BQ strength shows need for reform
THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Are you tired of watching a man whose sole objective is to break up Canada, participate in federal election debates? I’m speaking of Gilles Duceppe.
If that isn’t a reason for electoral reform, what is?
It’s no wonder some Canadians are disengaged from politics, feeling their vote just doesn’t add up.
The Bloc Quebecois has been part of the Canadian political landscape since 1991, formed by former Liberal and Conservative members of parliament from Quebec who created a coalition with the goal of promoting sovereignty.
By 1993, the BQ became the official opposition in the House of Commons when the Reform Party, Conservatives, and NDP split the vote, leaving the Bloc Quebecois with the most seats behind the Liberals, albeit by a narrow margin.
Suddenly we had a party representing just one province at the table discussing federal issues – while catering to its own agenda – with those who have to appease an entire nation. Never mind the fact they are also trying to separate Quebec from the country.
It is like having your premier negotiate federally with the prime minister on your behalf over and above provincial issues. It sounds like a win/win for the party and province. Even if your goal is never to leave Canada, it’s nice to sing a separatist song every so often to get what you want.
Quebec has a large population and a resultingly large number of seats in the House.
Therefore, if regional parties such as the Bloc win seats in their province, they can greatly sway what happens in the House.
Canadian provincial and federal elections work on a plurality system or a “first past the post” in which the candidate winning the most votes in a constituency is the winner even if he or she received fewer than half the votes cast.
In a proportional representation system, parties win seats according to the total votes cast in their favour: A vote equals a vote.
Proportional representation sounds very complicated, which is why most Canadians are not interested. Ontario and B.C. have recently held referendums on electoral reform, which were met with little interest. Some say it’s because voters feel the devil you know is better than the one you don’t.
To me, weakening the regional BQ party (or any other) that only represents a small portion of the country yet has great influence should be a reason to take a closer look at electoral reform.
A current example of this is the Green Party. Whether you agree with its platform or not, it is a national party, with its membership trying to appeal to the entire country.
In the last election, the Green Party got approximately 900,000 votes – a solid share compared to the Bloc’s 1.3 million. The only difference was that the Bloc’s voters were concentrated in one area, guaranteeing them seats in the House while the Greens are spread out over the entire country and didn’t win any seats.
It seems unfair that a national party is, in effect, penalized for taking its message nationwide while a regional party that only campaigns in one province gets a voice at the federal table.
Others will say that is what makes Canada great. In a true democracy you can be heard no matter if your message is shared by the majority or not. It is better to give them seat at the table and hear what they have to say than to try to silence them and be surprised when they rise up.
Some have said having Duceppe at the table has done more to help Canada then it has to hinder. It proves we are not closed to anyone and our strength is in our unity, helping to defuse Quebec nationalism by undermining some of their claims.
Whatever side of the debate you’re on, don’t expect any changes in our electoral system anytime soon.
With most Canadians not aware or interested in the current electoral system, chances are they are not likely to investigate a new one.
The Scott Thompson Show airs weekdays noon-3pm on News/Talk 900 CHML. ScottThompsonTalk.com