Voting Reform’s Easy. You’re Just Lazy.

March 17, 2011

As the newly self-appointed electoral reform voice here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, my first task is to do the exact opposite of what advocacy advocates would advise doing. I am going to attack and deride the very people whose opinion I plan to sway. I fully expect the powers that be over at RaBIT and Fair Vote Canada to be in contact with me soon asking my assistance in helping plan strategy and pen informational publications.

You see, to my mind the biggest obstacle to having a serious debate about the need to change the way we elect our governments is the prevailing disinterest in the subject on the part of the general public. Lulled into a disquieted slumber by those who abhor change or who benefit greatly from the status quo, too many voters wave off any discussion about voting reform as just more politics. Politics, politics, politics.

It’s this apathetic indifference that supporters of our current, first-past-the-post, winner-take-all system exploit. Their main argument in favour of how we do things now revolves around stability. Our system tends to elect majority governments despite rarely an absolute majority actually voting for the winning party and with majority governments comes 4 years or so of one-party, stable governing. Go back to sleep, public. We’ll wake you again in 4 years or so.

Without stable majority governments, the argument goes, we exist on the brink of chaos. Look at Italy! And disregard all the other European countries that have moved on to various forms of real proportional representation. Or look at our own situation in Canada for the past 7 years. Gridlock rife with more partisan bickering than actual governance. Never mind that it’s really the lure of an oh-so-close majority situation that drives the Harper Government. (Huh. My spell check just changed ‘Canadian’ Government to ‘Harper’ Government. Strange). That counter-intuitively undemocratic 40% popular vote bar that would elect them over 50% of the seats and 100% control of the government.

Screw democracy. We need stability.

So much is made of minority governments leading to an increased number of unnecessary elections. How, without the constancy of majority governments, we’ll be dragged incessantly to the polls, against our collective wills, like the Chinese Communist Long March of 1934/5, through snow (bad), the heat of summer (bad), the Christmas season (really, really bad). Spring’s OK but can we go later when the weather’s better but not too good because the bright sunshine and blue skies absolutely drains me of my will to vote.

Since when have elections become such an onerous burden to bear? What exactly is it about them that makes the public feel so put upon? Is it because we have to actually pay attention to what’s going on, to what our politicians are saying? We don’t. Nobody forces us to participate. Rarely does political coverage preempt Canadian Idol or Celebrity Apprentice. We can all go about our regular routines, paying absolutely no attention to that stranger at our door, offering more junk mail and wanting to know what we think about the long form census.

To walk amongst the tall reeds of cliché for a moment, because that’s what one does with clichés, walk amongst the tall reeds, carrying stones in your coat pocket, people are dying out there for the right of self-determination that comes with free and fair elections. Not figuratively dying. Literally dying. And we get our noses out of joint if we have to go vote more than every other year? OMG, if a federal election gets called in the spring that means Ontarians will be going to the polls 3 times in one year by the time the scheduled provincial election is done in October! The horror! The horror!

Why do you always end up making me yell at you, people? I just wanted to talk about electoral reform, is all. There is a better way to elect our representatives at every level of government.

Our current method is not only not working, it is robbing us of true democracy where a minority of voters regularly elects a majority government that represents far less than half of us. No wonder so many of us are jaded with politics, apathetic and figure our votes don’t matter. More often than not, they don’t. So why bother? Why bother even following along?

So the system itself makes us sick of it.

None of it, however, is set in stone. Nowhere is it written that we have to vote like we do, conduct elections like we do. Plenty of countries and jurisdictions have moved on to other, fairer ways of electing their representatives and the sky hasn’t fallen or the earth stopped revolving around the sun. Our very leaders who ask us to cast ballots for them in a fundamentally anti-democratic fashion in all likelihood assumed the top job of their respective parties through alternative voting or ranked ballots. There is a disconnect there that should disturb us all.

But those already in power are not going to step up and start the discussion about electoral reform. Reform that would very possibly divest them of the absolutism that they have grown to expect and demand. We have to get the ball rolling. We have to get excited again (or maybe for the first time) about politics and the opportunity to make real, positive change.

We have to stop being idle and pointing at others for the reason we aren’t engaged. It’s a cop out and a drag, man. Wake up, sleepyheads. Let’s take our politics back.

rousingly submitted by Urban Sophisticat


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