Like always at election time I plan not to go to the polls, but the reasons have changed this time: before it was just the feeling of futility and being disenfranchised by the first-past-the-post electoral system. Now I think not voting is the only way to truly vote for me.
The first-past-the-post system dates back to a time when we elected persons representing a geographically defined area. The size of this area was such that a man could ride around it on horseback in a day, hence the name “riding”. Now our MPs can “ride” from Halifax to Vancouver in five hours, and we don’t elect persons as much as we elect ideas represented by “parties”. For instance, I don’t care who will represent my riding, but do care that Canada will not buy war planes costing $147 millions a piece, build prisons for “unreported” criminals, and otherwise impose the iron fist of an uncaring and hypocritical police state, run by fundamentalist hotheads with no respect of the democratic institutions.
The first-past-the-post system has a built-in barrier against change: governments elected through it will never change it, because they are benefitting from it. It gives them convenient false “majorities” with maybe 40 per cent of the public vote, and powers that they would otherwise have to share in a coalition. They would have to make compromises and couldn’t impose their agenda on the true majority of those that haven’t voted for them. They just don’t like that, do they?
The first-past-the-post system forces me to reason negatively. Instead of voting for ideas, I have to employ devious machinations to oppose ideas I dislike: I know that my vote for the Green Party would end in the garbage can, so my only contribution to prevent a victory of the Conservative candidate in my riding would be to vote for whoever has the best chance against him, Liberal or NDP, whether I like their ideas or not. It’s called “strategic voting” and it makes a mockery of how democracy should work, where governments should be a true representation of their peoples’ ideas.
With proportional representation true majorities would be the exception, coalitions the norm. A culture of consensus building would have to emerge by force, rather than the disgusting confrontational style we witness every day. Governments would be formed by coalitions of those who can find common ground. As it should be. Doesn’t it puzzle you that Stephen Harper can so successfully fear-monger with the word “coalition”? What is it with us Canadians that we prefer having a “majority” government that can run roughshod over everybody, rather than minorities that have to respect each other? With proportional representation I would have greater comfort that there would be enough MPs to scuttle ideas like $147-million high-tech toys for grown-ups.
I refuse to do vote strategically. If I vote at all, I want to support, not oppose. I suspect that among the 41 per cent of Canadians who don’t vote, there must be at least a few like me. Let’s band together and render election results meaningless by mass abstinence. Let’s shame politicians into bringing about electoral change. Let’s bring democracy to Canada.