Quote of the Day 2

Further to Bob’s earlier Frye quote, here’s Rick Salutin in today’s Toronto Star:

We now live in a permanent state you could call the tyranny of the minority. You could also call it the tragedy of the majority. We’ll have had 10 years of a government desired by 40 per cent of the voters, while 60 per cent, who largely agree on what they’d like, will get zero representation. Everyone played by the rules of the game, but it’s a stretch to call that game democracy.

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8 thoughts on “Quote of the Day 2

  1. Clayton Chrusch

    I understand why people get upset when they lose. (I myself am very upset.) I understand why they turn on the system which they suddenly think is unfair. But this blog is above that kind of thing.

    I am a small-c conservative with respect to our electoral system simply because, like every other conservative, I have vested interests, namely gay rights. For the most part, the only things that 50% + 1 of people can agree on are terrible, offensive, and self-destructive ideas. Look at the mess in California. But I also consider everything our electoral system has made possible since 1867, and I compare it to what other systems have done in the same time, and I judge the tree by the fruit.

    Frye said democracy is illogical. It certainly seems like that when you look at it after a stunning loss.

    But there is logic. The logic is that governing means making decisions, and that means some people win and some people lose. Losing has to be as much a part of our democratic process as winning, otherwise no decisions get made. Our system creates a lot of losers, but it also gives our leader the freedom to actually do ambitious, important, and even unpopular things. Sometimes, for instance, the government needs to increase taxes and cut services. That is never popular, but it has to be done. In other systems (like the American one for instance) it is very hard to get anything done because no one ever really loses. Both parties, and usually many individuals within those parties, always have a veto. I don’t want that kind of system. We see where it leads. In a big diverse country, government by consensus is a recipe for bankruptcy and wedge politics.

    The assumption behind Rick Salutin’s quote is the same as I have already debunked. You cannot somehow throw together the Liberals and the BQ or the Greens and the NDP and get a governing coalition. The progressive parties are split because they are very different in their aims, methods, histories, priorities, and voters. There are many NDP voters who would never vote Liberal, many Green voters who would never vote NDP and so on and on. I myself would have voted for any progressive party that had a chance in my riding (except maybe the Bloc), but I am one of tiny tiny minority who sees any value in voting strategically. The tiny tiny minority of people for whom all progressive parties are equivalent comes to perhaps 2% of the vote (I’m guessing-it’s not much higher, otherwise we would have seen very different results). If 40% of the population should not be allowed to govern, than 2% of the population should most definitely not be allowed.

    1. Michael Happy Post author

      Hi Clayton. If you read all of Salutin’s column, you’ll see that he’s laying out the shared opposition to the proposed Conservative legislative program, which 60% of the population voted against. He’s also examining the unexpected and unprecedented surge of support for the NDP, which has never happened on anything like this scale before.

      As for me, I’ve only been trying to explore the parameters and possibilities of opposition. The new government is of course legitimate, but those who oppose it for whatever reason have the right to try to bring it down by democratic means. That includes finding common ground with other political interests, on the assumption that they are variable states rather than absolute entities. Harper’s “Conservative” party is an amalgam of a number of right-leaning factions that only came together about a decade ago. It happened under the slogan “unite the right,” and included the old Red Tory Progressive Conservative Party (now sorely missed) and the Western-alienation Reform and Canadian Alliance parties. “Left” and “Right” are still descriptive of a basic political outlook that can accommodate any number of apparently unrelated interests. That’s why people in Quebec found it so easy to jump en masse and all at once from the BQ to the NDP, and why old school Liberals in Toronto suddenly realized that they too could vote NDP. There’s no reason to assume that these interests might not realign themselves in any number of ways to represent more fully the 60% plus citizens in this country who do not vote Conservative.

