It is pretty standard that we see people howling and demanding that we need proportional representation after an election. Those demanding this change are essentially admitting that whatever group or movement that they support will never garner more than a small fraction of electoral support.
People calling for proportional representation usually do not look too terribly deeply into the actual system itself, they simply are trying to find a back door for whatever fringe movement that they support.
One irony I see is that those who howl for PR are often the same whiners who come out of the woodwork whenever an election is called and scream that Canadians neither want nor need at election at this time. Well, have a look at Italy for a second. They have PR and have enjoyed some 61 governments since 1945. Do we really want to go to the polls annually as a dysfunctional pizza-parliament stumbles along? Rest assured, many people would look back wistfully to the stability our current spate of minority governments.
Our system is far from perfect. There are many democratic improvements that I would like to see come about. Legislated fixed election dates, binding citizen’s initiated referenda and more free votes come to mind. Those steps would help empower the electorate and locally elected representatives.
Speaking of locally elected representatives, we can say goodbye to having those any longer in a PR system. The parties will choose who gets a seat in the parliament/legislature after an election, not you. These people will most likely be appointed to their seat due to internal party issues as opposed to any kind of merit they may provide to the constituents. If there is some sort of local issue that is pressing in your area, you will not have a member chosen by yourself and your neighbors who can address that issue for you.
Many people complain about partisanship. Well rest assured you will see hyper-partisanship like never before if we had a proportional representation system. People seeking seats will no longer have to appeal to the electorate in order to win a seat, they will have to appeal to party brass. Is that more transparent?
How much voice will the fringe really have in a PR system anyway? Hell, if the system were PR in Alberta in 2001, I likely would have gotten myself a seat as leader of the AIP. Would I then have been able to make any real progress or changes? I would be stuck in a corner of the legislature with a handful of other notables such as the old Natural Law party or the Marijuana Party or FSM knows whatever other fringe bands will be able to scrape together enough support to get a seat.
When yowling for PR back in 2004, Jack Layton also proposed that seats be set aside exclusively for aboriginals. Perhaps we would go further and divide up the entire parliamentary seats exclusively based on race. The certainly would do wonders for unity in general. Some women’s groups have demanded seats based on gender as well. The proponents of PR seem determined to remove all elements of real democratic choice from the system. If we tear down our current system, we put ourselves at risk of such kooky notions as mandated racism that the NDP supports. It may be difficult to get that toothpaste back in the tube.
While the fringe movements will have gained a little more of a voice, governments still will be dominated by a coalition involving the top two or three parties. Essentially things will be much the same as they are now except that we would have lost local representation while we were at it.
There is merit in pursuing political change from outside of the mainstream parties. I certainly have dedicated enough time to that. Even though we won no seats in the last election, we still had an impact. Leading candidates could not completely ignore Green and Wildrose Alliance candidates particularly in constituencies that were close races. The best way to counter such spoilers is to embrace some of the policies of those outside contenders. Candidates were forced to address “green” issues as well as fiscal conservatism more than they would have were there no candidates pushing those issues from the “fringe”. The current government still has to keep those issues in mind while in power or risk the election of Green or WAP candidates in the next election.
The Wildrose Alliance and Green parties did not win any seats in the last provincial election because they failed to inspire enough electors in any constituencies. I do not see the efforts as failed as issues were raised and candidates were influenced. To claim that the system screwed them is simply sour grapes.
If a party wants seats in an election there are steps to get them. For one, the candidate must have policies that reflect the views of the largest segment of that constituency (one would think that speaks for itself but PR supporters want to bypass that). The candidate must work effectively and hard to contact those electors and gain their support. Whether it is through convincing the electorate of the merits of their policies, or modelling policy to reflect the views of the electorate the bottom line is that a candidate has to appeal to more than a fringe.
It is a hard route to follow in order to win seats and it should be. It takes a strong party and strong candidates. PR would eliminate the need for either to a degree thus weak parties with weak candidates want it.
Stelmach decisively won the last provincial election. The PCs won the right to govern Alberta fairly. I do not agree with many things that the PCs are doing and will continue to strive to replace them. I will not cry at the sidelines for some panacea such as PR in hopes of bypassing the work required to gain the support of a larger share of Alberta’s voters.