Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A voter's lament

I'm an avid voter — I've voted in eight elections in six years — and I highly advocate the practice. But after turning off the depressing B.C. election results last night I realized a sad and slightly frightening voting tradition I've carried out after almost every election: I thought about leaving the country. I thought about where in the world I could live where politics is fair, where my vote actually meant something.

I am very much left of centre, but I wouldn't describe myself as a fringe voter. This election I found myself wading into the unfamiliar territory of voting Green, but only because political parties in B.C. seem to be bizarro versions of the parties I know and loathe federally and provincial in Newfoundland and Labrador. Where else in Canada would the NDP want to get rid of a carbon tax? Where else would Liberals fear deficeits to the point of destroying or privitizing social services to the detrement of an ever increasing homeless and impoverished population?

But while I wasn't surprised to see the Liberals get back in, I was surprised and incredibly disheartened to see the Single Transferable Vote referendum fail. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that British Columbians have little to no faith in their voting system — only 48 per cent even bothered to vote. This resulted in the Liberals taking 13 more seats even though they had roughly the same percentage of the popular vote that they had in 2005.

The same thing happened in the federal election last fall — only 60 per cent of Canadians even bothered to vote resulting in the Conservatives coming away with an even stronger majority than they started with, despite only recieving 37 per cent of the vote. Some may argue it's because the vote was split (the Liberals blamed Jack Layton, for example, for taking their votes) but what's the point in having a democracy if you can't vote for the party that best represents you because you're too afraid of letting the party that least represents you in?

Maybe Single Transferable Vote wasn't the right kind of voting system — some people argued Mixed Member Proportional representation is a better system. But how much longer are we willing to wait out First Past the Post? I highly doubt people will be willing to look at another voting system the next election that comes around.

Voting doesn't have to be so disheartening, but now that STV has failed twice in B.C. and once in Ontario, no province will be bringing it up any time soon. In the meantime I'll fantisize about living in a magical fantasy world where the poor are taken care of, the environment is a bigger concern than business, and my vote matters.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Dyrgas