Monday, March 10, 2014

WTF! In Quebec, Even If I Don't Vote I Still Get Screwed!

You have to admit that when it comes to maintaining their stranglehold on political power in Quebec, the two major parties, the PLQ (the Quebec Liberal Party) and the PQ (the Parti Québécois) can be very ingenious.

They need to be.  Revelations at the Charbonneau Commission indicate that both parties have benefited enormously from illegal financial contributions from private companies in the construction industry.  Estimates have it that about 80% of the donations to the PLQ and the PQ were illegal.

Too bad the extent of the illegal funding has yet to be established, which explains why we are having a second general election since the Commission was convened, and also explains why the law that established elections on a fixed date was totally ignored by the PQ, the governing party that introduced the motion.

Suspecting that the results of Quebec's general elections have been rigged for the last thirty years, Quebecers have been far less generous making donations to Quebec's political parties, especially when the donations are now limited to $100 and can only be made directly to Quebec's Director General of Elections.

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Never fear, the PQ has been incredibly ingenious in turning to the public purse to fund Quebec's general elections.  Indeed, the new funding formula takes the major mechanism of proportional representation, a voting system that gives fair and equitable results, and applies it to elections determined by the traditional idiotic voting method called first-past-the-post.

In a pure proportional voting system, all votes cast are aggregated in one single electoral district and representation is given to each political party based on the percentage of the popular vote it obtained. For example, a party that obtained 40% of the popular vote would get 40% of the available seats in the legislature, a party that obtained 30% of the popular vote would get 30% of the seats, and so on.

In the eyes of many, this is the fairest way to run an election since each vote counts and carries an equal weight relative to other votes.  A majority government comprised of more than 50% of the seats in the legislature can only be formed if the party in question had actually received more than 50% of the votes cast.

This is not the case when using the first-past-the-post method (FPTP).  In fact, FPTP regularly distorts electoral results that contradict the popular will as expressed by the popular vote.  In general, 40% of the popular vote translates to 60% of the available seats, thereby forming what is referred to as a false majority.  Worse yet, the party that finished second in the popular vote has gone on to form a "majority" government three times in Quebec, and in one instance in New New Brunswick, a party that received about 55% of the popular vote took all the seats in the legislature, idiotic results to say the least. To learn more about the vagaries of FPTP, I suggest that you consult the Fair Vote Canada website.

Having been steadfast in its refusal of adopting proportional representation as the voting method in Quebec, despite the wishes of the PQ's founder, Rene Leveque, the PQ has simply used the principle of proportionality as a means of increasing the available funds to fight an election under the rules of first-past-the-post.  In the new formula, the total number of electors on the electoral list is multiplied by $1.50 to establish the total amount to be divided, which is a sleight of hand since nearly 40% of these electors don't vote at all.  The total amount (approximately $ 9 million) is then divided among the parties based on the number of votes each party received during the previous general election.  In other words, 40% of the popular votes translates into 40% of 9 million or $3.6 million, 30% of the popular vote translates into 30% of 9 million or $2.7 million, and so on.

So, the question that begs to be asked is why the fuck is the principle of proportionality is invoked to establish the funding of the political parties but is not used to establish the representation of the popular will in Quebec's National Assembly?  What's up with that?

I'll tell you what.  Such a turn events gives the facade of democratic reform, something badly needed in Quebec, like the law that established general elections on fixed dates, but at that same time gives the PQ the possibility of forming a false majority government, something that would never happen if the principle of proportionality was applied to the question of representation in the National Assembly.  Moreover, this is done on the basis of an electoral system that is gerrymandered on linguistic and ethnic lines.

At the moment, the PQ and the PLQ are tied within the margin of statistical error with regard to the popular vote, but the PQ is way ahead, by more than 20%, in the francophone vote.  This is extremely important since 80 of the 125 electoral districts are comprised by an electorate where more than 90% of the electorate is francophone.  As a result, less than 40% of the popular vote, as long as the francophone electors vote predominantly for the PQ, will translate into a "majority" PQ government.

This explains the introduction of the controversial Quebec's Charter of Values that would discriminate against predominantly against immigrants, a law that even Quebec's Human Rights Commission has denounced but remains popular among francophones.

If you haven't figured it out, a PQ majority government inevitably means yet a third referendum on the question of Quebec independence.  This will be the last kick at the can for the PQ, a party made up primarily of aging baby boomers.

Ironically, the referendum on Quebec's independence must be held in a single, province-wide electoral district where each vote counts and is accorded equal weight.  The mandate to hold such a referendum is not.  Instead, it stems from a profoundly flawed voting system run by idiots.

Where does this leave me, an elector who tried to have his vote count in the last general election by voting strategically for the candidate who had the best chance of defeating the incumbent, a strategy that did not work?

I thought of boycotting this election, but then it dawned on me: since my name appears on the electoral list, staying at home on Election Day actually would give more money (I know the amount is small) to the political parties that conspire to prevent me from having the political representation I desire.

At least -- and this feature of the present electoral system in Quebec is absolutely the smallest incentive for voting that I can think of -- if I vote for the small party that best appeals to me, I give that party a bit of small change that would have otherwise gone to the PQ and the PLQ.  In reality, that works out to be about an extra 3 cents for my vote.  Previously, the entire subsidy for my vote would have gone to the party of my choice.  Now, it's so paltry it almost removes all incentives to vote for a small party at all.

So, it appears that if I truly want to protest this idiotic charade of an election, I would be better off by asking the Director General of Elections to remove my name from the list of electors.  That way, no public money in my name would go the political parties that refuse to make the electoral system truly democratic.

1 comment:

  1. That is aweful, but at least next time around you will have a new choice, a provincial NDP to choose from.


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