18 January 2010

Who does this lazy Parliament represent anyway?

As Parliament snoozes away the winter, we might ask just who isn't being represented during this hibernation. An answer to that question has been offered by that indefatigable pursuer of democratic representation, Fair Vote Canada. FVC has recently written two letters, one to the Conservatives and one to the opposition parties, suggesting they make use of their winter break to think about creating a democratic Parliament. A telling passage from one letter particularly caught my eye:
Judging from the current “representation” most Quebecois want to quit the federation; most Canadians are reluctant to elect women; there are no Conservative supporters in Vancouver, Montreal or Toronto; there are no Liberal supporters in Alberta. There are no New Democrat supporters in Saskatchewan and remarkably few elsewhere, and no Green supporters anywhere in Canada.
Although it appears farcical, this is indeed what the current makeup of Parliament suggests, and it's a sad and disturbing message. The fact that Conservatives are not represented in our three major cities and Liberals are not represented in Alberta, even though many people in those areas support those parties, contributes to dangerous divisions in an already regionally divided nation. That millions of Canadians are unable to help elect someone who represents them is a democratic tragedy.

This doesn't justify shutting the thing down, but it certainly gives our "representatives" something to occupy their minds while on their extended holiday. You can read both Fair Vote Canada letters here. And, if you too are concerned about our undemocratic Parliament, you can support the letters with your own.


  1. What organizations like Fair Vote Canada consistently fail to explain to Canadians is who, precisely, would represent them under a proportionally-elected Parliament?

    Under such a system, the notion of local representation would either have to be abolished, or we would have to wake up to the reality that numerous ridings would be represented by an individual who received an extreme minority of the votes cast in that riding.

    For example, the Green Party received less than 7% of the popular vote in the last federal election.

    Outside of Central Nova, where May received %32 of the vote, the Greens tended to post at most 15% of the vote.

    So, in a system where the Green Party's 7% of the vote guaranteed them 7% of the seats, Canadians in 21 ridings would be waking up to the reality that their MP was outvoted by another candidate (presumably May, depending upon the allocation scheme), and other ridings where their MP only received 15% of the vote -- if that.

    There are, of course, mixed-member schemes which still dilute the influence of democratically-elected members, and drastically increase the number of partisan hacks elected to the house -- as MPs with no electorate to answer to will be beholden only to their party leadership.

  2. Patrick,

    Proportional representation can greatly improve local representation. In my city, for example — Calgary — we have eight MPs, all Conservative. Under a simple proportional system, with Calgary a single constituency, we would have five Conservatives, one Liberal, one NDP and one Green. For the first time, the supporters of all the major parties would be represented by local MPs who share their views, i.e. by MPs who truly represent them.

    Nor would they be represented by individuals who received “an extreme minority of the votes.” The lowest support would go to the NDP candidate with nine per cent of the votes cast. That’s nine per cent of the votes cast in all of Calgary, and that is a significant minority. And, of course, all candidates would have an electorate to answer to — the citizens of Calgary.