11 October 2007

The democratic defecit

With the Liberals winning a follow up majority, and MMP getting trounced in the Ontario election, I feel frustrated and apathetic towards our supposed democracy. Since I have a variety of thoughts, and given my penchant for lists, I hereby present to you, various thoughts on the election:

1. The Liberals won a majority by taking 71 of the 107 seats. This represents 66% of the seats. However, with the provincial legislator lacking committee's as in the federal house, and there being no formal process for private member bills, the Liberal essentially have complete control over Ontario politics. Given that party whips keep their MPPs in line, this translates to the fact that anything the Liberals want to do, they will do.

2. The liberals however only won 42% of the popular vote. So by taking 42% of the votes, they garnered 66% of the seats, and thus 100% of the power.

3. Voter turnout was at an all time low. Approximately 52% of eligible Ontario citizens cast a vote. Just over 4 Million people voted out of a potential 8 Million. This despite the fact that the Liberals took step to increase voter turnout. These steps however were hollow - keeping the polls open 1 hour later, or having further advance polling chances, simply gives more flexibility to voters who already planned on voting. I do think these are good steps, but how do we get non-voters to vote?

4. Since the turnout was 50%, and the liberals had about 40% of these votes, this means that 20%, or 1 in 5 adults, has voted for Dalton McGuinty. The liberals have near complete control over the functioning of our province, the biggest in Canada, by obtaining votes from 1 in 5 adults. Think about that - what does it say about our electorate?

5. The NDP succeeded in obtaining 17% of the total vote, which translated to 11 seats. The Liberals had 3 times as many votes, but nearly 7 times as many seats in the legislator. Moreover, the Conservatives had merely 10% less number of votes as the Liberals but have about 1/3 as many seats - they got 32% of the vote and 23% of the seats.

6. Most frustrating for me, as I voted for them, was the result of the Green Party. Once again, the Greens did not capture any seats. Not too surprising. The greens did manage to gain 8% of the total vote. That is fairly significant vote totals. Yet, there will be no one in the legislator representing the voice of these 350,000 people. That is the population of London, Ontario. So basically, it is as though the Ontario legislator is ignoring its 6th biggest city. With almost half the votes of the NDP, the Greens have zero seats to speak of. Am I being a sore loser? Perhaps a little bit. But if elections are truly about representation, I honestly believe that there is something very disconcerting with this situation.

7. On the happy end of the stick, that 8% for the greens represents an almost 3 fold increase in the number of votes the party received in 2003. Prior to the 2003 election, the Greens were polling below 1%. This can only be a good sign of things to come. Not only that, but little kids like Greens. Actually, not only little kids but high schoolers too. In the student vote for the Ontario election, the Greens placed 2nd behind the Liberals with 18 seats and 24% of the popular vote. Of course, we are all left wing nuts until we start making money right?!?!

http://www.studentvotes.ca/results/index.html

8. Finally, a funeral will be held across Ontario today for MMP, which was soundly rejected by the voters of Ontario. I again backed the wrong pony. Do I believe MMP was the solution to all our democratic problems? No - I am not so naive as to thing that any system would fix voter apathy and political conjunctivitis. Pink eye or not, I had my eyes wide open going into this one, and knew that MMP had no chance of passing. Voters firstly didn't even know there was a referendum on the ballots. Voters didn't understand what was at stake. Voters who did understand nitpicked MMP to death. I don't think the voting system itself is flawed, but I understand that it was not presented well. There were too many questions surrounding the issue (how will parties nominate candidates, why will my riding increase in size, how do we avoid cronyism). These and many other questions are valid concerns. MMP, in the form it was presented, was not the solution. But neither if FPP, our current system. For the reasons listed above, we have a serious democratic deficit in our country and in our province. Politicians are no longer trusted, nor are they listening to voters. The party system has total trump power over our system. Individual concerns are rarely heard, and when they are, it is often at the hands of a minority group of people. The solutions are not simple ones - I do sincerely hope that Mr. McGuinty and other politicians realize that the enemy is not sitting across the aisle, but rather starring back at each and everyone of them in the mirror. At 52% voter turnout, the apathy of our electorate is truly the biggest threat to our democratic system. Let's just hope that these supposed leaders will have the character and the cojones to do something about it.

1 comment:

Jo said...

Come on where's that update?!