As a political science student, this is one of the questions that had dogged and bothered me for the past number of years. How did politics get this bad? At what point did the debates in the House of Commons and the Provincial Legislatures degenerate into beer-hall level cheap personal insults and nasty heckling? When did the average person decide to tune out of politics? When did the House of Commons become a place for “politicians” rather than our “representatives?” When did elections become irrelevant to the average Canadian?
How can politics again become relevant to the average Canadian? Was it ever? Will it ever?
I can name off a number of reasons for why I believe people tune out of politics, and I will…
It’s no secret that our Provincial and Federal Assemblies are largely unreflective of the ballots cast.
In 2004, the Alberta Progressive Conservatives received 46.8% of the popular vote. Through the wonders of the first-part-the-post system, 46.8% translated into 74.7% of the seats in the Legislature (62 out of 83). Whereas the opposition Liberals received 29.4% of the popular vote, but only 19.3% of the seats (16 out of 83).
With the voter turnout at its lowest in Alberta history, 44.7% of Albertans exercised their democratic right to vote. That’s 894,591 out of 2,001,287 registered voters. Voter turnout was as low as 26.4% in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo and 29.6% in Calgary Montrose. The highest turnout was 62.9% in Edmonton Riverview.
When translated from voter turnout, the results translate into 20.9% support for the PC’s and 13.1% for the Liberals. So, only 20.9% of eligible voters cast a vote for Ralph Klein’s PC’s. This is hardly a mandate in my mind.
The same imbalance can be seen in the Alberta results in the 2004 Federal election, where the Conservatives garnered 61.64% of the popular vote and 93% of the seats (26 out of 28). The Federal Liberals received 21.98% of the vote, but only 7% of the seats (2 out of 28). The NDP garnered 9% of the Alberta vote, which did not translate into any seats.
So, how do we solve this imbalance? I say overhaul the system completely. Do I know what the solution is? No. But it’s time we start looking at solutions.
(Dr. Harold Jansen from the University of Lethbridge has some interesting ideas).
It’s time to think out of the box and look past the partisan picture.
Let’s re-evaluate our expectations of our elected officials. Hold them accountable, hold them to higher standards, and call them on their political biases and bluffs.