Thursday, September 08, 2005

On Democratic Reform (or, Who Do You Vote For?)

Okay, I have a question.

In any given parliamentary election, be it federal or provincial, even though you are voting for only one person, you have to make three decisions:
  • Does the candidate represent my views?
  • Does the political party represent my views?
  • Does the party leader represent my views?
I mean, we tend to talk on macro-political talking points when speaking about the problems with our form of democracy (this MP switches parties, this MP siphons public money into party coffers, etc. therefore everybody hates voting), and while those are important issues, they should not be the sole target for democratic reform.

Let me give you an example.

Suppose I love Party X, and I love Party X's leader, but I absolutely dislike my local candidate, John Q Public? What if I truly believe that the candidate doesn't best represent the ideals of the party? Who do I vote for? Do I have to hold my nose and vote for that character on the chance that that vote might make a difference?

You can obviously do the other permutations. Again, suppose I like the leader, and I like the candidate, but I absolutely cannot stand the policies of Party X. Who do I vote for? Or, suppose I like the candidate, the party, but cannot stand the leader. Do I vote for the candidate regardless, knowing potentially I could lend support to the leader to become Prime Minister?

And, I know we should vote for the candidate as the candidate ultimately represents your riding, but do you vote for the candidate that then follows party doctrine to the letter, despite the promises and the personality you believed in?

Let's take some concrete examples.
  • You are a Liberal, and have been forever. You live in the riding of Pickering-Scarborough East and you support same-sex marriage, but MP Dan McTeague does not. You support Paul Martin and Liberal Party policy in general, but you do not support Mr. McTeague. In the next election, who do you vote for?
  • You live in the riding of Churchill, Manitoba and you personally get along with MP Bev Desjarlais. You thinks she's the best MP in the world. You tolerate the NDP but you cannot stand Jack Layton. Who do you vote for?
  • You live in the riding of Calgary Centre-North, with MP Jim Prentice. You like Jim as your MP, and you respect Stephen Harper. Conservative Party policy isn't your cup of tea though. Who do you vote for?
  • You live in the riding of Gaspésie--Îles-de-la-Madeleine, with MP Raynald Blais. You respect M. Blais, and the Bloc Québécois in general. The Liberals have angered you to no end. You do not, however, believe in separatism. Who do you vote for?
How would you address this?

Should we, at the same time as voting for a candidate, vote for the party leader? Every election say, at the same time you're voting for a candidate, the individual parties would put up three candidates to lead? That way, if you voted for your Party X candidate, you'd also be voting for the leader of Party Y, who may go on to win.

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7 comments:

AT said...

Really thought provoking post. I think, in Canada we have a party based politics. In this politics, the individual candidates are not important but the whole party is important. Therefore, if you like your local candidate and Harper but not the policies of the conservatives, don't vote for them. Similarly, as a Liberal if you don't like your local candidate because he supports gay marriage, you should vote for him anyway becuase honestly, you are not really voting for your local canditate but rather the party he stands for. I mean it doesn't matter if my local candidate support gay marriage or not because he is just a person. If the party as a whole supports the gay marriage, then his view would be the views of the minority.

Jason Cherniak said...

You have to answer these sorts of questions with just about every decision in life. You like choclate, but you are on a diet, but you feel like you need a reward - what do you do?

All decisions have positives and negatives. Each individual has to decide, for example, whether same-sex marriage is more important to them than overal policy. Others might have to decide whether an unlikeable MP is worth voting for your preferred policies. Each person will come to their own conclusion for different reasons.

Zorpheous said...

you know you just framed up my whole problem for this up coming election. Excellent post. Need to think about this more before I'd be willing to give a more firm answer, plus I need some serious sleep, too much work of late.

Again excellent post.

Socialist Swine said...

I think the answer to all your cases is the NDP, but that's just me.

-Socialist Swine

Jim said...

I think the answer to all your cases is the NDP, but that's just me.

I've been so foolish all this time ... it's so clear now. :)

Jim said...

Others might have to decide whether an unlikeable MP is worth voting for your preferred policies. Each person will come to their own conclusion for different reasons.

And I think this is part of the reason we need to delve deeper into democratic reform. In some cases, we're encouraging people to hold their noses, and vote for somebody or something they find least offensive.

Socialist Swine said...

Jim,

Sometimes the obvious answer is the right one.

-Socialist Swine