Strange Victories

Not to throw cold water on the NDP victory in Manitoba, but I’m disappointed by the circumstances.

Section 7, Article 3 (“Making Your Vote Count”) of the federal NDP’s platform from the 41st federal election offers the following commitment:

We will propose electoral reform to ensure Parliament reflects the political preferences of Canadians. To this end we will propose a new, more democratic voting system that preserves the connection between MPs and their constituents, while ensuring parties are represented in Parliament in better proportion to how Canadians voted. Your vote will always count.

The Manitoba NDP’s platform includes no such promise. This is troubling, especially considering the results of the election yesterday night.

2011 Manitoba Provincial Election Results

Left is votes. Right is seats. Notice anything?

The Manitoba NDP clearly benefits from the first past the post electoral system. I mean, really benefits. It would be nice if they fell in line with the federal party and took advantage of their position to start the process of electoral reform, but I frankly don’t see that happening. (I don’t see it happening in my home province of Nova Scotia, either. Come on, Darrell! You’re our only hope!)

So, apparently having nothing better to do, I decided to peruse party platforms for references to electoral reform in all five provinces where folks are going — or have gone — to the polls this fall.

Thus, I looked up the platforms of the Green, Liberal, New Democratic, Progressive Conservative and, uh, Saskatchewan parties for Manitoba, Newfoundland & Labrador, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan. Sorry, Freedom Party, better luck next time.

Manitoba

The NDP says nothing about governance, let alone electoral reform. Neither do the Progressive Conservatives. The Liberals, apparently oblivious to what happened in the UK this spring, seem to have thrown themselves behind the miserable little compromise known as the Alternative Vote. The only party to advocate meaningful electoral reform in Manitoba is the Green Party.

Newfoundland & Labrador

The Liberals talk a little bit about their governance plans for Labrador, but that’s the only use of the word in their platform. The Progressive Conservatives promise to be good listeners. The NDP commits to “a review to assess the need for electoral reform.” And the Green Party in Newfoundland & Labrador appears not to have a website.

Ontario

The Liberals platform says nothing at all that I observed, but to be fair, the sheer multitude of pull quotes was dizzying so perhaps I missed it. The NDP is silent on governance matters. The Progressive Conservative “[changebook]” (got something against Twitter, Hudak?) talks a little bit about open government, accountability and a new law to keep Dalton McGuinty from raising your taxes ever again, but that’s it. And the Greens, oddly, say nothing. They’re usually clamouring for electoral reform. Not sure what’s up with that.

Prince Edward Island

The election in PEI is over and the Progressive Conservatives have already disappeared their platform. The Liberals don’t touch on governance matters in theirs and the NDP platform doesn’t exist in any form that I could find. At least the Green Party is quite keen on electoral reform.

Saskatchewan

I honestly don’t know what’s up with Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan Party and the Liberals both seem to have principles but no platform. The NDP wants to explore democratic reform, but you’ll have to make it all the way to page 69 to find out. The Greens have a whole page dedicated to their electoral reform plans. As for the Progressive Conservatives — well, they don’t seem to have a platform, but they do have the latest on their court case!

Report Card

Based on their support for proportional representation, I’ve assigned the parties the following marks. This is standard academic grading, folks. In instances where I couldn’t find a platform, no mark was assigned, but in the real world that doesn’t cut it. Hold on a second…

Greens: B. Robust support for proportional representation in three out of four discoverable platforms for a total of 75%. No surprises here. The Greens always get screwed under the current system; it’s in their vested interests to change it. I just don’t get why the Ontario party branch doesn’t have anything to say about the matter.

Liberals: F. They ought to be getting zero out of five but I’ll give them a half point for admitting that there’s a problem with the electoral system in Manitoba. Still a failing grade at 10%.

New Democrats: D-. The NDP scored much lower than I thought they would. Only two of the four provincial parties with discoverable platforms supported electoral reform, and the NL platform’s stance was pretty weak. I’ll give them 50%, but only because I’m in a good mood.

Progressive Conservatives: F. This comes as no suprise. According to these PC party platforms, good governance is basically keeping the promises you make. That would be a start, but– zero for four, and 0% for you people.

Saskatchewan Party: I. That’s “I” as in “incomplete.” If I have to spend more than five minutes looking for a governing party’s platform, that’s a bad sign.

Concluding Thoughts

A lot of the platforms I glanced through made very similar claims. Claims like “something big is happening” in Manitoba (the Jets are back!) and “something extraordinary is happening” in Newfoundland & Labrador. I think they’re right — voters are getting royally screwed every election. When I started yammering about the need for electoral reform after the federal election in May, a lot of Conservatives who I spoke to said I was just mad that the Harper gang won a majority. I was, but that wasn’t why I was talking about that particular issue. The results in Manitoba make a mockery of the democratic process, and I hope the new government there does something about it. I hope they don’t once again prove correct what Stephen Harper wrote when was on the electoral reform bandwagon in 1997.

…it is seldom in the short-term interest of the party in power to carry out electoral reform; by definition, the system worked admirably for those now in power and changing the system might benefit the opponents next time.

Prescient. And deeply sad.