Skip to comments.Ballot-box math -- If America is 'a nation divided,' what the heck does that make Canada?
Posted on 11/04/2004 4:14:34 AM PST by Clive
A nation divided. That was the tag line the CBC used in its run-up to Tuesday's U.S. presidential election. Even now that the election was won with a real majority by U.S. President George W. Bush after John Kerry conceded defeat following a tight race, commentator after commentator and interviewee after interviewee keeps saying Bush's majority is so slim he doesn't really have a strong mandate.
Compared to Canada, though, Bush does indeed have a majority -- a real one -- something Canadians have not seen since 1984, when Brian Mulroney won the first one in Canada since 1958.
Not only did Bush garner 3.5 million more votes than Kerry with 51% of the popular vote over Kerry's 48%, he also won the complicated electoral college votes and the Republican Party increased the numbers of seats it holds in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
So what about Canada?
According to Larry Gordon, executive director of Fair Vote Canada, since the First World War, only four of our governments have been legitimate majority governments -- or governments that have won more than 50% of the popular vote: 1940, 1949, 1958 and 1984.
Nevertheless, because of our winner-take-all, first-past-the-post electoral system, over that same period we have endured 15 phoney majority federal governments -- that is governments that won the majority of the seats in the House of Commons even though they did not win a majority of the popular vote.
Never did Canadian voters' wishes become so distorted as during Jean Chretien's three elections.
In 1993, Chretien won just 41% of the popular vote, but he won 60% of the 301 seats in the House of Commons.
In 1997, garnering just 38.5% of the popular vote, Chretien won 51.5% of the seats in the House, making it "the phoniest majority government in Canadian history," says Gordon.
In 2000, pulling in 40.9% of the popular vote, Chretien's Liberals took 57.5% of the seats in the House.
Meanwhile, even though six out of every 10 Canadians didn't vote for Chretien, he pulled more and more power into the Prime Minister's Office, making all of the key decisions about who ran government corporations, naming, without review, members to the Supreme Court of Canada and refusing to allow free votes in the House to backbench Liberals.
"For 10 years of majority rule, Chretien never quite reached 42 percent support," points out Gordon, who adds that back in 1984, while seeking the leadership of the Liberal party, Chretien promised while in Brandon, he would bring in proportional representation should he become prime minister.
Just another one of his lies and just further proof Canada doesn't have majority rule, it has a minority tyranny.
After Paul Martin formed a minority government with 38% of the vote in June's general election, he vowed to govern as best he could with his "strong mandate."
I didn't hear anyone on the CBC or elsewhere talk about a nation divided then or question the PM's sanity.
Only one-in-four Canadians have voted Liberal for the past 11 years and the rest of us get stuck with them because we're using an electoral system devised in the 12th century.
It is truly absurd.
And then we wonder why there's voter apathy.
In Canada, only 52% of voters were able to elect MPs.
In New Zealand, which has brought in a form of proportional representation, 95% of voters were able to elect MPs.
To it's credit, B.C.'s provincial Liberal government has held a citizens' assembly and is moving ahead with electoral reforms that will actually give some weight to each vote cast.
Some 75 countries -- including most of Europe -- have established some form of proportional representation.
"The way we organize the political system in general and the electoral system in particular is a choice," points out Gordon. "It is not something carved in stone, it is not something given to us by divine forces, it's a human creation. It's an important institution to our democracy and it's an institution we can change."
What are we waiting for?
A nation truly divided?
The populous, highly urbanized Ontario-Quebec axis dominates the power structure of Canada to a much greater extent than does the Pacific Coast and the North-East dominate us political power.
And we don't have a Senate that truly represents regional interests as a countervailing force as does the US.
This imbalance of power is why the Reform/Alliance proposal for a "triple E" senate is so attractive west of the lakehead and why it is so opposed in Ontario and Quebec.
What about initiative and referendum, can the citizens start a ballot initiative like they do in california?
