By Jason Menard
Two political events designed to stop a Conservative majority are noble in intent, but are simply two wastes of valuable time and votes, which really only work in an ideal world. Instead, these actions actually have the potential to do more damage to the Canadian election process and represent short-sighted solutions to much deeper problems.
Pair Vote represents everything that’s wrong with federal politics. First, it claims that its intent is “to prevent a false majority by the Conservatives.” The Conservatives have not had a majority, false or otherwise, since they’ve been in power. They have a plurality – there’s a big difference.
And by vote swapping, you’re negatively impacting the intent of our electoral process. We don’t vote for Prime Minister. We vote for the person who best represents our local riding. Our ballots are cast to express to our local MP our preferences, not to impact the overall party makeup in the House of Commons.
What this does have the potential to do, in fact, is skew the intent of the riding. If enough people were to participate, it could change how the riding is perceived – and, potentially, change the way policy is drafted to impact it. After all, a responsible MP would look at working in the best interest of their entire riding – not just the number who allowed him or her to be first past the post.
Now, if I live in a predominantly Rhino Party riding, and I trade my vote for an Animal Alliance Environment ballot elsewhere – and enough of my fellow Rhinos join in, after the election there could be a false sense of the riding’s makeup. The elected Rhino would then say, “Hey, 25 per cent of people in my riding were Animal Alliance. I better take that into consideration.”
Of course, we all know that most MPs serve only one true master – their party leader. A 35 per cent mandate shouldn’t completely overshadow the other 65 per cent of the voters in the riding, but it does. What we need is more responsible representation that works in concert with the will and intent of the riding as a whole – not just the party that garners the most votes. That’s where the criticism of a coalition falls short – a coalition actually represents a better way to have the House of Commons function, as it requires working together and compromise to achieve a result that’s more representative of the electorate as a whole.
On Saturday,London,Ontario’s student community is hosting a Vote Mob in Victoria Park, with the hope that Rick Mercer – who will be in town anyway – will show up. They’ve been inspired by Rick’s recent rant (and a similar action at the University of Guelph) which implores the youth of Canada to take 20 minutes out their day and vote.
Again, I appreciate the intent. Yes, it would be great if more than 58 per cent of people got out and voted, but only under one important condition – that the votes cast are, in fact, educated. And, with all due respect to Rick, with whom I agree far more often than I disagree, 20 minutes is not enough time to vote.
Yes, 20 minutes may be the amount of time it takes to cast a ballot, but it’s not nearly enough time to vote. That requires more of an investment in time and effort. A ballot is just a check mark on a page; a vote is an indication of a person’s endorsement of a politician to represent him or herself on Parliament Hill.
Here’s a completely radical thought: what if all of those people who intend to go to the Vote Mob instead register their intent to spend those hours getting informed? What if, instead of spending three hours going to, attending, and coming home from this event, they took that time to research the party platforms, speak with their candidates, or read various opinions and news articles outlining the policies and candidates’ actions? Then, on May 2nd, they take that knowledge and actually cast their vote, instead of simply checking a name off a ballot? Sure, it’s great to mobilize an underrepresented part of the electorate – our youth – but the mobilization should be towards education, not just action.
Pair Vote says six million votes shouldn’t be wasted. That’s true – and a move to a more representative democracy may be in order, but it’s not a realistic goal in the short term. However, six million votes shouldn’t be traded, bartered, or played with. And, to the organizers of London’s Vote Mob, is an uniformed vote any less of a waste than a ballot left uncast?
In the end, these efforts take valuable time and effort away from where they’d be better served: creating an educated electorate.