Writing stuff like that is one of the things you can get away with if you’re a blogger and not, say, a member of that endangered species, the newspaper reporter.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney … you want what? (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

But, seriously, that was basically what Mr. Mandel was saying at the end of last week. I’m not making this up, either. I read it in the Edmonton Journal.

“We deserve to have some form of government funding,” he told the Journal’s reporter, seeing as about 170,000 Albertans cast their ballots for the Alberta Party on April 16 but didn’t manage to elect any MLAs, “in order to allow us to represent those people.”

Well, you’ve got to give the old guy points for sheer brass. He says he’s going to write a letter to Premier Jason Kenney, whose United Conservative Party just won the provincial election pretty darned convincingly, making the case for the dough.

As Mr. Mandel well knows – having had a successful career in municipal and provincial politics, serving as mayor of Edmonton and a Conservative cabinet minister – that’s not how our “single member plurality” electoral system works or, more importantly from the perspective of the people who advocate forcefully for never changing it, how it’s supposed to work.

It’s commonly called first past the post because, you know, the winner in a given riding is only the one that gets past the post first. (It’s a horse race metaphor, people. Don’t worry about the fact there’s no literal post.)

Mr. Mandel would have had a better case if he had argued for a system of proportional representation, in which every party with a vote over a certain threshold – say, 10 per cent – gets to send a proportionate number of MLAs to the Legislature. (Wait! Better make that 9 per cent. — Ed.)

Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Photo: Remy Steinegger, Creative Commons).

Canada needs proportional representation, but large parties like the UCP and for that matter the NDP nowadays, although they ought to know better, don’t like it because it prevents the creation of massive majorities on less-than-majority votes. That said, let the record show your blogger understands the UCP would have won a majority even with PR based on the vote it received on April 19.

Mr. Mandel would also have a better case if he were calling for tight election financing rules plus per-vote subsidies to all parties that contested elections, even tiny ones with little chance of electing anyone, based on the number of ballots they received. We used to have this in Canada and it worked well.

As I am sure Mr. Mandel knows, the Conservative Party of Canada led by Stephen Harper, whose government included Mr. Kenney as a senior cabinet minister, campaigned hard against that idea as a gross misuse of Canadian taxpayers’ money and had eliminated it completely by 2015.

Mr. Harper complained the subsidy amounted to an “enormous cheque that just keeps piling into political parties every month whether they raise any money or not.”

In reality, such subsidies were anathema to Conservatives because they helped their enemies.

Canadian Conservatives, as in the United States, favour a system of wide-open funding in which the richest can influence voter behaviour most effectively. But even without some limits on fund-raising, Canadian Conservatives are frankly good at raising money and you can hardly blame them for wanting to preserve that advantage.

But don’t assume just because of that Mr. Kenney and the UCP won’t reverse course completely on the idea of a subsidy for the Alberta Party – if not for the Alberta Liberals (1 per cent) or the Alberta Greens (0.4 per cent).

After all, there’s a pretty good case to be made that the Alberta Party is better at stealing votes from the NDP than from the UCP, so why not scoot a little public cash their way?

Since when did politics have anything to do with principles?

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  1. We come here today, not to praise the Alberta Party, but to bury it… or some such thing.

    I used to vote Green in federal elections simply to ensure their popular vote numbers stayed above 4% simply so they could receive the minimum amount of funding, not because I believed I had a hope in hell of ever electing a Green MP.

    I too admire Mr. Mandel and his supporters’ fortitude in demanding back what his confreres stripped away not long ago: recognition and support for minority viewpoints in the form of tax subsidies for parties that receive significant popular support even if that doesn’t translate into electoral success.

    Unfortunately, in engineering their own double reverse hostile takeover (HT to DJC) of another party, the former PCs who run the Alberta Party turfed a young, successful, respected and ELECTED leader in favour of somebody who was none of those things and lost their shirts.

    Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, as they say, so for the former PC brain trust that couldn’t get their way in either party, I say: how do ya like them apples?

  2. Climenhaga excerpt: ‘UCP would have won a majority even with PR based on the vote it received on April 19.’

    My guess is that the PCs and Wildrose leadership would not have been able to get the members approval to unite if the AB NDP had brought in proportional representation. The Wildrose base would not have been able to resist supporting Prop. Rep. because of the prospect of one day being the dominant ruling party in proportional representation coalition politics. And a lot of PCs would have supported Prop. Rep. and their independence because they are repulsed by the extremist ideology in the social conservative base of the Wildrose, re: choice, GSA’s and religious school funding, etc.

    A centrist PC party might have just as likely made common cause in a coalition this spring once the votes were counted with NDP, Liberals, AB Party, Greens, rather than with the Wildrose social conservatives extreme RW ideology. ‘

    And the NDP probably would have had reasonable odds, like the PCs, to be the biggest member of a coalition gov’t option. Calgary and Edm voters would have given Wildrose very few seats. And PCs could have retained some rural seats.

    And Lib’s/AB Party/Greens would all have done better underp prop. rep. because very little strategic voting would have happened. I’m guessing a lot of Liberal voters went NDP.

    The NDP was wiped out, from 16 seats to zero, in 1993 even though Klein and Decore Liberals left the NDP with 11% of the vote, which in theory could have given the NDP 8 seats under a prop rep. system. And with the Liberals economic pro-corporte austerity ideology basically just Pepsi to Klein PCs Coca-Cola, and no NDP voice left in the legislature, it was open season on social services/education/environment under Klein for the rest of the 90s.

    NDP should have considered that history. And the fact that for the next 2 decades the NDP never won more than 4 seats. Prop. rep. offsets the marginalization of historically smaller parties under single member plurality.

    Oh well, my hindsight is of course 20 – 20 as they say.

    And on the other hand, there is that other saying: Those that don’t learn from history…

  3. I’m a bit surprised to still hear from Mr. Mandel now, but I guess its not like there is a big line of people wanting to take over the leadership of the Alberta Party.

    It will be interesting to see how Kenney reacts to Mandel’s plea for money. On the one hand, conventional wisdom is that the Alberta Party may take votes away from the NDP, so it might be politically beneficial for Kenney to throw them a bit of a lifeline. Personally, I’m not convinced this is really the case and I think a more successful Alberta Party could be more a long term threat to the UCP than the NDP. On the other hand more conservative parties also seem to be firmly against providing taxpayer monies to losing political parties, particularly when it is not them.

    I think Kenney will likely either just ignore Mandel’s request or just say no. If Mandel is lucky, Kenney may not gloat too much and not totally rule it out immediately. Mandel might even get a more diplomatic “we’ll consider it”, with no urgent or specific timeline for a reply or decision, which probably means no anyways. Perhaps in one sense the Alberta Party is fortunate to still have Mandel, he probably doesn’t need a paying job anymore at stage of his life, because I think it may not be easy for them to come up the money to pay their leader for the next few years.

    At some point in time the former PC’s who now control the Alberta Party will start to disappear from the political landscape, but they seem to be lingering on sort of much like their predecessors the Socreds did for a very long time after they lost power. Not quite ready to give up yet, but not really that relevant anymore. However, if the Alberta Party wants to have a future, they are going to need to put a lot of effort into renewal soon and that probably starts right at very the top.

  4. This is the party with the leader that did not file his paperwork on time and technically should not even been able to run in the election, now you lost but we should give you money, it would be funny if it wasn’t politics. Hey I didn’t get a seat for my party which hasn’t submitted any paperwork either, where’s my money!!

    1. This is the guy that I heard on the U of C radio station babbling about the crippling effects of the Nanny State about a week before the election.

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