The Government on February 2nd 2014 introduced Bill C23, entitled the Fair Elections Act into the House of Commons and indicated it intended to press for closure — limiting debate — on the Bill so it could be rapidly passed into law. The Bill was given second reading a mere six days later on February 10th. In the few days since its introduction, comment in the media and with people I have spoken to has been generally disapproving: of the content, the manner in which debate is being limited and the content and omissions from the Bill making it improperly titled – it should be the Unfair Elections Act. The Government obviously does not expect to make any changes or amendments following sober and sensible – or even partisan – discussion in the House of Commons and Senate, in the same way debate was stifled over the last two so-called Budget Implementation Acts.
So what are the problems?
The brilliant Member of Parliament for Saanich – Gulf Islands in her speech to the House of Commons on Tuesday 11th February 2014 summarized most of what is wrong with the Bill. You can read it, or watch and listen to it, on her web site here. http://elizabethmaymp.ca/parliament/speeches/2014/02/11/fair‑elections‑act‑bill‑c‑23/
The greatest omission from the present Bill is any provision to make future elections genuinely fair by facilitating the introduction of any form of proportional representation; thus Canada remains one of a tiny minority of democracies which have not modernised their voting systems since the 19th century. Under the present majoritarian or ‘First Past The Post’ system we now have a Government voted into power by less than 40% of the electorate which elected a House of Commons where the Government has 60% of the MPs and thus 100% of the power. The result? The present dictatorial actions of the self-styled ‘Harper Conservative Government’ which does NOT represent the majority of Canadians. Those of us who voted for a candidate who was not elected, or those who may not have voted at all, effectively have no representation in Parliament. Proportional Representation, in a form yet to be discussed by Canadians, suited to Canada’s electorate, would ‘Make Every Vote Count’ toward electing MPs so that the House of Commons reflected the political make-up, expressed in the popular vote, of Canada. In addition, a fair voting system would require MPs to represent their electors TO Parliament and the Government, not present the Government to the electorate as at present under the requirements of party discipline.
What to do?