The Erosion of Democracy: Three Elections

Canada 2021

We live in a quasi-democracy.  And it is eroding.  The 2021 October 21st Federal unreformed election was simply not fair for at least half of those who voted.  The reality:  One Liberal MP was elected for every 37,681 votes for the party; One Conservative MP for every 50,873 votes; One NDP MP for every 118,717 votes; One Green one MP for every 387,453 votes.   

Another striking result.  The largest block of electors was the NWVP, the ‘It is Not Worth Voting Party’, representing 38% of Canadian voters!!!  The Liberals got 46% of the seats with 32.2% of the votes.  The Conservatives with 1.7% more of the votes cast won 35% of the seats and the NDP with 17.7% got a mere 25 seats or 7%.  With 7.8% of the vote the Bloc got 32 seats but the Greens with 2.3% of the votes cast got only 0.006% of the seats.  It is a voting system designed for the Liberal Party and the Conservative party but not for the people of Canada. 

That ignores the distortion caused by those who felt compelled to vote for a party they did not want to be the government because of the Trudeau government’s broken electoral reform promise.  Why did they do that?  Choose from the following partial list of how the First Past the Post (FPP) system of voting distorts the real voting intentions of millions of Canadians:

-How many voted Conservative just to dump Trudeau as a result of his honey worded promises and his do the opposite performance?

– How many voted Liberal to ensure Scheer did not win and give us a return to a Harper like extreme right government?

– How many wanted to but did not vote NDP to ensure Scheer did not win?

– How many wanted to but did not vote Green to ensure Scheer did not win?

First Past Post is clearly a winner for the Conservatives but especially for the Liberals.  This time, as in 2015, the beneficiaries of the lack of electoral reform clearly was the Trudeau Liberals.  Alas, the promise of electoral reform was an election false promise.

Beyond savaging democracy, is there a national unity problem with this evil electoral system?  Let’s look at the case of Alberta.  17.2% of Albertans do have not Member of Parliament representing their views.  Another 11.8% have one MP sharing their views.  Alberta is shut out of a voice in the government.  As the chart below shows electoral reform, proportional Representation, would have erased a major cause of western alienation.  The impact on Saskatchewan was also dramatic.

Alberta Voted     
 PCLiberalNDPGreenPCP
Vote by Party1,416,313288,283241,91657,11245,052
% of Vote69.1%15.0%11.8%2.8%2.2%
# of Seats330100
Votes/seat42,918N/A241,916N/AN/A
PR Result23.5541?0

In Quebec 28.4% voted Conservative or NDP.   The Conservative elected 10 MPs.  The NDP elected one.  A proportional Representation system would have resulted in 14 Conservative MPs and 7 or 8 NDP members.  With just 31.2% of the vote the separatist Bloc Quebecois got 40% of the seats in Quebec.  First Past the Post voting is destructive of democracy in Canada and destructive of Canada itself.  It is unfair, evil and immoral.  There is no defence.

Nova Scotia 2021

The election results in Nova Scotia’s 2021 election were also a farce in democratic terms.  Consider these results:

Registered PartiesNo. of candidates electedTotal no. of valid votes% of votes cast# and % of Seats by 1st Past PostSeats By Proportional Representation
Atlantica Party01,0230.24%00
Green Party09,0422.14%0 (0%)1.2
Liberal Party17155,02636.67%17 (30.9%)20.1
NDP688,47720.93%6 (10.9%)11.5
PC Party31162,47338.44%31 (56.3%)21.1
Independent(s)14,9601.17%1 (1.8%).55
Total Voted 431,001100%N/AN/A
Chose not to vote0331,44244.3% Of eligible voters0?

With a mere 1.77% more votes cast than those for the Liberals, the Conservatives got 25.4% more of the seats.  First past the post delivered 14 seats to the Progressive Conservatives for 1,324 votes! 

Additionally 44.3% of eligible voters chose not to bother voting.  This is 13,943 more than all the votes for the Liberals and Progressive Conservative put together.  They are people who have lost faith in our quasi democratic voting system.  It is not an unreasonable assumption that they were not very likely Conservative or Liberal supporters who have a much greater reason to believe their votes will actually count.  A majority would more likely be potential NDP or Green Party supporters who have simply given up voting because in election after election their votes fail to be counted and the policies they believe governments should adopt have no chance of ever being adopted.  This voting system is an embarrassment!

Ontario 2022

The recent Ontario election is just the latest distorted election in our quasi democracy. More than half, 57% of Ontario voters, have lost so much faith in our dying democracy that they didn’t bother to vote.  Of the 43% who did vote, less than half 41% elected a so called’ landslide majority.  The ‘re-elected’ Premier made foolish remarks about how he had forged a great new coalition.  A majority government elected by 17% of the eligible voters in Ontario is a farce and in the long run a death knell for real democracy.  And the media, including the CBC, swallowed this buffoonery as if it were an amazing accomplishment.  Our media swallows this charade as if it was really democracy. 

A survey of voters leaving the polls in Ontario measured views on proportional representation.  “But even if “strategic voting” failed to deliver change, many Ontarians would be happy with proportional representation in provincial elections. Across the province, 58% of voters like this idea. There is no generation gap on this question, with similar proportions of voters aged 18-to-34 (58%), aged 35-to-54 (59%) and aged 55 and over (57%) welcoming a new system. As expected, those who cast ballots for the New Democrats (70%) and Liberals (64%) are more enthused about the prospect of electoral reform than those who voted for the Progressive Conservatives (53%).”[1]  Not, we can be sure, something Doug Ford would support.

And What of Electoral Reform?

