Power vs People

How many votes does it take to get a seat in Parliament?
How many votes does it take to get a seat in Parliament?

It’s hard enough for small parties to get elected under our miserably unfair winner-take-all electoral system.

Although the Trudeau Government won a majority of seats in Parliament on the promise of making every vote count as of 2019, it seems Mr. Trudeau has decided he would rather keep the system so disproportional that Liberal candidates only need 38,000 votes to get elected on average, but the Green Party needed 600,000+ votes to elect a single MP.

But that’s not the only institutional barrier to getting candidates elected in small parties.  The Main Stream Media (or MSM) — that’s the big TV networks and the major newspapers — support the status quo too.  Face it, it is a lot easier for them to give the lion’s share of the media coverage to only two candidates.  In a country where the single biggest advertiser is our government, the MSM knows which side butters their bread.  Nor does it stop there, as the Toronto Star tells us that’s just the tip of the iceberg: there are subsidies and tax breaks galore. (As a recipient of many of those government tax dollars, the Star is, unsurprisingly a big supporter.  Oh, and let’s not forget bail outs.  After doubling his own salary in 2013Postmedia’s Godfrey wants lifeline of tax breaks, bigger government ad spending,and then the poor man was forced to accept nearly a million dollars as a “retention bonus.”   Although the alternative media explains Government bailout of corporate media is not the solution to our crisis there is not a lot of listening going on.  Is it any wonder our MSM supports the status quo?

2017 By-elections

Although there are rules, small parties and independent candidates continue to get short shrift during elections.

The problem we often lose sight of is that when small parties and independent candidates get short shrift, it means voters do too. The reason small parties come to exist because citizens feel unrepresented by the big parties.  But every year it gets harder and harder to elect anyone else.

Voters need need to know who all the candidates who want to represent them in Ottawa are.  They need to know what’s actually on the menu so they don’t have to settle for second best.  But even voters who support the big parties have problems getting the representation they want from the inside.  When a party foists it choice of a candidate on an Electoral District Association it’s called “parachuting in” a candidate.  This top down process deprives the party members at the local level from choosing for themselves who will run in the election under their party.

In spite of Prime Minister Trudeau’s initial “real change” commitment to keeping his hands off the candidate nomination process in his own party, his fingerprints have been all over them pretty much from the start.  And it’s still happening.  You know it’s bad when the local Liberal candidates ends up publicly complaining about it in the MSM, as happened when PM Trudeau decided to impose one of his assistants on Markham—Thornhill.

Even when voters back the candidate they support in the Party they want, they can still find themselves disappointed or even feeling betrayed when the government they wanted turns its back on its commitments.

Big Guns

During a regular federal election, Prime Ministers and Party Leaders have their own campaigns to run, but they carve out some time here and there to drop in on candidates across the country to lend their name brand support to the electoral contest.  During a By-election period, they don’t have their own campaigns to run; which is how both the Prime Minister and Opposition Party Leader wound up in Calgary, stumping for their respective candidates in ridings recently vacated by ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper and ex-cabinet minister Jason Kenney (newly elected Alberta’s provincial Conservative Party leader).

Guess which party’s candidates are getting the most press?

Fair Representation

Democracy is supposed to give citizens a say in our own governance.

But when we don’t have equal and effective votes, we don’t get fair representation.

When the deck is stacked in favour of the big political parties so only their candidates can get elected, we can’t get fair representation.

When a political system doesn’t work for a majority of the voters, people stop voting so they get no representation.

Or when people are afraid to vote for who they want and vote for someone they don’t want to stop someone they hate from getting elected, there is no longer any hope for fair representation.

Without fair representation, democracy stops being democracy.

Mr. Trudeau has disavowed his promise for electoral reform, but that is not his decision to make.  It’s ours.  So we need to keep pressuring them.  If the Liberals fail to win any of the 5 By-elections, it would certainly be a very clear message to Mr. Trudeau.  And I’ve no doubt it would increase our chance of getting the promised Proportional Representation.

Smart Voting Tips:

  1. If we really want real change, we need to start voting for politicians who will actually deliver it.
  2. We need to vote… even the disenchanted need to vote.  Do you know, more people didn’t vote than voted for the Trudeau Government?  If all the eligible voters who don’t vote would vote, we would see real real change.
  3. The first thing to remember that opinion polls are just the opinions of a tiny sample of people, kind of like the surveys they cite on Family Feud.  Don’t vote for anyone but the candidate you want.
  4. Even votes that don’t count have power.
  5. The more voters who give up in frustration, the easier it is for the defenders of the status quo to keep things from changing.
  6. Unless we start voting for what we want, we will never get it.

Power To The People

Right now there is a shade more than a week left before the 2017 By-elections will be decided on April 3rd.  There aren’t enough by-elections to change the balance of power in Ottawa, so the usual arguments for strategic voting have no power.  Which means vote for what you want.

If there is a By-election in your riding, find out who your choices are.  You can even volunteer for the candidate you like best, and maybe even help her win.

I imagine there are a fair number of Liberal supporters living in Markham—Thornhill who are annoyed to have local candidates cast aside to make way for one of the PM’s friends.  Such shenanigans undermine the local representation Canadians want.  This would be an excellent time for angry Liberals to swing their votes.  

If I were a Markham—Thornhill voter, I’d be volunteering for Caryn Bergmann because she supports the things I do… including Electoral Reform and Climate Action, and I think she will fight for them in Ottawa.  But I’m not, so all I can do is cheer her on from the peanut gallery.

If you are a Markham—Thornhill voter, I urge you to attend Thursday’s All Candidates Debate to get a good look at the choices.  Find out where they stand, decide who will best represent you.

Then vote.

It’s time to take back our democracy.

 

 

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