Saturday, October 14, 2006

Vote for the little guy!

Voting for the little guy just got a whole lot easier (in my books, anyway). As many of you know, I've been voting for the Green Party for years simply because I wanted to see more parties in Parliament, but didn't want to throw my vote away, as it were - that is, on a party that would never get 2% of the vote, and therefore wouldn't get my $1.75 for their next campaign.

Well, an Ontario Superior Court judge struck that law down today! And, in case you think we're talking about a pittance here, the seven parties that were affected by that law in 2004 now get to share approximately $500000! Better than a kick in the pants, as they say.


CanuckJack said...

"simply because I wanted to see more parties in Parliament"

There any particular reason for this?

Consensus on major policy changes will generally only ever be achieved when there's a majority gov't in power. Spreading out the seats among many parties reduces the likelihood of that happening, essentially stalling Canada in its current state. Not something to be desired in my books.

An example I'll yank outta my right butt cheek. Supposing the conservatives never get a majority, we will never see an end to the 8 Billion+ dollars a year flushed down the drain known as "Indian affairs"...

Oh well, looks like the largest chunk of this pie is going to the "Christian Heritage Pary". I can support that.

Maybe you can educate me, any idea why it is that the gov't decided it was a good idea for taxpayers to foot the marketing bill for each election? If I wanted 1.75 of my money to go to paying for signs with Harper's face on them I'd write em a cheque. Was this some useless attempt at increasing voter participation?

John said...

Well, as you know, I throw a lot of this stuff out there to generate discussion; in the spirit of that, I'll elaborate on my idea.

First, I think Parliament could fall apart, if too many parties had a voice. Some time ago I even read about an example of a paralyzed Parliament (in Lebanon, maybe?). However, I don't think we've reached that point yet - it's debatable, along the lines of the efficacy of minority governments in general - and we might even be able to add a few more.

That aside, however, my second point is that I don't think we're best-served by having these longstanding parties, or the mergers needed to fight them. I think many of the policies you hope to see implemented get watered down before a party ever gets the chance to table them in Parliament.

As an example, I don't think the Bloc Québécois should be unique in Parliament. Goodness knows that the West and the Maritimes feel just as underrepresented in Ottawa as Québec does. Did the Reform Party have any good ideas that the Conservative Party has long since discarded? Probably. (Manning's a smart fella.) But, instead of aiming to have a few Reformers, working with Progressive Conservatives and others, maybe, acting on those good ideas in Parliament, we have the dream of a majority government.

Permit me to be rhetorical for a moment (because I *know* you'll want to jump in here otherwise), ;-) but what do the Liberals stand for right now? Why is the NDP, a domestically-focused party if there ever was one, so concerned with our mission in Afghanistan? This ambiguity comes, in large part, from the quest for votes: spread yourself far and wide, avoid talk of what can't realistically be accomplished in a term, make yourself stand out against the other guy, etc.

All that has very little to do with running the country, and yet, if we aren't in the middle of an election, it feels like the next one is just around the corner, the way this sort of stuff continues. Now I know you want to jump in here again with a minority government comment, :-) and there's certainly merit in the argument that that's precisely why they aren't effective; however, I would argue that there's a chance (a good chance, I think) that the possibility of a majority government, and the associated stability, becomes fixated in the minds of all the leading parties, impairing their ability to work in the present; that is, that a minority government could work, if all the parties would stop thinking of it as a temporary state, in which they must vie for future control.

It may seem a bit chaotic, but what if each party put forward half a dozen reasoned and realistic proposals, and, once elected, worked in coalitions to see them come to fruition. As opposed to this “Yup, we do that!” “Cover all the bases” approach to getting elected, you would have parties truly focusing on what was: 1) salient; and 2) achievable, presumably with help of public consultation and informed intellectuals and professionals. Now, if you continued to put forward salient and realistic proposals that became successful policy, you'd probably end up with a majority government eventually, but you'd never be the behemoth that a coalition of parties - each with a few good proposals that they're looking to round-robin in, if you will – couldn't take down. None of this change for the sake of change (“What've you done for us this past decade!”) that just destroys a party, and, frankly, often has little to do with their policies.

Then, leaping off your butt thought, :-) maybe someone would come up with a realistic approach to settling these Aboriginal claims once and for all – because I'm sure there are enough Canadians that would like to put that guilt behind them to get that party elected – establishing an independent board or whatever they decided, and, bang, five or ten years from now, we'd be done with it. Then if, five years down the road, anyone protested any particular deal that had been reached between that board and their representatives, and decided to block a rail line, for example, off to jail they go; the end.

There are problems with this 'coalition' idea, I know, but I truly believe that the quest for and complacency of majority governments isn't the best we can do. Look at the U.S. right now: how many nutbars do both the Republicans and the Democrats end up including under their umbrellas in the quest for power? Hearing some senators speak, it's hard to believe that two-party system has lasted this long.

