Whoa! Canada

laurel l. russwurm's political musings

What’s wrong with Canada’s Electoral System?

with 2 comments

horse and buggy

Canada has a form of “Representative Democracy” known as “Single Member Plurality.” Each geographic electoral district (that we call ridings) elects a single candidate to send to parliament.

outdated

Canada’s First Past The Post electoral system, the basis of our Representative Democracy, was progressive in 1867. Before automobiles, telephones, airplanes, space travel, computers or the Internet. Our antiquated electoral system is totally inadequate for Canada in 2013.

unfair

Our winner take all system is inequitable. Some votes count more than others, and some don’t count at all.

Steam Train

mysterious

It has long been considered impolite, if not downright rude, for Canadians to talk about politics. Most Canadians are proud we are not “flag wavers” like Americans are. But although there is plenty wrong with the American electoral system, they understand the mechanics of how their government works. Americans learn about politics in school, and talk about it ever after. Any Canadians who feel the urge to talk about politics tend to talk about American politics.

After all, we know more about how the American system works than we understand our own. We can no longer afford not to talk about politics. We need to learn how our system works.

democracy

We think Canada is governed democratically. But it’s not.

When an election produces a majority government, as is often the case, our government is effectively a time limited dictatorship. And if you take a look at Canadian History, you’ll see that our majoritan electoral system has traditionally produced serial dictatorships.

The only element of democracy in the current system is that Canadians get to vote periodically.

broken

While most of us think we have “majority rule,” the reality is that a minority of voters elect our government. The majority of Canadians are not actually represented in Parliament.

The system is so bady broken, almost half of our eligible voters don’t vote. After all, what incentive is there to vote when your vote doesn’t count?

Since the system is stacked against us, as things have steadily worsened, Canadians have been trying to outsmart the system by voting strategically.

But the point of representative democracy is to allow citizens to vote for the candidate who will best represent our interests in parliament. Yet if we’re voting strategically, we aren’t voting for who we want, we’re voting against someone else.

The fact Canadians have come to accept strategic voting as legitimate demonstrates just how broken our supposed democracy actually is.

crisis

Our civil liberties, human rights, guaranteed Canadians by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, are being steadily eroded. The public good is ignored in favour of special interest lobbyists.

checks and balances

Canada’s Upper House, The Senate, was supposed to catch ill advised government policy. The reality is succeeding governments stack the senate with partisan senators, robbing Canadians of the protection of “sober second thought,” and now all we can expect from the Senate is a rubber stamp.

There are no effective checks and balances available to Canadians. Our system grants majority governments absolute authority for the term; our only recourse is public opinion, the same as in any monarchy or dictatorship.

proportional representation

Most modern democracies have chosen proportional representation. England, Canada and the United States are the only hold outs clinging to our outdated First-Past-The-Post systems.

“Democracy is NOT about picking winners and losers. You are thinking of sports, or perhaps capitalism. Democracy is about working together to accomplish more than we can do as individuals. It is about bringing all stakeholders to the table so everyone can get what they need. When democracy functions as it should, we are all winners. For that, you need a fair voting system”  Wayne Smith, Executive Director, Fair Vote Canada

we want democracy

If two thirds of Canadians want proportional representation, why don’t we have it already?

the problem

The people with the authority to change the system, are the same people who got into power with this system.  If they change the system, they will lose the unfair advantages that put them in power.  One of the loudest advocates for electoral reform to proportional representation was Stephen Harper… before he became Prime Minister.  NDP Party policy supports electoral reform to Proportional Representation, yet they have done nothing to implement it in the two provinces where the currently NDP holds a majority, which begs the question: can we trust the NDP to implement electoral reform?

to be continued . . .

I started out to write “Why I’m a “Liberal Party of Canada” Supporter” but as it turned out, I had to first write this necessary prequel. I will be unable to finish the next article tomorrow, but I hope to have it posted by Saturday night.
a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

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2 Responses

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  1. […] our electoral system democratic. We’re supposed to have a representative democracy, but our electoral system is so unfair our “representatives” are virtually […]

  2. Great post Laurel and to update the numbers on April 5, 2013: “The Environics poll showed support for proportional representation spread broadly across party lines, with 77% support from self-identified Liberal voters, 61% from Conservative voters, 82% support from NDP voters, and 93% from Green Party voters. Only 18% of all poll respondents oppose such a change.”

    Bob MacKie

    April 10, 2013 at 4:21 pm


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