by Stephen Kimber on August 27, 2012 | No Comments
We are at the drain end of August when the non-news of summer just repeats itself—Mayor Peter Kelly still refuses to rule out running for his old Bedford council seat; Lance Armstrong still proclaims his innocence; Conrad Black still wants his day in court—and no one, wisely, pays any mind.So I was surprised last week when a column I wrote about that most seemingly esoteric of subjects—electoral boundaries—roused such passion.
Online comments, Facebook postings, emails, phone calls, even supermarket line-up upbraidings...
My argument, simply put: the provincial government’s decision to order the supposedly independent electoral boundaries commission to come to a pre-determined conclusion to eliminate so-called protected ridings was an affront to the democratic process.
Parker Donham, who blogs as The Contrarian (contrarian.ca), dismissed my rationale—“Welcome to Wonderland, Alice”—and argued the government was rightly putting an end to “the patent unfairness of undemocratic protected ridings.”
Facebooked former NDP leader Jeremy Akerman: “the notion that a voter can be properly represented only by someone of the same race or ethnicity is a profoundly ugly one.” Minority ridings are “insidious and corrosive ideas which should be expunged from our democracy.”
I was really talking more about process than outcome. We need to discuss how to protect minority interests in our legislature without beginning with the conclusion.
But this high school civics notion that one-person-one-vote is the only, or best guarantee of democracy flies in the face of history—and reality.
We don’t have such a system.
Federally, one voter in PEI counts for three in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta.
If we went strictly by the numbers, the our three northern territories qualify—barely—for one House of Commons seat instead of their three. Does anyone believe the interests of that vast and very different part of Canada could be adequately represented by one of 338?
If there are legitimate regional interests that don’t fit neatly into one-person-one-vote, why not racial or ethnic?
Certainly, there may be better ways to protect and represent minority interests, but let’s not toss out the one we have without at least an honest discussion.
Copyright 2012 Stephen Kimber