Proportional representation necessary for peace and order

0
53

Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier


Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier

On January 6, a gang of Trump supporters marched on the United States Capitol in an attempt to prevent Joe Biden from being acknowledged as the legitimately elected president of the United States. The resulting riot was a display of extreme and violent political partisanship. As Canadians, we have been assured that a similar event could not occur in our country. But is this true? And if so, why?
The attack on the Capitol is deemed a reflection of the deep political divide in the USA enhanced by the abundant and easily accessed media of fake news. We are assured this is not the Canadian way. We have a multi-party parliament that gives wider expression to different opinions – even separatist representation. However, the question remains: how representative is our House of Commons and
the Senate? Senators are appointed and represent the various regions of our country. Members of the House of Commons are elected by ridings using a first-past-the-post system. Unfortunately, this system is a poor reflection of the political interests of the people of Canada. Many people feel they are alienated and not represented; their voices are not heard.
The problem of representation in parliament is known as Arrow’s Paradox, based on the work in social theory by Kenneth Arrow (1951). However, the
problem was known much earlier. Modern versions of the issue were discussed in France and Britain as far back as the 1790’s. Today, 40 of Europe’s 43 countries use some form of proportional representation to elect their representatives. There are many examples of proportional representation that have proven  to
be superior to the first-past-the-post system.
But not in Canada! We pride ourselves on being a multi-cultural mosaic and yet continue to use a system of electing members to parliament that is undeniably slanted and unrepresentative of the composition of our society. In June 2015, Justin Trudeau assured Canadians that, if the Liberal Party won the election, it would be the last conducted under the first-past-the-post system. The Liberals won the election, but by February 2017, Prime Minister Trudeau walked away from that commitment. In the 2019 election, the Liberals completely forgot about proportional representation.
This is where the potential for disruption and anarchy in Canada can become a reality.  Article 91 of the Canada Act of 1867 (Canada’s constitution) states that “It shall be lawful for the Queen, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate and House of Commons, to Make Laws for the Peace, Order, and good Government of Canada”. Or, in more direct terms, good government is essential to peace and order; and good government requires meaningful representation of the people.
Lack of proper representation will give rise to action by the unrepresented. The result could be a crisis that parallels that of events in the United States. Mass media does affect the opinions of the people. Canada isn’t immune to these pressures: we are not that different from the US. Proportional representation must be on the agenda of the government.