Thursday, July 01, 2004

Happy CANADA Day **137 Years Old ... and still beautiful!**

For the past few days I have seriously been considering the flaws in our electoral system. I love Canada, truly - I am passionate about this country - the one time I went to Europe, to visit Austria while in university, I was very (very) happy to return home, if only to be in a country where you didn't run across armed soldiers patrolling events where politicians were attending (not armed with pistols, but armed with H&K MP5's - a gun that will make you wet you pants when you see it in the hands of a nineteen-year-old soldier).

Canada represents so many of the things that I believe in, yet has so much promise for more - there is that idea that we, in the great country, are far more than the substance of what we are made of - and that we deserve far more than we get whenever we go to the polls on election day.

The biggest problem with our electoral system is that it does not properly reflect the results of the votes as they are cast. The only proper way to do this is through proportional representation, where every vote cast in an election would count towards the final tally. Ironically, a fine example (though, perhaps not a great example of its execution) of proportional representation in action is found in the way members are voted into the Knesset in Israel.

Instead of having 120 ridings for the 120 members, the country is not divided - every party involved in the election presents their candidates as a list, with the most important at the top (such as the leader, and etc.) descending through to the bottom. In order to elect ONE member, the party must receive 1.5% of the popular vote - and that is ALL (there had been, for a time, a separate vote for the Prime Minister, but they have returned to the One Vote system).

Consider this: on June 28, the Liberal Party received 36.7% of the popular vote - and elected 135 seats. The Conservatives received 29.6%, and 99 seats; the Bloc received 12.4%, and 54 seats; the NDP received 15.7%, and 19 seats, and "Other" received 5.6%, and only 1 seat.

Our Parliament currently has 308 seats, which makes things difficult to calculate from scratch, but based on the population of the country, and the size of the governing body, it would seem reasonable that the minimum vote needed to elect one sitting member should be 0.3% of the popular vote. With that number in mind, the present parliament would change as follows (it would be based on 333 seats):
> The Liberals would receive 122 seats (real: 135)
> The Conservatives would receive 99 seats (real: 99 - amazing)
> The New Democratic Party would receive 52 seats (real: 19)
> The Bloc Quebecois would receive 41 seats (real: 54)
> ... and "other"? there would be 19 "other" seats (real: ... 1)

So, where is the democracy? Does my vote count, when I go into the polling station and have to say to myself, "I want to vote for the NDP, but I can't because I'm afraid if I do, the Conservative might win - so I vote for the Liberal ..." - but, with proportional representation, if I voted for the NDP (or whomever), EVERY single vote would be counted towards the FINAL NUMBER of seats that are sent to the Parliament - THAT is democracy IN action, rather than democracy inaction.

We have taken our system and allowed it to wallow in the bureaucracies that make it so sluggish it can hardly move to save its life - and yet, things seem to happen - when enough people raise their voices at the right time. Perhaps if we start now, by the time there is another general election we will be able to see what would really happen if every vote was counted for its full weight.

Until then, Canada will remain a great country, with an imperfect democracy. But, as it is Canada Day, and the country is only 137 years old - that is hardly ancient, like some of the European nations, but - we're still learning.

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