I haven’t given him much link love lately, but Sinister Greg (one of the first Canadian bloggers I began to read on a regular basis) has really been on fire recently. Today the Sinister One points to this eloquent, pragmatic post from conservative pundit and MMP supporter Andrew Coyne (also published in today’s National Post), who ably explains why the long-term benefits of electoral reform should quell anxious partisan concerns of wary conservatives (small and capital ‘C’):
Living on a knife-edge does strange things to people. On the one hand, it leaves the parties in a perpetual fever of anticipation, convinced they have only to gain a few points in the polls to destroy their opponents. That is one reason the two federal conservative parties, Progressive Conservative and Reform, were so reluctant to merge. It is also the reason why minority governments tend, under our system, to be so unstable.
On the other hand, the consequences of losing a few points makes them excessively, almost neurotically cautious, unwilling to take the slightest risk or advocate the mildest change, but each hugging as close as it can to the median voter, the status quo and each other. Hence the dominance of the two brokerage parties, indistinguishable in philosophy — alike, that is, in the lack of it.
Put the two together, and you have much of Canadian politics — viciously partisan, yet unspeakably trivial; much ado about nothing much. McGuintoryism, in short.
So the case for electoral reform, it seems to me, is one that conservatives, if not Conservatives, should find appealing. It is a cause that has tended, historically, to be identified with the left, not least in the current referendum debate; many conservatives have accordingly rejected it. Yet it is not the left that has suffered most under the current system. It’s the right.
By whatever combination of historical circumstances, the left has a party that will advance its ideas, free of the brokerage parties’ grip: the NDP. Though not often in government, outside of the West, it has succeeded in dragging the entire political spectrum to the left, its policies adopted by Liberal and Conservative governments alikes. Nothing like it exists on the right, federally or provincially, nor has since Reform’s demise. Nor is one likely to emerge, so long as “first past the post” remains the rule.
The same is true of parties less easily categorized, like the Green party. Though it is the party of choice for hundreds of thousands of Canadians, it has yet to win a seat, unable to concentrate its support geographically in the way that FPTP requires. How many more votes might it win if potential supporters were not disheartened at the prospect of “wasting” their votes, or worse, “splitting” the vote, as they are forever warned against doing?
But what if there were a system in which no votes were wasted, where vote-splitting ceased to be an issue? There is such a system, and it’s called proportional representation, of which the proposal before Ontarians is a variant. Not only the Greens, but other parties — libertarian, social-conservative, or other — might then have a fighting chance. The spectrum of acceptable ideas for debate would noticeably broaden.
I’ve already stated that I think the right-wing would split under proportional representation. In Ontario you would see a Tory party, a libertarian/conservative party and possibly a social conservative party. Nationally you could add a Bleu party. The (red) Tory party could become a natural home for the dissaffected centre-right Liberal and we would not be locked into the perpetual NDP wagging the Liberal dog.
All this and we would have actual policy debate. That why I’m signed up.