If you want to do more to influence the political process than cast a ballot every four years, you might want to consider joining a political party. Party membership can prove a rewarding experience. Not only will you be able to participate in nomination meetings and leadership campaigns, but you will also have the opportunity to shape policy, work alongside those who share your beliefs and values, and help your party succeed.
Nine political parties are officially recognized in Alberta by the chief electoral officer, and their ideologies range from the far right to the far left of the political spectrum. Five parties—the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta, Alberta Liberal Party, Wildrose Alliance Party, Alberta New Democratic Party and Alberta Party—are represented in the 27th legislature, and they, together with the Alberta Greens, Alberta Social Credit Party, Communist Party–Alberta and Separation Party of Alberta, fielded candidates in the 2008 general election.
Doug Griffiths, Minister of Municipal Affairs, MLA for Battle River–Wainwright and a former teacher, describes party membership as superior to advocacy when it comes to effecting change. While advocates try to influence policy from the outside, party members are on the inside helping to develop the policy that guides the party and, in the case of sitting parties, its elected representatives.
“You can protest and write letters and try to effect change that way, but the greatest way to effect change is to become involved in a party that you share a common theme with,” he says. “Then essentially you can work at the party level to form policies that party will have to act on, that its elected representatives will act on.”
Griffiths points out that, if all of the province’s teachers purchased memberships in a single political party, they could work to improve the quality of education. “If all the teachers wrote letters to the government, it’s 32,000 teachers’ opinions versus [those of] three million other Albertans,” he says. “But if they buy memberships in a political party, it could be 32,000 teachers and 32,000 other people who hold memberships, and [teachers] could have a significant sway on party policy.”
Membership prerequisites vary among parties. Some parties require proof of Canadian citizenship and/or Alberta residency, and others have minimum age restrictions. While most ask only that applicants support their principles and policies, at least one of the major parties—the Alberta New Democratic Party—requires applicants to affirm that they do not belong to any other party. And unlike members of most provincial parties, which are not formally associated with a federal party, members of the Alberta New Democratic Party automatically become members of the New Democratic Party of Canada.
Membership fees for the three parties represented in the provincial legislature range from $5 in the case of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta to $20 in the case of the Alberta New Democratic Party. Some parties offer differential fees for youth, seniors and, in some cases, unemployed or underemployed members. Fees are not tax deductible unless they exceed $50 a year.
Once you have made a decision to join a political party, your level of involvement is up to you. You may wish to remain a passive member, receiving the party’s newsletter and other communiqués, or you may wish to become actively involved in its affairs. Choose a level of involvement with which you feel comfortable. It may change over time.
1. Why do people join political parties?
People join political parties for a variety of reasons. Some join for a chance to vote for the leader of the party or the candidate who will represent that party in their constituency in the next election. Others join because they want to influence party policy or because they are deeply committed to helping their party succeed. Still others join as an expression of their beliefs and values or for the sheer satisfaction they receive from working alongside others who share those beliefs and values.
2. What are the prerequisites of membership?
Membership prerequisites vary among parties. Most parties ask that applicants support their principles and policies. Some require proof of Canadian citizenship and/or Alberta residency while others have minimum age restrictions.
3. What will membership do for me?
Membership will allow you to vote at nomination meetings and leadership conventions, serve as a delegate to party conventions, be elected to the constituency association or party executive, and receive the party’s newsletter and other communiqués. In most cases, however, you do not have to be a member to work for a party’s constituency or leadership candidates, volunteer for its functions or make a financial contribution to the party. Some parties allow non-members to attend their conventions as observers or visitors.
4. What will membership require me to do for the party?
As a member, you are generally expected to support the party’s fundamental principles and objectives. You will not be required to serve in an executive capacity, participate in party functions, make a financial contribution to the party or vote for its candidate at election time.
5. How much does membership cost?
Membership fees for the three parties represented in the Alberta legislature range from $5 to $10. Some parties offer reduced fees for youth, seniors, and unemployed or underemployed members.
6. Are membership fees tax deductible?
Under Alberta’s Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act, membership fees are not tax deductible unless they exceed $50 a year.
7. Can I belong to more than one political party?
While requiring members to support their principles and policies, most parties do not prohibit their members from simultaneously belonging to other parties. However, one of the three parties represented in the Alberta legislature—the Alberta New Democratic Party—requires applicants to affirm that they do not belong to any other party.
8. If I join the provincial party, do I automatically become a member of my constituency association and/or the federal party?
Membership in a provincial party automatically grants you membership in your constituency association, where one exists, but most provincial parties are not formally associated with a federal party. An exception is the Alberta New Democratic Party, whose members automatically become members of the New Democratic Party of Canada.
9. Will my membership be made public?
Party membership lists are confidential and remain within the confines of the party.
10. How do I join a political party?
Contact the registered provincial political party of your choice. Contact information is available on the Web or from Elections Alberta, 100 11510 Kingsway Avenue NW, Edmonton AB, T5G 2Y5, tel: 427-7191 (in Edmonton) or 310-0000 (from elsewhere in Alberta), fax: (780) 422-2900, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.elections.ab.ca .