Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Don't let Canadians vote on how to vote - PT II

Unless they're First Nations. 

Its not secret that Canada and ever other western nation, has a pretty shit record when it comes to their first nations peoples. From years of abuse and assimilation, to outright genocide, political leaders have rarely been able to say they represented First Nation’s rights. Unsurprisingly voter turnout from Canadian first nations has been significantly lower than national averages. 

In Canada’s last election there was a massive uptick in First Nations voter turnout. Although some say this was anger at the Harper goverment, PM Trudeau none the less enjoyed the support. In turn, once he took often, Mr. Trudeau made it clear First Nations issues were one of the primary mandates for all of his ministers. He said While this move seems positive at a glance, it comes with a caveat. First Nations issues are not always Canadian issues, and Canadian issues are not always first nations issues. While its noble for Trudeau to mandate all of his Ministers to consider First Nations issues as Canadian issues, in many ways the issues conflict. For instance, pipelines. Without a doubt pipelines are the safest way to transport oil across Canada. By not building them we commit to transporting oil by rail, which as any resident of Lac-Mégantic will tell you, has tragic consequences. However because of the potential environmental consequences, and a plethora of other reasons, first nations support for pipelines is rare, and has been criticized for not being genuine even when it does occur. So it would seem theres an ideological divide between what is good for Canadians and what is good for First Nations. 
What happens in cases where the issue at hand is relevant to First Nations is whichever group yells the loudest, has the best lobbyists, or gets their point across to people who matter gets their way, with little thought to compromise. More often than not this is the “white” opinion. Leaving First Nations with little voice, and a serious alienation from our democratic system. 

Leaving measurable percentages of the population alienated and without their own voice isn’t the way modern democracies function. Meaningful representation can reverse this, and it can help get Canada started on electoral reform, without throwing out the baby with the commons bathwater.  

I believe that we can add an element of promotional representation to Canada’s democracy, give First Nations peoples a powerful voice in the commons, and we can do this without modifying existing seats or riding boundaries. We can do this all simply, by adding about 14 seats determined proportionately, that are reserved for First Nations MPs - BUT - only if First Nations peoples (whom I obviously do not claim to speak for) want it.

Canada should allow First Nations people the right of self determination for meaningful and unique representation. First nations people should be able vote in a binding referendum on whether they should have the option to be represented in (by my calculation) some 14 ridings overlapping the current boundaries of current ridings. Trudeau has said he wants to empower First Nations, and also said he will reform the electorate - this is how.

(Folk art of a Maori man riding, a whale which is largely unrelated
to the special electorate districts created over a century ago but none
the less sounds phonetically similar )
The system I envision would work similarly to that of New Zealand who have employed a system of Maori reserved ridings the late 1800’s. In modern times this means that the number of people who register on the “Maori” electorate (people have the choice to register on the “general” roll as well) vote for Candidates in much geographically larger areas. MPs can represent their issues well and have the support of parties formed specifically for the Maori electorate and for Maori issues. New Zealand’s system hasn't been without criticisms, but it has certainly given a voice to that countries indigenous peoples by forcing members of “general” electorate to negotiate with Maori parties and MP’s especially when minority governments are sitting. 

A tweak I would make would be to have the number of seats flexible (similar to Germany’s variable commons seats) based on what percentage of First Nations choose to vote in special ridings versus vote on the general roll.

I may be on the Political right, but I firmly believe everyone deserves representation. The representation First Nations people currently have is at best diluted into the wider community by virtue of riding size. With a couple of minor exceptions, there are not many ridings in Canada with close to 50% First nations people, and with exception to pale mandates like the one PM Trudeau gave, First Nation  issues are rarely completely in sync with Canadian issues. That’s ok though, actually its great because as i’ve said previously, allowing Canadians to vote on electoral reform with likely cause a cluster-fun. However, allowing - as a sort of pilot project - First Nations peoples to gain proportional, and meaningful representation by creating a number of new seats - all without shaking the foundations of are democracy just to see what happens. 

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