Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A Different Sort of Electoral Reform

What if politicians were no longer allowed to campaign by burning fossil fuels travelling all over the world?? What if there were a very strict and low limit on campaign spending. There could be one election website, and each party would have access to one page on that site where they would have to, clearly and succinctly, explain their platform under specific headings common to all the pages (and they'd be barred from making a separate website). They would have a list of candidates in each riding, and can add only one 5-minute video to their page. There could be a page with a forum for questions that's strictly moderated by an intelligent group of non-partisan do-gooder volunteers, each with a degree in philosophy (and, hence, little else to do). No fallacious reasoning will be allowed! Something similar could happen within each party, as well, as they choose their leader.

No flights, no travel expenses, no signs, no phone calls or knocks on the door. Just a straightforward comparison of the platforms with a clear explanation of the implications.

And imagine if we could actually hold politicians accountable for their promises. If they lied in their platform, then we'd oust them immediately, so their platforms would end up being very carefully worded.

Then wealth and backing wouldn't be factors in running in an election. Anybody with a strong idea and the smarts to understand all the implications of their ideas and explain them well could end up leading even if they grew up in a poor family. 

Then charm and schmoozing wouldn't have an effect on the populace. People would respond to the ideas, not the rhetoric.

While we're fantasizing here, we could also ensure that our MPs and MPPs vote based on polls in their ridings, not based on their party leader's position, you know, like in a democracy!

The only way we'll get a leader who actually stops pipelines and changes the agricultural industry and subsidizes solar, wind, and tidal power, and actually affects our future positively, is if we can stop corporate lobbying. One way we can do that is to stop campaigns from costing a small fortune.

What we're currently doing doesn't work, and it doesn't have to be like this.


Rural said...

Its good to dream once in a while Marie even if our dreams can never become true. I also "write because I have found no other means of getting rid of my thoughts."

The Mound of Sound said...

The only part of your proposal that troubles me, Marie, is the "direct democracy" business. Back in the days of the Reform Party there was an MP in North Vancouver, a little garden gnome of a fellow who originally hailed from New Zealand. He believed in direct democracy. He would take his marching orders from his constituents or at least those he spoke with during his frequent visits to his riding. Preston looked on, bemused.

What this fellow didn't understand that he was paid to serve in Parliament, both in the House and in committees, where he was expected to inform himself of the issues of the day. His constituents had no access to the resources afforded Parliamentarians. They did not participate in debates. The people of North Van were busy with jobs and raising kids and any number of other responsibilities that prevented them from indulging in the affairs of state.

What is democracy but governance with the informed consent of the citizenry? In ancient Athens, a city state, they had direct democracy but citizens participated by gathering together, debating issues, and casting votes. Citizens, however, could also just stay home and trust those who did attend to do the right thing. Athenian democracy functioned within the modest confines of a city state, a much different creature from a nation state spread out over thousands of miles and made up of tens of millions of people.

The existing system, however, does have to go. We wind up with majority governments elected by just under two out of five voters. What of the other three? How can the majority of the House claim to have a mandate based on the 39 per cent of the voting public? Where is the "informed consent" in that? How many of that 39 per cent were tribal voters who simply vote for that one party regardless? How many are swing voters who succumbed to campaign promises that never were fulfilled?

Justin Trudeau achieved a 39 per cent majority government. Stephen Harper achieved a 39 per cent majority government. Both shamelessly mislead the voting public. How much of that 39 per cent was the result of false pretences, campaign promises that were quickly jettisoned albeit with profuse apologies and excuses? Does 39 per cent then become 29 per cent, 25 per cent? Is there any democracy in a population being ruled for a period of years on the informed consent of just one out of four voters? Surely that's the difference between being governed and being ruled.

Marie Snyder said...

@ Mound - I left out the part of the fantasy where all the citizens are extraordinarily educated in the matters of the day! You're right; many decisions are best left to those privy to all the implications of the decision - or else we end up with the likes of Brexit.

I admit to adding to the vote for Trudeau because I was so terrified by Harper. Can we assume that those voting, like in Athens, are the ones that are more educated on the issues because they're the ones who care enough to make the trek to the polls?? Maybe 39% is the best we can do - or should we change what counts as a majority - at the very least, really, we need proportional representation.

@ Rural - Nice to meet you!