Dear Prime Minister,
Yes, young Trudeau, there is a Santa Claus. At the risk of being facetious, I want to draw attention to the big gift that you and the Liberals received when you won this 2015 election: a legitimacy not too different from that of the Conservatives when they had their “majority.”
My concern is how (even just “that”) our electoral system bequeaths a “majority” on parties that have less than 50% of the popular vote. You've been a teacher—so how would you manage a vote in the classroom on (say it like Gandalf) who shall not pass? Would 4 of 10 students be allowed to make the decision as if they were the majority?
The distortion of representation is an undeniable problem. You can be one of the rare prime ministers who legislates against his own short-term gain for long-term change. You can finally enable a system that recognizes the relatively small differences between some parties in the popular vote, such as 8% between the Liberals and Conservatives, and 12% between the Conservatives and the NDP. Recognition of the small margins would reduce the embarrassing “democratic deficit” in Canadian politics. Young people probably voted in bigger numbers this time because they think you'll represent them, even if they are not major players in the economy (yet).
I'm younger than you, too, but I have more than enough cynicism for politics to make the bad joke above about your age. Hoary old men really did give us a system.
Before your election, you committed to an end to it, the first past the post system—the system that allows a party with 38% of the popular vote to win a “sweeping majority” and claim a “strong mandate” to shift the direction of the entire country by appealing almost always to the economy and the spectre of job loss. Among the options of ranked ballots and proportional representation, the latter is more democratic. If democracy depends on representation of and by the people, and if it thrives when the people and their representatives debate, discuss, and—yes--compromise, proportional representation is the choice for me. And, I hope, you.
Proportional representation will lead to minority governments, which are much maligned by people who claim to want “effective” governments. In the past decade, however, I have been very concerned, as it were, rather than thankful for the effectiveness of the Harper government. I would prefer that no party could make massive changes to our country without a parallel majority or, as you have also suggested, a referendum that reveals voters’ preferences regardless of their political affiliation.
We could have referendums to let us act quickly on issues with broad public support, and slow and steady politics for all the issues that really need compromise. In the coming months, time will fly and proportional representation will need to be an immediate priority. But, after that, please relent a little so that democracy goes well (e.g., no omnibus bills). Remember that many of us want to turn back the clock to another historic election: that of 2006.
On the occasion of your first day in office, November 4, 2015, I wish you a Merry Christmas—and a happy new democracy before the next federal election.
How to cite this blog in MLA format: Deshaye, Joel. "Open(ing) Letter." Publicly Interested. 4 Nov. 2015. Web. [date of access]
Joel Deshaye is a professor of English literature with an interest in publics, publicity, celebrity, mass media, and popular culture.