Make government more effective and efficient by reducing the number of MLAs by 30%
Posted on April 23, 2015 by Greg Clark
The Alberta Legislature is the most ineffective legislature in Canada
Most of the government of Alberta’s business is done behind closed doors in cabinet or in the PC caucus room, far from public scrutiny. The Alberta Legislature also works far less than other Canadian legislatures - only PEI and Nunavut sat for fewer days last year. For example, Alberta MLAs only sat for 42 days last year, compared to 77 for Ontario Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs).
What’s even more astonishing, is that Alberta has significantly more MLAs per capita than many other provinces. So we have a lot more people doing a lot less work.
Learning from Alberta’s big cities and other provinces
Alberta could learn a lot from other jurisdictions, including the governments of its two largest cities, which have fewer elected representatives governing more people. The table below compares the number of legislators or council members in various jurisdictions.
Why do city councillors in Calgary and Edmonton represent far more people than the MLAs in those cities?
Councillors in Calgary and Edmonton represent far more people than MLAs in each city. If we applied the same ratio of representatives to our big city councils, Calgary would have 25 councillors, instead of 14, and Edmonton would have 18 councillors, instead of 12.
Currently, Alberta has 87 MLAs and a population of 4.1 million, which equates to 47,000 people per MLA. Compare this to Ontario, which has 107 MPPs and a population of 12.8 million, which equates to 119,000 people per MPP. Even British Columbia which, despite having a larger population of 4.7 million individuals, has two fewer MLAs than Alberta.
Fewer MLAs, better government
If Alberta were to reduce the number of MLAs by 30 percent to 61 MLAs, each MLA would represent approximately 67,000 constituents, which would still be well below the number of people represented by elected officials in Ontario, or the city councils in Calgary and Edmonton.
We believe that having fewer MLAs will lead to better government for the following reasons:
1. Save money.
Reducing the number of MLAs will save taxpayers nearly $32 million over four years. We would reallocate this money to more urgent priorities, such as healthcare and education.
2. Make the decision-making process in the Alberta legislature more efficient.
It is well understood that smaller groups can make decisions faster. With 87 MLAs, its very difficult to allocate sufficient time for each MLA to express their constituents views in the legislature. By reducing the number of MLAs we can expect the quality of the debate to improve.
3. Increase the profile and effectiveness of individual MLAs.
Currently, there are so many MLAs, it is difficult for constituents to know who their representative is and to keep track of what their representative is doing on their behalf.
4. Increase resources for rural MLAs to provide better service.
A reduction in the number of MLAs means that rural constituencies will will get larger. MLAs with large geographic areas could be provided with additional resources to better serve constituents. For example, these MLAs may be allowed to have multiple offices and extra staff to serve citizens. MLAs could also be equipped with more technology to better connect with citizens.
We note that rural Federal MPs currently represent far larger geographic areas than Alberta provincial constituencies. Even after the reduction in the number of MLAs, provincial constituencies will be far smaller than Federal electoral districts.
How would this plan be implemented?
The Alberta Party would appoint an independent boundary commission to establish new constituency boundaries. These new boundaries would take effect for the next general election. The independent commission would also establish a reasonable limit for population variances between constituencies, so that all Albertans are represented fairly.