As national polls and recent federal elections have shown time after time, our antiquated first past the post system of electing MPs results in a party with a minority of total votes cast being able to win a majority of seats in Parliament and act as if it has a mandate from a majority of Canadians.
The latest cliffhanger in the Calgary Centre byelection is yet another example of this, as John Ibbitson reports:
That said, the result in Calgary Centre could provide some powerful ammunition for those who long to see a union of progressive forces to confront the Conservatives.
A number of observers pointed out after the last federal election that Stephen Harper owes his majority government, at least in part, to the rise of the NDP and the collapse of Liberal support in suburban ridings outside Toronto.
The Conservative vote actually didn’t increase by much, they point out. But the rise in NDP support drained enough votes from the Liberals to allow the Tories to come up the middle.
If such things are starting to happen even in Calgary, ground zero of the Conservative base, then the tactical advantage of co-operation among progressives becomes that more obvious.
A Conservative win in Calgary Centre because the left-of-centre vote was split is “not an outcome I like,” observed Green Leader Elizabeth May in an interview, “but it does help carry the message that we can’t continue to ignore the need for electoral co-operation.”
The Conservative Party victory in this byelection is thanks to the obtuseness of the current three leaders of the LPC, NDP and Greens.
When the message from 60% of the voters is very clear – they want a government that more closely represents their concerns in Ottawa – these three parties are lead by politicians who seem stuck in the pasts, stubbornly refusing to face the realities of the Harper divide-and-conquer tactics, and turning their backs on the clear desire of millions of Canadians for electoral reform.
And Justin Trudeau, running for leadership of the Liberal Party, has also shown an inability or unwillingness to listen to the clear voice of Canadians. He seems bent on riding pell mell into The Power Trap so eloquently described by Paul Adams.
What we need is a leader of the LPC and NDP who listens rather than talks; who understands the deep rooted desire of Canadians for our massive democratic deficit to be remedied; and who will fight for both pre-election and post-election electoral cooperation.
If Justin Trudeau persists in his course towards The Power Trap, and deliberately ignores his chance to create a legacy as great as his father's through electoral reform, then Liberals and progressives should reconsider their choice for the next permanent leader of the Liberal Party.
Instead, all those hundreds of thousands of progressives who want our faded and shopworn democracy to be dragged into modern times, should join the Liberal Party in the capacity of Supporters, and throw their votes behind any candidate for leadership of the LPC who commits to two things: (1) pre-elction electoral cooperation with the NDP and Greens before the next election, due in 2015 or more likely 2014, and (2) a clear promise to implement through legislation within 12 months of the next Parliament a modified proportional representation system. My guess is that some 300,000 new Supporters sprinkled in each of the 308 ridings, should do the job and bring renewed democracy to Canada.
Right now, the Liberal Party needs a new leader who can count, and who is smart enough to understand that the Adams' Power Trap is reality, not academic speculation.
And we need a system of elections that makes every vote count, and does not treat the vote of millions upon millions as valueless come election day.
It is time to put country before party.