We need our government

September 8, 2020   ·   0 Comments

We live in challenging times.  A global pandemic has already killed close to 800,000 people worldwide, including 177,000 Americans and over 9,000 Canadians.  Our economy has suffered tremendously, with millions of job losses.  Add to that a long overdue national moment whereby Canadians are facing the systemic racism that exists throughout our society, hitting black and indigenous Canadians particularly hard.  You can forgive people for feeling a little down at this point in world history!

We need our governments to cooperate with all elements of civil society to work through this mess, while keeping us safe.  To do that, parties and their leaders must allow science and common sense to guide us through these dark times, always ensuring the most vulnerable among us are not left behind.

It is for these reasons that the “WE” charity scandal is such a waste of energy.  I have no doubt that Prime Minister Trudeau and former Finance Minister Morneau had the best intentions.  Before this scandal hit the news, the government was riding high in the polls with the public generally satisfied with their performance.  One is left to wonder how this could have happened at the very apex of government decision making.  Canadians are left to wonder, “how could it have been avoided?”

The answer can be found in the reality that Trudeau and his Liberal government, while doing a reasonably good job, do not represent most Canadians.  In fact, given the outcome of the 2019 election, its not even close.  The Liberals have a minority government, with 157 seats won out of 338.  Even more alarming, they did this with only 33% of the popular vote.  Most Liberal seats were won in the urban centres of southern Ontario, Quebec, BC, and eastern Canada.  

In addition, the Conservatives received more votes (34.4% of the popular vote) but with Canada’s archaic electoral system, they won fewer seats with 121.  To add insult to injury, the NDP and Greens won far fewer seats than their popular support would have delivered if a different electoral system were employed.  A government that was produced by a form of proportional representation would have had a Liberal-NDP-Green coalition of 187 seats.  A far more diverse and truly representative government caucus would have certainly laid bare to Trudeau and Morneau the pitfalls that the WE program presented.  

Canada has managed the COVID-19 crises well because its political class has focused on the threat the virus poses and has responded with much needed help to Canadians.  Consensus based decisions have been the norm in our political arena for the last six months.  

Sadly, this is beginning to unravel.  A proportional representation electoral system, which produces stable governments designed by consensus decision making, would embed this approach all the time, and not just during national emergencies.  The Canadian people would benefit the most, placing their needs ahead of political parties.  

As Prime Minister, we sometimes forget that Justin Trudeau has very large shoes to fill.  His dad’s legacy casts an impressive shadow over the Canadian landscape that must be hard for him to bear at times.  There is no doubt that Justin is looking for ways to make an enduring impact on Canadian civil life that will allow him to make his mark on Canadian history.

This is his chance.  If he wants to leave Canada with a fairer, more democratic style of government, he can lead Canadians down the path toward electoral reform.  After all, he promised this during the 2015 election campaign!  

He could begin by immediately forging a two-year formal coalition government with the NDP and Greens.  Together the new government would enjoy 184 seats, thereby representing a broader segment of Canadians.  This new government would bring NDP and Green members into cabinet to craft policies they could all live with.  Foremost among these policies would likely be a radical change to Canada’s electoral system.  Political bickering would be greatly reduced.  

The result would be a government better focused on those it is supposed to serve – the Canadian people.  

Mark Hauck, Orangeville resident

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