A couple of weeks ago, we got this email:
“Dear Fair Vote Canada,
Currently I am vacationing in the Netherlands. While watching the daily Dutch news presentation on television my jaw dropped.
Party members walked across the aisles to other parties in an effort to make agreements on strategies for combating high prices that affect the cost of living…”
The result of these conversations? The Dutch MPs passed motions to raise the minimum wage and social benefits, increase childcare support and delay raising gas taxes.
MPs of different partisan stripes working together to solve problems happens every day in many countries with proportional representation.
What is a jaw-dropping and disorienting experience for a Canadian observer wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow in many countries.
Denmark is another example of how working across party lines can get things done.
Denmark already has a broad coalition government. It consists of parties spanning the political spectrum from left to right. Despite already having a majority to pass whatever budget they wanted, the government invited opposition parties to the table to help decide how money is spent.
In the end, almost every party, representing over 90% of voters, approved the last budget.
Instead of our leaders repeating that every major problem in Canada is another party’s fault, imagine if they worked together on the toughest challenges of our times.
We’re just not going to get there with first-past-the-post.
Canadians’ deepest fear about the future
If you watch the news, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the biggest fear that most Canadians have about the future is the housing crisis. Or the healthcare crisis. Or, especially, the affordability crisis.
There’s no doubt that the painfully high cost of living is top of mind.
But when EKOS asked Canadians what their deepest fear for Canada’s future was, it wasn’t the price of groceries, health care, housing or even climate change. Canadians’ greatest fear about the future was “growing political and ideological polarization.”
Toxic, divisive politics that pits “us” against “them”, neighbour against neighbour.
It’s a mean-spirited view of others that’s driven by blind partisanship. It divides us into what journalist Justin Ling calls “agitated clusters of comforting rage”.
When partisan leaders act as if those in other parties are dangerous, morally bankrupt or stupid, that kind of politics eventually impacts how we see each other as human beings.
While Canadians are worried about many important issues, at a deeper level we’re concerned about the ability of a more polarized political system to solve them.
Worrying signs that Canadians’ fears are justified
A new report this year, Far and widening: The rise of polarization in Canada, concluded that polarization is growing in Canada.
The researchers engaged 1600 young adults aged 18–35 in discussion roundtables across the country and an in-depth survey. They found that 44% of young adults believe the political stability of Canada is threatened by the political division of its people.
Instead of incentivizing political leadership to turn down the temperature, our winner-take-all system has trapped us in a vicious feedback loop. As the report notes:
“Parties see a benefit in stepping up the demonization of each other…. They know this polarization exists and they see a benefit in exploiting it.”
It “resembles the growing mutual hostility Democrats and Republicans hold towards one another in the United States.”
MPs quoted in the report explained: “Parties are whipping up anger and distrust amongst their core supporters for money. Those supporters are becoming increasingly fervent in their beliefs, distrustful of rival parties and demanding of ideological purity…. The party must in turn become more confrontational and dogmatic.”
Imploring political leaders to do better―when the system rewards them for demonizing partisan opponents―just isn’t working.
Citizen leadership to deliver proven solutions
In the coming months, Parliament will be voting on Motion M-86 for a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform.
This is an historic moment. In Canada’s history, federal Parliamentarians have never before had an opportunity to vote on a proposal like this.
Winning this vote matters more than ever.
While there is no way to flip a switch and fix what’s wrong with politics (including polarization), the research is clear:
Winner-take-all systems like first-past-the-post create a political culture that is more polarized.
On the other hand, proportional representation reduces partisan hostility among voters. It can even reduce the amount of anger between MPs in Parliament.
Fair representation and collaborative governance pay off for citizens on the issues that matter.
Countries with proportional representation not only rank at the top of every democracy index, they have the best outcomes on health, human development, economic growth, and environmental protection.
Does your MP support a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform?
When politics is getting in the way of progress, putting a non-partisan, independent Citizens’ Assembly in charge of finding solutions just makes sense.
It’s a bold, innovative, and hopeful step on the path to delivering the kind of democratic renewal that Canada needs.
A conversation with your MP, outside the toxic environment of Parliament Hill and social media can break down partisan barriers and really can change minds.
Thanks to your work, more MPs are stepping forward to support a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform every week!
This weekend, the NDP passed a resolution supporting a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. The Liberal Party adopted it as their official party policy in May. And at visits with Conservative MPs, some have told constituents they will be advocating for Motion-86 within their party.
If you have a Liberal, Conservative or Bloc MP, and are willing to lead a face to face visit, we need you! Please sign up now. When you sign up, I will let you know if your MP has already had a constituent meeting about Motion M-86 and if not, we’ll support you every step of the way to lead a visit!
As Liberal MP Adam van Koeverden said recently in the House of Commons after meeting with constituents in his riding about Motion M-86:
“I had a great conversation recently with Fair Vote Canada. I am supportive of the notion of Canadians coming together to talk about how our electoral process and system of governing could be enhanced.”
We can win this vote for a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, one conversation at a time.