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An uncle’s take on the electoral system

Posted on October 3, 2019 by Vauxhall Advance

By Greg Price
Vauxhall Advance

Since I was a young lad, as a teenager, full of even more vim and vigor than I have now, I’ve always respected my uncle’s opinion — even if that opinion has been at odds with my own at times.

Always up for a rational discussion at the coffee table or over a nice glass of scotch or beer, my uncle has always backed up his stances with well-thought out and credibly-researched talking points.

My uncle has been an avid voter in his 70-plus years of existence since he was old enough to do so, but he’s had enough with the process and will not be voting in the upcoming 2019 federal election.

And while I will likely still choose to vote this fall federal election as I vote more for the person than the party in my local constituency, I must say his reasoning is compelling in protest in trying to send a message to the established system.

My uncle issued a statement to any family and friends who may have taken umbrage with his choice to not vote this election.

Here it is with some editing due to length:

Another federal election is just around the corner. Decisions, decisions. Well, I’ve made up my mind. I’ve decided, once again, to not vote. But this time, I plan to do so loudly.

Now, by not voting in the past, I have suffered the ignominy from family, friends, acquaintances, non-friends, colleagues — the works.

But I have to be honest — it is a blissful ignominy. Why?

Because I am comfortable in my decision, knowing full well that I have undergone more reflection, employed more critical thinking, weighed more pros and cons, delved into more historical research than the vast, vast majority of those who will choose to mark their ballots with an “X”.

Regardless of any bliss I may feel, once again with this election looming, I seem to be getting raked over the coals by not exercising my democratic privilege; by not demonstrating responsible citizenship; by not conforming to the wishes of the masses to vote, vote, vote. And actually, I am growing a little tired of the criticism.

Democratic Process

Democracy is defined by Miriam Webster as government by the people; especially: rule of the majority.

Now, in all fairness, the concept of “democracy” has morphed since the Greeks introduced it back in the 6th century B.C.

Since then, we have forms of democracy — direct democracy, representative democracy, liberal democracy, even Western democracy.

But the foundation of the concept remains unchanged as John Locke suggests – “Rule of the majority is commonly referred to as democracy.”

Now, it’s quite a leap to suggest 39.5 per cent is the “rule of the majority” as is currently the case in Canada, but with a little fudging, we somehow manage to embrace that concept. I maintain our democratic choice is not as advertised.

Why do we accept such an absurd rationalization that we are exercising our “democratic” right? Voting is a way of accepting that we live in a fair and democratic entity. Not voting – LOUDLY – begs for an alternative.

Is The Elected Leader Really The People’s Choice?

With virtually only two choices, 56 per cent chose Trump (Trump got 46 per cent popular vote; Hillary got 48 per cent popular vote). That’s a lot of people who didn’t support him.

Then there’s Canada.

Of 68 per cent voter turnout, 39.5 per cent chose Trudeau. That means he is governing a country where 60.5 per cent of the country don’t want him. In other words, of the 16 million eligible voters in Canada, he has the endorsed support of just over one quarter of them. That’s a lot of people who didn’t support him. And this gives him a clear majority.

Of course, it wasn’t much different when Harper was PM. Or Martin. Or Chretien. Or Mulroney. Or Diefenbaker. Or the other Trudeau for that matter. It’s always been this way.

Our electoral system is antiquated. It is dysfunctional. It is unfair.

By voting, we continue to endorse, support, in fact approve, of a broken system. Why? Voting says we accept the choice that one-third of our country says should be our governing leader, while two-thirds of our country says they should not be our governing leader. Not voting — LOUDLY — says this arithmetic is flawed.

Left vs Right

Historically, and definitely in our current world, the populace is divided in terms of left and right politics. In fact, it is pretty even as is evidenced in the recent elections of France, Germany, Great Britain, Canada and of course, the good ol’ US of A. So close was the last American election, that the winner actually got fewer popular votes than the loser. So, all those millions of people who voted for the loser get nada. No representation, no advocacy, no support for their ideals. In the USA, there are close to 250 million Americans who are 18 years or older. Of these adults, there are close to 160 million registered to vote. This means that close to 125 million citizens, or 80 million eligible voters, or 50 per cent of the population, are not represented by their current government. In Canada, it’s a bit worse as a little over 60 per cent of the population are not represented, supported, advocated for. The world has always leaned both left and right in the political domain. Surely there are electoral systems in the world that grant a fair representation to all the population?

