The current political view of representative democracy in Alberta is that elected officials are representatives of the electorate. This representative role implies a full transfer of political power from the people to the elected official between elections. Furthermore, the elected official’s role is to represent the electorate.
Electorate accountability of Alberta elected officials is primarily during elections. Between elections, the electorate is given various opportunities to share its perspective, but the elected official has final authority in most instances over political decisions.
This political view is illustrated in a May 8, 2013 letter to the Foundation for Democratic Advancement from the former Minister of Municipal Affairs Mr. Doug Griffiths:
“…. The powers of a municipal council are balanced by councils’ accountability to the citizens who elect them. Therefore, it is essential that citizens take an active interest in the development and direction of our local governments and express their views to their locally elected representatives. Citizens can express their views to their municipality in a number of ways. Individuals or groups may write or meet with the municipality’s administration or elected officials. There may be specific processes established for providing input.
The MGA sets out clear requirements for municipal councils to conduct their business openly (except in very limited and specific circumstances). Residents may attend council meetings, and some municipalities provide for public input or presentations at specific times during meetings. Municipal offices should be able to provide details about their processes.
The MGA and the Local Authorities Election Act also cumulatively set out provisions for regular elections of local councils, representing the ultimate assurance of accountability….”
In addition, at the MGA Review Session on April 9, 2014, the FDA listened to the same position from some City of Calgary bureaucrats and elected officials from other municipalities who argued that elected officials are elected to represent the electorate, and that accountability measures are too costly. In other words, by voting for a political candidate and holding an election, the electorate forsake or gave up its political authority.
The FDA takes the democratic position that the people have sovereign, supreme authority over political affairs, and that elected officials are subordinate to the people. They serve the people or are in service of the people, and thereby accountable to the people. In addition, the FDA believes that merely relying on public consultation and regular elections for accountability, ignores the need for accountability between elections.
As of the October 2013 Alberta Municipal Elections, there are now four-year terms for municipal elected officials. The FDA believes that these four-year term elected officials ought to be accountable to the electorate between elections through recall of elected officials, and the electorate ought to have mechanisms to overrule elected officials in regard to planning and development decisions.The FDA believes that the people did not fully give up their political authority by allowing for elections and electing political representatives, and that as mentioned elected officials are in the service of the people, and thereby accountable to the people.
For more information on the recall and citizen-initiated legislation, see the FDA’s proposed amendments to the Municipal Government Act (MGA).
To share your perspective on the political authority of the people and accountability of elected officials please contact the FDA at firstname.lastname@example.org