As the climate crisis becomes truly obvious and severe, Canadians remain hesitant to take the kind of decisive and comprehensive action that is called for. Our federal government declared a climate emergency in June of 2019 but for the most part continues to act in a business-as-usual manner. In this article, Cedric Eveleigh focuses on Canada’s electoral system as one of the prime reasons for the inadequate reaction of our government to the global climate emergency.
This article was first published in Medium. Cedric is a mechanical engineer + mountain biker + tree-hugging activist + aspiring Esperantist + effective altruist. (Editor intro.)
Imagine a jolly group of folks. We’ll call them the People of Eh.
Now imagine another smaller group. We’ll call this second group the Legislators. The Legislators are elected by and make decisions for the People of Eh. Also, the Legislators vote among themselves each time they’re making one of these decisions.
Let’s focus on one looming decision that the Legislators have to make for the People of Eh: what to do about the Crazy Experiment. The Crazy Experiment is where people change the composition of Earth’s atmosphere and see what happens.
The People of Eh are divided into three equally sized groups that each have a stance on what to do about the Crazy Experiment: the Naaah people, the Mmmkay people, and the Wtf people. The Naaah people deny the craziness of the Crazy Experiment and think everything will turn out fine. The Mmmkay people are worried about the Crazy Experiment but aren’t in any terrible rush to deal with it. The Wtf people think the Crazy Experiment is exceedingly crazy and spend a great deal of time vocalizing their name to the other two groups.
The Legislators, just like the People of Eh, are divided into three groups that each have a stance on what to do about the Crazy Experiment. However, there’s a problem: a flaw in the voting system made the three groups of Legislators unproportional to the three groups of the People of Eh, so that 14% of the Legislators represent the Wtf people, 35% represent the Naaah people, and 51% represent the Mmmkay people.
The Mmmkay Legislators are the majority (51%) of Legislators, so they make a decision about the Crazy Experiment on their own. Their decision is imposed upon both the Naaah people and the Wtf people, which together, are 66% of the People of Eh.
Let’s call this a semi-dictatorship.
The story’s not over; what happens next for the People of Eh is crucial.
66% of the People of Eh are upset, so they ask for the voting system to be fixed. But lo and behold, the Mmmkay Legislators say no.
The voting system stays as is. This is a perfectly rational thing for the Mmmkay Legislators to do because they like their majority power, and the only reason they have their majority power is because of the flaw in the voting system.
. . .
This represents the actual political situation in Canada. Mmmkay people are Liberal voters, Naaah people are Conservative voters, and Wtf people are Green Party and NDP voters. The Crazy Experiment is climate change.
In the election that just happened (fall of 2019), 33% of Canadians voted Liberal, and Liberals now have a quasi-majority of members of parliament (Legislators). Here are some more fun facts: About 7% of Canadians voted Green and a whopping 1% of our members of parliament are with the Green Party. The Bloc Québécois on the other hand, also got 7% of the vote but got eleven times more members of parliament than the Green Party!
This flawed voting system is called a First-past-the-post voting system, and the fix is called a Proportional Representation voting system. And Canadians want this fix! Waaay more than half of Canadians, according to a recent poll (Angus Reid National Poll, September 2019).
In an alternate universe where the People of Eh would’ve had a Proportional Representation voting system, the Mmmkay and Wtf Legislators would have each been 33% of the Legislators and could have decided together what to do about the Crazy Experiment before it got totally out of hand.
How do we get the fix of Proportional Representation past the semi-dictators? Fortunately, there’s a way! A bunch of Canadians are presently asking our government to let Canadians who don’t have a conflict of interest make the decision about whether the voting system should be fixed. The fancy name for this process is called a citizens’ assembly. It involves the random selection of a few hundred Canadians (so that they represent the rest of us) followed by a period where they learn about the topic — with political science dweebs on hand — and then they deliberate. The end result is a recommendation from the citizens’ assembly to the government, which is to be acted upon by the government. This process has been happening all over the world for all sorts of tricky issues, and the evidence is clear that it works.
Now here’s how you can help fix the semi-dictatorship with a few clicks.
Click number one is the link below, which is a petition that’s aimed directly at the government’s ears, telling them to get the citizens’ assembly going. The next few clicks are for signing the petition. If you’re extra keen, you can make a handful more clicks for sharing the petition with others. I mean, unless you’re a semi-dictator, then go ahead and click on cat memes instead. But be warned that the rest of us will proceed to emphatically click this semi-dictatorship to justice.
A big thanks goes to Jesse Williams for creating the art in this article.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.