Why not?

December 1, 2008

Regardless of what happens in Ottawa in the next week regarding the the impending conversion of the Conserative minority to a Liberal-NDP coalition one thing is clear.  This will be a great moment to have a national discussion about minority governments and whether they are good or bad.  The risks are high that the coalition will fail, the markets will react badly or any number of scary outcomes will materialize.  But if they can pull it off and run the country sensibly for the normal duration of a minority government or longer then it is a fantastic opportunity for electoral reform.  FairVote Canada is calling on all its members and supporters to petition their members or parliament to use this opportunity to push for electoral reform.  Tough bargaining often leads to tough and creative deal making.

Whether or not the leaders themselves have the creativity to start this discussion, you can be sure that Canadians will.  The discussion is simply this: In a proportional system, everyone’s vote will count more and their true intent will be much more closely matched in the makeup of parliament.  The trade-off for this is that we get a different parliament than we are used to, we are pretty much guaranteed a minority parliament all the time.  Opponents of proportional systems often use this as one of their first arguments for why its a bad idea.  In reality, minority governments encourage deal-making, creative thinking, bipartisanship and coalitions.  We happen to be in the rare case right now where First Past the Post has given us a minority government.  We also happen to be in a time when people feel it is too important to let a government rule that represents a 40% of the country.  Thus a coalition that works and that represents the consent and common ideas of 60% of the country (that is, everything the Liberals, NDP and Bloc can agree on, which is a lot, really) is in the best interests of the country.

As long as it works it will raise awareness of this issue and of how minority rule can actually be better.  Then when BC-STV passes in May the country will be ready to counter that silly old ‘minority rule’ argument and say… why not?

Mark Crowley is a PhD student in the Department of Computer Science at UBC.

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3 Responses to “Why not?”

  1. badfreeway Says:

    Whether it “works” or not, I think it could be a turning point in Canadian politics. All of a sudden people are thinking “hey, a diversity of views with representation in government, not just opposition – what a concept!” We’ve been in the dark so long, and even the prospect of the coalition is a glimmer of hope to many people.

  2. Ratel Says:

    yes, a glimmer at least, but to many it sounds like it is also opening into a chasm of darkness. Do people think the coalition will split the country?

  3. badfreeway Says:

    It’s a lesson that minority governments should respect the institution of parliament and work with the opposition. Majority governments will be hard to come by. I think, despite some of the scare-mongering out there, it’s actually an opportunity for greater unity, not division.


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