It is interesting to note the difference in John Thompson’s editorials of October 16 and 23. (“To end strategic voting, vote strategically,” and, “‘Real change’ will ring empty without electoral reform”).
The first suggested voting strategically this time would mean never having to vote strategically again. The second noted the shortcomings of the alternatives to first past the post, but again suggests those alternatives would mean the end of strategic voting.
Many supporters of the NDP and Greens probably did vote strategically, believing the Liberals’ promised changes to our electoral system would mean the end of strategic voting so they would never again be conflicted over voting for the candidate and/or the party they really want. So, would preferential (ranked) or proportional balloting (allocating seats according to each party’s percentage of the national vote) mean the end of strategic voting? Not likely.
A ranked ballot is essentially a locked-in strategic vote, because marking a second choice is nothing more than a vote for someone you do not want but would rather have to prevent the third or fourth choices from winning.
Proportional representation, on the other hand, may seem like the ultimate democratic system as selecting MPs according to the percentage of the vote obtained by each party, large or small, would ensure virtually all views are represented. However, strategic voting for parties would still remain, and the power to choose MPs would transfer from riding associations and voters to party officials who would appoint MPs from a party pre-approved pool. Voters may not even know who their potential local MP might be.
Moreover, under proportional representation parties whose values and objectives are contrary to the best interests and traditions of Canada would have a much better chance of increasing their representation and influence, especially in balance of power situations which would likely become the norm as majority governments become increasingly unlikely. (think Rhinos, Communists, Marijuana Party, the Bloc, ethnic and religious parties, and any group with a sufficiently high concentration of homogeneous self-interested voters).
Both preferential and proportional representation may seem more democratic than first past the post, but in the end both would diminish, not enhance, our democracy and further complicate the governance of our Canada until we wind up with the mess that plagues so many other countries who have adopted those systems. Nor would either of those systems end strategic voting. Thus, the “anybody but” mantra, a sad excuse indeed for intelligent voting, would remain a part of campaigns.
Our first-past-the-post system is not ideal any more than democracy itself is ideal, but it remains better by far than the alternatives and works quite well if people get informed, get engaged and get out and vote. Any proposed change should require an extended period of public debate followed by a national referendum requiring a two-thirds majority. The issue is too important to be dictated or hijacked by any party, regardless of its general mandate.