Sunday, May 17, 2009

Unrepresentative Party System Also Blameworthy

It is not just the electoral process but the state of our party system which is causing our democracy to go off the rails.

Representative democracy doesn't appear to work as well in countries as geographically diverse as ours. Along with geography can come cultural differences; place does matter and can have a profound influence on people's values. Add in global travel and the mass movement of people and cultures and the Canada we see today has gone far beyond its WASP roots (for which I, for one, am grateful).

With such diversity, an electoral system which doesn't - and a small elite class which won't - accommodate diverse perspectives will ultimately fail, as we are seeing ours do.

And it's not just members of that elite class who would shut out perspectives other than their own and thus prefer a less than fair system. I was struck by comments from both the host and listeners on a radio program which aired the day before the BC election. There was a lot of talk of "I don't want the Greens in" and fear of "fringe parties" or "wingnuts."

A guest on the program, Shoni Field, pointed out that the Greens were supported by about ten percent of the population. That didn't matter to these listeners or to the host. She also pointed out that with STV, parties unable to garner a decent number of votes wouldn't be able to win seats. That wasn't good enough for these folks either and I was frankly shocked. No matter how much anyone may dislike a party, how can anyone who believes in democracy support a party's exclusion IF it has support of more than five percent of the population?

It's not even about getting candidates of the existing major parties elected either. Many bloggers I've read have done the Political Compass test and been stunned to learn how far the existing parties are from their own values.

Not only is our electoral system failing us, it appears that our party system is too.

[Cross-posted at Challenging the Commonplace.]