The talk of the day is democratic reform

Well sorta. In case you missed it, this week on The 905er we spoke with Dave Meslin about the prospective ranked ballots initiatives in Burlington and Mississauga. Take a listen here:

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It’s a timely argument. Despite the pandemic elections are still happening. Recently in New Brunswick, the ruling PC Party was reelected with only 40% of the popular vote. A common refrain in the first past the post system which we are all familiar with. South of the border, election season is in full swing. Polls are showing a lead for challenger Joe Biden. While it is a different model than what we are used to here in Canada, the issues surrounding the electoral college present a compelling argument for electoral reform as well. The fact that the sitting President does not have the support of the majority of the population is problematic to say the least.

I bring up these examples as, while no one is enthusiastic about the notion of campaigning in the middle of a pandemic, I think now is an excellent time to reconsider how we elect our officials.

One of the major pluses of a ranked ballot system, is the fact that it highly encourages compromise, civility and new ideas. Candidates can’t be the highly divisive combative characters we are accustomed to as of late. While it might work to solidify your base, its a sure fire way to turn off prospective voters who might consider you as a second choice on their ballots. In addition to that, it allows candidates who might not have the mainstream clout, but whose ideas are forward thinking and compelling enough to enter into the mainstream conversation. Right now, with COVID-19 still up ending our economy and social norms, I think it’s safe to say that some outside of the box thinking is warranted.

Here in Canada, the Trudeau federal government disastrously attempted to reform our election process. In the end, it turned off a lot of people from the notion of reshaping our elections to be more democratic and equitable. Due to that government’s failure on the file, too many Canadians were resigned to the status quo.

Dave Meslin presented an excellent rebuttal to that point in the podcast. Many of the electoral reforms we’ve experienced in our democracy more often than naught, occurred at the municipal level. Cities and townships were willing to experiment with the permitting of women to vote and hold office. Expanding the vote to minorities and electing them to office all started at the local level. Once people saw that it could work the notion then picked up into the mainstream national conversation, until it became a common aspect of our democracy today.

Democracies don’t happen from the top down. By definition they are people driven, and accountable to the people. We need to adapt to the modern age, utilizing modern technology and norms to enable our citizens to actively engage in the democratic process. The status quo is in need of reform. We need new ideas and new blood to enter into the process. We are presented with new challenges of rebuilding a more robust, equitable and flexible economy and society due to the crisis of COVID-19. It can be done. One of the places to start is in how we elect our leaders. I trust that Burlington and Mississauga decide to be pioneers, to show Canada the way.

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