Justin Trudeau’s abandonment of electoral reform after campaigning on it in2015, makes another Harper type or Trump type government inevitable.  The abandonment followed holding Parliamentary Committee hearings where 71.5%of Canadians who took part in the Committee’s online consultation agreed or strongly agreed with proportional representation.   It is possible under our quasi democracy for an angry mobilized 24% of eligible voters to cast 36-39% of the vote and have a majority government for five years.  24% of Canadians could predictably spend five years ignoring 76% of our population.  We have already seen what destruction the Harper government was able to inflict turning Canada from an admired nation into a pariah state noted for intolerance, abuse of aboriginal peoples, destroying our environment, eroding democracy and using government agencies to intimidate its opponents. 

https://www.fairvote.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Angus-Reid-pie-chart-1-majorities-website-2.pngThe Prime Minister has adopted the Harper approach to democratic reform – set the rules so they benefit my party and the good of Canada be damned.  He said there was no consensus.  It is a “Harperish” statement.   How could you have consensus when the Liberal Party put their own success ahead of the good of the country?  According to an Angus Reid poll in September 2019[2], 83% of Canadians agree strongly or agree that a majority government should have the support of more than 50% of Canadians. There was consensus among the self-serving leadership of the Liberal Party, but that consensus clearly was that electoral law should favour the Liberal party.  

In this regard they defied even their own membership.  As the same Angus Reid poll showed, even Liberals slightly preferred proportional representation in 2019.  Support was close to or over 70% among Conservatives, NDP, Bloc and Green party members. 

In addition, the Angus Reid poll showed that proportional representation has support across the country with more than 60% support in every province ranging from over 60% in Quebec, British Columbia and Atlantic Canada to 70% or more in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. 

This has happened  in spite of the fact that proportional representation is more complicated to understand, the media generally disparages it and it is not taught in schools.  As the difference between 2016 and 2019 shows, support is growing as Canadains realize more and more that the electoral system does not serve them but serves narrow partizan interests.

Canadians Also Know

Canada is not alone in experiencing an erosion of democracy.  The decline south of our border is alarming as the Republican party becomes the party of the extreme right and actively undermines democracy in dozens of states.  As Republican state governments ( who control the election machinery in both federal and state elections) disqualify millions of citizens not likely to support them, it may be the Democratic Party challenging the next election. Republican states have vastly ramped up discriminatory electoral laws to keep blacks, hispanics, indigneous and poor voters from being able to cast a ballot.  The result could well spell the end of any real democracy in the United States.

Their tactics, include ‘robo calls and so called ‘fair elections’ legislation that purges the voter lists, makes absentee balloting greuling and voter IDs difficult.  The tactics are remenicent of the Robo calls and so called ‘fair elections act’ the Harper government learned about from the extreme right Conservative Political Action Conference in the USA which some Canadian Conservatives attend every year.

Are Minority Governments a Problem?

The Angus Reid poll also explored how people thought parliament should work.  82% of respondents agreed with this statement:  “Our electoral system should encourage parties to co-operate and compromise so that the important policies that are passed in parliament reflect the support of over 50% of Canadians”.  Under first past the post, we often have majority governments with significantly less than the support of half of Canadians.

The argument is made that proportional representation will lead to minority governments which it is further claimed will make it difficult for government to get anything done.  In reality, all recent ‘majority’ Canadian governments have really only represented a minority with a phoney majority in the House of Commons.   Minority governments mean parties that traditionally benefit by having the ability to ram through an agenda not supported by most Canadians lacks the ability to ignore their own back benchers, the opposition parties and most Canadians.  For them, not being able to ignore the majority it is inefficient.   In minority governments the excessive power of the Prime Minister, PMO staff and senior ministers is counter balanced by the need to consult those holding views other than their own.[3] 

With first past the post, majority governments occur more often.  With proportional representation minority governments would be the usual result.  Parliament becomes more relevant and checks excessive executive power.  If they became the dominant election outcome they would operate more smoothly, with less acrimony and a new reality consultation process would happen almost out of habit. 

Minority governments are also not highly regarded by the super-rich.  The last thing they want is a strong legislature with parliamentary committees not controlled by a government of one of their chosen parties raising questions and holding hearings on issues they do not want discussed. Issues like corporate taxes, tax havens, CEO salaries, unsafe products, oil industry windfall profits generated by $2.00+ pump prices while subsidies roll in, workplace safety and a host of other issues.  They also want less government, less government regulation and lower taxes. They know minority governments would be more likely to look after Canadians for whom the economy is a growing failure.  Minority governments brought us most of the social programs like Medicare, student loans and the Canada Pension program. 

Never before have Canadians faced such a dysfunctional economy:  shattered supply lines; galloping inflation with wage and salary stagnation; soaring billionaire wealth with growing homelessness, shrinking affordable housing, growing food insecurity;  windfall profit oil prices combined with subsidies for oil companies;  climate change aggravating corporate and government decisions alongside growing youth despair, climbing youth suicide over dose deaths; rapidly growing income inequality.  We desperately need government that listens to the majority of Canadians.

If we value our country or our democracy on this side of the border, we need to demand electoral reform with every kind of peaceful protest we can imagine.  It is time to force a move away from mock elections.


[1] https://researchco.ca/2022/06/08/ontario-exit-poll/

[2] https://angusreid.org/electoral-reform-trend/ 

[3] For a fairly balanced analysis of minority vs majority government see https://theconversation.com/why-minority-governments-have-been-good-and-sometimes-bad-for-canada-168018

2 thoughts on “The Erosion of Democracy: Three Elections

  1. I think that it would be valuable if the media reported on the election by providing a percentage of all registered voters (instead of ballots) with the “no ballot” percentage placed appropriately in the sorting from top to bottom. I think it would be very difficult for any party to claim a “mandate” and might help the public realize how little voice they have.

    Like

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