Monday, September 28, 2009

Democratic Bankruptcy - Time for the Solution!

In the 2008 federal election, a key focus of my campaign as the Green Party Candidate for the riding of Palliser was democracy, or rather Canada's lack of it. According to Fair Vote Canada, the votes of 50.7% of Canadians who voted in the 2008 federal election elected no one. The push for strategic voting did not work, and vote swapping failed to produce results. Canadians were left with another Conservative minority government that refuses to offer solutions to growing emission levels and irreversible environmental degradation. Stephen Harper won't feel the consequences from his failure to take action on climate change, but the youth of this country will.

In the 2008 federal election, more than 60% of Canadians voted against the Conservatives, yet they are now our ruling government.

All across the country, Canadians are calling for electoral reform. Our current electoral system is a glorified "winner takes all" game. Unfortunately, this has led to voter apathy. The last federal election marked the lowest voter turnout in Canadian history! Only 59% of eligible voters actually voted.

Stephen Harper was wrong; Parliament isn't dysfunctional, our electoral system is!

Canada's "first-past-the-post" voting system is outdated and is failing to produce results reflective of the general public. Democratic politics has evolved significantly in Canada, yet our voting system has stayed the same.
Both federally and provincially, our voting system was designed for a two party system, but we are now represented by multiple different and distinct political parties. An electoral system of proportional representation would make every vote count. Political parties would receive a percentage of seats in the House of Commons or Legislature based on the percentage of the popular vote they receive. Governments elected by proportional representation reflect the priorities of all voters.

Nearly one million people who voted for the Green Party of Canada in the 2008 federal election were ignored because the Green Party's national support is spread out broadly across Canada. At the same time, political parties with dense regional support wound up being over-represented in Parliament. In the 2008 federal election, the Green Party of Canada received 7% of the popular vote but did not receive a single seat in the House of Commons. Meanwhile, the Bloc received 10% of the popular vote and won 50 seats. Under a system of proportional representation, the Green Party of Canada would have received 23 seats instead of zero, and the Bloc would have received 28 seats instead of 50. Clearly, our electoral system is in need of reform. It could be considered unbalanced at best.

In the Saskatchewan, the Conservatives received 54% of the votes in the 2008 federal election, yet they won 94% of the seats (all but one). Since many people in Saskatchewan are tired of having their votes ignored, voter turnout in our province was only 49%! It is time to put an end to democratic bankruptcy; it is time to restructure our electoral system. We need proportional representation.

Our current electoral system turns candidates and political parties into competitors instead of colleagues. It is hard to get cooperative work done in government in a system like this. If we are going to take concrete action on climate change, Parliament will have to cooperate, and so will every province in this country and every country in the world. Proportional representation would reduce the overly partisan nature of our current political system that tends to make cooperation difficult. An electoral system of proportional representation would encourage collaboration and compromise so that elected representatives can stop fighting and can start taking action.

At an all-candidates forum held in Moose Jaw during the 2008 federal election, all four candidates in the riding of Palliser were asked if we would support an electoral system of proportional representation. Much to my surprise, all of us said yes. With another federal election call on the horizon, now is the time to push this issue; Canadians are ready for this change.

Electoral reform is the next step in the fight for democracy in Canada, and in Saskatchewan.

Larissa Shasko,
Leader of the Green Party of Saskatchewan
2008 Green Party of Canada Candidate for Palliser
Treasurer of the newly formed Saskatchewan Chapter of Fair Vote Canada.

Founded in January of 2009, Fair Vote Saskatchewan is a multi-partisan organization open to supporters of all political parties as well as those without any political affiliation. Working together as colleagues, we foster public education on proportional representation and we advocate for the need to restructure our electoral system to be proportionate. For more information on the Saskatchewan Chapter of Fair Vote Canada, visit the website at:

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