Leaders of Canada’s two biggest political parties are on record: the 2019 federal election campaign is going to be nasty.
At the risk of sounding a bit naive, I have to ask: Why? What is it about a political campaign that requires candidates to all but eviscerate each other?
Is taking charge of a country, a province and sometimes even a municipality so important that political parties — and other groups that support their ideals — will stop at nothing short of carnage and mayhem to win?
The short answer is yes. With our current First Past the Post (FPTP) system, control of a government is no longer a responsibility. It is a prize to be won: unfettered absolute control, the whim of the triumphant minority imposed on other constituents.
As one pundit puts it, “the hyper-partisan atmosphere associated with first-past-the-post means that everything the party in power proposes gets passed, and everything the opposition proposes gets tossed out.”
Witness what has become of Ontario, of late in Quebec and what likely will be in Alberta next year. Governments are gaining absolute power with fractions of the vote.
- In Ontario, Doug Ford’s Conservatives were supported by just four out of 10 voters;
- In Quebec, the Coalition Avenir Quebec won a majority — and control of the provincial agenda — with just 38% of the popular vote;
- The New Democrats had about 40% support when they took control of Alberta in 2015 and Jason Kenney’s CUP will likely win back the province for conservatives next spring with similar numbers.
Not surprisingly, each of those shifts have their roots in voter dissatisfaction with a previous government — parties that won the right to govern with a similar majority and used that opportunity as a tool to relentlessly push their own ideologic agendas until the electorate finally got fed-up and made a change.
Political change in British Columbia over the last 18 months gives more evidence to this national practice, the provincial NDP veering off course from the direction set by a Liberal government that held power for 17 years.
Political victory in Canada these days inevitably brings a seismic shift in economic and social policy every time power changes hands.
But there is a solution — and British Columbians now have the opportunity to not only embrace it but also stand as a national vanguard.
A key promise of both the provincial New Democrats and Greens in the 2017 provincial election was a referendum on electoral reform. That referendum is playing out, the balloting period underway now through Nov. 30.
Voters are being asked to determine if the province should keep the current FPTP voting system or move to a system of proportional representation that better reflects balloting in a seated legislature.
Is proportional representation perfect? No. But it has proven effective in many other countries around the world — more than 80 at least count.
OsoyoosToday sees this referendum as one of the most important held across Canada over the last decade. That’s why we’re setting up and promoting a page created to provide information on the voting opportunity.
It will include basic information on how to vote and links to official proponent and opponent websites where readers can get the information they need to make an informed decision.
Cards on the table: I’m in favour of proportional representation; you may not be, but I do want to make sure you are sufficiently informed to make a decision — whatever it might be — and sufficiently motivated to vote in the referendum.
That’s the other big issue we have in Canada — low voter turnout. All of those majority governments we spoke about previously came with voter turnout that can only be described as anemic.
Governments aren’t being formed with 40 percent support, they’re being formed with 40 percent support of the 55 or 60 percent of Canadians who voted.
It’s time for citizens to take back the power of government. That starts with understanding — really understanding — what’s at stake.
And then doing something about it.