Sunday, May 20, 2007

We need to embrace democratic reform

It was definitely refreshing to see both Hugh Segal & Ed Broadbent praise the Ontario Legislature for aggressively moving forward on electoral reform. (i.e. Referendum on mixed member proportional [MMP])
"The two of us reflect two competing, democratic, partisan traditions in Ontario. We differ on many matters of public policy. We strongly unite, however, in our commitment to an electoral system that is democratic in more than name. It's long overdue in our country. We salute the Ontario Legislature for putting the spotlight on our voting system and for making October's referendum possible. In particular, we applaud all those ordinary people who made up the citizens' assembly and produced an imaginative and practical proposal." Read entire article

If these two well respected partisans can put their political differences aside for the betterment of democracy, then why can't others do the same? As for the situation in our neck of the woods, New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham chose to [unfortunately] go with the status quo whereby he quashed the idea of citizens voting in a referendum on the recommendations brought forward by the citizens' assembly on electoral reform. As well, Mr. Graham also refused to act on this democratic impulse when he chose to play petty partisan games with a great piece of federal legislation by submitting a 13 page brief which, in turn, further delayed the passage of Bill S-4 (a one clause bill on senate term limits). It's very unfortunate that our premier didn't chose to follow the excellent example set by Segal and Broadbent who both put partisans bickering aside in favour of promoting a more "fair" and "equitable" voting system.

Moreover, I see our friends over on Prince Edward Island (who chose to stick with the FPTP system in a referendum last fall) are on the verge of having election results [again] which don't reflect the diversity of thought amongst its citizenry. In other words, according to a Corporate Research Associates seat projection model, the Green and NDP parties will be shut out once again.

Let me tell you, this is really, really unfortunate, especially after glancing over a few comments made in the "comments section" of the PEI Guardian as it seems many island citizens want to put their vote somewhere other than with the Tories or Liberals, however, because of the way the old first-past-the-post system is set up, they feel like a vote for the NDP or Greens is nothing more than a wasted vote. And in the end, instead of voting for what they want (i.e. Greens & NDP), people begin voting against what they don't want. (i.e. Tories & Libs) I especially like this comment by Samantha where she said, "Do you really want Robert Ghiz leading this province? Sure the Conservatives have made a couple of mistakes, but the good things they've done far outweigh the bad, and if the Liberals get in, the opposite will definitely be true. For the love of God, vote PC!" Doesn't exactly sound like a ringing endorsement for FPTP, does it?

There's no question, we need to start engaging more citizens on the advantages of democratic reform. As Globe & Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson said recently, "Give yourself a test. Raise electoral reform around the barbecue this summer. If friends even know what it means, let alone start discussing it, MMP has a chance. If people ask for the ketchup or a beer, the status quo will win."


At May 23, 2007, 9:34:00 PM , Anonymous mikel said...

Amen to that. Unfortunately, it was the dictum of the minority that won the day in PEI during the plebiscite (which I think is what they called it). The government began messing with the legislation immediately, having the vote just for it, which ensured people didn't show up. Plus, many polls were closed, typically in areas that get screwed by the electoral system, and the people had to trek miles.

In New Brunswick I think thats a real crime, and people should be absolutely furious that a politician took away people's legitimate right to vote. It's one thing to not have one, but to CANCEL one, that is just so aggregious its without words.

In ontario the government shouldn't be congratulated though. The acceptance of the 60% quota is a death sentence, plus, government goes out of its way to avoid it. You go to their homepage and you can't evne find it, theres only the 'fairness campaign' which is about how Ontario is getting screwed within the federation.

Most people couldn't even tell how politicians are elected now let alone why it should be changed. The idea that 'its unfair' doesn't resonate as most people wearily inquire 'what in politics IS fair?'

At May 23, 2007, 11:38:00 PM , Blogger NB taxpayer said...

The government began messing with the legislation immediately, having the vote just for it, which ensured people didn't show up. Plus, many polls were closed, typically in areas that get screwed by the electoral system, and the people had to trek miles.

No doubt. I heard that as well from an old university buddy from Charlottetown. They lived in Tidnish and the pollling station was a good 45 minutes away from where they lived, and as you know, PEI is not a big province so it seems their may have been some gerrymandering of polling stations (and distances) in order to decrease voter turnout.

Btw, was it 60%? I missed that. Too bad, because we all know what happened in BC. As well, I have already heard gripings in their papers (from old journalists) about how terrible it was for McGuinty to bring this to a vote. TAke a look at this gem by none other than Star reporter Richard Gwyn:

Reminds me a lot of a case made by another parliamentary traditionalist, in Norman Spector:

As John F Kennedy once said, "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future." I think ppl need to heed his advice when looking at things like MMP, STV and PR.

At May 23, 2007, 11:42:00 PM , Blogger NB taxpayer said...

Btw, I found it astonishing last night that the Manitoba PCs could improve upon their popular vote from the last election while the NDP's drop resulting in more seats from Gary Doer and one less for the tories. Go figure.

I think one commentator called it "tactical campaigning". What?


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