Electoral Reform 4 of 6
I suspect that the idea that our electoral system is ‘broken’ and needs ‘fixing’ is a reflection of voters dissatisfaction with government.
But is democracy ‘broken’ and can, not will but can, changing the electoral system ‘fix’ what is ‘broken’?
On the question of whether democracy in Canada is ‘broken’ read “The Unbroken Machine: Canada’s Democracy in Action” by Dale Smith (2017).
I have highly recommended the book since I finished reading it. It is a paperback and at just over 150 pages is accessible [readable] even for those who are not heavy duty readers. The pages are packed with the history, whys and wherefores of our electoral system.
In fact this book should be used for civics as the text to provide a solid foundation for students understanding of Canada’s electoral system, its history and context in preparation for becoming voters.
Starting with ‘The Unbroken Machine” ensures a solid understanding of our current electoral system and establishes common terms of reference and understanding.
Smith does not think that Canadian Democracy is broken, a point of view I held before reading Smith’s book. Reading “The Unbroken Machine” did reinforce my view that the electoral system is not ‘broken’ and deepened my understanding of our electoral system and its history.
Of particular importance, and providing a large proceed with caution warning sign to the idea of ‘fixing’ or ‘improving’ our democracy, is Mr. Smith’s well supported argument that ‘improvements’ made to the system in recent decades have in fact had negative consequences and need to be rolled back.
The fact that to improve the system we have to remove the ‘improvements’ we made emphasizes the amount of care and thought needed before making changes and that no matter the care and thought changes can have unintended and/or unforeseen consequences.
I do disagree with Mr. Smith’s conclusion that the problem with Canadian democracy is ignorance of the civics of our electoral system.
While I agree there is an abysmal level of understanding of the history and design of our electoral system I believe that, as Shakespeare expressed it, “the fault is not in our stars [electoral system], but in ourselves.”
We get the governments we do because we insist the world conform to what we know for sure [even though what we know is wrong], refuse to see what reality actually is because it is not what we want it to be and ignore or deny what we do not want to be reality.
Of course politicians and politics do provide handy scapegoats to allow voters to deny responsibility for the consequences of their inactions/actions, absolving themselves of responsibility for the consequences of their inactions/actions.
Despite all the excuse mongering and denial of responsibility we elect the government that is elected……or fail to act to elect the government we want. The bottom line is that Canada is potentially a democracy and voters could act to elect a government that would focus on solid financial management, addressing issues, problem solving and good governance – if that was a priority.
Potentially a democracy based on the question: if the accepted standard for democracy is consent of the governed does giving consent have any meaning if those giving consent don’t understand what they are consenting to?
It is an important question since Canadians base their voting decisions on what they choose/want to believe, on ignoring or denying any realities they do not like. By ignoring reality and embracing assumption and what they want to be true, Canadian voting is currently based on ignorance of the facts.
Before we set out to ‘fix’ our democracy, we should make sure we are a democracy and that voter’s consent is informed consent [consent given with full knowledge of the risks involved, probable consequences, and alternatives courses of action].
Because no electoral system, no change to the electoral system, will improve the governance and management delivered by governments when it is the actions and behaviours of the voters that is responsible for the actions and behaviours of the government.
“The government you elect is the government you deserve.” Thomas Jefferson
If voters want good governance and good management from government then voters need to change their behaviours.
Voters need to accept responsibility for their actions and behaviours, invest the time and effort to attain an understanding of the facts of the issues and act on that understanding no matter the discomfort involved..
As a first step to better government, voters need to demand better governance from our current government by voting No on proportional representation; telling the government do it properly.