Reading NZ political blogs has been a mixed experience for me. Everywhere you look, there are bound to be right-wing gloaters. They are incredibly tedious, they spin everything in favour of their governing party, deride anything remotely left-wing and blithely use the appeal to popularity fallacy. This is why I find Canadian politics interesting. It’s refreshing to see right-wingers impotently venting into online comment spaces, outraged that the left is making things better.
Unfortunately, the new-ish Liberal government led by Justin Trudeau does not seem to be as progressive as I would like. Namely cash-for-access and not doing enough to shift the economy away from oil exports. Now, I hear that the Canadian government is not going to follow up on the promise to replace the abhorrent FPP voting system with a better alternative. The Guardian reports that this followed the appointment of a new Minister for Democratic Institutions who did not seem to regard electoral reform as a priority.
This is a classic example about why government led electoral reform hardly ever works out. Why would a governing party want to change a system that bought it to power? In the case of FPP, the governing party gets more for less, i.e. an absolute majority in Parliament with 40% of the vote. Electoral reform needs to be led by the public, the government will only change when not doing anything becomes too unpopular.
This is short-sighted behaviour from the Liberals. They should remember that the Harper government was able to govern with less than 40% of the vote, all because of FPP. In a proportional system, there would never be a Conservative government in Canada ever again. A Liberal-NDP (plus Bloc and Green if needed) coalition would outnumber them by a massive margin. Perhaps the Liberals are selfish and unwilling to share power with other left parties, such that they are prepared to subject Canada to the disastrous prospect of Conservative governments in the future.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, New Zealand is an instructive example. Following some cases where the second-placed party got to form the government by themselves, a popular movement developed. Ironically, the Lange government promised and failed to deliver electoral reform, which the National party took advantage of in order to win the 1990 election. They then gave us a referendum in 1992. Perhaps inaction by Trudeau’s government will further strengthen the move to proportional representation in Canada!
The comment section was full of misinformation and sentimentality from individuals who like having a “local” MP. Of course, NZ gets bought up in these discussions since we have seen reason. However, one jackass insisted on saying that the NZ government was being held to ransom by minority interests and that MMP was unpopular. So, I created a Guardian profile* and set the record straight (you can read my comment here).
It’s disappointing to see left-wing heroes let us down by capitulating to the status quo. It means during times of left-government, we don’t get to relax in the exhilarating march towards progress and mock the right-wing losers. No, we need to make our opinions heard by those in power. Democracy should not just be representative, it should be participatory. Now is the time for reform-minded Canadians to participate.