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Ralph Klein has gone and it is time to retire Ralph's World. Thanks to all of you who have supported this venture by contributing material and through your comments. It has been fun.

Should we get another blog underway? Let me know your thoughts by e-mailing me at johnnyslow@gmail.com.

John Slow
January 1, 2007

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Freddie's Diary - Article 12 

TOO MANY MLAs IN TIME OF RESTRAINT
After the 1991/92 provincial Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC) disintegrated (each of its five members decided to write his/her own final report because none could agree with the others on the shape of the province's 83 ridings). A committee of Tory MLAs (the opposition Liberals refused to participate) was forced to redraw the constituencies in time for the June 1993 general election, the Legislature decided to lay out very specific parameters within which the 1995/96 EBC must work.

Limiting the EBC's scope was probably wise, given that this is the fourth examination of constituency borders in just seven years, and a fifth is required by law following the 2001 national census. Unfortunately, the narrow focus means the EBC has had to reject several intelligent proposals that fall outside its mandate--to propose 83 electoral districts. The voting populations of which should not vary so much above or below the provincial average that they place at risk to any Albertan's right to effective representation in the Legislature.

One of the most meritorious of these proposals came from retired Edmonton business man Lyle Mair, who made a presentation to the EBC on behalf of himself and a few friends. No special interest, no well financed lobby, just citizen Mair exercising his basic freedom to offer a contrary opinion. He wonders why in this time of restraint that the government isn't considering reducing the number of MLAs. After all, Mair says, to cut costs, the number of school boards has been reduced by two-thirds. Hospital boards have been regionalized for the same reason. So why not consolidate ridings?

Each MLA has at least two offices, one in Edmonton, and one or more in his or her riding. There are salaries and benefits, not only for the MLA, but also for support staff, not to mention telephones, travel expenses, tax-tree allowances, extra pay for sitting on committees, office supplies, office equipment and a host of other costs. In all, each MLA costs taxpayers over $200 000 per year. By Mair's calculations, Albertans are already over-represented. In both Edmonton and Calgary, for instance the number of MLAs exceeds the number of councilors.

Ontario's 130 provincial constituencies contain an average of 70 000 voters. There are 52 000 in each Quebec's 125 seats. And BC, with its larger population (3.7 million to Alberta's 2.6 million), not only has fewer seats at 75, but has more than 50% more voters per district. Alberta, with about 31 000 voters per riding would need only 36 MLAs if it had the same per capita as Ontario. It would need just 52 if each Albertan were to be as well represented as each British Columbian.

Saskatchewan trimmed its MLAs' ranks by eight before its last election. And as Mair points out, Alberta reduced the number from 56 to 52 in 1921 and from 53 to 49 in 1940. Perhaps the time has arrived to do it again. After all roads, telephones and other lines of communication are so advanced that representing geographically large riding is no longer such an ordeal.

Merely reducing the number from 83 to 65, (the number proposed by an ad hoc committee of Tory back-benchers in 1992) would save tax payers $3.6 million a year in direct costs and countless millions more in business grants and public works projects, that politicians feel the need to bring to their ridings in order to win re-election. Better yet make the job of MLA part-time again, as it was before the Lougheed era. If MLAs had to have other jobs and spent more time at home than in Edmonton, there would be fewer laws and fewer grandiose schemes to use government power in futile attempts to solve all the problems of the world.

In Montana, for example, state legislators are allowed to deliberate for no more than 90 days every other year. (Four times in the past decade and a half, legislators have asked voters for permission to sit longer and 4 times they have been turned down). As a result, per capita spending by Montana government is about 40% of the Alberta government's, after factoring in the rate exchange and Alberta's universal health care plan.

Before the next EBC is struck likely in 2002/03, Albertans need debate thoroughly the level of government they want. Even after the Klein revolution, government Alberta will be too big for many. Lorne Gunter, June 20, 1996, EJ

Go ahead, read this article again. This says that Alberta has far too many MLAs as compared to other provinces. Think of the good that could be done with the money saved by having less MLAs than we have now. Even the PART-TIME suggestion sounds feasible. These are suggestions of what could happen if we were to get serious about change. We Albertans will soon have the opportunity to VOTE FOR CHANGE - LET'S DO IT!

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