"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Return of the son of post election posts III

Closer than you think

The outcome of this election was close -- the Conservatives won the right to form a government by the smallest margin of seats in Canadian history, so ignore the triumphiant chest-beating yahoos (Galloping Beaver has the take-down) who think this was some kind of landslide that show Canada to be a conservative country and Canadians to be a mob of ignorant, intolerant reactionaries like the people who got elected to form the government.

By muzzling the goofiest of his candidates and pretending to be a centerist, Harper managed to win only a 21 seat plurality. While the Liberals look for a leader and Canadians suffer from election fatigue, he has about a year to do whatever he wants as long as it doesn't look too radical, so watch him baby-step his way to trying to dismantle the social safety net like a good little Straussian neo-con, but don't buy any of this crap about him having any kind of mandate.

Harper may have the largest number of seats, but his party won only 36% of the popular vote to 30% for the Liberals, 17.5% for the NDP, 10.5% for the BQ and about 5% for the Greens. Hardly a landslide, especially when you consider that 9 seats in this election were decided by less than 1% and an amazing 30 seats were decided by less than 2%. (Figures from CBC and CTV election night coverage)

This underscores the illogic of our first past the post system and why we need some kind of supplementary system of proportional representation that would reflect the 49% of voters in riding X whose guy didn't win because somebody's car wouldn't start or because it rained or someone forgot to salt the steps at the seniors' centre or whatever. Isn't our democracy too valuable to be left to such vague influences? As minor as they may seem, should the battle be lost for want of a nail? Proportional representation works well in Japan, New Zealand and a number of European nations and would make parliament better reflect the will of voters.
There are complex systems out there in which voters cast more than one ballot, voting for a local candidate and a national party, but consider what even a very simple system adding 100 seats to Parliament awarded on the basis of percentage of the popular vote nationally would do to the current make up of the House of Commons:

Current seat breakdown / Breakdown with 100 extra proportional seats

Conservative Party of Canada 124 / 160 40% / 39%

Liberal Party of Canada 103 / 133 33% / 32%

Bloc Quebecois 51 / 62 17% / 15%

New Democratic Party 29 / 47 9% / 11%

Green Party of Canada 0 / 5 / 1%

Independents 1 / 0 / 0

Fringe parties 0/ 1 /1%
(drawn by lottery among Communists,
Christian Heritage Party, Marijuana Party,
Natural Law Party, Rhino Party etc etc)

Not such a big difference except for the inclusion of some marginal parties, but that is with proportional seats making up less than a quarter of the seats. Consider what it would look like if they were given half of a 300 seat house. Obviously this would require a redrawing of riding boundaries and awards proportional seats on a national not regional basis, but less imagine what it might look like (all numbers rounded up with directly elected seats apportioned based on percentage of seats currently held):

directly elected proportional seats total
Conservatives 60 54 114
Liberals 49 45 94
Bloc Quebecois 26 16 42
NDP 14 26 40
Green 0 8 8
Independents 1 0 1
Other parties 0 1 1

I would say the second set of total numbers looks more reflective of the national mood - though it still gives the same basic outcome of a Conservative minority, it also gives the NDP a larger role, the bloc a smaller one and a voice to the smaller parties.

Such a system would also encourage support for smaller parties, since to get someone in parliament they would only need to get .3 % of the total votes - about 50,000 out of the nearly 15 million cast to get a seat. In this election that would mean that among minor parties only the Greens would have qualified. Surely if 50,000 Canadians can be persuaded to vote for it, it deserves to be represented in the House of Commons, even if only to be subjected to national ridicule.

See Elections Canada for the full results, see Fair Vote Canada for more info on proportional representation and why it makes sense for Canada

1 comment:

DazzlinDino said...

Tip for ya, HERE is a handy free online table maker I use, works really great and gives you the HTML code for the table, cut and paste....