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POLITICS – It ain’t broke so don’t fix it – leave our electoral system alone

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British Columbians are being asked, for the third time, to vote on drastic electoral changes. It would be a mistake

By ROSLYN KUNIN
Troy Media

Americans look upon their government to ensure them life, liberty and the chance to pursue happiness. In Canada, peace, order and good government are what we expect from our leaders. For the last 150 years that is what we have received.

Roslyn Kunin.

Canada is one of the best countries in the world to live because we have peace, order and good government and, with it, freedoms that so many in the world can only dream about.

Our freedom is based on democracy, rule of, by and for the people. Since people don’t always agree, the wishes of the largest groups of people prevail. The electoral system that has until now always chosen those who will govern us is first past the post (FPTP). The candidate with the most votes wins. The party with the most elected candidates forms the government. Most people see this as a fair way to form a government.

This fall, British Columbians will for the third time be asked to participate in a referendum that could drastically change our electoral system.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So why do some people think our system is broken? The usual argument is that under FPTP, minority voices aren’t heard and their needs and wishes are ignored.

This isn’t so.

First, in our free and open legislatures, opposition members have a right and duty to express their views.

Second, majority parties wishing to be elected have adopted policies from minority parties when most Canadians supported them. Think medicare. If majority parties get too arrogant, we can and do throw them out at the next election.

Third, such eminent world leaders as the Dalai Lama and the Aga Khan hold up Canada as a model to the world for the way we make room for minority people and views. If we’re not perfect, we’re still way better than most.

A more cynical reason for the upcoming referendum is that the parties making up the coalition government in B.C. fear that a majority of British Columbians might not prefer them in future elections.

Not only will British Columbians have an opportunity to overthrow FPTP. They will have an embarrassment of alternate choices – none of them good.

The first option – single transferable vote (STV) – has been used elsewhere but has been twice turned down in referenda in B.C. Is our government a slow learner?

I’m not even going to attempt to explain the remaining two options because I haven’t seen nor could I find a clear, understandable description of them. Also, neither of these systems has ever been put into use. Even the government offering us these options hasn’t fully described and defined them. Talk about buying a pig in a poke.

We have a recent example of how such undescribed and seemingly indescribable systems work. In Ontario, Doug Ford was selected as leader of his party with a minority of individual votes and a minority of polls supporting him using an electoral system that no one has explained. Now he’s premier and will govern without the endorsement of most of the members of his own party.

We’re advised that the details of whatever system we choose will be decided later by an all-party committee of the house to take into account all interests. However, the same government that wants to deny us majority rule, will, no doubt, take advantage of its control of the house to ensure the committee will create a structure that will best serve those parties.

One need not dig too deep into to find examples of proportional representation generating the exact opposite to the peace, order and good government we enjoy. Italy is only the most recent example. Proportional representation, even in mixed systems, makes it difficult if not impossible to get a clear majority government. Coalitions must be formed. This takes time and often leads to some very strange bedfellows.

In coalitions, minorities are not only heard, they often rule. To keep the coalition together and stay in power, the larger parties often have to accede to the wishes of the smallest party in the coalition, representing the smallest number of voters, and then apply the results to all the voters, most of whom don’t want it. This is a fine example of the tail wagging the dog. And it’s the opposite of good governance.

Peace and order are also reduced under proportional representation and the coalition governments that result from lack of a clear majority. Governments become less stable and less functional. The threat of a dissenting vote and resulting defeat of the house, leading to a new election, makes it very difficult for a government to deal with serious issues or stay in power very long.

Fortunately, British Columbia still has a choice. In the referendum this fall, let’s hope voters give a clear majority to majority government and stick with first past the post.

Troy Media columnist Roslyn Kunin is a consulting economist and speaker.

© Troy Media

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About Mel Rothenburger (5861 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

5 Comments on POLITICS – It ain’t broke so don’t fix it – leave our electoral system alone

  1. Wow. This argument was taken straight from the Liberal ( and Tielmans ) handbook on why FPTP should stay forever.

  2. Lets hope voters give a clear majority to first past the post and put this to bed for good!!!

  3. For the author’s information, Single Transferable Vote isn’t even on the ballot this time. The rest of her column is equally well researched and supported by evidence (i.e. not at all). Why let facts get in your way when you have a point to make? Sheesh. Journalism at its finest.

  4. Tony Brumell // June 15, 2018 at 10:40 AM // Reply

    It is broke and needs fixing. Fptp is nothing more than an elected dictatorship.When the NDP became the official opposition in the HoC they actually ended up with less power to change anything than they had before when they had fa fewer seats.When a party has a full majority in
    parliament nobody, no party ,no initiative can turn them from their party line.Look what Harper did to environment and Campbell as well. That was a blatent abuse and missuse of power.This would not happen under either pro rep scenario.
    Coalition gov’t must per force listen and can only act when the majority of voters are heard and cannot act unilaterally. Conscensus is always preferable when approaching and instituting any measure affecting environment ,health or education.
    Peace order and good gov’t ??? Ask first Nations around the world if they think that even close to being true.
    When the leader of a country can’t seem to sto[p lying to the people then they should be disposed of “now” ,not in four years in an election.A lot of damage can be done in that amount of time Dare I point out the assinine behaviour and actions of the Trumpeter man next door.??? How much damage could he do in a pro rep system ???
    Don’t even try to tell me it ain’t broke

  5. Ian MacKenzie // June 15, 2018 at 7:24 AM // Reply

    This writer must feel pretty lonely when her opinions are stacked up against 85% of developed countries who have already successfully changed to Proportional Representation. She’s just simply dead wrong when she says “It aint broke, don’t fix it”. It’s always been broken, producing governments with a minority of the votes, usually about 40%. What happened to the 60% who did not vote for that party? Their votes were discarded. Let’s get with the rest of the world who long ago realized that every voter must be a proportional winner.

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