Election [day]

 

With the ominous reformation looming, the entirety of Trent University was bracing itself for the big 2007 Ontario election. While the university hype is hardly indicative of the state of the entire province, it seems to me that someone out there has managed to catch the attention of the province with the idea of reformation, whether it’s due to hatred of the notion, or joy.I managed to run off to vote around 6 PM, a first for me. I had to get my name on the voter’s list, after which I went and ticked off my choices. I felt fairly confident that the party for which I was voting would not get in, but about the referendum I was uncertain. Turns out that neither was an effective vote — which bums me out.

If this site is correct — which I presume it is — then the Liberals won in a landslide victory. That this is demonstrative of his true leadership prowess, I am doubtful. Rather, I suspect that the reason for the huge preference for the Liberals is a result of few other alternatives, and perhaps a slight distaste for elections. By voting in favour of the “Devil you know”, I suppose, you can ascertain that nothing will get worse, and that you won’t have an election again for a while if everyone cooperates. Oh, and that there will be another holiday in the year, which is good for everyone but farmers. (But that’s okay, because everyone knows that farmers all vote for the conservatives anyways.)

The most disappointing aspect of this, to me, is that the referendum was turned down despite the fact that the election was a perfect example of why we need it to have passed. The Liberals are the proudly seated in roughly 65% of the parliament’s seats, but on the basis of a mere 42.1% of the vote. 65% is a huge majority — enough, in fact, that the constitution could almost be changed with that much popular support. And yet, not even the majority of Ontarians were in favour of the Liberals being in power! Yes, the Liberals would still be in power, but wouldn’t supporters of the PC and NDP rather have that much more sway on the McGuinty government during the upcoming term? And I know that Green Party supporters would; their 8.1% of the popular vote — which would have left them with almost 10 seats — earned them nada. Zilch. Nothing. They won’t even have their party leader in a position to influence parliamentary decisions.

So why is it that so few people voted for the referendum? I’m sure there are genuinely intellectuals out there who have reasons for disliking the newer model. One man I spoke to commented that he has trouble accepting a system in which any member of parliament is appointed instead of elected. That kind of argument, I can appreciate — although my personal comment would still be that it’s preferable to have a slightly flawed system in place that can use some tweaking, than to have a long-obsolete system still dominating our political lives.

But frustratingly, I’m fairly certain that most of the voters who voted for First Past the Post were doing it on the premise that motivated one of my friends. He commented that he didn’t like the Multi-Member Proportional system because it would “lend more power to the smaller parties,” whose ideologies he rejected.Aside from the obvious lack of democratic values packaged in that statement, what concerns me is the lack of foresight in the statement. In retrospect, it’s clear that the Conservatives would have benefited from the MMP system in this election. While that’s a moot point since this would have been the last of the FPTP, I would rephrase that to say that the Progressive Conservatives may very well benefit from such a system in the next election. Having 31.5% of the seats is always preferable to having 22%; in this case, my friend would have been gaining influence under the MMP, rather than losing it to “little” parties.

The root of my argument against my friend and those who voted with similar mindsets is that they have a surprising lack of empathy. Sure, right now it’s the Green Party who happens to be on the outside looking in. But counting on your vote to win the majority of seats is hardly a sound strategy. Some day, PC fans will be considering an election result, wishing that they were able to get half the seats that the other parties do. But ingrained our society is the notion that “fringe parties” will never grow, and “major parties” will never plummet. So, with that in mind, I look forward to the day when the Greens and NDP are winning majorities, while the people who voted against MMP sit back and contemplate on how the system would be awarding them a few seats, at least.

I have vented. My Canucks game is over long ago. It is time for bed, so that I may assume my position as a student at the school again tomorrow (or later today, I suppose.) But tonight I was a member of our political system; and I was sorely disappointed to see how quickly my votes became naught.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephen
    Oct 11, 2007 @ 07:29:38

    I have a terrible track record as a voter — I almost never vote for the winning candidate. It still isn’t a wasted vote, though. The point is to register your opinion. If enough people share your opinion, your candidate wins. But a “losing” vote isn’t a wasted vote.

