9 October 2007

Tomorrow's election

There are few things as noble as the ideals of democracy. There are few things more depressing than its practice. I agree with Winston Churchill: Democracy is the worst form of government imaginable...except for every other form.

Tomorrow's election takes place with less fanfare than any election I can remember. I have seen fewer ads, fewer signs, fewer politicians than ever before. My city- home to half the population of the province but with only one fourth of the seats in the provincial parliament- has been almost completely ignored by all the parties.

There is a second vote occurring tomorrow which has been almost more hidden than the election itself, but with possibly more far-reaching effects. It is a referendum about the very way we vote.

In the current system, frequently called first past the pole, the province is divided into regions, each region votes for one representative, and the representative with the most votes wins the region. With more than two parties the winner often has less than half the vote.

The proposed system would mix this with "proportional democracy". We would vote twice under that system. Once for the person, and once for the party. Seats would also be awarded according to the proportion of the vote a party received. The extra representatives would be pulled from lists put forward by the parties.

In principle, I am for proportional democracy. I live in a riding where party X, let's say, regularly wins by 10,000 votes. If I vote for them, they've won by 10,001 votes. If I vote for party Y instead, they win by 9,999 votes. In short, my vote makes no difference. Furthermore, the city in which I live has a long history of being ignored or dumped on by the ruling parties, simply because the parties can afford to ignore us. We carry a fraction of the voting power we should. Proportional democracy could redress the imbalance.

In addition, in the current system, the candidates are all but invisible. The only faces we see, the names we hear, are the party leaders. We may as well just vote for the parties and be done with it.

However, I will vote against the proposal. I do not like this 'list' idea. I have grave concerns over such lists, and how names will get on it. I imagine a long line of fawning bootlickers, party people with no loyalty to any area, to any riding, to any group of people and answerable to none. They may be as corrupt as they please and no one can vote them out of office, because they are not attached to any place that votes. They are high on a list, nothing more. The old system, which, granted, hardly ever produced any 'stars' occasionally has produced a few good hardworking people; people who worked their way up through the riding and got the nomination through their own determination and hard work. We have even seen such people at times go against the will of the party on principle. Such people will not be high on any list.

Furthermore, as much as the governmental disdain towards my home rankles, there was a reason for it. The framers of our government did not want the urban areas to dominate the rural ones. Having rural area dominate the city doesn't seem like an ideal solution, but having the city dominate them would be no better, and possibly worse.

Lastly, the newspapers, notably the Star, are for it. If I ever needed a reason to be against an idea, their support would be it.

Years ago, Edmund Burke wrote in his Reflections on the Revolution in France that replacing a practical government with a theoretical one was a disaster in the making. He went on to warn his French readers that just as true as their government was in theory, that is just how false it would be in practice. Proportional democracy strikes me as a very true theory.

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