Monday, February 11, 2008

Reforming Government and Restoring Accountability

Some of the Liberal leaning bloggers like Calgarygrit have called enough attention to things like the P"C"s' use of the civil service for partisan purposes that I shouldn't have to. But fixed election dates constitute another item in this category that the Liberal and NDP parties, for unknown reasons, don't seem to be much interested in.

I have a lot of respect for Peter Lougheed, one of our most accomplished citizens and distinguished premiers. But I cannot agree with his position on fixed election dates. Last month Lougheed spoke to law students at the U of A:

I can remember a particular day, going into the legislature, where some civil servant in northwest Alberta, in the department there, fed dog food to a young child, And of course we're hit by that in the legislature.

Lougheed then said that he and the social services minister "had to come up to speed on an issue that could have hurt the prospects of a government facing re-election at the end of a fixed term," according to the Edmonton Journal.

Now I fully appreciate Lougheed's point that fixed election dates can prove inconvenient for the government. But that's precisely the point! Why should they inconvenience the opposition instead? The timing of this election has been enormously inconvenient for my party (despite being very discriminating about who we feed dog food to). So inconvenient, in fact, that Rob James' musing last fall that "perhaps we should sit this one out" may yet prove to be wise counsel.

But there's another public policy argument for fixed election dates and that's that a wider range of candidates can then run. As it stands now, only people who are prepared to suddenly drop everything are in a position to run. With fixed election dates, prospective candidates, campaign workers, and other interested parties could plan their affairs accordingly.


Apparently the Liberals do support fixed election dates. Interestingly, "Work towards equal representation of women and men in the Alberta Legislature," and "Work towards equal representation of women and men in the Legislative Assembly" are separate line items. That's what I call a fine distinction!

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