Time for electoral reform

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Two and a half centuries ago those who lived in the colonies that would become Canada were ruled by a king and his governors. Understanding the injustice of this, citizens demanded the right to vote.

They likely did not think about how the vote would look or how it might be enacted. The very fact of each landholder having a say must have seemed so incredible that the mechanism of the vote would have seemed unimportant.

When we began to vote well less than 50 per cent of adult citizens were allowed to vote. At first only property owners were allowed. Then the government included taxpayers who did not own property.

Women were included in 1918. Inuit were allowed the vote in 1953, First Nations living on reserve in 1960. Other groups enfranchised over the years include ethnic minorities, some previously excluded religious groups, people with a “mental disability” and prisoners.

Fair Vote Yukon believes that it is time now to consider the way in which we vote. It leaves many unrepresented. Often we do not vote for the person who best represents our thoughts and ideas. Instead, we cast a ballot in an attempt to avoid electing the person who least well represents our thoughts and ideas. Too many decide not to vote.

We have been convinced by our governments that the only effective way to govern our country is with a “solid” majority. Fair Vote Yukon believes that this is false. We believe in diversity and representation.

In the 2011 election the Yukon Party received 40 per cent of the popular vote. The New Democrats got 32 per cent of the vote. An eight per cent difference gave the Yukon Party 11 seats but only six to the NDP. The results were even less fair for the Liberals. Our present system, which is called first-past-the-post, consistently over-represents one party in the legislature and under-represents others.

If the legislature looked like the popular vote, the Yukon Party would have 7.3 of the 18 seats, the NDP would have six and the Liberals 4.5. Clearly, you cannot have a fraction of a seat. However, it is consistently true that the party which leads in a first-past-the-post election gains much more power in the legislature than citizens actually give it.

Fair Vote Yukon believes we should change the way we vote. Perhaps it wouldn’t fix all the current strife that we face in the legislature. But it would help change the conversation, and change the ways in which power is used when important decisions are being made.

After every election the processes used are examined and reported on. In addition, Yukon’s chief electoral officer, who has served Yukon faithfully for 30 years, will retire soon. Both events provide opportunities for possible change and input. If you think we should change the way we vote, talk to your MLA.

Fair Vote Yukon is meeting at 7 p.m. tomorrow, Jan. 17 at the Whitehorse Public Library. Join us.

Dave Whiteside

Tanyss Knowles

Co-presidents, Fair Vote Yukon