Ed Broadbent, Andrew Coyne, and I walk into a bar…

And we all agree: The electoral system has to change.

As if on cue, we have representatives from left and right joining in to say that this is a messed-up system in which 22.22% control 100% of the cabinet, 100% of the agenda, 100% of the Prime Ministerial powers.  And, this situation is only getting worse. It’s a messed-up situation which gives Conservatives 0 seats in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal; the Bloc two thirds of seats in Quebec; the Greens 0 seats; etc…. And, this too is only getting worse.

First, from Broadbent:

It was a bad day for Canadian democracy – more unstable, unrepresentative government.

If Tuesday’s vote had taken place with an electoral system such as those in the vast majority of democracies, Canadians would now have the prospect of a stable centre-left coalition government, with a majority of seats in Parliament representing a majority of the popular votes. Instead, we will continue with a right-of-centre government rejected by a substantial majority of Canadians, elected by a mere 38 per cent of the people, with not a single MP from Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal. Federalist parties got more than 50 per cent of the votes in Quebec, but the Bloc Québécois received two-thirds of the seats.

When, oh Lord, will we wake up? Why do we persist with a 19th-century electoral system designed for two parties long since rejected by more than 40 multiparty democracies throughout the world? When a party with just over a third of the vote gets to govern, and one party, the Greens, doesn’t get a single MP although nearly a million people voted for it, is it any wonder that only 59 per cent of Canadians bothered to vote on Tuesday, the lowest turnout in our history?

*snip*

It’s time Canadians got the governments we vote for, not the ones our outmoded electoral system continues to regurgitate. It’s time our Neanderthal journalists and politicians started telling the truth about our lack of democracy and how most democracies have electoral systems much more effective, representative and stable than our own.

And, now from Coyne:

If we must have five-party politics, let them at least be parties with real differences, and national appeal. Away with the system that guarantees the Bloc two-thirds of the seats in Quebec on the strength of little more than one-third of the vote. Away with the ghettos of Conservative Alberta, or Liberal Toronto, where it is scarcely worth campaigning, so predictable are the results. Away with “strategic voting,” and other attempts to tell people they may not vote for the party they support, but must vote against the party they fear. Away with the disgraceful situation of a party winning almost a million votes, as the Greens did this time out, and getting zero seats.

Indeed, when you think about it, many of the problems identified in this piece have their origins in the perverse incentives of our highly leveraged, winner-take-all electoral system. Why have the Tories degenerated into mush? Because they face no competition on the right, Reform-style uprisings being more or less outlawed for fear of “splitting the vote.” Why did the Liberals ignore their growing weakness all these years? Because they could still count on the bizarre distortions of first-past-the-post to reap a bushel of seats from one region or another. Why has the Bloc become an immovable blot on the national scene, long after its original purpose was exhausted? Ditto. Why have majority governments become next to impossible? Why has politics degenerated into such vicious, empty partisanship? Why do so many people no longer bother to vote? Because the system is broken, and if this election won’t persuade us to change it, nothing will.

Read them both in full. We need a system that (1) asks for people’s opinions; and, (2) represents those opinions.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s