13 May 2009

Will B.C.'s electoral choice harm Canada?

To say I'm disappointed with the B.C. referendum on electoral reform is putting it mildly. Not only did the voters of that province reject proportionality, they opted overwhelmingly for the corrupt first-past-the-post system (FPTP). Not that it necessarily makes all that much difference in B.C., a largely two-party province. In this election, for example, the Liberals approached a majority with 46% of the vote to the NDP's 42%. If a proportional system were in effect, the Liberals would have required a coalition to form a government and would probably have gotten one with the support of the Greens who, like the Liberals but unlike the NDP, supported B.C.'s carbon tax.

The real disappointment is what this might mean to the possibility of change at the federal level where it is most sorely needed. Not only does FPTP grossly corrupt the results of federal elections, it rewards division and punishes unity, the last thing a highly regionalized country like ours needs. In the 2008 election the Bloc Quebecois, the most divisive party in the country (it only bothers to run candidates in one province), was awarded 16% of the seats in the House of Commons for 10 % of the popular vote. The NDP, which runs candidates and wins seats in every region, won 12% of the seats with 18% of the popular vote. The Bloc was rewarded for its separatism with 61% more seats than it deserved and the NDP was punished for its all-Canadian approach with 33% fewer seats than it earned. The Conservatives commonly win more seats in the West than they deserve and fewer in the East, the Liberals just the opposite. So, thanks to FPTP, the two major regional divisions in the country, Quebec/English Canada and East/West, become greatly exaggerated in our national legislature.

This aggravation of regional differences is unhealthy and dangerous. Inasmuch as the B.C. referendum result discourages federal reform, it harms the entire country.

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