|Montreal, November 8, 2003 / No 132|
by Randy Hillier
Thousands of years ago the ancient Greeks developed a simple and practical form of self-government and created democracy. However unlike today, the ancient Greeks did not have to contend with partisan political parties, backroom boys and media spin-doctors, strategic voting, and televised debates. Canadian elections are as far removed from this simple and practical democratic process, as we are from the ancient Greeks.
The objective of elections are to debate opinions, policies, and discuss
principles; and to elect representatives that have principles and policies
which best represent the majority's views. The recent Ontario election
is evidence people no longer fully comprehend the objectives of democratic
elections. The objective has become corrupt and no longer achieves the
ends it was created to meet. People now believe winning an election is
the prime objective; good governance and representative candidates are
merely secondary thoughts or the means to win.
The objective of voting is to choose the person to best represent your principles and ethics, within parliament. The choice is to evaluate and determine which candidate has the best leadership skills, and who will listen to your concerns and vigorously defend them, and which policy platform coincides with your priorities. Canadians have one vote and it is reserved for the candidate who best represents their views. There should be nothing strategic, complicated, or confusing in this election process.
However, many Canadians believe there is more to this simple task, that we must forget who is best and strategically vote against who we don't want elected. That we should cast our ballot for whichever party we expect to win – not who's best.
Fringe parties illustrate this strategic and modern, but faulty thinking. Many Canadians believe voting for a fringe party is a "lost vote," because fringe parties will not win. Nothing can be further from the truth. In fact votes are lost when they're cast for people other than your first choice. It is evident that strategic votes don't represent the electors' views. A spoiled ballot is more valuable than a strategic vote, because it's truthful and states: no candidate represents my views. Strategic votes cast for second choice candidates are lost, as they reward candidates you do not value. There is another consequence of strategic voting; electing second-rate candidates from "mainstream" parties lowers democracy's overall standard and the quality of elected politicians.
There are further consequences hidden from our view as strategic voting and winning replaces the objective of representation. When people deny their first choice of a fringe party (like the Green, Freedom or Family Coalition parties here in Ontario) and choose an alternate, the perception arises that there are few people who share the principles and values of the fringe. In reality, there are far greater numbers of people who share these values and policy platforms, but strategically choose someone else – who will win. This corruption of choice insures fringe parties never become mainstream and democratic choice is limited to two or three "main parties." It further provides mainstream parties with a false sense that their policies' are acceptable to the majority.
In Canada approximately forty percent of voters choose not to vote. Many people cannot find a party that represents their principles, but also have a chance of winning. These disenfranchised stay at home on election day and are never represented; they in affect create their own destiny of unrepresentative governments.
Democracy is not a horse race or a game of roulette where placing a bet on a winner is the payoff. Democracy's payoff is found with quality representation, and with governments that represent people's principles, values and ideals. Democracy's wheel spins easily on an axle of freedom, which must be oiled with the individuals best "choice." Strategic voting creates a playing field where parties with money, candidates with name recognition, and those who are perceived to win, will always win; and it assures quality is subtracted from the odds of winning.
In our efforts to pick a winner, we defeat the very purpose and objective we expect of democratic governments, and we deprive ourselves of the tactical advantage of a quality democracy.
The old adage "We get the government we deserve," is tried and true in Canada. We have strategically downgraded our democracy, and the results are obvious: strategic voting insures Canadians are always "led by lesser men."
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