Archive for August 24th, 2009

losing confidence

Losing Confidence: Power, Politics and the Crisis in Canadian Democracy by Elizabeth May. McClelland & Stewart, 2009.

Although I voted in the last federal election, I and nearly a million other voters have absolutely no representation in the House of Commons. Where do I live? Myanmar? Some banana republic? No. I live in Canada. It is ironic that, while Canada is sending troops overseas to Afghanistan to aid in the development of a democratic state, our own Canadian democracy is being eroded. When a million votes results in not one representative reaching the House of Commons, something is seriously wrong.

In the 2008 election, nearly a million votes were cast for the Green Party, but not one seat was achieved. The Bloc Quebecois, with just 380,000 votes more, at 1.38 million, won 50 seats. The NDP party, with 2.5 million votes, won just 37 seats. Voters stayed home in droves, with just 59% of eligible voters turning out. Of that 59%, the winning Conservatives received just 37% of the popular vote.

Other issues include shallow, partisan media coverage that fails to adequately inform the voting public on important issues; disturbing, manipulative attack ads that serve to discourage voters from turning out on election day; and declining voter turnout. There’s something wrong when the Prime Minister can pass a bill calling for fixed election dates…and then promptly turn around and call a snap election. There’s something wrong when the Prime Minister can provoke a non-confidence vote and then avoid the consequences of his actions by proroging Parliament. As writer Ronald Wright pointed out, after King Charles I shut down England’s Parilament when he found its restrictions uncongenial, he was beheaded!

The need to replace our antiquated and inappropriate First Past the Post system is urgent and there is no need to reinvent the wheel here. Proportional representation systems are commonplace in many European countries and have been linked to increased voter turnout, greater voter satisfaction, and a better informed electorate.

Elizabeth May’s timely book looks at these and other important issues relating to Canadian democracy in a clear and concise manner. It should be mandatory reading for every voter, no matter what your political leaning. Go out and get a copy! In the meantime, stop on over to Fair Vote Canada and stay informed. Canadian democracy needs you.

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