As for the reasoning behind allotting some tax revenue for party promotion, I can only speculate. Like you, I don't think this is the best we can do; however, I am firmly against the idea of party election campaigns being privately funded, at least as the system currently stands. The longstanding parties have an enormous advantage as it is. There needs to be a means for the little guy to get his name out there. Again, I don't think we're best-served by this marketing-heavy system (“Hey, I recognize that guy's name; I'll vote for him.”), but since we're stuck with it for now, public funding and overall caps are the best way to level the playing field.

CanuckJack said...

I've mused in the past (can't link to it cause I destroyed it) that we are in fact best served by minority governments. In principle at least. Sure when my preferred party is in power I'd like to see them have a majority so we can accomplish all of the items in our party policy; however, when the libs were in I found that prospect terrifying. It's works great in principle, ideally this would mean that each viewpoint is given a reasonable shake in the house and only those ideas which truly represent the wishes of Canadians would ever make it through. However, in the current situation we can see mulitple examples of the opposition arguing with a bill that can only be seen as posturing for the next election. Examples: the softwook lumber deal, agreed to by provinces, most manufacturers, but not the liberals who could never seem to close that deal. The war in Afghan, mere months ago debated and given a 2 year extension, now we see Layton's posturing.

So in principle I agree, but the reality is that we have some pretty big issues that need to be tackled in a "once and for-all" manner (as you've stated for the IA matter) and I just don't see those being dealt with in a minority situation because the opposition parties will want to be seen as catering to the's a popular move, notably on the left.

On your idea that we need more parties like the Bloq...absolutely not. Provincial/regional politics can be handled at the provincial level, the House of Commons is meant to be a forum where issues that affect all of Canada are tackled. We already have regional representation in that we have MPs elected from across the country. Parties like the Bloq don't serve our country's best interests and shouldn't be given a place in the HoC. It doesn't seem appropriate that there's a party in the house with considerable swing, given the number of seats that they have, that the rest of the country must simply tolerate. Especially a party that's hell-bent on dividing this country.

John said...

Dude! Your patriotism is admirable (I can see Trudeau punchin' the sky – Federalism, yes!), but me thinks ya gotta wake up 'n' smell the coffee: the BQ exists for a reason, and as they've shown these last few years, it ain't solely to push for separation. But even if that was its one idea, they're workin' within the system, by the rules, and whether they should or shouldn't be heard in Parliament is really beside the point, don't ya think?

Look, part of that was the devil's advocate in me, tryin' to get yer goat, but part of it was, well, the facts, crappy as they are. I guess it's that I'm tired of this defeatist attitude; that is, this is the way it has to be: Ontario and Québec will always control federal elections, the West will never have a say in Parliament, the East will always be made up of 'have-not' provinces, etc. If reading about politics in Alberta and Saskatchewan at the turn of the 20th century has taught me anything, it's that people have been saying the same thing for over one hundred years! That's ludicrous! There has to be a better way.

And that's where I was going with my 'coalition' idea: Canada is an enormous country, and, frankly, my love for Trudeau's ideas aside, I'm surprised it's held together this long, and I certainly see very little, beyond principles such as those laid down in our Charter, that applies equally across it. I think the sooner we acknowledge that, and work at giving everyone their time on the podium, so to speak, the happier we'll be as a country. Heck, it would certainly put Québec in perspective: yeah, you've got problems. So what? So does every province.

CanuckJack said...

Ahhhh, now I understand where you're coming from, but you sir are talking about a different problem. At issue is not the number of parties that are represented in the house of commons, but rather the distribution of seats across Canada which is currently based on population giving ON and QU a much louder voice in the HoC.

More parties will not solve that problem, the only way to tackle that one is to recognize that ON has been given an unfair advantage, and to effect change there we'd have to change the rules about we assign ridings. But then while we're talking about a fundamental change in the way HoC seats are decided we should talk about proportional representation. That is, as I'm sure you are aware, as system where it's no longer "first past the post" but rather the total number of seats in the house are divided between parties based on % of the overall vote. Which as you know would've meant the GP would've had a seat or two this time around. Still doesn't solve the problems with the East and West getting their say in things but at that point ridings have been done away with so it'd make sense to also divide the seats more equitably by province.

On the other hand, maybe those folks out East need to recognize that living as a have not province sucks and it may be time to board up the house and move somewhere that has a real economy. But there's a culture of "we're victims of the feds" that is unbelievably present out that way. That'd be my expert analysis based on a handful of week long visits so maybe I'm way off, but I learnt really quick don't mention the word "government" to a fisherman...

John said...

I'd hoped to read up on the (hot now, actually) topic of Parliamentary seat distribution so that I might distinguish my idea from it. That hasn't happened yet, obviously, but when I'm ready to write on it, I'll start a new post.