To PR or not to PR

Still undecided about whether to stick with a 300-year-old voting system?

To PR or not to PR

Still undecided about whether to stick with a 300-year-old voting system given to us by the same people who thought 5,280 feet in a mile was a good way to measure distance? Or switch to something new, exciting and possibly far better at providing good governance than the system we have now.

Don’t be scared. Dozens of countries have already switched to proportional representation. In fact, of all of the First World western democracies only Canada, the USA and the United Kingdom are still stuck with this somewhat antique method of choosing our governments.

There are those shouting NAY! And warning of the instability of governments, the rise of extreme elements and dysfunctional minorities; but what do the facts tell us?

Since 1945 Italy, Norway, Germany, Ireland, France and Finland have all had 20 or less elections using some form of proportional representation, while the UK has had 20 and Canada has had 23. Not convinced? What about citizen satisfaction? Let’s take a look at the United Nations World Happiness Report for 2018. Of the happiest 10 countries in the world, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland top the list with Canada being the only first past the post country making the cut and coming in at 7th. The UK and the United States finished 18th and 19th respectively.

It is certainly not the weather that is making people happy in those top 10 countries. Perhaps it is that they feel safe and believe that their system of governance is fair and transparent and serving the best long-term interests of them and their fellow citizens.

In Canada we have a history of minority federal governments and while I am sure they were not all brilliant, it was under Canadian minority governments that we got Medicare (universal health care) Canada Pension Plan, the Maple Leaf flag, and Old Age Pension. All pretty historic legislation by parties and individuals that were forced by election circumstance to work together, cooperate and compromise to make positive change for the betterment of all.

And we can come back if we are not happy! The proposed legislation will require a referendum after two election cycles, giving voters a chance to stick with proportional representation or return to the current first past the post system.

It seems to me we have very little to lose and potentially a lot to gain, especially if we can convince people in general, but young people in particular that their vote really does count, and that those elected will have to be honest, transparent and willing to work and cooperate across party lines if they hope to be re-elected under a proportional representation system.

David Slade

Cobble Hill

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