Fredericton — New Brunswickers are preparing themselves for the 1- to 2-day post-election period where people will discuss the electoral system known as proportional representation, before it is totally forgotten again until the next election.
Proportional representation is an alternate model to Canada’s existing system of electing democratic representatives, known as “first past the post” (FPTP). “Right at this point, you’ve already lost most people,” said political scientist Malcolm Richardson. “The fact this only comes up the day after elections, usually being talked about by the non-winners, makes this topic even more uninteresting and irrelevant to most people. Most folks usually struggle against apathy under our current system on a good day, let alone mustering enough shits to change the entire electoral system.”
Canada, the U.S. and U.K. are the only major Western democracies still using the first-past-the-post voting system. Réal Lavergne of Fair Vote Canada maintains, “Among the world’s 35 strongest democracies, 25 use PR and only 6 use winner-take-all systems of one sort or another… Comparative research as compiled by Fair Vote Canada shows that countries with PR do better on a wide range of criteria, yielding a higher level of economic equality, greater representation of women in parliament, a more collegial style of politics, better economic management and better environmental performance.”
“Boring!” said uninterested citizen Michelle Smith. “Why are we still talking about the election? It’s over isn’t it? Wasn’t it conducted by the same rules as every other election we’ve ever had? I’m sick of the signs, the news, the commercials, and hearing about goddamn politics. It’s over people — move on.”
“Unfortunately for PR proponents, the biggest advocates fall into 2 main groups,” explained Richardson. “The first group of supporters is that bunch of smug jerks who always claim to know more and do things better than you. These exhausting blowhards are the worst advocates for anything because in general people can’t stand them. The last thing anyone wants is to be backed into a corner at a party being lectured by these wonks.
“The second and more prevalent type of PR advocates are the election losers. They are the ones who are fond of pointing out that if we had a completely different electoral system in our country that their candidate and party would’ve done much, much better. Also, if frogs had wings they wouldn’t bump their ass when they jump, but that’s neither here nor there either. All of this whining comes off as sour grapes and eventually the disheartened partisan moves on after a couple of days.”
The closest New Brunswick has come to a PR system was in 2006 when then-premier Bernard Lord announced a planned 2008 referendum on the product of the 2004 report of the Commission on Legislative Democracy. The proposed changes included a “mixed member” PR system with 36 members elected to the Legislative Assembly in first-past-the-post single-member ridings and 20 additional members elected from 4 regions. However, since there is no incentive for a governing political party to change the electoral system to its disadvantage, this initiative was quietly culled by the Liberal party after the 2006 provincial election.
“We’re going to be hearing about proportional representation for about another 12 to 36 hours, and then it will fade away again,” advised Richardson. “Until then, people would be wise to avoid partisans and political geeks. If confronted, I would fake a fainting spell, urgent diarrhea or a nosebleed and hightail it out of there.”