Dr.Dawg

Andrew Coyne's bright idea

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How to make Canada democratic: a one-time electoral pact. Where is the traction?

We aren’t talking merger here, not even coalition, but a one-off deal to make our House of Commons reflect the actual wishes of the electorate. There’s no betrayal of NDP principles and whatever the Liberal equivalent of principles is, just an easy-sell appeal to democratic instincts.

But both parties seem cool or oblivious to the idea—the first real idea idea to emerge from the jaded punditocracy in ages. Yet it deserves serious attention.

Rule by minority is the order of the day in Canada. It’s so commonplace, so much a part of the landscape, that we simply accept it without thinking. An unelected Senate is just the icing on our undemocratic governance cake, gobbling up our tax dollars and messing with our heads. (Only a kind of political quantum theory can deal with the Duffy phenomenon, in which a Senator can be in multiple places at once until close observation collapses the wave function.) Yet we imagine we live in a democracy.

We even have confident, false-premised claims that the Harper government reflects some kind of shifting reality on the ground. But Canada is not moving to the Right, no matter how some might want to spin it. The polls tell the real story. Support for the Conservatives hovers at about one-third of the electorate. It’s always sat around there. The rest of us don’t like ‘em. But there they are.

How difficult can it be to devise a joint strategy that promises to make Canada’s national legislature representative, a sole campaign issue with a promise to effect it and then call an election? Yes, attempts to win PR in a few provinces have failed—although a majority favoured it in BC—but fundamental errors were made. We lost the principle in a welter of mechanics. That’s the way all good ideas founder: “What about? What if?”

Fight this one on principle and our chances improve. Do we want a representative system or continued minority rule? Promise a commission to consult widely with Canadians, or a series of constituent assemblies, to put the principle into effect. But don’t get lost in the weeds, as we did a few years ago in Ontario.

How about it, NDP, Liberals? We can’t keep spinning our wheels forever. Can we actually do something new—for a change?

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This page contains a single entry by Dr.Dawg published on February 23, 2013 11:33 AM.

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