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OPINION: It's now up to Green and NDP parties

Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, left, and NDP Leader Mike Redmond, take part in a public event during the 2015 P.E.I. provincial election campaign. 
(Guardian file photo)
Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, left, and NDP Leader Mike Redmond, take part in a public event during the 2015 P.E.I. provincial election campaign. (Guardian file photo) - The Guardian

Co-operation is part and parcel of getting proportional representation system of government in place

BY OLE HAMMARLUND

GUEST OPINION

Both federal and provincial Liberal parties have favoured preferential balloting as a way to reform our election process. They way this works is that voters get to give their second and third choices on the ballot. If the first choice is not elected, then the second preference is counted instead.

The reason that the Liberals favour this kind of voting is obvious: While Greens and NDP’ers want to vote for their own candidates first, their second choice is much more likely to be Liberal than Conservative, so ultimately the Liberals will “harvest” the votes from three different parties instead of just one. No wonder the Liberals like this system.

Does preferential voting do anything to make government more representative? Of course not. Opponents of proportional representation often suggest that the minority governments that would result, would be unstable and govern poorly. A look at countries that operate under such systems like Germany and Denmark show that to be untrue. Governments there are more stable than here in Canada, and this stability is most often obtained by coalitions between two or more parties.

Canadian parties on the other hand seem more interested in insulting each other than co-operation and predictably governments, policies and laws se-saw from one direction to another.

Here on P.E.I. we have a unique opportunity to show how political co-operation goes hand in hand with proportional representation. The only two parties proposing this system, the Green Party and NDP, may get several more seats but have little chance to form government on their own. They could however have a real chance if they form a coalition to form the next government in the upcoming general election.

One of the quirks of the First-Past-the-Post system is that the more parties who compete for a seat, the less votes are needed for a win. With a two-party system just over 50 per cent can win the vote. With a four-party system as we now have on P.E.I., just over 25 per cent could theoretically win the seat, assuming that the votes are evenly distributed between the four parties.

While this worked well for the Greens in District 11, the reality for the rest of P.E.I. (except for Peter Bevan-Baker’s riding) is that the Green and NDP parties run distant third and fourth places. However, were they to combine their votes they would have a real chance to form the government.

So here is my suggestion: Form an agreement now with the main objective to institute proportional representation along with a good and responsive government. Divvy up the ridings equally, of course always running the strongest candidates in their home ridings if possible and only run one chosen candidate in each riding.

Premier MacLauchlan promised a vote on proportional representation, but chances are that he will actively confuse the vote with an obscure second option that he has yet to tell us about. Proportional voting may only come about if the Green and NDP parties decide to take matters in their own hands co-operatively.

If the two parties cannot agree on such a simple plan for success, why are they even talking about proportional representation? Co-operation is clearly needed from the start. Let it happen here on P.E.I.

- Ole Hammarlund is a Charlottetown architect and supporter of proportional representation, a system of government used in his native Denmark.

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