by Garfield Marks
During the federal campaign in 2015 Justin Trudeau said that, if elected, this will be the last election using the first-past-the-post election model. Should he keep that promise? Is it the system’s fault or is it the people we elect’s fault?
A respected scholar suggested it may be the docile nature of our elected representatives. If we had strong members of parliament representing their constituencies standing up to the Prime Minister’s Office, would the prime minister be so dictatorial? The same can be said with provincial and municipal politicians.
There are many criticisms of the first-past-the-post electoral model, but these same flaws that can elect a majority government with a minority vote, can just as easily change governments in the next election. There are many options and they all have pros and cons. The alternative or preferential ballot would likely see a third place candidate winning in a hotly contested election. Alberta’s former Premiers Stelmach and Redford come to mind, as they won the party leadership using that form of preferential ballot. Other ballots can be used, the electorate educated, and perhaps everyone will be happy, but I doubt it. Some options will give the party more control, make electoral ridings too large, or be too complicated and disenfranchise the electorate.
Would we be happy with the current system if the politicians represented their constituents in the capital instead of being a representative of the party in their riding? Would we be happier if the prime minister, the premiers, or the mayor’s followed the wishes of their members of parliament, members of the legislatures, or the members of councils?
Now, it does look like our elected officials are sheep being herded by their masters, and there does need to be some discipline within party ranks, but it should not mean that they should cede all their powers, authority and responsibility to their leader. Party members are also to blame. They tend to accept being ordered about by party leaders and party brass and only getting fundraising communications. Party members should hold their leaders to account if they stray too far or implement policies that are not acceptable to the members. The first-past-the-post is far from perfect but it has worked for this great country for nearly 150 years, and before we change it, we should ask ourselves: “Is it the system, or is it us?”
I just want my elected official to listen to me and not just talk at me. If changing the system brings that to be, then go for it, but I doubt it. I think we the people just need stronger representatives. So, prime minister, do not rush, take your time, and do the right thing; promises or no promises, do it right. Thank you.