A call for a fair Elections Act

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Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier


Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

We live in a democracy – a form of government where the people have a major voice in the critical decisions needed to provide a civil society. We make our voice known by electing representatives to our parliament, legislatures and municipalities. For this democratic system to work, we must have open           and dependable voting mechanism.  There must be easy access to polling stations, adequate notification of voting dates and, most importantly, fair opportunities for candidates to state their positions. 
The most recent elections have been marred by dubious tactics, mostly by Conservative candidates.  These included “robo calls” to known supporters of other parties giving false polling station           information, illegal in-out financing, over-spending by candidates and other methods to unfairly influence the voting results. In response to the obvious violations of the elections act, the Harper government has introduced a “Fair Elections” act. However, the details of the bill reveal an act that would give        preference to the political party in power. Further, the act omits several basic powers needed by Elections Canada to ensure fair elections.
Beyond the immediately obvious defects in the bill is the absence of any reform in the method of      determining who will represent the electorate in parliament. Basically, our parliament is based on the     principle of “representative democracy.” Unfortunately our first-past-the-post method of selecting          representatives results in a minority controlling the legislative agenda.
In the last election forty percent of the electorate did not vote. Of those that voted, only forty percent voted for Harper and his Conservative party. In effect, the Conservatives have an absolute majority in the House of Commons when only twenty-five percent of the electorate voted for them.  Prime Minister Harper has used his majority to stack the Senate with Conservative partisans and to use closure to limit debate on legislation his government introduces. This        is certainly not representative     democracy. But it is advantageous to the Conservative minority to introduce an act that will ensure the     continuity of their minority rule.
Many democracies have found ways of ensuring a more fair representative legislative body. Countries as diverse as the federal system of Germany and the tiny Grand Duchy of Luxembourg have systems of proportional representation. One result of proportional representation is that elected representatives must seek solutions to problems by compromise and deliberation rather than narrow ideologies. With these many positive examples of working governments based on a more representative legislative member election, there is no excuse for Canada to continue with its unrepresentative first-past-the-post elections. But, with the Harper government so bent on an ideology of power, it is unlikely that we will see a truly fair Elections Act coming from our    current elected representatives.