Monday, January 30, 2006

Bring in Proportional Representation!

Electoral Reform is always a good thing to cogitate on on a Monday morning, I think. I've heard PR being bandied about, most especially by Jack Layton and the NDP (I sound like their commercial). But to be honest, I haven't understood how it works, only that it would create a more representative Parliament. Andrew Chung in yesterday's Sunday Star clarified it for me in just two paragraphs in his column "A seat for the nobodies."
"Imagine last Monday you were behind the white cardboard screen at your polling station and you opened up not one, but two, ballots.
One looked just like what you're used to, with the names of the candidates. The other was different: You had to vote for a party.
You would mark both, and after the dust settled and the votes were counted, the Parliament you elected would look a lot different than it does today."
Chung reminded the reader in his column about the Law Commission of Canada studying this issue and recommending we change to a mixed member PR system. The reason why I only vaguely remember this because like all good reports, it was promptly buried by the government. But Fair Vote Canada is thwarting the Liberals and Conservatives by keeping this issue alive. And it needs to not only stay alive, but happen.

The chief criticism levelled at PR is that it creates minority governments. As usual Canadians are ahead of the experts on this. We have already recognized the value of minorities, especially after 12 years of do-nothing and seeing how do-nothing stagnates a country and creates a climate of fear for change and for action. Ever since I became aware of politics and how governments are elected and work, I have believed that the best kind is a minority. Only then do things happen. It was only because the NDP stuck the Liberals' feet to the fire that the Liberals implemented a few of their promises. It will probably only be because of the balancing parties that the Conservatives will act (or not go ahead) for the benefit of Canada. Canadians are coming to like minority governments more and more.

Another criticism for this type of PR is that "fewer riding MPs means the size of ridings would have to increase significantly. 'You can lose that connection to having your own Member of Parliament.'"

Hate to burst your bubble but many of us are routinely ignored by our MP once they're in power. I had one MP who answered my calls and letters when in opposition, but once in power, the dirt under his shoe got more attention from him and his constituency office than I did. And as for campaigning...in the last two elections I have had maybe two flyers at most from one candidate, none from most, no phone calls (this past election I got one: from the Green Party), and no knocks on the door. So really if my riding became larger what difference would it make from the current situation? And frankly after watching news coverage of candidates in vast rural ridings, I think the voters there got more visits than anyone in my riding, and I bet you they know their MPs better than us urban voters.

"PR is also relatively complicated."

We'll get used to it. Humans are amazing that way: resist change with all their might, then adapt in a matter of hours or days.

And the best reason for going PR: it will force the parties to rectify the shamefully low numbers of female MPs. It may even lead to having a woman run for PM. New Zealand has a female Prime Minister; Hillary Clinton will probably run for President in 2008; "backward" countries have women leaders and more women in their governments than we do; and we have just a bunch of men running for the Liberal Party of Canada. Not one woman in sight. That means no hope of a female PM until the 10s. And we call ourselves an advanced country.

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1 comment:

thordora said...

amen. I've tried getting help in the past when I lived in Ontario, and now in NB. BUBKISS.

Hopefully I will be running for PM someday. Lord knows I can't do any worse.