Psssst! Jack!

If I had Jack Layton‘s ear – come to think of it that’s an odd expression. His “ear”.  Why not both of them?   But hey, that’s a digression.

Even though I’m pretty sure I don’t have either of Jack’s ears I will pretend that I have, and whisper some advice to him.

Jack, psssst! Jack!  You’ve got an ace in your hand – if you’ll only play it.  And play  it soon.

It’s the ace of electoral reform.  But wait, wait! Don’t switch off.  I don’t mean all that fancy Proportional Representation stuff that the NDP  has been advocating for years.  No, no, no siree.  Certainly not.  Not now.  Not yet.

I can’t speak for many but I do know that I and most of my friends are bloody well fed up with having to vote with a “first-past-the-post ballot” in a multi-party system.  Enough is enough.

So I say, Jack, now, during this election, play one more card.  Throw the ace of ballot reform onto the table.  Promise that if you gain real levers of power one of your first acts will be to force the implementation of the “preferential” system so the next time around we can go into a booth and mark a “1” for the guy/gal/party we really like, “2” for one we can accept as reasonable, and so on down the roster. The low g/g/p on the count drops off and second choice gets the vote, and so on.  Aw hell, Jack, you know the drill.

I know, I know.  That’s not Proportional Representation, but without that initial step, Jack, you’re never going to see Prop Rep.   Your (our) Party has immolated itself for years on the altar of the ideal – the Holy  Grail of Prop Rep. (The same goes for Fair Vote Canada and its provincial offspring.)  Demanding the ideal impedes the possible.

Make the simple preferential system a first step pledge before everything collapses under the weight of apathy and frustration created by an untenable, anachronistic, unfair, undemocratic, virtually insane first-past-the-post system.

As you well know, Jack, the ballot for a preferential vote would look exactly like the one we’re going to cast on May 2nd except we’d rank the names with numbers rather than a single V or an  X.

Think of it this way, Jack.  We’re in a basement being flooded by the waters of a corroded, blocked, system.  There is a stairway leading up out of the mess.  The top step is Prop Rep and you’ve long advocated the desirability of reaching it.  But the bottom step up from the mucky bilge is the preferential vote.  Surely you don’t drown because the top step isn’t available in one leap?

And for God’s sake don’t merely promise to have a commission, or a study, or whatever.  In this instance be courageous. Promise to go for it, and if not in the first 100 days make it for Day 101.

Play the ace, Jack.  The game is yours to win.

And just so you know I’m not a recent convert, and have thought about this, if you’ve got the time – and you probably don’t – here’s an excerpt from some personal musings from 1990.  I think you’ll have to admit that so far we’re gone nowhere, except down.

                                Reform the Ballot

As the countries of eastern Europe have moved toward various forms of independence we’ve heard their people extolling the magic of the “democratic vote”.  We in Canada, looking at our own democratic vote, must permit ourselves some skepticism.

When we toddle into the next polling booth, let’s take a good look at the ballot.  [….] As we stand in solitary splendour and stare, sometimes with dismay, at the names before us, we are presented with a terrible dilemma.  If the person we prefer is an underdog we know that our vote for him/her may split the vote for someone we could tolerate and thus help elect a candidate (or a party) we abhor.

Our system is so unsophisticated that too often majority governments are elected by less than 50% of the votes. [ 50% !  These days it’s in the 30s !]

[….]Australians don’t put up with that nonsense.  They have a system of preferential voting.  An Aussie going into the poll, whether State or Federal, marks the ballot beginning with “1” for first choice and so on down the list.  If his No.1 doesn’t get a majority then his vote is given to his No.2, and so on.  To be elected a candidate must have a majority.

In effect, the Aussie in the poll is given the chance to say, “I like Susie Q, but if not enough of you agree with me then I prefer Joe R over Cecil X”.

There’s more counting involved in this “alternative vote” system.  We might not have elections wrapped up in one day and the TV networks would go nuts.  Tough bananas.  Elections aren’t intended to be TV specials.

[….]Ballot reform could give more say to the people.  You won’t see any of our establishment parties carrying that banner!

So there you have it, Jack.  Be a leader.  Now, in the midst of an election, throw a commitment to the preferential vote onto the table.  It could be an ace.  One thing for sure, you can’t lose by playing it.

Reform the ballot
From : Down Paradox Lane
Lindsay This Week, August 1, 1990
Copyright © Munroe Scott


About Munroe Scott

Munroe Scott is a veteran of the freelance writing world.
This entry was posted in Opinion, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Psssst! Jack!

  1. Mark Finnan says:

    Hard not to agree, under the circumstances. If only…………

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