Electoral reform saves money, makes government accountable

Canadians should spare no effort to support electoral reform, given a low voter turnout and lack of trust in our elected representatives.

Canadians should spare no effort to support electoral reform, given the low voter turnout and lack of trust in our elected representatives demonstrated in the past spate of provincial and federal elections.

Constituents are sick of wasteful adversarial attitudes and want our Members of Parliament to work collaboratively to find the best solutions to Canada’s challenges.

This cannot be achieved by continuing with our present first-past-the-post electoral system.

It results in many false majorities where the winner, with 40 per cent of the votes, can capture 60 per cent of the seats and 100 per cent of the power for four years. This has so many negative consequences, the biggest of which is the failure to ensure that all laws are approved by MPs representing a majority of voters.

Our present system is also very wasteful of both time and money as political power swings back and forth between parties with very different agendas.

This results in policy lurch, where each new governing party spends considerable resources rescinding the legislation of the previous party.

Two recent examples involve the long-form census and the removal of environmental protection for over 90 per cent of Canada’s lakes and rivers.

No wonder voters say their votes don’t count, cast their ballots for a party other than the one they want (strategic voting) and believe politicians are not accountable to voters.

At the moment, Canada is one of the most unstable of the major democracies, with 22 expensive elections since the Second World War (compared to 18 in Italy, long considered the most unstable regime).

There is a better way. All proportional representation systems are based on the idea that the number of seats a party earns should reflect the percentage of votes obtained by that party.

Eighty one long-term democracies, most European countries and many South and Central American nations use a version of Proportional Representation, where every vote is equal and every vote counts. A recent version of PR (rural-urban proportional) has been specifically tailored to Canadian needs.

Much peer reviewed research and many surveys show that PR systems rate more highly in voters’ opinions about the quality of their country’s democracy, health, education, environment and standards of living.

As well, they are more fiscally responsible and are more stable, effective and accountable to voters. Showing support for electoral reform in the upcoming discussions is one of the best investments in our future that Canadians can make.

Suzanne WilkinsonDuncan

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