Thursday, December 8, 2016

Scribbled - Voting in a Democracy

Susan is a little concerned. She may be right.

Lately I have taken to sending e-mails to Toronto Star columnists. I have also written to the Prime Minister on two or three occasions.

We're not talking about angry Tweets, or dozens of e-mail messages, or about indiscriminate rants, much less unpleasant ad-hominen diatribes aimed at reporters and politicians. Still, Susan's concern is certainly warranted (she doesn't want me morphing into either Statler or Waldorf, those angry old muppet men).

That said, I may be done with the few topics that recently prompted me to take to my keyboard.

This morning I was ingesting my daily ration of news (Toronto Star, New York Times, and Quartz) and found it largely indigestible. This is a steady diet of worrisome stuff, after all. I can't write letters every time I read an item that rattles my cage. I'd spend my days doing nothing but. I certainly shouldn't devote too much time airing my concerns here, right? Who cares what I think, anyway?

So that may be it for a while.

Let me say this though.

Justin Trudeau made an election pledge to do away with the plurality election system. That's the one that Canada, the UK, and the US use to elect their legislators. He indicated that proportional representation might be fairer. I agree.

Why? Because the planet's got a fever, and we seem to be the disease. Our current electoral system fails to give the Green Party a ghost of a chance of being heard in Parliament. The seats they hold in the House are less than the popular vote they receive. We need a more nuanced legislature, so we can cope a little better in a shrinking, ever more complex, world.

Electoral reform turns out to be a curious amalgam of a hornet's nest and a quagmire. It's hard to find any dispassionate account in the press, or in Parliament. Now the government seems to be turning to us, the people.

First a survey.

Perhaps a referendum to come.

I care about this.

So I wrote to the Prime Minister encouraging him to forge ahead, ninnies notwithstanding. I told him that first-past-the-post was only good for horse races and electing Donald Trump. I also wrote a note to a Toronto Star columnist thanking him for providing some needed historical context, and suggesting that the rough seas this initiative is causing can certainly not be the Prime Minister's fault, and that the whole spectacle is certainly not by any means a "fiasco".

Then I answered the admittedly somewhat annoying online survey on electoral reform.

Finally, I took the time to read the research paper that the survey linked to, written by parliamentary researchers, and available from the Library of Parliament.

Wow, fixing the first-past-the-post system is a very, very tall order. This stuff is complicated.

Still, it is, in my opinion (yes I know, no one cares what I think), a 17th century luxury we can no longer afford, the stakes are now just too high.

Mr. Trudeau, please lead us to electoral reform. That said, you aren't likely to hear from me again, because I've decided that there are far too many pressing problems in the world and the most I can do is to wrestle with the one problem I have an actual shot at fixing: proxy voting in the Canadian capital markets (an 18th century anachronism that is thoroughly dysfunctional, yet surprisingly still alive and kicking). I've made some decent progress on that one in the past 8 years, and I plan to soldier on.

Susan, you now have one less burden on your mind. Farewell Statler and Waldorf, much as I admire your curmudgeonly ways, we are now officially parting company.

And finally, all you Toronto cops who stand uselessly like so many highway cones at construction sites, you and whomsoever may be paying you to stand and not really serve or protect (sadly I fear my taxes are supporting you in that endeavour), be free and useless, and from now on, unopposed by me. That's my last word on that topic too.

Now, unless there is a looming political disaster dangling over my head like an unseen Damocles sword, this may well be my last political rant in this space.


SonjaM said...

Ah, politics... the kind of rabbit hole that not many dare to explore but everybody seems to complain about. I guess I appreciate the German electoral system, allowing bipartisan leadership, even giving smaller parties (like the Greens) a chance to participate and have a say. Ironically the system was invented and put in place by the Americans after WWII in order to prevent another Hitler rising.

I am wondering... if no one rants (and cares) about these things, then how will a system ever change? Democracy asks for participation not resignation. So David, I herewith invite you to rant some more ;-)

David Masse said...

Sonja irony is delightful comedy, but with a bitter twist.

Irony seems lost on Trump supporters. Example after hilarious example arose week after week.

Americans invented a demagogue-resistant electoral system, didn't adopt it for themselves, and now a demagogue is about to take up residence in the White House.

This one's certainly ironic, but doesn't move me to laughter.

I pray Canadians have the guts to reform our system before we elect our very own rabble rouser.

Thank you for the history lesson.

Canajun said...

I too am a letter/email writer to politicians of all stripes. I figure if I don't how else will they know what I'm thinking? (I don't go in for the "lock her up" rallies - sheer stupidity IMO.) What I do find interesting is who replies - certainly not my Conservative MP. Anyway, I think it's time for me to bone up on electoral systems so I know what I'm talking about as I have but a very superficial knowledge of the options and how they work. What I do know is that the best governments we've had have been, in general, minorities, so some sort of PR would seem to be the answer.

David Masse said...

A good place to start is that parliamentary research paper I linked to.

I need to go back and read the part that explains the German system.

Trobairitz said...

"Put in place by the Americans after WWII in order to prevent another Hitler rising." Too bad they didn't do it for their own country too. Sigh. Maybe we wouldn't be in the quagmire we seem to be in.

David Masse said...

Amen Brandy!

Conchscooter said...

The US system is exhausting because nothing is written in stone ever. Thus any single thing that gets a politician riled is up for debate forever. Abortion rights were settled in 1973 but still they drone on arguing about them. The Kleptomaniac in chief will cause some ripples for a few years (four rather than eight one hopes)but then we will go back to the business of governing and repairs will be made.And so on. It's all a bit bizarre but the US system seems to be self righting.

David Masse said...

Well it certainly is entertaining.

One concern is that the US and the Russians will gang up on Islamic terrorists with complete disregard for innocents caught in the crossfire.

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