Green and growing

My story about being a Green politician in Canada, and why it was the best thing I ever did.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

On the fractured left

There have been several articles lately in the mainstream media suggesting that the only way for the Liberals to regain power is to unite the left by forming some kind of arrangement with the NDP. The argument goes that the Conservative party is in power because of uniting the right, and therefore, the left must get united as well, or wait for the right to disintegrate again. I disagree with this argument.

The problem here is that we look at the results through the lens of our electoral system (FPTP - first past the post). In this system, there is a constant pressure for parties to move to the centre of the political spectrum ... to become "big tent" parties. The bigger the tent, the more successful the party. Hence, the reason that uniting disparate points of view is regarded as a winning strategy.

But what really happens when a party moves to the centre? It compromises on the values it holds because it is trying to be attractive to other voters who would otherwise be turned off by some policy or another. Parties work to find out what people want, and then adjust their communication to fit the story that people want to hear. In my opinion, this leads to higher and higher levels of deception. Remember "support the troops"? Well, ask someone who is living on a military pension or disability, and see how they feel about how we are supporting the troops!

With FPTP, a small shift in support can result in a massive swing in seats. This is the problem of the false democracy .. the votes that are represented in the House of Commons are only a small fraction of the total votes cast. Liberals in Alberta, Conservatives in Toronto, and Greens everywhere are not represented at all ... their votes did not count.

With proportional representation (PR), a small shift in support remains a small shift in representation. That is the beauty and elegance of PR. Parties have to change their approach to be successful in PR. They are well advised to say exactly what their beliefs are during the election. After the election, they need to seek compromise and consensus among all those elected. They need to listen to the people and how they spoke through their votes, because only in PR can people vote their conscience and know that it will count. An election actually gives us some good information about what people want. We cannot know that now, because so many people vote for the party they hate in order to prevent the party they despise from winning.

So what should the Liberals do instead of uniting the left? Get behind PR. The NDP supports PR, and so does the BQ. All three have done nothing to move this agenda forward. Now is the time. Do it! The Conservatives would be well advised to get behind this as well. It is only a matter of time before a Tea Party style rift occurs, and the last time this happened (1993), the Progressive Conservatives went from 170 seats to 2 seats in a single election. The big swing cuts both ways.

Remember, any system that is not proportional to voting preference is, by definition, non-proportional. Why would we want a non-proportional voting system? We only need to look south to see how well a two-party see-saw works.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Have a happy holiday

Just wanted to wish everyone a happy holiday season. Whatever your beliefs, and whatever your traditions, I hope that you have a safe, relaxing and peaceful end to your year. May the year ahead be the best one yet!