Voting in our current system says that we accept the winning horse, whether we bet on him/her or not. Not voting — LOUDLY — says we want our horse to have a say in our governance — win, place or show.

Democracy? Plutocracy? Oligarchy?

We live in a democracy. Do we?

Does the majority truly rule us?

Consider a couple of other concepts when deciding how we are truly ruled.

Oligarchy – a system or power structure in which power rests with a small number of people, usually distinguished by wealth.

Yes, I’m referring to the old One Per Cent, the ones that make the larger political donations, the ones that provide “favours” for our politicians, the ones that get “favours” in return for their support.

Right alongside this oligarchy, I suggest we are closer to a plutocracy than a democracy.

Plutocracy – a society that is ruled or controlled by people of great wealth or income.

So, pick your best Greek term — democracy, oligarchy, plutocracy — and be honest about the tail that wags the dog. I, for one, am under no illusions that we live in a democracy.

Voting is a form of endorsing the current power structure. Not voting — LOUDLY — is a form of endorsing an alternative power structure.

The Antiquity of Our System

Our electoral system was borrowed from our mother country — Great Britain.

It came into being just after Confederation — actually, around the time of the Quebec Act (1884). Regionalism was basically Upper and Lower Canada, with a smattering of people in the Maritimes. Our society was agrarian, so the electoral system took this into account.

Fast forward to today. We are no longer an agrarian society. Regionalism has changed dramatically (just ask the Albertans).

Yet, for all intents and purposes, our “first-past-the-post” electoral system allows for elections to be over by 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time — in other words, once Ontario and Quebec have finished voting. Regionalism counts for nothing.

This means the government is not truly representative of all Canadians.

There has been lip service paid to changing this first-past-the-post system into a more representative one.

Wasn’t it one of the promises of the current prime minister, and I quote . . .“As Prime Minister, I’ll make sure the 2015 election will be the last under first-past-the-post system.” – Justin Trudeau, 2015

The Liberal government didn’t even get to the point in their discussions, to offer an alternative proposal that they themselves could vote on.

With our current first-past-the-post system, if your candidate gets in by 51-49 per cent split, that means ALL those people who did not vote for the winning “horse”, all those 49 per cent of losers voted meaninglessly. Simply put, their vote counted for nothing. Nada. Zilch. To create a proportional representative system (like they have in the majority of countries in the world) isn’t high on the list of priorities to a government in power. Why would it be? They’d be cutting off their own perks, pensions, lifestyle, etc. Oh yeah, it would be a fairer system, one where every vote counted, but the motivation to change it is pretty bloody low. Voting says we accept our antiquated and unfair electoral system. Not voting – LOUDLY – says we’re ready to begin a conversation about an alternative.

I Don’t Like The Political Institution

First, the institution of politics. This is what a political institution is supposed to do: Political institutions are the organizations in a government which create, enforce, and apply laws. They often mediate conflict, make (governmental) policy on the economy and social systems, and otherwise provide representation for the population.
So, when they get elected and are in their very first meeting, the fundamental question that they should ask is, ‘How do we best represent the people who supported us?’ Unfortunately, the fundamental first question has become, “What do we have to do to stay in power?” It is not a hidden agenda. It is out in the open. And for some reason, the voters, the populace, accept this as legitimate. Well, not this guy. In the end, I accept the voting process and the people who utilize it, just as I accept those who like to eat tofu. It’s not my preferred diet, so I will choose not to eat tofu. And I will choose not to vote.

I’m starting to believe that if enough people choose to NOT VOTE . . . LOUDLY, this can have an even bigger effect than all those votes the 60 per-cent-plus of the losers cast in the last election. So, I don’t begrudge people voting. They have their reasons. Don’t begrudge me for not voting.

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