Painful Truth: Who needs a majority, anyway

I’ve never been too fond of how we elect our governments here in the Great Wet Northwest.

I was one of those fools who voted for the BC STV system and cheerfully tried to explain it to people while their expressions suggested they’d rather be having a root canal.

I don’t like the current, first past the post system. It has a whole lot of flaws, notably the fact that you can spend your whole life throwing your vote away.

Try living in a highly progressive NDP or Liberal stronghold in Vancouver as a die-hard Conservative. Or the reverse, living out here in the Fraser Valley as an NDPer. Either way, it’s no fun watching your candidate of choice get 10 or 20 or 30 per cent of the vote, election after election.

Notice that even in ridings that are notorious for being rock-ribbed bastions of [insert party here], the winning party maybe gets 60 to 70 per cent of the vote. So 30 or 40 per cent of the local electorate is unhappy.

And this system has another weird effect – we elect a lot of majority governments, but very few are supported by even 50 per cent plus one of Canadians.

Remember during the decade of rule by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives? Liberals and NDPers were always bringing up the fact that fewer than 40 per cent of Canadians had voted for the Tories! They had no real mandate at all!

Then we had the massive landslide by the Liberals in the 2015 election – which Justin Trudeau won with 39.47 per cent of the vote.

So a system that more accurately represents the popular vote sounds pretty good.

I’m flexible, I’ll take single transferable vote or single non-transferable vote, or mixed-member proportional representation.

But wait! Critics say that these systems make a majority government much less likely. We’ll see coalitions with small parties come to the fore.

To which I say: that’s a feature, not a bug.

Take a look down south at the orange-faced bigot about to occupy the oval office. (Yes, I’m writing about Trump again. I swear next week I’ll write about pirates or asteroids or cycling or something.) The idea of a coalition government seems like a better and better idea when you see what concentration of power can mean.

A system that is more responsive and also diffuses power across more than one party is actually pretty reassuring. Power placed into one person’s hands? Not so much.



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