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Election 2008 - should the ‘first to the post’ system be replaced? 

Democracy and the standard of living in the society that makes up the Canadian economy depends on understanding, produced by research.  Understanding that emerges in society, by education, a free press and a free flow of information, vigorously discussed.  Election 2008 should spur a vigorous debate in society about the ‘first to post’ single seat election system – the winner takes all.  

Raising the question, should the system be replaced with a proportional election system and why?  As someone has put it, democracy gives society the right to replace one rascal with another rascal.  Well, in a democracy at least the rascals know they can lose their job. I trust everyone prefers to live in a democratic governed economy, particularly those of us that have experienced other forms of government.  

People enter and run for part-time and full-time politics for numerous more or less selfish reasons.  Once elected, we have no other choice than to give them the benefit of the doubt, and see what they actually do.    

The question here is does the ‘first to the post’ system produce the government the country needs as we face the future with more acute problems and uncertainties than ever before?  Is democracy and good government, furthered by an election system that rather bizarrely produces the outcome that a party with only 9.97 % of the cast votes concentrated in one province gets 50 seats in the parliament?  While a party with 7.0 % votes and more widely spread across the country is getting zero seats. 

Could that be one reason for complacency in society and sliding voter’s participation, particularly among younger voters? There were roughly 23.5 million voters registered at the time of the last election. About 13.8 million or about 59% voted, a decline from 79 % percent from 1958.  Should that not be taken as a warning sign that there is a problem with our democratic system?  

The ‘first to the post’ winner take all system produces only two representatives’s or “rulers” for each riding, one MP to the parliament and one MLA to the provincial legislation. Incumbents and candidates that get most of the cast votes win the riding, which means politicians with far less that fifty one percent of the cast votes can win the riding. 

The society that makes up the ridings economy may end up being represented in parliament and provincial legislation by an MP and MLA that is elected by a small group of people. Obviously, MPs and MLAs have significant power and influence over people’s lives in the riding and where tax transfers and grants are going. 

Political patronage driven prioritizing and rejection of proposals from people in the riding, favoritisms and catering to special interest groups means semi-corruption is a risk.  With no other representation in the riding, those who address issues important for the riding but inconvenient for the “ruling” MP and MLA or their parties, may be out of luck.  

The risk is less where MP’s and MLA’s become statesmen and stateswomen, with integrity and impartial concern for society. Those who realize politics cannot be understood without the use of social and natural science and won’t let their political beliefs override understanding. MP’s and MLA’s who have the buoyancy and self-confidence not only to discuss with followers, but also with those in their riding that address issues they don’t understand or that challenge them.  MP’s and MLA’s that see themselves as society’s entrance portal to parliament and government for new ideas and new ways of doing things.  

As George Bernard Shaw put it, “I have met many, Catholics, and Protestants, I still have yet to meet a Christian.” Others may, but I still have yet to meet a MP or MLA that is a statesman or stateswoman. In the riding where I live in British Columbia the provincial MLA and members of the ruling party at least are very candid. People in the riding that address issues are simply told the Government does what it wants. The message is clear, those who address issues inconvenient for the MLA, his party and his cohorts, are out of luck. In the riding where I practice, I believe the MP is a nice fellow, as he always advertises and asks people to contact him, and discuss issues. But I hear, he is too busy to also respond and answer letters or return phone calls, and in a one seat hegemony people have nowhere else to go, - they are out of luck.   

In short, a proportional election system would break the political one seat hegemony in ridings around the country. People in each riding would then at least not live in a single seat semi-dictatorship but have other MP’s and MLA’s to talk to.  For example, in the recent October 2008 election, the Green party would have won seats in some ridings and subsequent seats in the parliament.  Not that anything indicates that Green party’s MP’s and MLA’s would be more statesmen or stateswomen, and patronize less.   But with a proportional election, the people in the ridings that make up the local and regional economies that make up Canada, even though they are out of luck, at least they would have other representatives in parliament and provincial legislation to go to and address their concerns. 

Broadly, the risk with proportional voting systems is that the parliament can be fragmented in many smaller parties. Causing liberum veto, situations were no party has enough seats to form a government that effectively can govern which results in frequent elections. In Sweden a situation generic called a “Polish Parliament”, after liberum veto in the Polish parliament from 1652 to 1791 that nearly caused anarchy or chaos, and why Poland eventually was defeated and parted.  I trust anybody can think about the outcome of liberum veto situation in our Canadians parliament and the outcome. 

However, as we see in Canada and after the October election, the ‘first to the post’ system can also cause stalemate and bickering in parliament, and trigger frequent elections, not solving much.  With 143 seats the Conservative party and its cabinet lack a majority to pass bills. The conservative government can manage, but not solve the fundamental problem Canada faces and that hampers sustainable economic development, and employment.   Without the support from one of the other three parties an election could be triggered at any time.  

Canadians are crying out for good government to secure a sustainable economy, and political stability. The purpose of the election system is to, in good democratic order, produce good government that provides the tasks which are not the private sectors duty to provide in a mixed economy.  What is needed is research, and vigorous debate of which election system best can produce the government Canada needs to early enough address the social, economic and ecological issues Canada needs to solve as we face the future.  What doesn’t need any research, is to conclude that the current situation where people in ridings around the country are left out of luck. Or where a party concentrated to one province, with 9.97 % of the votes gets 50 of 308 seats in the parliament.  While a party with 7.0 % voters support spread across the country is getting nothing and no seats in the parliament.  Simply is democratic objectionable. What are your thoughts on this?