Nobody wins

Following on from my last post, a good friend sent me this article in Macleans. Here's a snippet:

THERE IS nothing wrong with minority governments, per se. It depends what kind of minority. Do we want the kinds of minority Parliaments we have had in recent years, a clutch of hobbled regional or quasi-regional parties, fingers perpetually on the button, endlessly threatening to pitch us all into another pointless election in the vain hope that, if the swing voters can be distracted in their direction, if the splits go their way, if they can demean and belittle their opponents enough, if they can depress turnout even further than before, they might just fluke their way into a majority? Or will we accept that, whatever the ancient glories of the two-party system, it no longer exists?

If we must have five-party politics, let them at least be parties with real differences, and national appeal. Away with the system that guarantees the Bloc two-thirds of the seats in Quebec on the strength of little more than one-third of the vote. Away with the ghettos of Conservative Alberta, or Liberal Toronto, where it is scarcely worth campaigning, so predictable are the results. Away with "strategic voting," and other attempts to tell people they may not vote for the party they support, but must vote against the party they fear. Away with the disgraceful situation of a party winning almost a million votes, as the Greens did this time out, and getting zero seats.

Indeed, when you think about it, many of the problems identified in this piece have their origins in the perverse incentives of our highly leveraged, winner-take-all electoral system. Why have the Tories degenerated into mush? Because they face no competition on the right, Reform-style uprisings being more or less outlawed for fear of "splitting the vote." Why did the Liberals ignore their growing weakness all these years? Because they could still count on the bizarre distortions of first-past-the-post to reap a bushel of seats from one region or another. Why has the Bloc become an immovable blot on the national scene, long after its original purpose was exhausted? Ditto. Why have majority governments become next to impossible? Why has politics degenerated into such vicious, empty partisanship? Why do so many people no longer bother to vote? Because the system is broken, and if this election won't persuade us to change it, nothing will.