Off Topic

I think, therefore I harm

Viva l’élection

I live in a democratic country. People have fought for this right well before I was born. I’m glad I can say my word regarding who will rule my country. But what when it sounds like that every election brings more of the same? That wouldn’t be that bad if same meant good, but it always looks like we are voting on more shit.

I could well bore you down with a political talk about an election that you will have no part in and will have no effect on you, but this isn’t my goal. You don’t care about Canadian politics. But, political systems aren’t the same everywhere, and in a recent conversation with Spiders I realized we have particularities in our system that aren’t present everywhere. In particular, many people can’t understand how any one could be elected by a minority. My goal is to write a post to explain to you how our system works, without going into much details. Just for the interest of showing a different system. Definitely not the best one, but not necessarily a bad one neither.

Democracy

electionDemocracy, as the term originally meant, doesn’t exist anymore. A democracy existed back in the days when a nation was a single city. At a regular interval, all the citizens would show up at a fixed place to vote on all outstanding issues. Motions would be passed when a majority of the citizens would agree on it.

This method could obviously not work in our large nations of several millions individuals. Instead, we adopted the system of republics. In this system, you are called to elect representatives, which will vote on issues on your behalf. Canada is officially classified as a constitutional monarchy, but we are really a republic. The queen may well play with a dildo if she so wishes. All of the countries of the G8… arg sorry… G7 are republics.

In Canada, I have the right to show up at any official meeting and be given a few minutes of right of speech, either to ask questions or express my opinion. They may well ignore anything I said once my time is up though.

Our constitution

I live in Québec, a province of Canada. The system of provinces is not very different from states, though it’s not as decentralized. The system permits to share responsibilities that a huge country like Canada couldn’t take care of by itself. Each province is responsible for maintaining a number of services, such as education, healthcare and roads, while Canada ensures some common rules and standards over all of these services. Canada provides the armed force in case of conflict or sinister. Of course, I need to pay taxes to both Canada and Québec, as they both provide me with some services. We also elect a prime minister in our province, which is totally independent of the federal one.

While the rest of Canada was formed out of a British colony, the same that eventually became the United States, we in Québec were in fact a French colony. The British and the French fought many battles for the control of this territory, but it is through peace that we eventually formed a country together, formally in 1867. While both English and French are official languages in Canada, Québec is the only province where only French is an official language, and we even have laws to protect this language. Because of that distinction and other cultural differences, we see ourselves as a distinct nation. We do everything differently. We have free education and free healthcare (not unique in Canada, but not the norm). We even produce our own electric energy. And we have very particular laws, which reflect the fact that we are generally more liberal than the other Canadians. We even been as far as using a civil law based legal system, rather than the British common law system.

Sovereignty

Because of many of these distinctions, Québec have discussed the possibility of becoming a sovereign state since times immemorial (to me). In fact, a referendum was held in 1980 asking the population if we should consider the possibility and begin working toward that goal. In large part because of the fear of signing a blank contract, it was defeated by 60%. If it had been better thought of, though, this was a real possibility back then, when our system had proved solid. But our economy and politics became fragile over the years, so much that when a new referendum was held again, in 1995, this time with the clear question of whether or not we wanted to become a sovereign country, it was defeated again, by only 50.5% of popular vote.

As the years passed, our economy became more fragile, and our trust in our government deteriorated. So much that all the polls in recent years showed that less than 30% of our population was interested in forming an independent country. Worst, a recent poll showed that the young people (described as being aged 18-35 – so I’ll be young for less than another month now), historically the pro sovereignty, now show less than 20% interest in the question.

Come on man, you can’t run a province, and you ask us to let you rule a country? Stop your fucking racist arguments. We don’t care that they speak English while we speak French. In school, our history books showed us as the oppressed, but have you ever read their history books? If anything, we were lucky that they let us join them. Educate yourself, show us that you can write a budget that doesn’t print in red ink (which hasn’t happened in over a decade now), and maybe I’ll let you put your ideas on the table. Until then, let us alone with that ridiculous question.

Our political system

How could a party be elected with less than the majority of votes? Simple, we have more than two parties – apparently a rare occurrence in the world. Americans don’t know anything beside Conservatives and Democrats. Sure, they do have more choices, but who would consider them?

Since 1970, there was only one general election in Québec with less than three major parties, though there have been cases were the third party wasn’t that strong. In Federal elections, this has been even better. The very first election, in 1867, gave 10% of the seats to a third party. There have been only two parties for a while following that point though, but since 1921, all elections had us choose among at least three major parties. In the 90s, we even had five major parties fighting each other on the ballot.

In reality though, the winners are almost always the same two. In Canada, it’s either Liberals or Conservatives. In Québec, it’s Liberals or Parti Québécois. And whoever gets in office, we always ends up with the same old shit.

This multi-party situation have created words that are quite infrequent in other nations. When a third or even a fourth party gets a significant number of votes, we may well end up with a prime minister not elected by a majority.

