Let Us Advance Up The Ladder of Democracy

Ladder

by Guy Dauncey

Democracy is a very recent social invention. Most people don’t like it when the societies they live in are blatantly unfair, with privileges and glory for the rich and hard labour and exploitation for the poor. In consequence, starting a thousand years ago, people in nations all over the world have gradually prised power out of the hands of their ruling elites and established democracies.

It has been incredible hard work. In 1794, Thomas Hardy, a London shoemaker, was charged with high treason for proposing one person, one vote. His sentence, had he been found guilty, would have been to be hanged by the neck, cut down while still conscious, disemboweled, beheaded, and his body to have been cut up into quarters. Fortunately, a Grand Jury of nine respectable citizens, after debating the matter for nine days, found him ‘Not Guilty’. The London crowd went crazy, dragging him through the streets in triumph.

The process of winning full democracy is incomplete, however. There are at least fifty steps on the ladder of democracy. In BC, twelve or thirteen steps have yet to be taken. In America, depending on where you live in, as many as twenty-eight steps remain. Thanks to the campaign finance legislation that was passed in BC in 2017 by the NDP/Green Party Alliance, the corrupting influence of money has been finally stripped from provincial politics.

The chance to take the next step up the ladder (Step 39) comes before us in British Columbia this fall, with the opportunity to vote for fair proportional voting.

First-Past-The-Post stinks

First-Past-The-Post stinks. It carries the foul odor that comes from voting for a candidate or party you dislike for the sake of preventing another candidate or party who you dislike even more from being elected. It makes you hold your nose when you vote, and it corrupts the political soul.

Using the first-past-the-post system of voting, in Ontario, Doug Ford’s Conservatives suffered a massive defeat this summer. 58% of Ontarians voted against him, and yet his party now governs Ontario. How can that be?

In 2015, Britain’s Conservative Party suffered a similar humiliating defeat when 63% of the British voters voted against them. And yet they too were able to form a government. In British Columbia, only four out of thirty-two elections since 1900 have been won by the party that won the support of most voters. Only four. In every other election, more people opposed the winning party than supported it.

This system of voting dates back to the days in Britain when there were only two parties, and only 2% of the people was allowed to vote. One set of aristocrats supported the Whigs, the others supported the Tories. Proportional voting guarantees that if 5% of the voters support the Rainbow Party, they will win 5% of the seats, and false majorities will be no more.

Advancing up the Ladder of Democracy

This fall, by a mail-in ballot starting on October 22nd just after the municipal elections and ending on November 30th we will have the opportunity to advance up the ladder of democracy by voting on two questions:

  1. Which should British Columbia use for provincial elections? The current First Past the Post voting system, or a proportional representation voting system?

2. If British Columbia adopts a proportional representation voting system, which of the following voting systems do you prefer?

Voting on the second question is optional, and it won’t invalidate your ballot if you don’t vote.

  • Dual Member Proportional: Most ridings, except in the most rural areas, double in size, and each has two MLAs. In each riding, you vote for the person or the party you support. Each party proposes two candidates. The first MLA is elected using the current system of First-Past-The-Post. The second MLA is elected taking local and provincial results into account to ensure that the number of MLAs in the Legislature mirrors the support people gave to each party. Parties that receive less than 5% of the vote have to wait to be represented until they can gather more support. See fairvote.ca/dual-member-proportional

DMP-sample-ballot

  • Mixed Member Proportional: Ridings increase in size, and the province is divided into regions. In each riding each party presents a list of candidates. Those who win become the MLAs, using First-Past-The-Post, as above. Additional regional MLAs are chosen to ensure fair proportionality, as above. 60% of MLAs would be local, and 40% would be regional. Parties that receive less than 5% of the vote have to wait, as above. See fairvote.ca/mixed-member-proportional-mmp-for-bc/

 MMP-RUP-rural-sample-ballot

  • Rural-Urban Proportional Representation: In rural areas, MLAs are chosen using the Mixed Member Proportional system described above. In urban and semi-urban areas, they are chosen using a single transferable vote where voters rank the candidates in their order of preference. See fairvote.ca/ruralurbanpr

RUP-urban-sample-ballot

So there you have it. To learn more, visit Fair Vote Canada BC, which is the source of these graphics. And here is a response that debunks that ProRep is too confusing, that it will give a voice to extremists and that it will encourage backroom deals between the parties.

Two good videos:

The Tyee and Fair Vote Canada (scroll down)

Fifty Steps on the Ladder of Democracy

US

BC

1.     Consultation with lords and princes

2.     A parliament is established

3.     Agreed superiority of the parliament over the king

4.     Votes for privileged male landowners

5.     Votes for all landowning men

6.     Political parties allowed

7.     Votes for all men

8.     Removal of corruption and bribery

(✓)

9.     Firm establishment of the rule of law

10.  Fair distribution of constituencies – no gerrymandering

(✓)

11.  Secret ballot

12.  Votes for all women

13.  Voting age lowered from 21 to 18

14.  Votes for all racial, religious and indigenous minorities

15.  A clear pro-democracy charter or constitution

16.  Reduction in the powers of non-elected chambers

17.  Presidential/Party term limits

18.  Reasonable salaries for MPs

19.  Removal of the military from the democratic process

20.  Free public education

21.  A free press, freedom of speech

22.  Freedom of public assembly

23.  Independent non-party electoral officers

24.  Independent non-party electoral boundary officers

25.  Strong participatory democracy at City Hall level

(✓)

26.  Power spread beyond the elected ruler’s office

27.  All barriers to easy voting removed

28.  Early and advanced ballots

29.  Voting for all citizens, including prisoners, no disqualifications

30.  Regular Constituency Town Hall meetings

(✓)

(✓)

31.  Restrict lobbyists, require full disclosure

(✓)

32.  Strong anti-corruption legislation  

33.  Strict campaign finance rules, removing money from politics

34.  National support for public broadcasting on radio and TV

35.  Recall legislation for unpopular politicians

36.  Legislation enabling popular ballot referendums/initiatives

(✓)

37.  Protection for whistle-blowers in government

38.  Public funding for parties that achieve 5% of the vote

39.  Fair proportional voting, 5% threshold
40.  Strong regulations vs. revolving doors, politicians to commerce    
41.  Voter turn-out at 75%    
42.  Civics and democracy classes required in all schools  
43.  Strong defences against election interference by foreign agents  
44.  50% of elected seats going to women  
45.  Single transferable voting at municipal elections

(✓)

46.  Fair free social media, stripped of abusive fake news    
47.  Workplace democracy    
48.  Automatic voter pre-registration at age 15
49.  Votes for 16-year-olds
50.  Compulsory voting or voting tax-credits

Guy Dauncey is author of Journey to the Future: A Better World is Possible, a  novel set in the year 2032. (Brilliant! – David Suzuki). He lives on Vancouver Island. www.thepracticalutopian.ca

First published in a shorter form in The Green Gazette, September/October 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Let Us Advance Up The Ladder of Democracy

  1. Interesting thoughts.
    We are developing a Centre of Sustainable Development in Northern Ontario using many of the principals you have voices. The Centre will focus on traditional and contemporary rural skills in a zero carbon vision.
    Any thoughts or ideas would be appreciated.

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