As the election results poured in last night, there were some surprises, but we knew we were going to see some changes. Some horrible MPs lost their seats and some incredible MPs also suffered defeat. We elected a Prime Minister and party that’s just left of the Conservatives enough to say so and they will have much to answer for and live up to even among their own supporters. It is up to all of us to hold them accountable.
Today, however, Canada has some opportunities that we should all be able to get behind. One of them is electoral reform.
Us progressive folks (or “dirty lefties” if you prefer) have long been talking about the need for reforms to the process by which we elect our leaders and representatives.
During the Harper majority government, there was little interest from the Conservatives in changing much about how we vote, and understandably so – less than 40% of the voting public wanted Harper, but they ended up with enough seats to ram any legislation through parliament that they wanted to. No matter what the other 60%+ wanted, they had the votes.
Now we have a mechanically similar situation where roughly 45% of Canada voted for something different have to contend with a Trudeau majority government they never really wanted.
I suspect that many of you will now be more interested in exploring what an election that is more fair to all of us might look like, now that the shoe is on the other foot.
In fact, after Alberta’s last election with the NDP forming a majority government, many conservatives took to Twitter to express what I had assumed was something they never felt before – that our “democracy” was unfair to them and that their votes did not really count in any practical sense.
Maybe some of you are feeling that way now…
Welcome to our world!
Many of us have been feeling this way for years. Maybe now we have something to work together on if we can pretend neither of us are evil or mortal enemies for a little while…
As Julien Lamarche of Fair Vote Canada explains, there is a huge percentage of “wasted votes”. Millions of voters don’t have a practical representation in Parliament because the votes they cast for someone other than the winner are now dead votes that don’t turn into any kind of representation in government whatsoever. Our “first past the post” or “winner takes all” electoral system means that it doesn’t matter how many votes go to other people, we only care about the candidate that scooted ahead of the pack. Over 9 million votes were “wasted” this way, and that isn’t counting the large numbers of voters who begrudgingly “voted strategically” for someone other than their first choice.
There are other, more equitable ways of electing our leadership and all that is keeping us from that is us. “Proportional Representation” is a more suitable, modern approach that gives more citizens a voice.
A friend sent this excellent video that illustrates what switching to a form of Proportional Representation could look like:
Of the major parties, only the NDP and Green Party committed to bring proportional representation, while the Conservative Party said they were “not convinced that the introduction of proportional representation will result in a better reflection of the will of voters”. Do you really feel that way now?
Trudeau’s Liberals did not promise proportional representation specifically, but they did say they would investigate and make decisions about some kinds of reforms before the next election. They need to know how important this reform truly is to Canada and we need to tell them.
Regardless of our individual ideology or preferred party, we should stand together and tell our government loud and clear that we want our next election to be under a process that gives us all a voice. We need to hold Justin Trudeau and the Liberals to their promise of reform, and demand an electoral process befitting of a country as diverse and modern as ours.
Make no mistake, there are numerous changes that can and need to be made at an electoral and parliamentary level if we want to continue to make government work better for all of us, but moving forward with some “Real Change™” to our current process is an important first step.
Take some time, let this all soak in and think about what government that could look like in an environment where everyone has some kind of a say, where “strategic voting” for “the lesser of two evils” is a phrase you hear less often and candidates feel more empowered to represent the values that are truly important to both of you and find themselves more interested in collaborating with others.
When you’re ready (hopefully soon), I implore all of you to write your MPs, party leaders and your new Prime Minister and tell them how important this is to you.
Copyright 2013 A.W. Young