Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Real Choice in the Next Federal Election is Between a Conservative Minority Government and a Progressive Liberal Coalition

Canadians, in particular our political class, need to face up to the fact that single party majority governments are a thing of the past. Take a look at comparable nations in the commonwealth. The UK is governed by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition, and negotiations are underway in Australia for either the Labour Party or the Liberal-National Coalition to enter into a governing coalition with the four independents and the single Green member of the lower house.

Let's face the music. The Bloc Quebecois is not going to disappear anytime soon. As a result, neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives can form a majority government on their own.

So, what are we left with? Successive single party minority governments that govern under the continual threat of an impending federal election. This state of affairs does not give us good government. In fact, what we get is a perpetual game of chicken in which introducing legislation that is consistent with the governing party's electoral mandate is compromised as is the opposition parties capacity to oppose. In short, what Canadians get is not a coherent vision guiding the country. Instead, they get a series of enacted bills that represent the lowest common denominator of what the political parties in Parliament can live with.

Elections are about choices. Who do we want to govern and with which political agenda. In simpler times the choices were straightforward: you vote for either the red or the blue team and you were stuck with the collective choice of who would govern until the Prime Minister decided it was time to go the polls.

Over the last twenty years, however, Canadian society and its political realm has morphed into something else. The old poles of attraction no longer hold the population captive. There has been a multiplication of varied interests, perspectives, beliefs and values. So much so that the traditional parties can no longer marshall sufficient numbers into their big tents. The population no longer allows itself to be dominated and controlled by a ruling oligarchy. This is a significant social transformation that slowly working it's way through the political sphere.

Already the political banter has started around single majority governments and the possibility of forming an "evil" coalition with the dreaded separatists.

In response, I would like to point out that in the latest Ekos poll neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals garnered the support of 30% of those who responded, which means that if you factor in a participation rate of 60%, it leaves each party with the support of less than 20% of the electorate. So, why are we even talking about the formation of a majority government? Current seat projections give each party somewhere between 100 and 110 seats.

Consequently, somebody is going to have to be the adult here and actually say what is on a lot of peoples's minds. Look, if the polls indicate that the Liberals have approximately 30%, the NDP 16%, and the Greens 13% of the vote (in total almost 60%), there is considerable support for a progressive/liberal coalition that would not need to be propped up by the Bloc.

So quit engaging in this magical thinking that a single party majority government can be had. Drop the pretenses and give us some straight talk that we need to evolve towards a consensual form of government and leave behind the days of domination and control.

Concretely, this means that the Liberals come out and say yes we are ready to share power and the NDP comes out and says that our price is a referendum on changing the voting system that gives the voters the choice between either the single transferable vote or a mixed-member proportional system. This would open up the door to having Greens taking their rightful place in Parliament. After all, approximately a million voters opted for the Greens during the last federal election. These voters have the right to effective representation.

Canadian society has evolved and it's time our democratic institutions do likewise.

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