Thursday, January 05, 2006

Canadian Politics: Greed, Cowardice, and Proportional Representation

In Canada more than 50% of the people will not have their views reflected by their local Member of Parliament. This is because we are only one of three nations in the world (Britian and the USA are the other two) that uses a "first past the post" system to decide who will represent the people. This means that, in any given riding, no candidate actually needs 50% of the vote to win. In fact, the more parties running in a given area, the less votes the winning candidate has to have in order to take control. All he or she needs is enough votes to beat out whoever got second place.

This is not a good system, especially for Canada.

We are a very large nation. We have a very diverse opinions and that diversity goes across the nation. That diversity, however, is not at all reflected in the political landscape. If one looks at the results of the last election, one would think a large majority of the west is Conservative, a large majority of Ontario is Liberal, and almost all of Quebec wants to seperate. This is not true. At all.

What we need is a system of proportional representation, where the Members of Parliament are picked not by who got the most votes, but by who voted for whom. Instead of having one candidate per small area, each party would run a slate of candidates over a larger area, and voters would get a chance to vote both for the party and for the candidate. That means that if, in a given area, 20 seats are available, 20 candidates would be run by each party. If the Liberals get 35% of the vote, the conservatives 30%, the NDP 25%, and the Green Party 10%, the result would be 7 Liberals, 6 Conservatives, 5 NDP and 2 Green Party MPs, which would actually reflect the political landscape of the area. True democracy instead of false democracy.

Think specifically about Quebec. Think about what sort of a difference it would make in Parliament if the Bloc Quebecois's stranglehold on Canadian politics was gone. The most recent poll I could find shows that the Bloc Quebecois has 52% of the popular vote. A commanding lead, and one that, according to some, will give them 67 of the 75 seats in Quebec. If our government was elected by proportional representation, they would only be getting 39 of the seats. Quite the change, eh?

Under a system of proportional representation, the government would represent the entire Canadian political spectrum. Think about how the myth of Canadian regionalization would change if people could see that, yes, there are NDP in Alberta and Conservatives in downtown Toronto. It is a change that is long overdue, and would be a change for the better.

So why isn't it happening? Greed and cowardice.

Look at the Liberals and the Conservatives. Both of them have held power with majority governments that have run rough-shod over any dissenting opinions, attempts at compromise, or suggestions of change (actually, in the case of the CPC, it was their predecessor, the PCs). Both know that, in a system of proportional representation, they would probably never hold majority power again. Neither likes the idea, neither accepts it. What they want is power; complete, total control over Canadian policy and the Canadian people.

As for the Bloc Quebecois, I found the records of a House of Commons debate from 2001 in which a Bloc MP goes on record as saying that, while the Bloc supports proportional representation for an independent Quebec, they do not support it as a system for Canada. Not a surprise. As long as they have the "first past the post" system in Quebec, they can wield a great deal of power in the House of Commons, whether or not they should.

And so we see it: greed and cowardice. The Bloc would rather deny the people of Quebec true representation in Parliament than lose some of their power. The Conservatives and the Liberals would rather risk the destruction of our country than weaken their grasp on power. The lot of them refuse to see beyond their own political agendas to do what is best for the country.

A shame, really, because I think proportional representation would do more to unite the country than most of the other things we've tried. And certainly more than the current state of things.

Back to work.

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