Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Canadian election insanity

So the Canadian parliament is being dissolved today. Last night, the minority Liberals lost a no-confidence vote. So we're headed for a holiday campaign. Yay. Just when we were enjoying a campaign holiday.

In today's Toronto Star, James Travers wrote a decent article outlining why this election is important - and why voters will likely vote Liberal once again. He was pretty much right on, except he used a turn of phrase that has always irked me.

Here's the email I sent Mr. Travers, with apologies to those unfamiliar with the Canadian system:

Dear Mr. Travers,

In today's article ("Why this election matters") you did a fine job of articulating the issues facing voters this time around - including why a larger number continue to choose Martin over Harper.

However, I'd like to point out a habit that I have noticed among analysts that I find quite irksome.

In the article, you state that voters might "opt for a majority".

Surely you are well aware that our current political system does not allow for this sort of event. We don't vote en masse. We don't collectively decide who will vote which way in order to "send a message" to governments. We each have one vote. I might WISH to give 60% of my vote to Martin and 40% to Layton in order to tell Mr. Martin I am displeased with the current state of affairs, but this is simply not possible. With my one vote, then, I must vote entirely for Mr. Martin. If everyone in Canada felt the same way I did, then Mr. Martin would get 100% of the vote. Does that mean we are not displeased with him? Of course not.

Why is it then that analysts constantly refer to the electorate as if it were one person? We don't "choose" percentages of the vote. Our system is something akin to rock,paper, scissors - you don't know how things will turn out until everyone shows what they chose.

Further blurring the issue is the fact that we vote in ridings. So if I vote NDP to send a message, outcome be damned, that message might still not be delivered if my riding goes Liberal. In the end, the seats are what count and no one really remembers how close the riding vote was. So again if 40% of every riding votes NDP, while 60% votes Liberal, the Liberals get 100% of the seats. Does THAT send a message? Of course not.

So, in the spirit of rock, paper, scissors, what we end up with is people voting based on how they think OTHERS will vote. If the west is largely going to vote Conservative, well then, Ontario will largely vote Liberal - not because they WANT to, but because it will keep the Conservatives from winning.

I don't want to vote Liberal. I want to vote for the alternative. But I will NOT vote Conservative while Mr. Harper and his uber-right wing policies are the fashion. Since the NDP have no chance of winning, (and such a vote would open the door for the Conservatives) I must vote Liberal.

Think Mr. Martin will get the message? Neither do I.

Philip Sullivan

p.s. Doesn't all this Harper talk merely highlight the tragedy of the Conservative party? Had they simply stuck to their guns and NOT joined forces with the Alliance/Reform, I have no doubt that they would be a force to be reckoned with right now and the Liberals WOULD be suffering. Mr. McKay, much as he may seem to be a decent man, brought about the death of that party. Perhaps if he were at the helm he might be able to revive it. He may have to grow a spine and become his own man first, though.

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