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A weak argument against first-past-the-post voting


By —— Bio and Archives--September 27, 2007

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It has been said that democracy is the worst
form of government except all the others that
that have been tried
Winston Churchill

Writing in the National Post yesterday, Andrew Coyne made the case against the first-past-the-post (FPP) electoral system that we currently have in Canada. When Ontarians go to the polls on October 10, they will be asked whether or not they prefer a mixed-member-proportional (MMP) system that would see 90 MPPs elected as they are now while an additional 29 members would be appointed by the various parties in proportion to the percentage of votes that that party receives during future elections.

Coyne’s arguments against the FPP system are essentially that it is not democratic and he backs this up with examples and statistics. Coyne cites examples where parties have won significant majority governments while obtaining a lot less than 50 per cent of the popular vote. And he cites examples such as the 1987 New Brunswick election that saw the Liberals take every seat in the provincial legislature while capturing only 60 per cent of the vote. Coyne then goes on to talk about how candidates are selected by local riding associations; several people run but only one ends up with the nomination, usually after receiving less than 50 per cent of the votes.

In other words, as those on the left keep wailing, the FPP system is not fair. It’s not fair that a party like the Greens can get a significant proportion of the votes and yet not gain a seat in the provincial legislature. Of course it isn’t fair, but then neither is life. A lot of things are unfair. Professional sport is a prime example of this kind of unfairness. In baseball for example, you can end up with a team that has led their league throughout the season being in the World Series and pitted against a team that had just barely qualified for a wild card position. That latter wins the championship when one of their players is accidentally hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth in a game that was tied. Perhaps we should declare that both of them are winners. World Series rings for everyone.

Coyne is right that our current system is not fully democratic but either is the proposed MMP system that would see 29 representatives not elected by the people but appointed by the respective political parties who would be free to appoint members that the public have specifically rejected.

If the fact, as Coyne states, that many votes (such as those given to parties such as the Greens) do not count and this is a valid reason to eliminate the FPP system of voting, then let’s not go for half-measures; let’s go all the way. If every vote cannot count equally, then let’s eliminate all voting. That would not be democratic but according to the critics of our current system, either is FPP. Elections are expensive to hold and we could save a bundle that the politicians would all promise would be put into health care. We could just hold one gigantic poll that everyone in Ontario could participate in. And if the Liberals end up with 40 per cent in the poll and the Green Party with 10 per cent, then those parties could simply appoint party members to fill the seats in the legislature. And if a member dies or resigns before the term ends, the party could appoint someone else the next day. We would avoid citizens having to go without a representative for months while a majority government, elected with 37 per cent of the vote, decides when it is best strategically to hold an expensive by-election.

Eliminating voting for candidates all together would be fairer than the proposed “mixed system” where the mixture only serves to appease critics of the present system.

In order to achieve this type of fairness we could even go further. On the federal scene, we could simply appoint the NDP to govern. The NDP/CCF have gotten millions of votes over the years and yet have never formed the government. This would show that those voters haven’t wasted their votes. Now, that would be fair.

And besides, at least Jack Layton has passed a budget; something that St


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Arthur Weinreb -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Arthur Weinreb is an author, columnist and Associate Editor of Canada Free Press. Arthur’s latest book, Ford Nation: Why hundreds of thousands of Torontonians supported their conservative crack-smoking mayor is available at Amazon. Racism and the Death of Trayvon Martin is also available at Smashwords. His work has appeared on Newsmax.com,  Drudge Report, Foxnews.com.

Older articles (2007) by Arthur Weinreb


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