Poor Canada. Chretien is a creep. I've always found that those who are the most critical, are in the least position to criticize.
This emphasis on 'divided' puzzles me. What did the voting numbers look like when the USA was 'undivided'?
Quebec holds elections to secede from Canada like a ritual; they can't even agree on what language they are going to speak. Somehow we are the nation divided?
There used to an example of what these people would call a nation united but that bad man Ronald Reagan made it go away.
That was another Reform proposal.
Canada and the US have political systems based on differing underlying fictions. The congressional fiction is that it is an expression of "popular sovereignty", a revolution from monarchical sovereignty whereas the parliamentary fiction is an expression of "parliamentary sovereignty", an evolution from monarchical sovereignty.
Both are fictions but the US one tends more toward populism than does the Canadian one.
That voice does not say anything constructive or even clever, but it IS loud.
The Canadian minority has no voice. In fact, in a truly Orwellian sense, they are non-people.
Their history is down the memory hole.
The American minority can become majority again by republican means.
The Canadian minority cannot. They need to consider alternatives.
Canada's real problem is that there is no balance of power. The chief executive is determined by the party that controls the parliament. The result is that Canada is perpetually a one party government.
The popular conception is that the USA is a republic - a representative democracy. There are no misconception regarding republics on this side of the border.
So basically, there is no hope for Canadians to regain control of a runaway government?
Licia would agree with you.
If popular mandate, one based on numbers, means anything (once the election is decided) in a congressional federal system, Bush has a mandate that has not been obtained by any previous president.
Thanks Clive, a couple of interesting articles, as usual.
Of course the U.S. is divided, it is out nature to freely disagree in certain areas and unite in others as we see fit.
In socilist countries everyone is united because that is what the controlling party dictates. Where do you think the term "politically correct" comes from?
The liberal government in Canada has hamstung the opposition. I feel sorry for the majority of Canadians.
And yes, you do get the the form of government you deserve.
Tough luck Canucks!
Contemporary wisdom is always wrong.
Your west coast and your north-east is experiencing the same.
We do occasionaly experience conservative corrections.
You are going through one now. We are beginnig to see the possibility of a change of direction.
"Canada's real problem is that there is no balance of power. The chief executive is determined by the party that controls the parliament. The result is that Canada is perpetually a one party government."
The REAL problem is that Canuckistan is populated by a bunch of misbegotten Canucks! THAT won't change, regardless of who they elect!
Sure there is.
Once Quebec finally dynamites the confederation, we can welcome real Canada - Manitoba west - into the US. We can then donate New England and New York City and the Adirondacks to rump Canada - Ontario and the Maritimes.
If Canada does not rectify the flaws in its system, it will collapse someday. They are apparently continuing on the goodwill of the 60 percent who are willing to allow themselves to be ruled by the minority.
We've had Presidents elected on pluralities before, when there are serious third parties out there. Clinton, twice, Woodrow Wilson, and Lincoln won with pluralities. But it's not as common in our system, and since our legislatures don't have a third party generally, there is less of a sense that we are being governed by a minority when this occurred, and more a sense that it was a happenstance. If there developed a continuing situation where there were 3 parties, and a minority was winning, what tends to happen is that the 2 leading parties coopt key elements of the 3rd party to gain those voters, and eventually the 3rd party ceases to exist.
In Canada, it looks like their system does not force them to respond in this fashion. It will tend to centralize power in a one party state instead of devolve back to a two party system. Which is a serious flaw.
I like Canada a lot, and therefore, I think there should be 4 of them. An east coast, a Quebec, an Ontario and a Western Canada. Maybe that will happen when things get bad enough in their political system.
The US does not have a separatist federal party, Canada does...just another lame hypocrisy from the left. I don't hear Americans calling for their state to be separated from their country, I hear Canadian provinces though. America as far as I know are more united than Canada.
Perhaps you should spend a little more time listening . Aztlan , "Republica del Norte" .
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