First off, is a majority government in and of itself, no matter what party, necessarily a good thing? Despite our parliamentary traditions, I think not. Under our first past the post system, it obviously concentrates power undemocratically in the hands of one party which may or may not necessarily represent the full spectrum of Canadian citizenship. Discounting those who did not vote at all in the last election, for whatever reason, and given that three out of four people who did vote in the last election did not do so for the Harperites, Harper’s goverment, it would seem clear, did not represent the majority of Canadian citizens or necessarily their value when it assumed power in 2008. That’s a very significant exclusion of direct representation for a large number of people -- and that’s not taking into consideration how many who did not vote might not have been supportive of the Harperites, a perspective about which we can only speculate. So in and of itself a majority isn’t axiomatically a better form of goverment or a better form of democratic representation.
A similar question can be asked about stability. Does a stable government in and of itself automatically yield “better” goverment - whatever that might be - or a more democratically responsive goverment? One could argue that a stable goverment provides the ground of power to get things done, to move legislation and implement policy. But what if, say, two-thirds to three-quarters of Canadians disapprove of those policies and their legislative forms? Other than grass roots protests and political activism outside the system and perhaps, in limited ways, through the proxy of opposition parties can any sort of poltical objection be mounted. The problem is, however, that these forms of democratic action, as self-satisfying and sometimes effective as they might be, lack the efficacy that a voice in parliament would yield.
Democracy is, as many have said, a very messy business. We should rejoice in that fact, not bemoan it, as so many in the main line parties seem to do. Real democracy involves real participatory work that needs to be embraced by us all. From what I can see, the only formal remedy to speed up that full embrace is electoral reform based on proportional representation -- a form of broadbased democratic goverment well established around the world, the only exceptions in the western world being -- surprise, surprise -- the U.S., Canada, and Britain, this last, however, gearing up for a move towards real proportioal representation soon. Isn’t it about time that we begin gearing up too?
Take a look at what Fair Vote Canada is trying to do: Fair vote Canada.
Here are some suggestions for gearing up:
1) Establish a network of all the grassroots organizations across the country who have or would support proportional representation -- a sort of ACTION NETWORK focused on democratic reform.
2) Seek resources and - judiciously - support internationally.
3) Work the media assiduously in an effort to create a wide public discourse about the issue.
4) Begin serious lobbying of the main line parties that might benefit from proportional representation. (After this election, that may number two, not one.)
5) Lobby provincial parties that would benefit from proportional representation in their jurisdiction to bring them on board the NETWORK.
5) Consider legal options if necessary and possible.
We should all probably have a good conversation about mandatory voting and the notion of a preferential ballot first. The latter is very attractive as a fall-back position to proportional representation. When one votes, one chooses a preferential order of candidates. Political parties use this system, but it too has its problems. Proportional still seems the fairest, most democratic method even if the results are messy and involve agreements and negotiations. That's what democracy is all about, one could argue
via Stable Majority Goverments and Electoral Reform | rabble.ca.
Postscript May 8, 2011 3:09 PM : Of course, AV was overwhelming defeated on May 5 in the U.K. I'm not reading much into this since there was such massive propaganda from everyone apparently during the referendum campaign, not to mention that AV is very problematic. But a question remains: was the vote a rejection of AV or an endorsement of FPTP?
I should add India to the list of countries still on FPTP.