Monday, 11 July 2016

Don’t let Canadians vote on how to vote

A referendum is the worst route towards electoral reform 

There’s a very relevant quote from a British political figure with which i’m gong to start this article, 

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” 
 Now before you judge this quote remember it was said by a Nobel literature prize winner, a great military victor, Britain’s most popular PM, and the namesake to a absurdly large cigar size. Who is this i’m referring to ? My personal portly hero, Winston Churchill.

Image result for Winston Churchill
(likely the most popular politician to be openly contemptuous towards his constituents)
Jokes aside, I honestly believe having a referendum over reforming our current First Past the Post (FPP) voting system spells disaster for Canada. There are a couple basic reasons why I believe this. Firstly Canadians, and people in general lack the knowledge and education to understand the foundations of our system. Ask about someones vote and a surprising amount of people will say the leader of their party’s name - showing a fundamental misunderstanding of Canada’s “leadership race” which technically is a closed event limited to the respective party members. Although most Canadians think its “bad”, I wonder how many understand the senate is an unelected body, and that at its creation there was good reason for this (protecting the more affluent against mob mentalities). How many Canadians really understand the first past the post, majoritarian system we employ. The Liberals has insisted they will change the system and ensure the election that gave them the freedom to do so will be Canada’s last FPP election. While I would normally hope even if they didn’t know the issue in depth, Canadians would make an intelligent choice,  it appears that in 2016 rational decision making has been replaced with being contrary. Phenomenons like BREXIT and Donald Trump’s rise to power forming, are examples of anti status quo decisions. Voters across the world are unpredictable, and seemingly the only thing that rings consistent is the rejection of the status quo. Lastly, I believe changing our system so dramatically in one move, may result in very few majority governments in Canada’s future.

The most compelling piece of evidence that Canadians have a flawed understanding of our political system lies in the rationale behind strategic voting. The idea of the movement being: vote for the party most likely to beat the party you don’t like. Not only does this distort the political opinions of various regions, but it takes away the freedom of political choice. If a government is portrayed as so poor that citizens are convinced of a need to give up their individual right to choose. Instead they act for the greater good and defeat the “poor” candidate. The fact that people willingly follow this ideology is absurd in a democracy. I agree our system isn't perfect, but it doesn’t speak to the quality of the system when seemingly organically groups form to strip Canadians of their right to vote, telling them its better for all. This relates to a referendum on a new method because in my mind, if Canadians can be so easily manipulated into thinking strategic voting isn’t anti-democratic, think what they can be convinced of in terms of voting systems. 

The contrary nature of the modern electorate is another good reason Canadians shouldn't hold Canadians future in their hands. Currently their is a serious anti status quo movement erupting around the globe. Leaving confused pollsters, and independent England’s in its wake. It would the landslide defeat of the Conservatives might have been an early indicator. Whatever the symptom the underlying cause is hard to determine. Is it easier to market change versus staying the same? Is it harder to vote for nothing happening (i.e. maintaining the status quo) than it used to be? Are people world over tired of the same old leaders and really just want some fresh faces? Is change become synonymous with progress? I wish i had a good answer, but i don’t. For little to no identifiable reason, large decisions world over seem more and more to be rejecting whatever the status quo may be. What this means for a referendum on voting is that Canadians are likely to choose the option furthest from the current system, with little to no real thought about its merits. 

The last point i’ll make in this plea is to look at our peers. Many countries have shifted from FPP to a variety of more modern systems. Some of these countries like Belgium have similar dichotomous ethnolinguistic makeups. What happens when these countries shift to Proportional Representation? Massive gridlock erupted in 2007 with talk of devolving powers. The country has had a list style PR since the early 1900’s. However its ethnolinguistic issues were largely dormant. Upon becoming salient again, the parliament split, and meaningful government couldn't be formed from 2007-2011. Canada may have enough factions or groups to make this effect less extreme, but that seems less than likely as the french english , and east west divide have been plaguing us for many decades. More than likely any quick change of political system is likely to force people to return to linguistic, ethnic, or regional divides. If there isn’t enough divides, or there become two major unifiers, this usually leads to incapable gridlock.

So in short. Please don’t let Canadians, myself included, have anything to do with choosing the new way in which we vote. We don’t understand it well enough to choose, were likely to just choose the option thats the most different, and even if we have nothing to do with the change, we’ll probably let the old english vs french Canada divide screw everything up anyway. How do I think it should be done ? Stay tuned, that’s a another article, and hint, it involves New Zealand.

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