I've been struggling the past few days with the results of the election. I felt overwhelmed on election night, but this feeling has subsided to a certain degree.
In talking to friends, I've discovered that everyone seems to be dissatisfied with the result. But this is most likely because people in my demographic - young Canadians - denounce the Conservatives. Unfortunately, many youth are apathetic or mislead into thinking that their voices aren't important. Even though all of my friends voted (in two ridings that were extremely close last year), we failed to achieve positive change. After an involved discussion last night over beer, it became obvious why this is occurring. Although none of my friends in Kitchener-Waterloo voted Conservative, our votes were split quite evenly amongst the Liberals, the NDP, and the Green Party, and this is roughly what happened in the ridings of Kitchener Centre and Kitchener Waterloo.
Not surprisingly, with less than 40 per cent of the popular vote, Harper managed to gain his coveted majority, winning almost 60 per cent of the seats in Parliament. In my opinion, this isn't democracy. This is a system that distorts the will of the electorate in order to produce a "stable" majority.
Perhaps this is a good place to start if we want to talk about electoral reform. The whole notion of stability in our government is predicated on the "reality" of minority governments as volatile. Canadians have been socialised to believe that minority governments interfere with the nation's ability to grow and move forward. This is simply untrue - minority governments are the best environments for cooperation. While it is certainly true that our system is adversarial and partisan, consecutive minority governments could go a long way to showing the merits of cooperation in Ottawa.
And, as a matter of fact, this has happened elsewhere. Countries such as India, Peru, Sweden, Russia, and Germany have proportional representation. In systems such as these, parties that win 10 per cent of the vote are given 10 per cent of seats. If this system were adopted in Canada, the Green Party would have won not one, but twelve seats. Beyond being more fair, a system such as this would also encourage higher participation, which means more democracy. But perhaps the greatest benefit would be the acknowledgment that majority governments are a thing of the past - and that cooperation amongst parties in the legislature is the only way to make change happen.
Although proportional representation is a great idea, it's important to consider that they are many other great ideas. Tomorrow, 5 May, the United Kingdom is going to hold a referendum on their electoral system, hopefully transitioning from first-past-the-post to something called alternative voting. In this system, you will rank your choices, so that voting strategically and voting for who you want can still happen. For more information, click here.
Thankfully, there are many Canadian organisations that are working hard toward making these changes a reality. A great example is Fair Vote Canada, whom I'd recommend you check out. Ultimately, we need more people to be engaged if we want a great political system and a great country. So spread the word! Don't let the Conservatives tell you that you don't have alternatives, whether in terms of parties or in terms of systems. Let's get out there and make ourselves heard. Even though another federal election is four years away, there are still plenty of ways to get involved.