At the ballot, we don’t really vote for a prime minister, we vote for a deputy, a person that represents the citizens in an agglomeration of a few cities. These deputies represent a particular party which they are a member (or they may represent themselves as an independent). When a deputy wins, they get to occupy one of the 308 seats in the Canadian parliament, or one of the 125 seats in Québec city. The actual winning party is the one who’ve got the most deputies elected, and its chief thus becomes prime minister. Most people will admit voting for a party though, not the deputy.

Every time a law is proposed, deputies are called to vote on them. In most cases, deputies will vote with their party rather than for themselves (though they are allowed to do so). Thus, the power of the prime minister in place depends mostly on how many seats they obtained. All the members of the non-elected parties are called the opposition for this reason, with the most important of these being the official opposition.

Madame la Première Ministre

Official photography of Pauline Marois. She claimed that the picture was not retouched, despite looking 30 years younger than on TV.

Official photography of Pauline Marois. She claimed that the picture was not retouched, despite looking 30 years younger than on TV.

In September 2012, Pauline Marois became the first elected female prime minister of Québec, but she was elected by a minority. She obtained 54 of the 125 seats, while the Liberals obtained 40. Two other parties shared the remaining 21 seats. In effect, in order to get any motion passed, she must have the approval of the Liberals, the official opposition. She successfully passed her basic motions, but she failed to convince her opponents regarding more controversial issues.

In 2007, prime minister Jean Charest was reelected with a minority, giving him only 48 seats. Unsatisfied, he called a new election the very next year. Against all odds, he was reelected with a majority, obtaining 66 seats. He could thus pass all of his motions, including one, Plan Nord, which absolutely no one wanted – and which Pauline Marois discontinued first thing in the morning.

To avoid this strategic use of elections, one of Pauline Marois’ first motion, a popular one, was to set elections on fixed dates, every four years. The law went into effect quickly, but was written to let the possibility of elections being called faster in special cases. This was open enough that even her could break her own law. So much that, trying for the same strategy, Pauline Marois called for a new election, just one year and a half after her entry in office. This weekend, I will be voting for the fourth time in just seven years.

With the polls on her side, she considered the possibility to gain a majority of seats, and thus pass all these motions that she failed to convince her opponents to accept. With a new chief, the Liberals weren’t ready for an election. Furthermore, the CAQ, a new party that was present for the first time in the 2012 general elections and got a third place against all odds, failed to show any good idea lately and aren’t getting much interest.

The first few polls after the beginning of the campaign showed her right, she had a comfortable margin to sit on. But… Like most, I was on her side, and ready to vote for her. She made mistakes, but I like how she is pushing the world forward with some of her ideas. She sucks at economics, but the other parties aren’t better. Just a week into the campaign she was pushed down so low that the Liberals currently have a real chance at being elected by a majority.

The mistake isn’t hers, it’s her party. Parti Québécois‘ first mandate is to promote Québec’s independence. I feel like she didn’t want to talk about it, but was rather forced by her party. Soon into the campaign, she mentioned that she needed a majority in order to achieve some of her goals, which are popular, but also to finally organize a new referendum. What?

The party never learned from their mistakes. Always a favorite in past elections since 2003, they always lost it after recalling they were after sovereignty. It’s true that the party was created with that major idea back in the 1970s, but wouldn’t it be time that they move forward and realize that there is more to improve the province than to try to make it a country? Wouldn’t it be time that we leave alone that obsolete question once and for all?

Our healthcare system and education system have never been this bad. We have just recently discovered a major fraud system in our government and we are still trying to figure out what happened, who did it and how to prevent this from reoccurring. And you want us to form our very own country?

We meet again

I don’t remember the last time we had a clean election campaign. Nobody ever say what they intend to do, they prefer to show their opponents weaknesses. I won’t vote for the better party, because I don’t feel either of them has any value. My vote will be a strategic one, just like the last time. I don’t care anymore who’s going to win, it will suck anyway. All I really care is that none of them gets a majority. At this point, I’d rather have nothing done than having more destruction.

See ya again in four years. Or before…

I promise the moon to make the front page
But once I’m elected you’ll see these projects in the drawer
Viva l’élection, a handle in the back
Viva l’élection, very big lies

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3 comments on “Viva l’élection

  1. potsoc
    March 27, 2014

    As Churchill said:” Democracy is the best of all bad systems.”

  2. heretherebespiders
    March 27, 2014

    It’s very much the same in Ireland, and I still have trouble wrapping my head around it! We’ve adopted the British system, and it seems you have as well. It’s funny to me that it all seems perfectly logical to a native, but my brain still hurts trying to figure it out. So when I get a vote (only locally as I’m not an Irish citizen) I vote for the individual. But they are still the same old liars and thieves. Or, in our case, failed schoolteachers who still get a pension so can afford to run. You might like this guy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luke_'Ming'_Flanagan
    One of the few who actually are different and could afford to run for office.

  3. sledpress
    March 27, 2014

    It is sad that all politics seems to come down to the question of who will do the least damage. But that’s how I vote, too.

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This entry was posted on March 27, 2014 by in Culture, History, Opinion and tagged , , , , .
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