Making a difference, each and every one of us is a cornerstone of a healthy democracy. Every four years, we are called to exercise our right to elect the candidate who best represents our values and promises to act in accordance with our shared ideals. It is our chance to be heard, to make that difference. Our present election process, also known as First Past the Post, or, Winner Takes All, awards the position of Member of the Legislative Assembly or Member of Parliament, to the candidate in each riding with the greatest number of votes. Should our chosen candidate, the individual who could represent our vision for the future, be the loser in the vote count, our voice is greatly diminished, our opinions consigned to that limbo known as the voice of the minority. The winner takes all, and morally, is accountable to all the constituents in a riding, and yet, we know from experience that responsibility to the minority is likely to be overshadowed by the MLA or MP’s partisan values.
What can we expect? Declining voter turnout? Leaders elected by a fervent minority of the electorate? Today’s Federal Liberal government was elected with a vote of 39.5 % of the electorate’s cast votes. Less than half of the electorate were able to elect a representative. The cynicism that accompanies the perception of, “What’s the use? My vote won’t count anyway.”, guts the democratic process of its most valuable asset, its participants.
The upcoming referendum on proportional representation that our present provincial government is providing offers the means to increase our participation in democracy. Rather than shy away from a change that seems foreign, or is said to be too confusing, or even worse, a dangerous enabler for extremist groups to gain power, let’s remember that 85% of western democracies use proportional voting and that the coalition governments that result are stable and productive. The governments of the Scandinavian countries, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Germany are dealing with minorities of extreme nationalism that are reactions to the waves of refugees seeking landed immigrant status. Incorporating these minority parties into a government that operates on the need for consensus, tempers and defuses extremist groups that might otherwise have found leadership in a system based on Winner Takes All. Multi-party governments are stronger for having to process alternative ideas in seeking consensus, including the views of your chosen representative. Special interest groups lose power in the process of reaching consensus. Why? Because our voice is being heard.
Can we make a difference? In our last provincial election, the riding of Nelson-Creston voted 28% Liberal, 2% Independent, 28% Green, and 42% NDP. Therefore, 58% without a voice in the Legislative Assembly. We could do better.
Clements Verhoeven, Erickson BC