    I voted Green in my riding (and of course the Green candidate didn’t win — more on that below).

    Premier McGuinty broke numerous promises after the last election, and flagrantly broke his commitment not to raise taxes. He had even signed a pledge not to raise taxes. But the health tax he introduced costs me $600 per year, which is a hell of a tax increase in a single bound.

    And yet the voters have re-elected him in a landslide. That’s what bugs me about this election. McGuinty deserved to be unceremoniously dumped, and he wasn’t.

    I think John Tory might have won the election except for his unstrategic position on faith-based schools. Tory really impressed me in the debate. He was easily the best candidate in that forum, and would have made a very professional premier. Perhaps the party will keep him on for a second shot next election.

    The story of this election is that a lot of the Conservative vote went (not to McGuinty but) to the NDP and the Greens. Ontarians were angry with McGuinty; and then they were put off the Conservatives; so they voted for the third and fourth parties.

    In my riding (Ottawa Centre) it played out exactly that way. In 2003, the NDP and the Conservatives were virtually tied. This year, the NDP finished only 4% behind the Liberal candidate. The NDP vote combined with the Green vote would easily have won the riding. So the Liberals won the seat, but not because voters had any enthusiasm for them.

    Which brings us to MMP. Like you, I voted for it. The big knock is that it would result in virtually zero majority governments. (That and the idea of appointed candidates, who wouldn’t represent any particular block of voters.) When I was younger, I would never have gone for a system that consistently produced minority governments. I liked the idea of a government which could act boldly and get things done.

    Now, I tend to think that governments usually only make trouble when they act boldly! I’d rather see the governing party have to build support across party lines for anything they thought was important (e.g., action on the environment). Instead of our current, adversarial model of government, we would have a collaborative, consensus-based model of government.

    How Canadian is that? I think it’s a perfect fit for the Canadian psyche, which is all about reaching accommodation with those who don’t see things as you do. But momentum is growing for electoral reform — and for the Green party, too. My votes didn’t win, but they registered my support for change. And change is coming — if not in my generation, likely in yours.

    Reply

  2. Stephen (aka Q)
    Oct 11, 2007 @ 07:48:52

    Let me try that link again: Ottawa Centre results.

    Reply

  3. nebcanuck
    Oct 11, 2007 @ 09:56:23

    I voted Green as well, which you may be surprised to learn. For all that they are considered a “left wing” party, a lot of their policies are socially conservative — such as the move to introduce a 2-year maternity leave option, or the plan to eliminate standardized testing because of their belief in individual schools. They are, to me, a better alternative than the business-based PCs or the promise-breaking Liberals, whilst the NDP are dreamers, since they plan to introduce all sorts of goodies without raising taxes. But I didn’t figure that good old Peterborough would have much likelihood of electing the Greens, which is why I was anticipating my contentment to come out of the referendum, rather than the election.

    As for your comment about the vote not being wasted, you are right to an extent, but I think that if my vote had gone towards electing someone who, though not my riding rep, still is aligned with my ideologies, then I would feel that it was a lot less wasted. Yes, now the world knows that 8% of Ontarians were for the Greens; that does little to impact the decision-making. The MMP system at least would have offered my choice a bit more actual impact, instead of rendering it a nice “token vote.”

    As for the minority thing, that is my ideological stance, too. You couldn’t have summed up the connection to Canadian viewpoint better. And while I know it’s a bit “dreamy”, I still insist that eventually parties would have to learn to collaborate instead of conflicting if they were to have minority governments all the time. Even politicians have to concede victory eventually, right?!?!

    Even more concerning is the number of people who voted against it. Almost 2/3? That will put to rest any real movements towards change for a while to come, I think. It’s one thing when the vote is revoked with a small majority; then one could take a look and say “okay, they want change, but just not that exact system.” Instead, the thought has to be that Ontarians don’t want electoral reform in any capacity. It seriously concerns me that we may be looking at waiting until most of my generation is old enough to be the majority of voters before it will be reconsidered.

    Reply

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