A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
Contact us at democracyunderfire@gmail.com

Sunday, November 14, 2010

First Past The Post Undemocratic

Elizabeth May will be an intervenor in a court challenge arguing that the first-past-the-post electoral system contravenes the fairness required by Section Three of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Fair Vote Canada has also been granted intervenor status in the case.  Spearheaded by L'Association pour la revendication des droits démocratiques (ARDD), a Quebec democratic rights group, the case (Gibb v. Quebec's Attorney General and Quebec's Director General of Elections) is currently being heard in the Quebec Court of Appeal, and is expected to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Both May and Fair Vote Canada will be represented by renowned Canadian Constitutional lawyer, Peter Rosenthal.  With a legal team headed by powerhouse Julius Grey, the case has been winding its way through the courts since 2007. 
Hat tip to drivingtheporcelianbus for bringing the latest on the court challenge to our antiquated first-past-the-post system to our attention.  Several other bloggers picked up on this here is what one one of them had to say:-

If Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton  truly believed in real democratic reform (instead of just platitudes), then they would step up and join ranks with the Greens and with Fair Vote Canada to obtain an interpretation from the Quebec Appeal Court and later (probably) the Supreme Court of Canada.

Section 3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms constitutionally guarantees all Canadian citizens the democratic right to vote in a general federal or provincil election. Neither Parliament nor any provincial legislature can override this section using the overriding section 33.

The clause reads:
Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of the members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.
As Wikipedia states, generally, the courts have interpreted section 3 as being more generous than simply providing a right to vote. As stated in the case Figueroa v. Canada (2003),[1] the section has been viewed as a constitutional guarantee to "play a meaningful role in the electoral process," which in turn encourages governmental "respect for a diversity of beliefs and opinions."
Of course one of the arguments against a system proportional voting will be that it will create more minority and coalition governments and that such governments are not “stable”. That rather depends upon whether the partys involved WANT it to be stable, such governments can and do work if our representatives try and work together for us instead of work apart for themselves.

When will the Liberals and the NDP get it? Without some kind of accord between these two parties, the country is locked into a kind of political version of the movie Groundhog Day—doomed to repeat the same depressing, cynical and destructive politics day-in, day-out until our democracy is so damaged that no one will bother voting.
There are policy areas that civil society organizations need to focus on to expose the Harper Conservatives—their economic policy, the tar sands, democratic reform, Harper’s security-state obsession, jets and jails, and climate change. But it is absolutely clear that, barring some serious, deal-breaking corruption scandal hitting the Harperites, nothing is going to change any time soon.
The archaic first-past-the-post voting system is not just undemocratic, it is profoundly anti-democratic in a system that now has five political parties with proven staying power.

Lost along the way was trust in a system that, despite its many faults, could once be counted on to act in the best interest of most citizens, most of the time. Growing in the vacuum created by lies, fraud and countless broken promises is the acidic judgment that parties are guided by self-interest and the powerful few who whisper in their ear. Abused and abandoned to wander in a democratic wasteland, voters have every reason to be mad as hell and every right to pummel the nearest politician.

Yesterday, half of the voters cast votes for the Progressive Conservatives and half for other parties,” said Fair Vote Canada Executive Director Larry Gordon. “But the half supporting the Progressive Conservatives will be represented by more than three times as many MLAs – 42 PCs vs. 13 Liberals. The opposition is severely under-represented and the 17% of the electorate supporting parties other than the Progressive Conservatives and Liberals have no representation whatsoever.”

The figures below show the popular vote for each party, along with the number and percentage of seats under the current voting system and the proposed MMP system.
PC - popular vote 49% - with MMP, 28 seats (51%) rather than 42 seats (76%).
Lib - popular vote 34% - with MMP, 18 seats (33%) rather than 13 seats (24%)
NDP - popular vote 10% - with MMP, 5 seats (9%) rather than 0 seats
Greens - popular vote 5% - with MMP, 3 seats (5%) rather than 0 seats

There seems to be an attitude in the government - that they can go in, be deliberately defeated and call an election - that's not how our constitutional system works. The government has a minority - it has an obligation to demonstrate to Canadians that it can govern. That it can form a majority in the House of Commons. If it can't form a majority, we look at other options, we don't just concede to the government's request to make it dysfunctional. I know for a fact that Mr. Duceppe and Mr. Layton and the people who work for them want this Parliament to work and I know if is in all of our interests to work. The government has got to face the fact it has a minority, it has to work with other people.”
No this is not Iggy speaking but Harper in 2004! Would that he listened to his own advise!
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