All that considered I think that Fair Vote Canada has a great suggestion for Jack Layton’s first Question in the new Parliament. They are nudging the new Leader of the Opposition to ask:
Mr. Speaker, in 1996, when the right was divided and we seemed to be faced with the prospect of “Liberal government forever”, the current prime minister, who was then out of elected office, co-authored and published with Tom Flanagan a remarkable article entitled “Our Benign Dictatorship”. In this thoughtful and well researched article, they decried the way that our first-past-the-post voting system creates one-party rule “beset by the factionalism, regionalism and cronyism that accompany any such system.” They said, and I quote, “For Canadian democracy to mature, Canadian citizens must face these facts, as citizens in other countries have, and update our political structures to reflect the diverse political aspirations of our diverse communities.”
They went on to decry the hugely distorted election results in the 1993 election, in which the Reform party won 52 seats with 19% of the votes, but the Progressive Conservatives, with 16% of the votes, won only two seats, while the Bloc Quebecois, with only 14% of the votes, won 54 seats and formed Her Majesty's “Loyal” Opposition.
“Imposing a first-past-the-post voting system upon a society with deep ethno linguistic and regional cleavages,” they said, “inevitably fragments Canadian conservatism,” adding that, ”Our system has similarly fragmented social democrats.”
They encouraged the Reform and Progressive Conservative parties to advocate electoral reform, and suggested the NDP would vote for it too.
“No one who cares seriously about ideas,” they said, “whether conservative, liberal or socialist, should be happy with the thought of prolonged one-party rule,” because, they pointed out, it leads to cronyism, corruption, cynicism and chaos.” The absence of effective competition,” they said, “is just as bad in politics as it is in economics.”
“Voters on the left,” they pointed out, “are as much entitled as voters on the right to effective representation.”
They went on to point out that, “In today’s democratic societies, organizations share power. Corporations, churches, universities, hospitals, even public sector bureaucracies make decisions through consultation, committees and consensus-building techniques. Only in politics do we still entrust power to a single faction expected to prevail every time over the opposition by sheer force of numbers. Even more anachronistically, we persist in structuring the governing team like a military regiment under a single commander with almost total power to appoint, discipline and expel subordinates.”
They conclude by saying, “Many of Canada’s problems stem from a winner-take-all style of politics that allows governments in Ottawa to impose measures abhorred by large areas of the country,” and “Modernizing Canadian politics would not only be good for conservatism, it might be the key to Canada’s survival as a nation.”
Mr Speaker, we on this side of the House couldn’t agree more with all of that, so my question to the Prime Minister is this: Now that you have won a majority government on the basis of having received less than forty percent of the votes cast in the election, do you still believe in proportional representation?
Then Fair Vote suggests that Jack follow up with the following supplementary.
Mr. Speaker, historically, up to 80% of votes cast for the NDP federally have been wasted votes—they did not help to elect anyone, and our party has always had about half as many seats in this place as we should have won based on the number of votes we received. That has changed, Mr. Speaker, and today, the New Democratic Party is actually slightly over-represented in this House.
But Mr. Speaker, we are willing to put the interests of the country ahead of the interests of our party, and we call on the governing party to do the same.
We do still support proportional representation, Mr. Speaker, and my supplementary question to the Prime Minister is this: When will his government put forward amendments to the Canada Elections Act to give Canadians a modern, fair, proportional voting system, so that every Canadian can have a vote that makes a difference? When they do, Mr. Speaker, we will vote for it.