Opinion » Maxed Out

Think of the big picture when casting vote



With the holiday weekend upon us, let us pause and give thanks, for we have many things to be thankful for. Those of us enjoying relatively good health can be most thankful for that; without it our lives would be both diminished and enriched in ways we'd prefer to not discover. Those of us suffering ill health can give thanks we live in a country where our illness is unlikely to drive us to poverty or bankruptcy, assuming we're not there already.

We can be thankful to live in a country where we embrace cultural practices no more barbaric than jumping on the Blue Jays' — or insert winning hockey team's name here, Vancouver Canucks excepted — pennant bandwagon, wearing two or three different patterns of plaid at the same time, binge drinking, and overreacting to the barbaric cultural practices of immigrants our better angels tell us we shouldn't judge too harshly. And now we can be thankful we'll finally be able to anonymously report the barbaric cultural practices of The Others. "Hello, I'd like to report my neighbour wearing white socks... with sandals... after Labour Day!"

We must be thankful to live in an expansive country, rich with natural resources, clean air, pure water and panoramic vistas. Those of us hoping to get rich exploiting them must be thankful for a government hell-bent on selling them off for a pittance, swinging trade deals the details of which are unknown and allowing those of us who only know the 1 per cent by reputation the opportunity to join the race to the bottom. Oh boy, cheaper cheese.

We should be thankful for this prolonged election cycle. At a time of year when we're usually preoccupied with launching kids back into school, knuckling down at work with no respite in sight until the stressful Christmas holidays are suddenly upon us, and leaving the joys of summer behind for another character-building Canadian winter, we have instead the opportunity to engage in the time-honoured democratic tradition of voting for the lesser of several evils. Through the quasi-democratic process currently in place — our First-Past-the-Post electoral system — we can cast our ballot for whichever hopeful in our riding is hitched to the party we'd prefer to lead a minority government.

For make no mistake: this system produces nothing but minority governments, regardless of how many seats in Parliament the "governing" party holds. How else to describe a system where any party harvesting fewer than 40 per cent of the votes cast is likely to win, and win big, with a significant majority? Whether that party be conservative, liberal, Marxist or cosmic muffin, victory ultimately leads to a small slice of the electorate ruling with little regard for whatever the majority of voters might favour.

How, you might ask yourself, does it seem right or normal for a party to govern and MPs be said to "represent" the residents of their ridings when they, in fact, might only represent a small slice of those residents? One of the reasons it seems normal is because it's what we've grown up with. Another is because once in power, parties are more than just a bit hesitant to change the system that's given them a level of control disproportionate to their popularity at the ballot box.

Perhaps most unfair is how this antiquated system hobbles minor parties. When almost one in 20 voters support a particular party, as they supported the Green Party in the last federal election, and wind up with one lone representative in government, how can we claim to be holding fair elections?

Lest you think this is an endorsement of either the Green Party or the Sea to Sky, et. al. riding's Green candidate, think again. This is just the groundwork for Max's top three reasons not voting Green will be the best thing you can do for Elizabeth May's party.

Proportional Representation: There's only one party on the Canadian landscape not claiming to support a move to some form of proportional representation. Not surprisingly, that would be Mr. Harper's Conservatives. And why should they? Since he first became PM, Mr. Harper has held on to that post with a slim plurality of votes, well below that 40 per cent figure. Even his current majority government is a majority in name only.

The only way this country's Green Party will ever get the traction and representation in Parliament it deserves — one reflective of its overall popularity with the electorate — is through a system of proportional representation. If Mr. Harper forms the next government, it won't happen. If either of Messrs. Trudeau or Mulcair become PM, there's a fighting chance. One of them may get the job by winning the plurality of ridings. Possible but unlikely.

One of them may get the job, notwithstanding the Conservatives winning more ridings, if both parties together have enough MPs joining each other to prove to David Johnston, Canada's current Governor General, Mr. Harper does not have the confidence of Parliament. Either way, the more non-Conservative, non-Green ridings will make proportional representation a more likely reality. Contrarily, the Greens going from one seat to, say, 10, won't move the needle.

Balance of Power: Ms. May is politically and philosophically aligned with Mr. Harper's Conservatives... said no one, ever. If Mr. Harper forms the next government, the Green voice, be it a chorus of one or a dozen, will mean nothing and hold no more power than it does now.

But we're currently in a three-way, perhaps becoming a two-way race. Mr. Trudeau's Liberals are running neck-and-neck with the Conservatives. The recently announced Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is a wild card. It might help the Conservatives; it might harm them. However the ultimate race plays out, Ms. May will have a greater role to play if someone other than the Conservatives form government, or if one of the Liberals or NDP — or an agreement between both — are close enough for her to hold the balance of power. The more seats held by one of the two, the greater her influence.

Dark Horse Prime Minister: Suppose we wake up Oct. 20 to find the Mean Clown — you didn't think I could go a whole column, did you? — with barely the most seats in Parliament, far fewer than the Liberals and NDP combined. If Mr. Harper is true to his word, he'll resign. A compelling argument will be made to not appoint either him or his successor PM. Trudeau and Mulcair, being guys, may not be able to set their egos aside, and agree to one or the other becoming PM. Who's left? Ms. May just might wind up being the default best choice to become a coalition PM.

Imagine that.

So clearly, it's in the Green Party's best interest to not vote Green.