Proportional representation is not a glamorous or sexy idea. It does not grab our imagination, for instance, as the death last week of Osama bin Laden does. Talking about it comes only after your most immediate and pressing needs are met, like having a job or making sure your health care needs are met; or that your kids have good education or that your income can sustain you for the month.
That’s the problem with talking about more representational government. It seems as distant as constitutional reform, a Triple E Senate or continuing to have the British monarchy as the official head of state. And yet when you look at the numbers of the federal election, look beyond the actual seats in Parliament; look at how many people in Canada voted for which party and how many people did not vote for a particular party, you realize that having a majority government based on seats is a misnomer, a way of playing the system. Our system has gross inequalities built into it.
For instance, close to 40 per cent of voters on May 2 voted for the Conservatives, which means that about 60 per cent did not. When you look further at the details of the voting numbers nationally, the popular vote, you realize that the NDP had significantly greater voter support than the Conservatives. NDP numbers were 7.29 million votes nationally. The Conservative numbers nationally were 5.83 million. That means the NDP got 1.46 million more votes than the Conservatives but according to our political system is now the Official Opposition while the Conservatives with significantly fewer votes are the official governing party.
Clearly this is not representational. Continuing to play this nonrepresentational game is, it seems to me, undemocratic. It suggests a strong moral imperative to review the way our electoral system is run despite political interests who would keep our electoral system the way it is.