Editorial: Should I listen to the voices in my head?

Trent Ernst, Editor


Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a diversity of opinions out there.

In fact, diversity is perhaps too modest a word for the numbers of opinions out there.

There’s an old trope that says opinions are like, well, you know the one that I mean. But it’s true. Everyone has their own opinion on how things work and what’s right and what’s wrong.

With the election now less than a month away, the political opinionating is reaching a fever pitch.

And you’ve got people standing on all sides of an issue, offering opinions as to the best way to make something work.

And the trouble is, all sides make some good points. Some valid points. Yes, even the Conservatives (Tim) or the NDP (other Tim), depending on which Tim you agree with and which you disagree with.

And it reminds me once again why I so want to move to a proportional representation system of democracy.

In the current system, known as a first past the post system, the candidate with the most number of votes wins.

So, lets say in one riding, there are two Candidates, one running for the Conservatives, one running for the Greens.

And the Conservative Candidate gets 51 percent of the vote, beating the Green who got 49 percent of the vote.

Now, in another riding, there are 12 Candidates: Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Green, Bloc, Christian Heritage, Canadian Action Party, Communist Party, Democratic Advancement Party, Libertarian Party, Marijuana Party and the Pirate Party of Canada.

In this riding, the Conservative Candidate wins, too, but because there were so many other options, she wins with a mere 15 percent of the popular vote.

Get that? She won with far less people voting for her than voted for the Green Candidate in the other riding.

In 2011, the Green party received 3.9 percent of the popular vote, but only elected one candidate—Elizabeth May—which is less than half of one percent of parliament.

The Conservative Party formed a majority government, allowing them to do whatever they wanted to do, with 39.6 percent of the  popular vote.

39.6 percent allows them to do whatever they like. Because this is the way our democracy is set up.

We think that this is the way the world works, but only three major democracies—Canada, the US and Great Britain—use this first past the post system.

Since 1965, there have been eight majority governments. Of those, only one actually had a majority of the popular vote.

In 2006, more people voted for the Conservatives in New Brunswick, but because of the way the seats were set up, the Liberals formed a majority government, even though they had fewer votes.

This is not a unique occurrence. It’s happened four times in the last decade.

So maybe if we investigated an alternative system like proportional representation, we would find that parliament truly reflected the voices of Canadians and that people who have become disillusioned with the process would come out and vote. That people who worry about splitting the right or splitting the left and deciding to vote for the person more likely to win, rather than the party they most favour. That we’d have fewer people plugging their nose while they cast a vote.

And yes, we’d wind up with minority or coalition governments, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Imagine a political system where, instead of yelling at each other from their side of the house, politicians had to listen to other ideas and talk it out and figure out how to make it work not just tow the party line. Then maybe politics would become about working together for the good of the country and not just figuring out how to keep your party in power.