Submitted By Nathan Cooper UCP MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills Democracy and Accountability Critic
In the final days of the Alberta Legislature’s fall session, the NDP quietly rammed through major changes to how Alberta’s elections will work going forward.
Most notably, the NDP has scrapped the longstanding six month residency requirement to be able to vote. That’s right: under the NDP’s new law, someone could potentially move to Alberta the day before the election and vote.
The overwhelming majority of provinces currently have some sort of residency requirement before voting, with only Ontario and Newfoundland & Labrador having no requirement at all. Perhaps I’m alone, but I don’t know many Albertans that look to Toronto for inspiration.
The United Conservatives sought a common-sense amendment to the NDP’s legislation, requiring that someone would least need to have been in Alberta for 30 days before being able to vote (frankly, we would’ve preferred a number slightly higher than 30 days, but lowered our ask in the off chance the NDP would be willing to compromise). Sadly – but not entirely without surprise – the NDP rejected our proposal outright.
To make matters worse, a person could potentially vote without showing any ID or proof that he or she lives in Alberta. A ‘friend’ could simply vouch that this ‘new Albertan’ lives in Alberta (as long as this ‘friend’ has his/her own ID and is on the voters list). It’s not inconceivable that an individual could ‘move’ to Alberta just days before an election and vote without any proof of residency!
The NDP’s change greatly increase the risk of foul play in Alberta’s elections. But in response to the UCP’s valid concerns, the NDP accused the United Conservative Party of “lying” (this from the party responsible for the biggest lie in Alberta political history – the carbon tax never once mentioned during the 2015 election).
Despite the NDP’s bold accusations against the UCP, they were strangely unwilling to engage in any serious debate to expose the supposed ‘lie’. The government refused to hold committee hearings where expert witnesses could appear to provide their thoughts. The NDP even failed to consult with Alberta’s current Chief Electoral Officer – the independent officer of the Legislature responsible for overseeing Alberta’s elections – before introducing its bill!
For point of comparison, the Harper Government’s ‘Fair Elections Act’ of 2014 – much decried by the NDP and their friends – took 135 days to pass into law. Over two dozen committee meetings where held, with over 100 witnesses appearing to testify.
It’s abundantly clear that the NDP introduced its controversial change late in the fall session because they hoped Albertans would pay little attention to this attack on our democracy before Christmas.
The government actually expected its bill to be passed in just four days. The United Conservatives fought the NDP’s efforts, although the law was eventually passed after whopping eight days. While the NDP previously attacked such railroading tactics in opposition, they have adopted the worst tendencies of the government tossed out in 2015.
Does the fate of our democracy not deserve more than a few days of debate? The United Conservatives certainly believe so.
The latest moves by the NDP just prove why 2019 can’t come soon enough!