On Wednesday this week, I was surprised to find out that Premier Alison Redford had made another provincial proposal to teachers for a framework for their contracts. The Provincial Executive Council of the Alberta Teacher's Association has sent it on to locals for consideration. This could mean we'd be entering into another province-wide agreement very shortly.
Two things from this. If it takes the Premier to get involved everytime, such as when Dave Hancock was Education Minister when then Premier Ed Stelmach pitched a 5-year and got it signed, and now with Redford superseding current Education Minister Jeff Johnson, why bother having a Minister of Education at all?
But that's not the biggest thing I get from this. The biggest thing starts from the question "where was the Alberta School Boards Association in all this?" It seems to me they had no idea this was going down at all, trustees were never informed the conversation between the PC government and the ATA was even happening, and one blogger has even wondered why the ASBA even exist in the first place.
That's not deep enough. The ASBA has other purposes, just like the ATA is not simply a bargaining entity. However, trustees don't have too many other significant duties than good interactions with their teachers. Well, okay, they give direction to the implementation of education in their area as well.
Trustees have been sidelined for years now, starting most prominently with Stelmach. When he pitched a 5-year deal, ASBA was concerned then about funding, but much worse, trustees were not given the opportunity to bargain as much for local issues. Some boards didn't even have trustees involved at all, and instead had Employer Bargaining Authorities, like the one that my Board was a part of called the School Boards Employer Bargaining Authority. That means that trustees have been removed from discussing complete contracts with their employees for over 8 years. Some trustees have never even been involved in such discussions at all.
So why do we even have elections for them if they aren't given an opportunity to represent us? Well, okay, they give direction to the implementation of education in their area as well. However, if you were to ask Education Minister Jeff Johnson, the only direction required should be "Inspiring Education". So again, why do we even elect trustees at all?
Then I recall some of the recent goings on following the latest provincial election. Evan Berger, appointed (without a competition) to a six-figure post in the Alberta Government, despite being dumped by the electorate for a Wildrose MLA in Pat Stier. A police college that was expected to go into Fort Macleod because those citizens elected a mayor that would make it happen got cancelled. It makes one wonder ... if the PCs are in government, does it matter who we elect?
We want elections to count. We want our voices heard. So we vote for trustees who we think will represent our interests best. We vote for MLAs who we believe will do the same. We vote for mayors who will work to better our communities, but aren't able to anyway because their hands are tied to the Alberta Government's purse-strings. Our elections don't count. Considering our elections come up this October, the fact that who I elect doesn't matter bothers me significantly, because I firmly believe we need trustees who are empowered, and councillors and mayors who aren't going to have to worry about the PC boot falling on them.
If we are to see this change, we need to vote for a party who will make elections count. They'll give your vote an opportunity to work. They'll give trustees, councillors and mayors the opportunity to represent our interests to the better of our community.
Do you know of a party who has made it their platform to get elections to count?
Obviously the election campaign would have looked much different had the parties not had any corporate backing. Removing corporate backing would be to no party's benefit. Unless the party didn't even bother starting with it.
Imagine a party that doesn't pander to corporations. That party will only seek to connect to the individuals that could actually vote for them. Some people say I have a vivid imagination, but I hope this one is not so far-fetched as to never see it happen.
We've heard the outcry from opposition parties looking for electoral finance reform. However, if you truly want to make a difference, do as Ghandi suggested. Be the change. Any party who truly believes in the need for a ban on corporate donations needs to start with themselves, and not accept corporate donations. Not now, not ever.
Honestly, it's not the only change in our electoral financing that require change. We also need fixed election dates, not this ridiculous 90-day window thing. Along with those fixed election dates should be fixed MLA raises. Any raises that MLAs vote for could not apply to them, but must apply to the next group of MLAs. It provides stability of funding, and incentive to work hard so they can come back in 4 years.
We also need to get rid of the first-past-the-post system in favor of a system that makes every vote count, not just half of them. I know that my vote didn't elect my current MLA (Danielle Smith), nor did it have much influence on it except to say "I'm in the 48% of my constituency who didn't want you." If we had proportional representation across the province, we'd be looking at 38 PC seats, 30 WRP seats, 9 seats for each Liberal and NDP, and 1 Alberta Party seat – a minority government. Given that only 57% of Albertans voted, PCs really only won the support of one-quarter of Albertans. We could easily assume that more than 25% of Albertans' votes would actually be heard if we had proportional representation, or some model thereof.
Alberta's current electoral system is built for controversy. It's built so that the tail can wag the dog, so that issues that matter to the governance of the province get marginalized while the media buzzes around the latest filibuster. Even worse, the Speaker, thus far, seems to have little interest in keeping party politics out of the legislature, meaning that we actually delay even more productivity in the government's operations. If the Speaker did care, he wouldn't have waited four days to tell MLAs spouting off party rhetoric to shove it.
It's time to fix it.
And the party that will actually have a chance to do so is the one who starts modeling it now. I am calling for all parties to support significant electoral reform, not just electoral finance reform. Of course, I have a political party of preference, but if every party jumps on this, it will guarantee the change we need.
However, you can't just say you support it. You have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Now, which political party will stop accepting corporate donations first, proving themselves to really be for the people?