Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Stephen Harper story we may never have heard

Maclean's author Paul Wells won a political-writing prize for his book on Stephen Harper, The longer I'm Prime Minister.

As a person who likes to curl up with an e-book on my Android tablet, I can say this is a book I have absolutely no interest in experiencing. It's painful enough having to read about Harper every day in the online media.

Story of Canada

Maclean's ran a story with Wells' acceptance speech titled with an excerpt, ‘Each of us writes the story of Canada every day’.

That got me thinking: how many Canadians are enamored with the Stephen Harper story we get to hear about every day in the news? I imagine not many. After 8 long years, polls suggest Canadians are sick of Harper and his disgusting story.

If Canada was a real democracy, like most developed countries, the Stephen Harper story is one that may never have been inflicted on Canadians.

Story of democracy

Democracy means rule by the people. Since people can't agree on everything, matters are decided by a majority vote. That means government is supposed to represent an actual majority of voters.

But in Canada (and the UK) we indulge in the bizarre practice of doling out 4-year dictatorships to minority parties.

In the rest of the developed world, however, multi-party coalition governments are the norm. The party with the biggest block of voters means nothing since parties arbitrarily divide the political spectrum.

Unlikely Harper coalition

Given Harper's US-Republican vision of Canada, it's unlikely he would've been able to put together a coalition in 2006 on 36% of the vote.

Even when Harper got 40% of the vote in 2011, he would've been ousted by an NDP-Liberal coalition if we had a democratic voting system.

So if Canada was a real democracy, odds are Harper never would've came to power.


In order to save ourselves and future generations from experiencing another wretched Stephen Harper story, we must embrace the story of democracy.

Either proportional representation or ranked ballot voting will tell the real story of Canada.


  1. great piece - neither strident nor patronizing . . . Thanks. I've posted it to FB. Please keep working like this; you're good at it.

  2. Although I think everyone should sign the declaration of voters rights, I won't join Fair Vote Canada because they don't represent Canadians on voting reform.

    Canadians are divided between proportional representation and ranked ballot voting. But Fair Vote wages a war against ranked ballot voting.

    It should be up to Canadians to choose which voting system we have. If both options are not on a voting-reform referendum ballot, FPTP will win a false majority because of invisible-option vote splitting.

    That's where people opt for the status quo (FPTP) and wait for a chance to support their preferred system. So far 5 two-way referendums have failed in Canada and the UK (4 provincial PR referendums in Canada; 1 RBV referendum in the UK.)

  3. While I like the piece and support your basic suppositions, I think that support of preferred ballot within this context is problematic. For although such a move would, indeed, be an electoral reform, the results are not necessarily that much more democratic than FPTP. Preference of a 'second choice' would arguably be at least nominally more representative. But I would prefer a government that reflects the people's choice, not their second choice. Don't get me wrong, I understand the argument and I would prefer some reform to no reform at all. But I also believe that the failures of referendums regarding PR are themselves skewed because the establishment opposes PR so strongly. In other words, it is precisely because money and power play such a significant role in our "democratic" system that people make many of the choices that they do, including what kind of democratic reforms they may favour.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I prefer PR to RBV. It's used by 85% of developed countries, 87 countries world-wide. But RBV has significant advantages to FPP and should be considered as a fallback plan and first-step in voting reform.

      For one, RBV is close to proportional for major parties like the Cons, Liberals and NDP. Although it doesn't represent small parties like the Greens whose votes are spread out across the country, it does give them leverage with their alternative votes. Especially in Canada, where the NDP and Liberals will have to compete for them.

      RBV also moderates the debate; whereas FPP rewards polarizing politics. And it stops extremists like the Cons who lose out on alternative votes.

      It should also be noted that the NDP and Green parties will be the biggest losers (aside from Canadians) if another PR referendum fails and cements FPP as the democratic choice of Canadians.

      The corporate-owned media is definitely a huge enemy of PR. This is because corporations can better lobby and influence minority-party dictatorships than multi-party democratic governments (the norm in the developed world.) That is a problem that won't go away.

      That's why putting RBV on a referendum ballot is very important. It will provide a moving target. E.g., the corporate media will spread lies saying FPP provides "strong stable government" and PR "legislative chaos." But with a 3-way race, there is no dichotomy for them to work with.

      Last, we will probably need the social media to rise in influence to bring PR to Canada (since the old media is opposed.) So if PR loses too RBV, Canadians will get experience with voting reform and be more open to the idea of PR. That way, more progress can be made on making our system more proportional incrementally.

      But if a 5th PR referendum goes down in flames, FPP will be heralded as the democratic choice of Canadians and put off a future PR referendum by decades. So a PR/FPP referendum is really a death sentence for electoral reform in Canada (the media will torpedo it and it may require a 60% win threshold on a corrupt precedent.)

    2. Points well made. Frustrating isn't it?

    3. Very frustrating. It's been a very painful experience watching electoral reform referendums crash and burn over the past decade.

      I feel betrayed by the Toronto Star and the Liberal party. The Star published 6 anti-PR op-eds which helped torpedo the Ontario PR referendum (and this is supposed to be a progressive paper.) Provincial Liberal parties lured in electoral reformers, then brought in designed-to-fail referendums that put up road blocks to ensure they failed (like the 60% win threshold.)

      So one of the goals of this blog is to raise awareness of the pitfalls of electoral reform initiatives so we can be better prepared. If we don't learn from history we are doomed to repeat it.


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