Sunday 20 November 2016

Democracy week, part 1

This week's posts are a response to recent local and global events. I have been frustrated, angry, sad, scared, and anxious about what I've seen around me: Brexit, the U.S. Election, and locally, the P.E.I. Plebiscite for electoral reform. I've seen what looks like an erosion of democracy, hence the title of this week's comics. They're not funny (nor are they supposed to be, unlike my usual fare, which is, at least, an attempt at humour) but my way of venting and expressing my feelings about what I see around me.

Today's post is a celebration of one of the "superheroes" of democracy, the Very Honourable Peter Bevan-Baker. He is the first and only Green Party MLA in P.E.I.'s legislature, where seats are held, alternately, by lopsided Liberal or Consevative majorities. Once, the legislature had only one member of opposition in the entire legislature. The time was ripe for a re-examination of our electoral system, and consideration of switching from first pass the post, where many votes are lost in the ether, to one of proportional representation, where every vote would count and third and fourth party MLAs would have a shot at some seats. Under proportional representation, our legislature would better represent the popular vote. Sounds good to me!

The plebiscite was held over 10 days when Islanders could phone in, vote in person, or vote online and rank the five options, including two for proportional representation, as well as the status quo. Islanders are known for fantastic voter turn out, but the plebiscite only had 36% of eligible voter turn out. However, the majority voted for proportional representation. Yea! Right?

Wrong. The ruling Liberal government doesn't think a voter turn out of 36% is enough to justify change - especially a change that is so threatening to their majority in the legislature. Especially since they only received 40.8% of the popular vote to clinch that majority. But that 40% translated into 18 seats in the leg, compared to the PC party's - the official opposition - 8 seats (with 37.4% of popular vote), NDP's zero seats (11% popular vote) and Green's one seat (10.8% popular vote). 

But thank heavens for Peter Bevan-Baker. The sole Green is fighting the fight in the leg day and night, trying to get the Liberals to honour the plebiscite results. It's not looking good, but I'm so very grateful for his Sisyphean efforts, I had to kick off Democracy Week with a tribute.

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