The despotism of First-Past-the-Post?

One of our favourite political bloggers wrote a desperate ‘cri de Coeur’ the other day against what he perceives as the despotism of first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting. He lives on Canada’s Left Coast and writes under the pseudonym ‘The Mound of Sound.’ Rather than simply refuting his assertions, I think it is important to find the source of his anguish.

To begin, there is his suggestion that 40 per cent support in FPTP voting can make any leader a despot. (Even Donald Trump needed the undemocratic Electoral College system to win the U.S. presidency.) We Canadians had a special House committee on electoral reform brought forward by the Trudeau Liberals. It was made up from all parties and spent a summer listening to submissions and writing a report on alternatives to FPTP voting. You know their conclusion. No change was made.

FPTP is not evil. It has worked for the people for hundreds of years. And if you want a real headache, check out how the Roman Republic elected its tribunes. One of the reasons to appreciate FPTP is that it is one of the most difficult systems of voting to cheat.

Maybe it is the simplicity of FPTP that turns off some intellectuals. If it is that simple, it has got to be wrong?

If your objection to FPTP is based on the ability of someone to win with less than 50.1 per cent of the vote—then fight for run-off elections. That is still much simpler and more democratic than other suggestions. You should not be enticed by preferential voting—it is not the same.

But before you demand change in how we vote, do you not think we should widen our outlook? Should we not take a look at the basics of our democracy—our political parties? Is it right for the Sikh community in Canada to swamp the membership of the federal New Democrats on behalf of that party’s new leader? Was that misogynistic and corrupted campaign in Alberta the way to choose a new Conservative leader for Alberta? Was it right for Brown in Ontario to buy the memberships for tens of thousands of immigrants to be the choice of Ontario Conservatives?

And does it surprise you to learn that the federal Conservatives and Liberals are funded from the same purses? What makes you think either party is run in a democratic fashion?

Before we have a liberal democracy in Canada we need liberal democratic parties. We have much work to do.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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