Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Canada's Progressives Are About to Get Screwed by a Corrupt Electoral System

The sudden rise of the NDP in the polls gives reason to hope that the political landscape is about to change fundamentally.

Don't bet the farm on it.

What the pundits don't say is that the NDP is far from playing on an even playing field. As anybody who is even vaguely aware of the way our electoral system actually works, national or even provincial percentages of the popular vote do not produce a proportional number of seats. It all depends on how the vote is distributed.

Concentrated support in smaller regions pays off whereas moderate support over large regions provides disappointing results. Add to mixture the possibility of a relatively even distribution of votes among opposing parties that allows candidates to triumph with only 30% of the vote and an electoral map that is gerrymandered to give rural ridings more voting power than urban ridings and you find a recipe for a democratic debacle.

For instance, it is most probable that in Quebec despite gaining more of the popular vote than the Bloc Quebecois the NDP will find themselves with less seats than they deserve. The Bloc will win more seats because of their strength in the rural regions and because of vote splitting between the federalist parties.

Likewise, across Canada the Conservatives will benefit from the vote splitting between Liberals and the supporters of the NDP. In fact, it is quite foreseeable that the Conservatives will win more seats this time around with a slightly smaller share of the popular vote as compared to the 2008 election. So much so, they will go on to win a majority government with slightly more than just one third of the popular vote.

Perhaps some will find solace if the NDP forms the opposition, thinking that they are only one election away from forming a progressive government. So close and yet so far from real power.

My advice for any of my progressive readers is to watch the results on election evening in a bar. You're going to need a stiff drink when reality sets it and you realize that the country is still ruled by a minority with whom you have little in common.

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