At the recent Alberta general election, a historically low 41% of registered voters exercised their right to vote. Although those that did gave the Stelmach government a massive majority of 86 percent of the seats at the Legislature, the mandate, in fact, came from less than one-quarter of the electorate.

This questions the health of democracy in Alberta. Low turnout at the polls is symptomatic of a serious lack of commitment by the electorate. Voter apathy may have been helped by years of domination of Conservative governments and a perceived lack of viable alternatives.

If informed public debate is the lifeblood of democracy, the time may have come to consider reforming our political process. How can we ensure that issues of concern to Albertans are subjected to rigorous debate at the Legislature before they become the law of the land?

The SACPA debate on this topic began in May 2008 with a presentation by former MLA and Wildrose Alliance Party Leader, Paul Hinman. Liberal MLA Bridget Pastoor will provide her take on the topic next month. And it is hoped that PC MLA Greg Weadick will address the topic at SACPA before the year is out.

Speaker: Brian Mason, MLA and leader of the Alberta NDP. Brian Mason was first elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood in a 2000 by-election. He was re-elected in the provincial general election of March 12, 2001, and was subsequently appointed House leader of the New Democrat caucus and critic responsible for Human Resources, Finance and Agriculture. In September 2004, Brian Mason became leader of Alberta’s New Democrat party. He was elected to his third term as a Member of the Legislative Assembly in November 2004, and to his fourth term in March 2008. In addition to his role as an MLA and party leader, Mr. Mason serves on several committees, including Resource and Environment.

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