  2. Clayton Chrusch

    Hi Michael,

    If we accept the system we have, then we must accept what the Conservatives have already learned, that coalitions, to be effective and to be acceptable to Canadians, have to be built before and not after elections. My own view is that progress is more important than party affiliation. The parties don’t see it that way. The Liberals don’t want to co-operate with the NDP because their success is a result of being centrist. They require parties on both their right and left. They need to keep themselves distinct from the NDP. The NDP don’t want to co-operate with the Liberals because they know they won’t have a chance to govern until the Liberals are destroyed and a two-party system in place. The Greens are too small and too young to co-operate with anyone. They need to grow first so that their co-operation is from a position of strength. The BQ, if it survives, will happily co-operate with the others, but no one wants to co-operate with a separatist party except under extreme duress.

    Given that co-operation seems to be impossible, and that Canadians don’t like minority governments anyway, the solution is to rebuild the Liberal party or, if they have too much baggage, and they probably do, to have the Green party replace the Liberals as a broad centrist coalition of progressives.

    1. Michael Happy Post author

      I don’t accept the Conservative “lesson” on coalitions, which, like just about everything else they do, is self-serving demagoguery. I understand that they’re a duly elected government, but I do not believe they are interested in governing. Like the Republicans down south, they are corporatists interested primarily in undermining the power of government to serve the people in any direct way.

  3. Clayton Chrusch

    The Liberals were so extraordinarily successful in the last century because they took their lessons from the right and left and from wherever they could find them. The took their lessons and then presented a coherent agenda, something post hoc coalitions have a hard time doing (look at the divisions already in the UK). I do think we are hobbling ourselves intellectually and politically when we decide that Harper has nothing to teach us. I’m always especially interested in learning from my enemies. It is the charitable thing to do, and it is the best way to defeat them.

    1. Michael Happy Post author

      Consensus and co-operation do not necessarily require coalitions — the Liberal/NDP government-by-pact in Ontario in the mid-80s worked exceptionally well. I prefer minority governments, because the work they are compelled to do represents the majority of the people.

      As for learning from Stephen Harper, I learn from him every day. The more I learn, the more I oppose him: he’s a demagogue and a serial liar with two findings of contempt of parliament against his government and a determined policy of expanded corporate welfare while simultaneously manufacturing pretexts to cut social spending.

      The lesson I took from the election is that the majority of the country feels the same way and occupies more or less the same political space in their opposition. So let’s see how we can put that to work in the most constructive way. Remember that it only took a tiny percentage increase in votes to give the Conservatives their majority — an electoral anomaly that can easily tipped back the other way: efficient strategic voting would have had that effect Monday and held them back.

      And that would have taken us back to the preferable minority government situation Harper, for obvious reasons, wanted to escape from. So, now with a majority government representing a minority of voters, he’s about to impose a legislative agenda upon us that will likely horrify even some who voted for him. We’ll know soon enough.

  4. Veronica Abbass

    I’m late contributing to the discussion above, but I’ve had a week to sort out my feelings about the election results.

    During the campaign in Peterborough, there was a lot of conversation and support for proportional representation. Since numbers are not my strong point I will have to spend some time working out how PR this would have changed the results.

    My primary goal in this election was to work to ensure that the incumbent did not get elected for a third term. I failed, and 49.7% of Peterborough voters elected Dean Del Mastro. The NDP candidate came second with 24.8 % of the votes. The people (of Peterborough) have decided and that is democracy in action.

    Now I’m disappointed and very nervous. I went to three all-candidate debates where Del Mastro’s behavior confirmed my feeling that he should not be reelected. The mood at these debates was anti-Del Mastro and some people even went so far as to boo him and make disparaging comments. However, he won by a large margin. Does this mean that. even if Canada had proportional representation, Del Mastro would still be the MP for Peterborough? He is more popular than I had reason to believe, so I now have to accept the decision of 49.7 % of the voters.

    1. Michael Happy Post author

      Hi Veronica. You can find scholarly articles on proportional representation here: http://scholar.google.ca/scholar?q=proportional+representation+canada&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart

      You can find a Canadian organization dedicated to proportional representation, Fairvote, here: http://www.fairvote.ca/

      And, of course, if you want to start with an overview and a little orientation, there’s always the Wikiverse: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proportional_representation


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