Re: "My qualms with proportional representation," column, Sept. 30, Airdrie City View
I have issues with Scott Strasser’s qualms about proportional representation (PR).
His first qualm is that he feels PR results in “more fragmentation and elections being held more often.”
More elections means we have greater strength to remove bad governments from office quicker. Currently we have to wait four years and sometimes more before we can boot poorly performing governments from doing extensive damage to our lives.
Strasser thinks First Past the Post (FPTP) prevents fringe parties from gaining power. Not true at all.
FPTP allows huge majority governments to form, which easily run roughshod over everyone’s rights. There was a time here when the PC government faced a total of eight opposition seats, meaning they could do whatever they wanted – and they did. Would the UCP have been able to remove the requirement that employers keep jobs open for sick and injured workers in a PR government? Not likely, as the opposition would have more power to stop it.
True, FPTP allows the Liberals and Conservatives to swap hats. That is a problem because it keeps parties in power longer, allowing private interests like oil companies, banks, and other industries to be more deeply entrenched in government. PR does a lot to prevent that, and things like secret deals with Australian coal companies, for example, are less likely.
Strasser says eight parties would be represented in Ottawa if we adopted PR. This is why it is better. More viewpoints mean governments have larger perspectives in decisions that affect our lives, keeping things real. Most democracies choose PR, as it is likely to result in better laws. More communities are taken into account, forcing governments to be more careful.
Strasser asks “how long would this hypothetical government last”? I bet that it would last longer than he figures, because unlike in business, things work slowly in government.
We would never be like Germany if we adopted PR. First, we have a longer history of democracy than Germany. Second, we have a different culture: people here are less likely to take to the streets when their rights are trampled on. Finally, Canada has never had such an extreme party in power as Germany did from 1930 to 1945. Germans remember that, and adopted PR for a reason: it prevents tyrants from taking control.
Another of Strasser’s concerns is district-based representation. PR allows for that, since local MPs and MLAs would still have seats.
PR means people have a more direct say in decisions that affect their lives. PR means majority governments have more than eight opposition seats facing them. PR balances things out, making governments more accountable.
Elections are not horse races. Your vote counts whether you support the “winning team” or not. If you think your vote only counts if you cast your ballot for someone who has a chance at winning, you are not participating in an election, so much as betting on a horserace. You stop using your critical thinking skills and emotions take over.