Elections Subverting Democracy?

Today I hope the Ontario Liberals lose all 5 by-elections.

Such an outcome could lead to democracy.  In a Perfect World, all five seats would fall to the NDP.  In the aftermath, Katheen Wynne and Andrea Horwath would work together to reform Ontario’s inequitable antiquated First Past The Post electoral system instead implementing Proportional Representation.

Subversion?

Elections are not generally held in summer because citizens are much less likely to vote, what with vacations and all. Holding an election on the Thursday just before a long weekend makes it much, much worse.

Boats in Tobermory harbour

“We know that on the long weekend, when most families across Ontario are prepared to take that extra day to spend with their family, Ms. Wynne has decided that she would like to subvert democracy.”

Progressive Conservative MPP critic Lisa MacLeod

Democracy Watch also took Wynne to task for not giving the other parties enough time to nominate candidates.

These by-elections can neither deliver a Liberal majority or replace Wynne’s Liberal Government, since all five are to fill seats vacated by Liberals.   Premier Wynne was chosen to succeed Dalton McGuinty as provincial leader when he stepped down after failing to reclaim a majority of seats in Ontario’s Legislative Assembly. Much of Wynne’s term of office has been taken up in answering for McGuinty scandals.  The main one being McGuinty’s decision to stop two unpopular gas plants.  Even Premier Wynne acknowledges this was politically motivated to save Liberal seats in the 2011 election.

The entire scandal is about money. McGuinty claimed closing one Mississauga plant would cost $190 million, but in reality the penalty was 45% higher as the relocation cost taxpayers $275 million.

While Opposition parties have speculatued the plant closures “actual costs could be as high as $1 billion or more” the actual pricetag seems to be $585 million.

Was the decision to close and relocate these gas plants a subversion of democracy?

An Undemocratic System

When a majority government is elected by a minority of citizens, democracy does not ensue. Our Winner Take All electoral system is itself inequitable, and the way we elect MPPs to the Legislative assembly of Ontario is itself undemocratic. This system confers total legislative authority to any party securing a majority of seats. The closest we get to democracy is with a minority government.

People think we have democracy because we get to vote. But how democratic is it when most of our votes don’t count?

In our representative democracies, our MPP is supposed to represent our interests in government. But when our representatives are told how to vote by the Party, they represent the Party, not their constituents. That’s not very democratic either.

We’ve been told over and over that majority government is good. But majority government is effectively a dictatorship. Dalton McGuinty decided to cancel the gas plants in a bid to retain a majority. After all those years governing as a dictator, he was unsuited governing any other way.

The Real Gas Plant Issue

Governments, particularly governments with a majority, make bad spending decisions all the time. Of course they do, because there is no stopping them.

Governments, particularly governments with a majority, make decisions that are beneficial to their party. Of course they do, because they need the party to get re-elected.

In spite of all the partisan rhetoric, the same thing kind of thing happens under every majority government, no matter which party holds the reigns. Not because any party is particularly evil, but because the system allows it to happen.

This is why the only way to actually correct the problem is to change the system. Ontario needs to adopt some form of Proportional Representation if we want democracy.

The question we should be asking is:

Why were the gas plants sited in Oakville and Mississauga in the first place?

The Liberal Government knew the only way to win over the Mississauga voters was to stop the gas plants. Mr. McGuinty’s majority approved the unpopular Oakville and Mississauga gas plants in spite of the fact that the vast majority of people — voters — who lived there thought they were inappropriate.

We all want green energy, right? And Green Energy initiatives should improve our quality of life. But McGuinty’s Green Energy Act could only have been passed with a majority government, because it summarily overrides municipal decision making.

Elmira Biogas Protest

“The proposed facility, slated to be built south of the town’s Ford plant, would have been less than a kilometre from homes and schools, fuelling concerns about safety and air quality.”

National Post: Oakville gas plant plan axed

Municipal governments don’t risk the environment where people live, but the Green Energy Act trumps such quality of life considerations. Local residents in my Elmira hometown have been trying to prevent a provincially approved monstrous Biogas plant being built adjacent to parks, the Kissing Bridge Trail, and a residential area that includes churches and an elementary school, a stones throw from the downtown core. Biogas facilities that are significantly smaller than Elmira’s produce green energy in Europe, where they are sited in close proximity to the source of waste production. The fuel waste destined for the Elmira plant will be trucked into the small town from all over North America. The irony for McGuinty is that Liberal MPP Leanna Prendergast refused to take a stand against Elmira’s proposed biogas plant, and lost her seat in the 2011 election.

While Elmira residents can look forward to hundreds of garbage trucks rumbling through the small community, courtesy of the Green Energy Act, the communities of Oakville and Mississauga can rejoice at their 11th hour reprieve.

Undemocratic

While the money issue needs to be addressed, this is a just symptom of bad governance enabled by our winner-take-all system.

McGuinty knew Mississauga voters opposed the gas plants, but used the Green Energy Act to impose them on the community anyway.

That was the greatest subversion of democracy.

Elmira Biogas Protest

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

The election results are in:

Progressive Conservative Party: +1 seat

NDP: + 2 seats

Liberal: -3 seats

The Liberal Party hung onto 2 of the 5 seats, which puts it down 3 seats, one of which was scooped up by the Progressive Conservative Party, and the other two were won by the NDP.


errata: Apologies to the NDP (numbers are not my strong suit): The election put them up two seats in the Province of Ontario. I have now corrected this. ~LLR

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