I promised that my posts would be shorter, more to the point, more interesting. Here we go.
Way back sometime after the Reform Acts in the early 1800s, the people of the United Kingdom came to expect that all free men would get a vote, in a riding, and that the person with the most votes would be elected to represent that riding in Parliament.
Sleeping yet? Eyes drooping? Reaching for the channel changer? No, this gets good! I promise!
Nova Scotia enjoyed this “Responsible Government” first of all british over seas territories, due to the efforts of luminaries such as the much lauded Joseph Howe in the 1840s.
Chronicle Herald columnist Robert Surette has posited that democracy and responsible government died here in 1867, when the Conservative party of Nova Scotia was destroyed by taking the province into Confederation. Many are unaware today that Confederation was followed by the disastrous election several months later of the Anti-Confederation party with almost every seat federally and provincially, a movement that controlled the Legislature for seven long years. This party eventually became the Liberal party of Nova Scotia.
Surette states that there was a double blow to democracy. Nova Scotia was denied its requests by Imperial government, which forced confederation on an unwilling population. In addition, Nova Scotia was reduced to an effective one party state for almost a century, as a result of the Tory’s near suicide by pushing forward with Confederation ensuring Liberal majorities for 80% of that time.
Flash forward to 2006. A province with the population of a medium sized city actually allows a system to continue that would see 41% of its population elect a government with near autocratic powers. We are still using a system based on a system developed during the age of sale by another country to govern a global empire.
We have elected our 3rd minority in a row. Government is cripled. Parties vie for power, and the people do not trust any party enough to allow them a majority. The structure and indeed constitution of the government of the province has been almost unchanged in the last 138 years. We still elect one person, per riding, first past the post.
It is irresponsible for this province to rely on this aging system that has been replaced in the majority of other western nations. The winds of change have blown, decades ago in Scandinavia, France, Germany, more recently in New Zealand and almost, almost in British Columbia. The answer is proportional representation, or PR.
Proportional representation, in any of its many forms, means change. Majority rule becomes impossible, requiring coalition governments, compromise, and broader views end up represented in cabinet. Committees become much more important, and all parties, inside or outside the government coalition, have more say in crafting legislation, and the operation of government. These are all the things that most people seem to like about minority governments, without the drawbacks of not having sufficient votes in caucus to lead, and to change.
We need PR now. We need a province with the Green Party (or even a Christian Heritage Party) having a voice in the Leg. We need to ensure that no one party ever has majority autocratic rule. We need to make sure that rural cannot, now, dictate to Halifax, and that in about 15 years (as the demographics change), that Halifax cannot simply dictate to rural.
The NDP has supported PR for years. The Tory’s and Liberals maybe interested now, if in the Tory case, to ensure rural Nova Scotia continues to have a seat at the table, and for the Liberals, to ensure that their party is not wiped from the electoral map. I am not even going to talk about a written constitution (every US State has them!), electing the Premier at large, or electing the Lieutenant Governor, all things I support.. not yet!
It’s time for constitutional change, Provincial style. It is time to look past “tradition” and “thats the way it has always been” and start with some “how it needs to be” and “what is fair for everyone”. In this, Nova Scotia can lead the nation, as we have so many times in the past.