March 21, 2011
Alberta politician pushes for fixed election dates
By Frank Landry QMI Agency
EDMONTON – Outspoken politician and former emergency-room physician Dr. Raj Sherman said he has a prescription for better democracy in Alberta.
The independent member of Alberta's legislative assembly, who has been battling for improvements in the health-care system, is now also setting his sights on electoral reform.
He wants Alberta to bring in fixed election dates and representative recall, where citizens could force a byelection if an MLA's performance is deemed not up to par.
But the Progressive Conservative government said these are not priorities for Albertans.
The two items are part of a motion Sherman has on the legislative agenda, likely to be debated later this year.
"This is a motion. It's not a law; it's not a bill. It's really a discussion I'd like society to have," Sherman said.
Sherman said representative recall is particularly timely, given some of the controversies surrounding health care and inner turmoil within the governing Tory caucus. Sherman suggested such issues could trigger a recall.
In Canada, only British Columbia has a recall system in place. In that province, any registered voter can apply to have a petition issued for recall of their MLA, according to Elections BC. That person has 60 days to get the signatures of more than 40% of registered voters in the MLA's constituency.
Elsewhere, Sherman said he believes fixed election dates could boost voter turnout.
Too often, Sherman said governing parties call an election when it's convenient for them. He called that "political opportunism."
Cam Hantiuk, a spokesman for Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, said the premier would rather concentrate on areas like the economy, jobs and health care. As is stands, it's already generally accepted there will be an election every four years, Hantiuk said.
Meanwhile, Sherman's father died on Sunday.
Sherman often cited his dad — who had heart problems — as an inspiration and role model. His long waits for care prompted Sherman to speak out.
Sherman was ousted as the Tory junior health minister late last year after being publicly critical of the government's health-care policies and the province's long emergency-room wait times.
He is now sitting as an Independent MLA, but plans to join the provincial Liberals and run for Grit leadership at the end of legislative session.