Tuesday, May 13, 2008

back in Alberta

Apparently Premier Ed objects to "the $2.2 million that the unions spent against me personally" in the last provincial election.

Solution? Restrict advertising by entities that are not registered political parties.

In other news, Ed's banned the CBC from lockups and technical briefings for a full year.

With respect to the campaign finance issue, one might presume that restrictions on third party advertising would help parties like the Wildrose Alliance since third parties who support fiscal conservatism would be less able to advance their agenda independent of the Wildrose Alliance party. I seriously doubt that the restriction would help anyone but the incumbent government, however. Why? Because everyone knows that the opposition has next to no chance of ever forcing Ed into a minority situation, never mind forming a government themselves. The return in terms of legislation that a potential donor can expect from a contribution to an opposition party is negligible. Indeed, while making due allowance for the fact that popularity and financial support are directly correlated, this is the biggest reason why the opposition in this province is perennially cash strapped. Most Tory MLAs are in more danger of being unseated in a P"C" party nomination battle than by the nominee of another party, and a third party advertising campaign could create dissidents within the P"C" party. The message from Ed on this one should be clear: interest groups should be expending their resources on trying to influence the government behind closed doors.

If the government were really interested in electoral reform, it would look at some form of proportional representation or at least fixed election dates. Just looking at campaign finance reform, a start would be to stop restricting full candidate deposit refunds to just the winner and those with more than half of the winners' votes. In my riding of six candidates just the incumbent MLA, who lost, and the incoming MLA who won got their full $500 back. The other four, including myself, donated half of that $500 to Alberta taxpayers. Getting the other $250 wouldn't do anything for me personally. I am forbidden by Alberta law from just spending that $250 on personal expenses. Generally, it has to be forwarded on to my party. Note that I'm not asking for public support for my party, although many other jurisdictions have recognized a role for public financing when candidates and/or parties have unequal resources. I'm just suggesting that my party get back from the public purse the money which it or its candidates originally raised privately. To those who argue that the hurdle to getting a long shot on a ballot should not be lowered, I'd suggest raising the number of required nomination signatures from 25 to 50 or even 100.

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