The Meaning of Majority

Yes, contrary to how it appears on this blog, the election is over, and the government is set to get back to work, this time as a majority. In forcing the election, the opposition parties played a dangerous game with their political rival. One opposition party won big with this gamble; the others lost big instead.  I am sure Gilles Duceppe and Michael Ignatieff—both leaving politics altogether, not just their seats—have their regrets and wish they’d allowed the minority government to continue to govern. But I think it is Canadians who lost the most—with our multi-million dollar bill yet to arrive.

The election bill is not the only way we lost though.  We also lost because 38.6% of eligible voters did not vote, which means that, while the new Harper government got 39.6% of the votes cast—technically a “majority”— only 24.31% of eligible Canadians voted for Harper.  To look at it another way, Canada is going to be run for the next four years by a Prime Minister for whom slightly more than 75% of Canadian voters did not vote. To me, this is a sad and scary state of affairs.

Yes, I admit it. I am not a Harper fan, and I did not vote for him or his party. But that is beside the point. I would be alarmed if any party was allowed to be in charge of this country with 75% of voters not voting for it. It was precisely such a scenario that prompted me earlier to call for Canadians to head to the polls. Alas, too many Canadians did not vote, bringing us to where we are now—a majority that really isn’t.

We’ve all heard the saying that in a democracy, “we get the government we deserve.” I don’t believe that’s true. I believe Canadians deserve a government that represents a true majority of us, not less than 25% of us. I don’t believe that Canadians deserve a government that limped into place because 38.6% of voters didn’t bother. I feel like Canadians are being punished by the laziness, disengagement and excuses of the non-voters.

I am not a political science expert, but I know one thing: we need election reform in this country. I am not sure what form it needs to take or what formula would achieve it; that’s for the experts to formulate. All I know is that this “unmajority majority” should not be possible. Those of us who did vote should not be punished because so many did not. Unfortunately for all of us, the people most able to engender electoral reform in Canada—the government—are the least likely to want to make that change, because they are the people most able to benefit from the current system.

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