Canada is not served very well by its party system, or our first-past-the-post electoral system. It's time to shake things up a bit.
Federally, we have four centre-left parties if you include the Bloc, and one party on the right. The result? In the last federal election the Conservative Party formed a minority government with 143 seats of 308 seats, while winning just 36.27 per cent of the popular vote. By way of comparison the Liberal Party earned 30.23 per cent of the vote, but just 77 seats. The Bloc Quebecois got 49 seats with 10.5 per cent, the NDP won 29 seats with 17.5 per cent, and the Green Party won no seats with 4.5 per cent.
Put them all together and almost two thirds of Canadians did not vote for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but now have less of a voice in government than the third who did.
The simplest solution could be to unite the left (minus the secessionist Bloc for obvious reasons) but that would require the parties to reconcile some acutely different views and priorities - which they could end up doing as long as we're stuck in this current cycle of minority governments, confidence motions and snap elections.
I'd rather that didn't happen. All of Canada's political parties are distinct and have values that it would be a mistake to compromise. We would also wind up with the same broken two-party system that has been so divisive in the U.S.
British Columbia has the answer to this democratic deficit. In the May 12 general election voters will be asked to cast a vote on whether to switch to the B.C. Single Transferable Vote (BC-STV) system, ditching our archaic first-past-the-post system where the candidate with the most votes wins. First-past-the-post works when there are just two parties or two candidates represented, but ironically it actually gets less democratic when more parties and candidates participate because people wind up voting strategically instead of following their conscience.
If 60 per cent of voters dare to tick the little box in favour of BC-STV - probably more than will vote for any one party this time around - the elections in 2017 will happen under very different circumstances.
I will say that I don't necessarily favour STV over other forms of proportional representation. I'm partial to the mixed member assembly (MMA) system where you vote for your leader and cabinet by clicking one box, then your regional representative by clicking another. Ridings would likely grow slightly under this system and we could end up with a few more MLAs on the payroll, but at least you can vote both your conscience and self-interest.