Why we truly need electoral reform #nbvotes

Posted on September 28, 2010 by

There are 55 seats in the New Brunswick Legislature. Currently these seats are determined by a first-past-the-post system in 55 ridings, rather than a more fair and inclusive system.

The results of the provincial election last night were a perfect example of the skewing that occurs in this medieval system.

Here’s the results:

49% of the province voted PC, yet they received 76% of the seats (42). 49% should represent the wishes of 49% of the population, or 27 seats.

35% of the province voted Liberal, yet they received only 24% of the seats (13). 35% should represent the wishes of 35% of the population, or 19 seats.

10% of the province voted NDP, yet they received 0 seats and no voice. 10% should represent 5 or 6 seats, not 0.

4.6% voted Green, yet they received 0 seats and no voice. 4.6% should represent 2 or 3 seats, not 0.

Another ~1.5% voted ‘Other’ and received no voice. 1.5% represents .85% of a seat.This one is a 0 seat and  probably should stay that way, but there are 8 seats out of 55 missing from above.

I understand that “this is the way it has always been done” is a great excuse for not changing. It has been used by Luddites for many years. But that doesn’t make it right.

The environmentally minded, the poor, the sick, the unionized, and many other groups are basically ignored or paid lip service by the major parties because they have no true representation. While I agree that these smaller parties are unlikely to form a government and run the province on a daily basis any time soon (although the NDP is doing a decent job in Nova Scotia and Manitoba right now and have run Ontario and other Western provinces before), they represent the interests of many people who took the time to vote and who have basically been shut out by an archaic system. These groups have great ideas and policies that should at least be at the table for discussion.

Yes, there are flaws in a proportional system as well, but you can’t tell me that a province with a population that barely qualifies as a large municipality in many parts of this country can’t come up with a way of using regional, proportional representation to ensure everyone’s vote counts.

Those who argue that a majority is the only way to get anything done forget Universal Health Care and Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, Worker’s Compensation, Children’s Allowance, and most of the other things that make Canada the great place it is today. These were all mainly done by minority governments who were forced by virtue of that minority to work together in a civilized manner. That type of civility and diplomacy is what is missing in our current adversarial style of government in Fredericton and particularly in Ottawa.

My solution? When I am Benevolent Dictator of Canada, I will tear up all the Legislatures (and Parliament for that matter), and replace them with a horseshoe or circle formation designed for discussion instead of insult-tossing, to create an atmosphere where respect and civility rule, whoever is speaking is the only one with the floor, hecklers are evicted for being morons, and everyone has at least a chance to be represented by way of some form of proportional representation.

How do we achieve this proportional system? We might even use a mixed system that resembles the ward and at-large system in use in Saint John. Even better, for inspiration, take a look at Nunavut. They basically banned political parties in their legislature and run as a consensus government. What a great idea!

In any case, our system is not fair, nor is it inclusive. There is always room for improvement. While this particular election saw an increase in voter turnout *(see note below), the trend is dropping as more people feel their votes don’t count.

NOTE: It turns out this statement was not accurate. The voter turnout was a higher % of the voters list, but the voter’s list had fewer people on it than last time and less people actually voted. In the last election, there were 377,247 ballots cast, which represented 67.5% of eligible voters, while in this election,there were 372,502 ballots cast, which represented 71.5% of the eligible voters.  Two possible reasons – inaccurate voter’s lists or population decrease. In any case, the actual number of votes cast is the lowest in New Brunswick since 1978.

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