Saturday, December 13, 2008

JACK LAYTON AND THE NDP CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS

According to Elections Canada, in the election that was held on October 14, 45,578 votes were cast in the riding of Toronto-Danforth. One hundred and ninety-one of these ballots were rejected for a total of 45,387 valid votes. Of that number, Jack Layton received 20,323 or 44.8% of the total. In other words more people voted against Layton (25,064) than voted for him (20,323). So where exactly did Jack Layton get the mandate to represent the good people of Toronto-Danforth in the House of Commons?

None of the other party leaders failed to get the support of at least half of their constituents. Stephen Harper (73.0%), St├ęphane Dion (61.7%) and Gilles Duceppe (50.2%) all won their seats democratically. Not so Jack Layton.

Even Jack can’t have it both ways. If the Conservatives are illegitimate because 62.4% of Canadians didn’t vote for them, then Layton is the illegitimate MP for the riding of Toronto-Danforth because 53.2% of voters voted against him. Either getting less than 50% of the votes is sufficient or it’s not. If Jack Layton actually believes that the Harper government must go because a majority of people didn’t vote for them, then he must do the honourable thing and resign his seat in the House of Commons. Arthur Wienrub, Canada Free Press

I don’t have much sympathy for Layton’s constant whining about the iniquities of our British “first past the post” balloting system. It is of little concern to me that his party got 18% of the popular vote but not 18% of the seats in the House of Commons. As I am tired of saying, proportional representation deals only with the distribution of power between political parties, not between those parties and the electorate that they are supposed to represent. Because, as you know, even proportional representation wouldn’t give the Canadian people a real choice. Whoever forms the coalition government, and paralytic incessantly quarrelling and unstable coalition governments are the trademark result of proportional representation, that government could govern without popular support. For every legislative measure in parliament would be voted on exclusively by the parliamentarians sitting there. The people would not have a vote. When they cast a vote for a party, they are voting for a bundle of policies 90% of which they may vehemently take issue with. But they vote for that party because it supports the one or two positions the voter deems most important. Voters in a PR system, like ours, do not get to cherry-pick the menu. It is not a buffet. It is a take it or leave it menu. You buy the whole meal even though you only wanted the appetizer.

Neither Harper, Dion, or Layton have a moral right to govern. That right will occur when I get my right to have a meaningful form of Direct Democracy. Citizen-based initiatives, constrained, unlike the American experience, by strict election spending guidelines. A lot has happened since Edmund Burke wrote his dictum about the member of parliament owing nothing to us but his “good judgment”. I have discovered that ordinary citizens, by and large, have a judgment that is at least the equal of the average member of parliament, with usually twice the knowledge base. I ultimately don’t wish to be “represented” in Ottawa. I am looking more for a delegate than a representative. I suppose we’ll need implementors and caretakers to supplement a direct democratic model, but other than that, I can find little use for professional politicians.

2 comments:

Wayne Smith said...

Nobody said the Conservatives weren't legitimate. The Conservatives legitimately got first crack at forming a government. But to be the government, you have to have the confidence of Parliament. Harper had it, and pissed it away.

It is the Conservatives who are denying that the coalition has legitimacy. But if the coalition has the confidence of Parliament, then they have the right to govern.

Of course, with Iggy, it's a new ball game. We'll see what happens. Harper may hold on to government, but he won't be able to push Iggy around the way he did with Dion.

Tim Murray said...

Wayne. To repeat. It is representative democracy itself which is illegitimate. None of these characters deserve power over me, for I did not delegate it to them. Had Harper won 52% of the popular vote and secured 70% of the seats in the House of Commons he regime would still lack moral authority, because it would still make decisions that ordinary citizens could make through referenda. Tim