Swinging Pendulums

Summer and fall of 2015 saw a lot of angst among Canadians. Normally, post-election news is about cats, sports, or anything but elections and politics. Not so in 2015. People are having a hard time letting go of the clearly, deeply rooted, frustrations with Canada’s election process and the behaviours of most governments in general. Election 2015 enjoyed the highest voter turnout in years — the last time we voted in such high numbers was in 1993 when Canadians overwhelmingly banded together to oust the Brian Mulroney Progressive Conservative Party in the aftermath of the NAFTA free trade agreement and the GST.

I suspect that most Canadians are still very much aware that we didn’t actually get what we wanted when we elected this liberal government anymore than we got what we wanted from the ousted progressive conservatives.

For decades now, Canadian elections have mimicked a pendulum swinging wildly from one extreme to another when they weren’t non-elections with poor turnouts that simply voted for more of the same.  Elections are expensive and time-consuming, but wild shifts in governing ideologies are even more expensive and disruptive. What is missing is the balance that can only be achieved through efforts to meet the all-elusive balance and consensus among governing voices. Canada’s winner-take-all, first-past-the-post electoral system will never allow for anything remotely resembling coöperation, consensus, or balance. In winner-take-all systems, majority rule is the only rule. Minority governments are rightfully seen as hung governments (parliaments).

Prof. Dennis Pilon rightfully reminds all Canadians that when you change voting systems, how people vote changes as well. In his words:

“Now keep in mind that, when you change the voting system, you also change the incentives that affect the kinds of decisions that voters might make. For instance, we know that, when every vote counts, voters won’t have to worry about splitting the vote, or casting a strategic vote. Thus, we should expect that support for different parties might change.”

This is an excellent point. Post 2015 elections results tell us absolutely nothing about exactly how Canadians really feel about the key national issues requiring attention in the 42nd parliament. The only thing we learned from  voter turnout on October 19, 2015, is that Canadians want heard NOW,  and that are furious about having to vote strategically. Quite reasonably, people feel that strategic voting precluded any real possibility of voting based on true beliefs, needs, and wants.  People want to vote for something, not against something.

The polling swings of the last six months have clearly shown that Canadian voters want more than two choices, if they can vote for what they want. This leaves a vast number of voters, frustrated at having to vote against something on October 19, saying “never again — next time I want to vote for my first choice.”

Wilf Day:  Port Hope, Ontario, Canada. Member of Fair Vote Canada  Council at the federal level. A lawyer since 1971, an elected school trustee from 1982 to 1994, past chair of the Board of the Northumberland Community Legal Centre.

Source: Wilf Day’s Blog

Wilf Day’s blog post of October 23, 2015, on where we would be, and why at this particular time if Canadians enjoyed a proportionately representative governance is well worth reading.

What would the results of the 2015 election have been, with proportional representation?

According to the liberal party, electoral change will be a reality before we hit the polls again in 2019. From here on out,  Canadians will find themselves being bombarded with the pros and cons of various types of electoral reform. I predict that few Canadians will realize that voting systems have long since been studied  to death, and clear recommendations based on what electoral systems have best served the various nations around the world have been already been made. It is time to choose, rather than debate and analyze yet again.

The Canadian Law Commission recommendation:

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