The election for the first time ever of a federal party that has committed to electoral reform – perhaps the most significant move to fulfilling our Charter right of effective and equal representation – seems to have ignited the firepower of those that would prefer to benefit from the discriminatory nature of our present system.
The claim that any change to our electoral system requires a referendum is not supported by previous electoral changes, nationally or internationally.
Yes, four referendums have been held in Canada, and four times they have failed to produce a change. But in those four cases, the bar was set so high by those that demanded a referendum that failure was almost a guarantee. It is no coincidence that those insisting on a referendum are almost universally opposed to proportional representation.
However, something like eight times now, municipally or provincially here in Canada, the voting system has been changed without a referendum.
Consider that more than 90 countries around the planet use some form of proportional representation. And how many brought in their change with a referendum? Exactly two – Switzerland in 1918, and New Zealand in 1996.
So the insistence by those that wish to profit in the future with complete power on a minority of votes that a referendum is a prerequisite to electoral change is a specious claim. In fact, because the current system effectively denies more than half of us our Charter right of equal representation, it would be discriminatory and undemocratic.
In a recent article in The Tyee by Fair Voting BC president Anthony Hodgson, he asks the reader to consider: “Would any of us now claim that men ever had the right to decide if women should be granted the vote? Or that whites ever had the right to determine if First Nations or those of Asian origin should be allowed to vote?” Of course not. These rights were enacted into legislation, not via referendum, but as a governmental duty.
When so many of us are discriminated against by the denial of our Charter right of equal and effective representation, those that prefer to benefit from this discrimination do not have the right to stand in the way. When three parties with electoral reform as a major part of their platform received more than 60 per cent of the popular vote, the government was given a mandate to reform our voting system to make every vote count. The people have spoken. And government has the duty to act upon the will of the people.