Democratic versus Electoral Reform

An argument for democratic reform, price which may not include electoral reform

This article is largely motivated by years of dedication to learning about democracy and accountability during and after my Masters thesis. In my opinion, see democracy and accountability are the most fundamental principles in Canada and are interdependent because democracy, link like accountability, is really about increasing justice and fairness for all, so how do elections alone fit into the concept of justice and accountability?

People seem to think that by trying to equal out representation in parliament, there will be better accountability, justice, and fairness in society. Perhaps there may be some increase, but it will not take us to where we need to be to solve national and world issues, like climate change, poverty, and injustice. On the other hand, it could actually slow down the process of decision-making because of an increase of minority governments.

At the root of our democratic challenge is the practice of representation in modern society, not necessarily elections. Economically speaking, our business leaders can take advantage of the “free market” to make decisions independent of public scrutiny, unless their actions interfere with the civil and human rights of others. Our politicians are to some extent free agents as well, and although they are subject to public and parliamentary scrutiny, they are still free agents to make decisions independent of citizen involvement. Under a PR system, political representatives are still free agents to make decisions independent of citizen involvement.

The Liberal government in power may govern for a long time, but they will not govern forever. The tides will turn again and the pendulum will swing to the other end of the political spectrum again. So will electoral reform solve the bi-polar nature of political culture in modern societies? Perhaps not.

I would also argue that our first past the post system is not exactly broken. We elect the individuals in each riding that represents a combination of population density and geographical size of ridings. I am not entirely certain whether a proportional representation system will actually improve accountability and justice in the context of our democratic institutions though.

Underlying the PR system is a plethora of complex mathematics and algorithms that spans beyond the laypersons understanding. The FPTP is easy to understand, and the results are very clear. For this reason, the PR system is plagued with complex ideologies that may push itself into the threshold of misunderstanding, mimicry, and irrelevancy.

Proponents of PR like to use other countries as examples of how a PR system works (Sweden, Germany, etc.), but if we do not first understand that our geographical, anthropological and cultural differences are entirely different, we may be plaguing ourselves with a system that does not actually fix the problem of representation and accountability in the context of Canadian democracy.

So what is the solution?

We need to change the language from electoral reform to democratic reform. We need to look at the whole picture, which may also include electoral reform, but not necessarily. The fundamental issue in Canadian democracy is the free nature of political agents to make decisions that may be unethical or lead to harm. Our democratic reform needs to focus on the duty of leaders in the context of representation, not how they are elected. Also, democratic reform needs to make elected representatives more ethical and interactive with citizens in their decisions, so that they are using evidence in the context of a highly technological and sophisticated society that makes representation with evidence possible.

My Masters thesis, so far, has stood the test of time. Its theoretical assumptions have been applied in an economic and political context with much success, and without having to change from a free market society to a highly regulated one. Ethical decision-making is as good for business as it is for politics. Just as our economic system can be faulty, it is actually more the individuals who make the bad decisions that affect so many. The same goes with our political representatives, however, they should not be as free or more free (in some instances) than economic agents. If we are to have any semblance of a just and accountable society, it needs to be evidence-based and our political agents need to be obliged to ethically fulfill this task. If they do, perhaps we can beg the question whether elections would even be necessary in the first place.