Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Forget an Election. We Need a Referendum on the Electoral System!

So here we are. Yet again facing the possibility of a general election that won't resolve anything. A few seats will change hands, but for the most part the distribution of seats will still give us another Conservative minority government. So, why bother?

We can no longer throw the rascals out because the electorate no longer plays the game as it was intended to be played. In the United States, on the other hand, people still cling to the Republican/Democrat dichotomy, but here in Canada people have moved on.

For example, Greens are still going to vote Green, the supporters of the Bloc are still going to vote for the Bloc, and almost half the electorate won't vote at all. Each of the governing options, the Liberals and the Conservatives are unable to form a majority government, and, in fact, their combined support comes from less than 50% of the eligible voters.

This means that we will be continued to be ruled by a minority that usurps the political power of the majority because of the divide and rule component built into an outdated electoral system that is a vestige of the British Empire.

Canadians now have to face up to the fact that our political system is broken and is beyond repair as long as we stay with our current electoral method. Majority government, the cornerstone of democratic government, is possible but not one constituted by a single political party. The formation of a majority government can only arise as a result of a coalition between two or more parties.

So, here are the choices: we continue with the same electoral system and endure minority rule with the faint hope that one day a new leader will emerge and deliver us to democratic government, or we take the situation in hand and change our electoral system.

To stay with the first choice is to consent to an undemocratic system of governance. To make the second choice is an affirmation of democratic rule.

Let's be clear. Those who are elected by first-past-the-post are in a conflict of interest when it comes to changing the electoral system, and as recent history attests in B.C., Ontario, and the UK, they cannot be trusted to put into place a fair and equitable process that might put themselves out of a job.

Consequently, let's go with a process that has proven to be successful. Drawing inspiration from the New Zealand experience, we should have a citizens committee come up with four alternative voting methods to appear on the ballot of the first round of a two-round referendum. Leave it up to the committee to decide whether to use a simple plurality method or a preferential ballot for the first round. In either case, two options will advance to a second round ballot, and it will be the the population at large in which each and every citizen has the opportunity to have their vote count that will decide. It takes a democratic method to move us towards democratic rule.

Come on Canada. What do you have to lose?

A dysfunctional system of governance.

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