This is the twenty-fourth article in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series
On the 1st anniversary of the Liberal Majority, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggests Canadians have lost our “appetite” for electoral reform now that his party has won a majority government.
A majority built on 39% of the votes cast.
Just as Mr. Harper had a majority built on 39% of the votes cast.
Our Electoral System Is Changing
Something unprecedented happened in the 42nd Canadian federal election of 2015. Every party — except the one in power — campaigned on electoral reform. This is something that would never happen without wide spread dissatisfaction with the electoral system we use now.
When most people feel they can’t vote for what they want, even if the person they vote for is elected, they don’t have the representation in Parliament they want. When the system fails to serve us, we don’t feel engaged in or satisfied by the process. When a majority of voters are routinely unrepresented, when some votes count more than others, but most votes don’t count at all, there is something wrong with an electoral system.
Even though we don’t understand the problem or know how to fix it, we know something isn’t working. So when Mr. Trudeau said, “We will make every vote count,” it resonated with Canadians.
The Liberal Party promise was itself an acknowledgement of the uncomfortable truth that every vote does not count in the voting system Canadians use now.
Our votes need to count as much today as they did last October.
The electoral reform process has barely begun. Although the public consultation is over, the ERRE Committee hasn’t even finished hearing experts.
Your vote should count. And so should mine. All of our voices deserve to be heard, but they won’t be until we have a fair electoral system. Canadians have been waiting for meaningful electoral reform for a hundred and fifty years. We can’t let them walk away from this election promise, this is our historic opportunity to create a stronger democracy and public policy that serves all Canadians.
Please phone or email your MP to let them know that we expect them to keep their election promise to make every vote count.
Tell your MP that backing off on electoral reform will lose your vote.
Here are the phone numbers and email addresses of our Waterloo Region Liberal MPs.
Bryan May – Cambridge
telephone: 519 624 7440
If you aren’t in Waterloo Region, you should contact your Liberal MP too. And if you don’t know who your MP is, you can find out here by Postal Code. If you know who it is but need the contact info you can find it here by typing your MP’s name.
This is the fourth in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series
Canada’s government is chosen with a “First Past the Post” electoral system where some votes are worth more than others, but most don’t count at all. This effectively divides Canadians into those that have representation and those who have none.
With such disproportionate representation, the best hope for in such a polarized electorate is a minority government, because no laws can be passed without the support of more than one party. Unfortunately there is no “minority government” box to mark on the ballot. This is especially difficult for citizens when our winner-take-all electoral system delivers a majority government to a single party that earned far less than a majority of votes.
Our current Liberal majority government was elected by just 39.5% of the voters, excluding a majority of Canadians from representation in Government. When a “majority” government (like most First Past the Post (FPTP) governments) is elected by a minority of voters, the majority of voters are unrepresented. The idea is that whoever is elected, is expected to represent the interests of all their constituents. This sounds good in theory, but hasn’t worked so well in practice.
What citizens are left with is a serious democratic deficit. The problem becomes even bigger when well funded corporate and ideological special interest groups can successfully lobby for what their employers want. Powerful insiders and professional lobbyists know how the system works and they how to get what their employers want. Not only do these people know who to talk to, they have access to the decision makers ordinary citizens don’t. These pros can make backroom deals and convince the right people to put forth legislation and trade agreements beneficial to the special interests groups who hire them — even when it’s detrimental to the public good.
Since we are saddled with a system that usually leaves most voters without representatives who will speak for us in Parliament, the only recourse left to the majority of Canadians without representation is to lobby the government ourselves when our MPs consider issues important to us. If we don’t, we have no hope of discouraging our MPs from supporting:
legislation, policy or dangerous trade agreements Canadians oppose,
making and voting for laws that undermine the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and/or
otherwise jeopardize the public good,
That’s why the majority of voters have to work very hard just to get the government’s attention. We must try to educate the government about the issues that are important to us, and work even harder to try to convince the government not to pass laws or make policy detrimental to our interests.
If we used a different kind of electoral system — one that provided citizens with some form of Proportional Representation — we wouldn’t have to work so hard because we would actually have representation in Ottawa.
But we aren’t there yet. In the here and now, it is very important you let your MP know where you stand on issues that matter to you.
It doesn’t matter which party your MP is in, if you oppose Canada’s ratification of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) you need to let your MP know you do not want the TPP.
Or Bill C-51.
Or even a motion to condemning the BSD movement (our right to dissent!).
Whenever the government is going to do things we don’t want it to, it’s up to us to let the government know or the only side they will hear is the other one. If you can’t convince your MP and/or their party disagrees with you, s/he isn’t likely to do you much good at all. So our only hope is that a lot of other Canadians will contact their MPs about the issues that matter to you as well.
We would be much better off with Proportional Representation, but even without it, if enough of us speak up, (strongly enough, loudly enough) there is a slim chance we might persuade the Government to back away from bad policy. Public opinion didn’t seem to have much weight with the previous Government, but public opinion does matter to the Liberal Government. Our chance of being heard is better than it was with 39.6% majority government the Liberals replaced.
You can contact your MP in a variety of ways:
by meeting with your MP in person,
speaking to your MP on the phone,
sending your MP postal mail (Mail may be sent postage-free to any Member of Parliament)
writing your MP an email,
sending your MP a fax
speaking to your MP on social media, or
Meeting with your MP in person is probably the single most effective strategy while signing a petition (especially a digital petition) is probably the least effective. To make it easier for the folks in the Waterloo Region area to contact your MP, I’ve put together contact information for our new crop of Members of Parliament.
MP Raj Saini (Liberal)
209 Frederick Street (Main Office)
This part of the website seems a little bit broken just now, as I’m finding it is providing links to incomplete draft contact pages. It might be easier to simply type in the correct URL by typing it into the URL address bar (or search bar) in your browser: