One of the resolutions that will be debated at the Liberal Party of Canada gathering starting January 13 is to promote preferential voting. This is a system where voters indicate their first, second and third choice and the tally of votes is based on who would (mathematically) win more than 50 per cent of the vote, should the last place candidates be dropped and their second choices be given the vote. The idea is to ensure that the final victor is someone who is preferred by more than 50 per cent of the voters. And yet, they are really indicating who they do not want.
It is a losers’ strategy. It says that those voting for the resolution think our first-past-the-post system does not work. In reality, it works too well for losers. If Canadians were voting for the Prime Minister (President or whatever) on a one-person-one-vote basis across the country, there could be a very good case made for a run-off election if no candidate received at least 50 per cent of the vote. The voter could then (maybe reluctantly) vote for a second choice.
But no matter how you do the mathematics of the voting, the preferential ballot is just a step away from proportional voting. Proportional voting is the anathema of our electoral system. From the time when voters had to shout out their preference at a town meeting to the coming time of Internet voting, our system has been built on the assumption of the knowledgeable voter. It has also been based on the interaction of politician and voter. It is an ignorant and lazy voter who will vote for a person not bothering to learn about them or to meet them.
The trend towards voting for the party leader without caring who the local candidate might be is also in defiance of the opportunities offered by our system. Better than any other political system, Canadian politics has long offered the citizen direct involvement in choosing candidates and choosing the elected member of municipal, provincial or federal government. And we can do it without fear of corruption or coercion.
As we said, those voting in favour of preferential balloting at the Liberal January conclave are supporting a losers’ strategy. It is saying that you want to be elected—even if by being the second choice of the voters. Would you really want to hold your head high and serve in government for four years because you were second choice? What shallow person would want that? If you think as a loser, you will be one.
Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry
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