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Does Canada’s democracy need an upgrade?

Posted on November 9, 2022 by Taber Times

We can all agree that democracy is one of the best forms of government that humanity has come up with. It directly allows all of the individuals of a nation to collectively determine what direction that nation should go. But can it be better? Right now, Canada is utilizing a representative democracy where the individual citizen can elect politicians to represent them in all forms of government — municipal, provincial, and federal. There are many different ways that we could theoretically improve the system.

Let’s jump straight into the deep end of the most extreme change, first a direct democracy. Direct democracy is basically where you get rid of the middleman and every individual votes on every single decision on all levels of government that concerned them.

Now, understandably this is somewhat unfeasible. Elections are extremely expensive and time consuming, especially when dealing with a large and wide area such as Canada, but like with most things, technology can make the impossible possible. This is where we advance democracy into the 21st century and create something that is known as a digital democracy. A digital democracy would work identically to a direct democracy except, as you can guess, all the votes are done digitally. So, instead of going to a school gymnasium, putting an X on a piece of paper, and sliding that into a ballot box, you would merely open up your phone or computer, go to a government provided app or website, and select the option you wanted. With this method, we would still need to elect representatives to determine what eventually goes to vote, but all of the people would have the final say on every matter at the end of the day. Of course, we understand there are some valid concerns with this form of democracy when it comes to digital security, but as we stated earlier, this is the extreme end.

A system of democracy that is more reasonable, and is currently practised within Australia is single transferable vote (STV). Currently within our system of government, we are using first past the post — this is where whichever candidate gets the most amount of votes wins. On paper, first pass the post seems like a good system, especially if there’s only two parties, but in practice it can get rather messy. In Canada, there are multiple parties — let’s say that there is a party A, B, and C. Party A and B generally agree on most points, but there are some differences that keep them from merging into one party. Party C has very different views on most things. This leads to two types of people that  agree with party A and B, and those who agree with party C. Come next election, party C wins 40 per cent of the vote, party A wins 35 per cent of the vote, and party B wins 25 per cent of the vote. Party C wins the vote, and the majority of people within the region are not happy because they feel they are not being properly represented.

This is where STV comes in. STV in the simplest terms is basically where you rank your party and your vote goes down your ranking until a party has 50 per cent or more of the vote. Using our example from before, people who vote for party A and party B vote for their primary party, but ranks the other party as their second choice. Election day comes around again and the initial votes are the same, but since no party has received 50 per cent of the votes, all of those who voted for party B — who received the smallest amount of the vote — have their votes transferred to the party that they ranked second. So, they look at the vote again and party C still has 40 per cent of the vote, but party A now has 60 per cent of the vote. Party A wins and the majority of people are more content because a party that they at least agree with is now governing them.

Will this ever happen? Who knows, but it may be a viable and better way for voting in Canada and other countries. Voters would be better able to support the parties that they agree with, and not feel forced to vote for one of the big parties as their primary and only choice.

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