January 26, 2008
[Revisitation] Ideas for Democracy
CLICK HERE to see an interesting idea that a friend of mine forwarded to me.... (the link is at the end of this post too).
The other day we got into a discussion about proportional representation. I was arguing in favour of adopting some kind of proportional representation, which I think is better termed "ideological representation". In the last election in Canada (2006) for example, the Green Party received 4.48% of the popular vote. That's more than 12% of the amount of votes the winning party (the Conservatives) got. And yet, the Green Party did not get any seats because none of their candidates were "first past the post". Given the 308 seats in the House of Commons, the Green Party should have received at least 13 seats (4.48% of the seats!).
Now, I'm not a Green Party supporter and I don't like the way they pretend to be removed from the traditional left-right political-economic spectrum. Nevertheless, I know an unfair situation when I see one, and if 4.48% percent of Canadians want a Green party representative, how can we legitimately call ourselves democratic when we don't even allow ONE Green Party member of parliament?
Another reason why we should find a way to incorporate proportional representation is to confront the conundrum of strategic voting. America is a classic example. How many Americans who support Nader voted for the Democrats strategically - not because they supported Kerry or Gore - but because they just couldn't stand the thought of Bush being their President? In other words, people are voting based on who they DON'T want, not who they DO want. What's democratic about that?
Nevertheless, the idea of Proportional Representation poses logistical problems. It's difficult to find a way, for example, for a proportional (or ideological) vote to account for regional representation, which is important in massive polities like the United States or Canada where undercurrents of separatism are very real. It's also difficult to know what candidates you would be voting for, unless each party had a slate of representatives they would put on the roster.
The Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform in British Columbia tried to get this style of voting put through, and I like it because it brings an element of both ideological representation AND regional representation together. Take a look, and let me know what you think: