It’s time to vote

EARTHFUTURE by Guy Dauncey

It’s the election season with a vengeance, with the Canadian (October 14), US (November 4) and BC municipal elections (November 15) all happening within a month.

This is great – democracy in action, and all that. This US election is the liveliest and most important in years, with a clear difference between Obama and McCain. Why is it that our Canadian elections, in contrast, often seem so uninspired and flat?

Is it because most Canadians – eh – prefer to occupy the safe, polite middle of the road, rather than stand up for anything with passion and leadership? I don’t think so.

Is it because the NDP and the Conservatives plotted to keep the Green Party’s Elizabeth May out of the Leaders’ Debate and the TV consortium executives wimped out? Yes, that would do it.

Is it because Canada’s old-fashioned first-past-the-post system of voting shuts out minority opinions and smaller parties and produces totally undemocratic results, such as two years ago, when the Conservatives formed the government even though 64 percent of Canadians voted against them? Yes, that would also do it.

And how about lowering the voting age to 16 so that young people can get involved and get into the habit of voting while they are still at school?

As a Euro-Canadian, I also find it completely bizarre that, in Canada, the party that wins the most seats forms the government. In most of Europe, where proportional voting ensures that many smaller parties have seats in Parliament and negotiations between parties are commonplace, it is not the party with the most seats that governs; it is the party that can form a majority government.

Thus, in Canada’s last election, the Conservatives, with the most seats, would have been invited to form a majority government by making alliances with other parties. If they failed, the Liberals would have been invited to have a go. They would have teamed up with the NDP and we would have had a Liberal/NDP coalition government in Ottawa that commanded a majority in Parliament, giving us a far more democratic and workable result. Why does Canada do it the other way? Maybe there’s a constitutional historian among Common Ground’s readers who can enlighten us.

The childish, abusive, sexist, insulting and intimidating words that MPs hurl at each other could be another factor. Elizabeth May said that when she took her 15-year-old daughter to Question Time in Ottawa, she was totally ashamed of the puerile nastiness of the MPs’ comments to one another. This is embarrassing.

Parliament should create a soundproof penalty box, in full view of the cameras. A new set of House rules should outline what is acceptable behaviour. At the first offence, the Speaker would show the MP a yellow card. A second offence would warrant a red card and 10 minutes in the penalty box. For a third offence in the same day, the MP would be banned from the Legislative Chamber for a month.

We need the same in the BC Legislature where equally nasty remarks are thrown around in place of intelligent debate. How much do we pay these people, Liberals and NDP alike, to behave in such a manner?

In spite of the above, you may still be wondering who to vote for. My mind is clear. Global warming is a global emergency on the level of World War II and it requires urgent, dramatic action. Set next to other issues, it overwhelms them like the sea-level rise that will flood coastlines all over the world by up to two metres this century, if we fail to act.

The Liberals, Greens and NDP are all committed to strong, urgent action on climate change. The Conservatives are not, so vote for whichever candidate from these three parties is most likely to win. Don’t throw away your vote on a weak candidate even if they are running for a good party.

And do vote. Don’t tell yourself it’s meaningless. We can certainly improve our democracy, but, for now, it’s the best we’ve got.


Guy Dauncey is president of the BC Sustainable Energy Association, editor of EcoNews and author of Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change and other titles. He lives in Victoria.

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