Time to tweak the system, Ryan

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Open Letter to Ryan Leef, No. 4:

Thank you for trying to assist Jean-Francois Des Lauriers with his memorial for the victims of the Norway massacre.

Elijah Smith, Yukon’s federal public building, was the appropriate place for it. What a shame that SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. wouldn’t allow it there.

SNC-Lavalin, a giant engineering corporation, has been in the news lately with the hastily terminated multi-prison construction project they were doing for the Gadhafi regime in Libya.

Its mandate, like that of all large corporations, is to make money for shareholders. As such, it fails to do what it has been hired to do at the Elijah Smith Building – serve the public.

One has to question the wisdom of allowing the private-sector control over any public facilities, be it buildings or Atomic Energy of Canada.

The subject of the fourth letter is election reform.

In the last federal election, only 58.8 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots and of these, 39.6 per cent installed a majority government in Ottawa. Around the world there are many electoral systems. Canada’s first-past-the-post system is the least representative of them all.

No wonder we have such poor voter turnout.

The preferential voting system, also known as instant-run-off vote or single-transferable vote is used in the Australian House of Representatives.

In this system, ballots are marked with first, second, third or all choices. A candidate with greater than 50 per cent of the popular vote is elected. Otherwise, the candidate with the least votes is disqualified and the second choice votes from these ballots are transferred until one candidate has a full majority.

A stated criticism of this system is the increased possibility of a mediocre winner. However, usually the second-choice is someone deemed trustworthy and, at my age, trust is far more important than charisma.

Benefits are that a majority of voters have their wishes represented and representatives have the confidence of the majority.

The two-round system is used in France. When there isn’t a clear winner, there is a run-off vote between the top two candidates. This system is costlier and it is difficult to get people to come out for a second ballot. While it provides a clear majority, it doesn’t necessarily represent voters’ beliefs.

In list proportional representation, the riding votes for a party rather than a candidate. The number of seats held by any party is determined by the percentage of votes held. The parties determine which individuals hold seats through a variety of methods.

While this is a great system for geographically small countries, I fear that it wouldn’t provide enough regional representation in Canada or in the Yukon. But every single vote counts in this system.

There are variations within the mixed member proportional system where some seats are held by percentage of party votes and others by regional representatives elected by first-past-the-post, preferential or two-round system. The greatest weakness of this system is its daunting complexity. But it is my belief that this is the best democratic model for a country such as Canada.

There is information about a new mixed member proportional system at Dave Brekke’s website, www.electoralchange.ca.

Switzerland has a proportional-representative system where the multi-party cabinet is elected by the representatives and the prime minister is appointed by the cabinet.

Much less power is held in the Prime Minister’s Office. Major decisions are determined by referendums and some Swiss complain about having to do their democratic duty. But elections are determined by party policy and individuals with despotic tendencies are less inclined to run for office.

Speaking of doing one’s democratic duty, Australia has compulsory voting with a small fine as a penalty.

There is usually a lively debate when asked whether we should adopt this practice in Canada.

A friend offered a solution for what to do about voters who feel that no one deserves their vote. We could simply add the option of, “None of the above.”

Fair Vote Yukon, a multi-partisan organization dedicated to electoral reform, is holding its Annual General Meeting on September 7th, at 7:30 p.m. It is being held upstairs at the Alpine Bakery.

Please attend, if you are able, Ryan. Your contribution to this discussion would be welcome.

I hope you have a pleasant summer and look forward to your activities in the House of Commons in the fall.

May your time in Ottawa be constructive and may you always walk on the high road.

Linda Leon

Whitehorse