What the hell has happened to us? Canada is supposed to be a compassionate, caring and friendly nation - but this election campaign has been nothing short of mean, nasty and divisive. But we can’t blame Stephen Harper or Justin Trudeau - this problem of negative elections precedes them and their parties.
In fact, this toxic campaign is symptomatic of our “first-past-the-post” voting system, which rewards dividing Canadians rather than bringing us together. It doesn’t work by inspiring people to vote for you and your party, the system is far more effective if you demonize your opposition through sinister lies and attack ads. The vast majority of us Canadians will go to the polls and vote for who we don’t want, rather than what we believe in. Is it really any wonder that we Canadians distrust our politicians and hold them in such contempt?
Heaven forbid that our parties share similar views and ideas to their opponents. Usually when people agree on a common approach to address public policy issues facing our country, we call this consensus and cooperation. But in our current electoral system, it’s called “stealing” ideas and votes. There is no incentive for parties to share common policy planks which appeal to a broad range of Canadians because this will only lead to “vote splitting”, the phenomenon where an undesired candidate wins with less than 50% of the vote in a riding because two similar candidates divide the vote between them. Vote splitting is more problematic because it can allow one party to win a so-called “majority” government with sometimes less than 40% of the popular vote. This sad system where some votes are more “efficient” than others has led to the most sophisticated strategic voting campaign in Canadian history to get people to vote against a party rather than what we believe in. Is Canadian democracy really so cynical?
It doesn’t have to be this way. There are different electoral systems out there, such as proportional representation, which would radically transform our election campaigns. If you change the rules of the game, then you change they way the politicians play. Most other voting systems do not reward the divisive and negative tactics party campaigns have employed in this election. While it’s not a panacea for all of our democracy’s problems - I really do believe it will go a long way in repairing the damage that has been done.
The Liberals, NDP and Green Party have called for some form of meaningful electoral reform before our next election. This would mean no more strategic voting, no more vote splitting, and hopefully, an end to these nasty campaigns. But regardless of who wins the election, we as Canadians need to hold our politicians to their promises, or history will continue to repeat itself over and over again.