Alberta’s Opposition should look for critics outside its ranks.
Though the Official Opposition has just released a new lineup of MLA critic roles for the upcoming Legislative session, newly elected leader David Swann should look outside the ranks of the nine-member Liberal Caucus to fill some roles.
Just as Stephen Harper appointed Josée Verner to represent Quebec in the Federal Conservative caucus in 2004, and Stéphane Dion appointed Bob Rae and Gerard Kennedy to the Federal Liberal shadow cabinet in 2007, similar moves in Alberta could be a game changer for the Opposition. As both the Liberals and New Democrats only succeeded in electing MLAs from Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge, appointing critics from outside the Legislature could: 1) strengthen voices from regions of Alberta that aren’t represented by the Opposition in the Legislature; 2) make critic responsibilities more manageable for sitting MLAs; and 3) strengthen the quality of opposition critiques and responses to Government decisions.
Though these critics would not have a seat in the Legislature, the Opposition in Alberta is hardly in a position to be picky. After 37 years of one-party government, it’s long past due for the Opposition to start acting outside the traditional political structure. With traditional politics failing to connect with Albertans on a meaningful level (as demonstrated by the 60% of Albertans who did not vote in the March 2008 election), this is one example of how the political establishment in the Legislature could approach politics differently.
A change like this may seem minuscule or insignificant in the short-term, but it has the potential to change the long-term culture of politics in Alberta. By bringing a larger diversity of ideas and voices into the political debate, there is a chance it could make democracy in Alberta a little more competitive, and in turn, a little healthier.