Democracy? What Democracy?

When you are asked what Democracy is or means to you, what do you think or say?

Most people say it means the majority rules or 50% + 1 votes in an election.

A lot of people say that democracy means that a democratic government represents the people. Okay…Which people? All the people, they say.

A few folks get technical and state the details of how a vote that is cast for a elected representative is supposed to reflect the views of the majority in that riding at whatever particular political level we’re talking about…this is where most of us drift off quietly…

But let’s check a few, very important assumptions going on in this
“democratic discussion”:

Assumption #1: The winner of an election will be supported by more than half the population.

All of the recent elections in Vancouver, municipal, provincial, and federal, prove this assumption horribly incorrect.

The current Mayor received 46.5% of the votes cast (less than half). This number translates to only 15% of registered voters and only 10% of eligible voters supported Vancouver’s Mayor.

The current Premier received 45.98% of the votes cast in the provincial
riding of Vancouver Point-Grey. This translates to 27.89% of registered voters and only 22.94% of eligible voters supported BC’s Premier.

The Provincial Liberal Party received 45.8% of the votes cast, 28.4% of the registered vote, and only 23.4% of the eligible vote.

David Emerson, the newest member of the Conservative Party and new
Minister of International Trade, received 43.5% of the votes cast in the
federal riding of Vancouver Kingsway…as a Liberal. The Conservative
candidate he ran against received 18.8% of the votes cast. Translated,
25.6% of registered voters and only 17% of eligible voters supported
David Emerson as a Liberal candidate. The Conservative party
candidate received 11% of the registered vote and 7.5% of the eligible vote.

The new Conservative federal government received 36.3% of the votes cast, which is 23.5% of the registered vote and only 18% of the eligible vote.

Assumption #2: The number of votes cast is not important.

Not one government representing Vancouver citizens is supported by a
majority of residents. Even worse, not one government is supported by
even ONE QUARTER of the people it “represents”!

Not only is the number of votes cast important, governments must not be allowed to govern any of us unless they obtain at least a majority of the eligible vote (many other organizations require 60% or even 75% support to pass motions). Anything less is like letting a “special interest group” take over the government. Hmm, maybe that’s how we have right-wing governments at every level and nobody admits to voting for any of them!

Assumption #3: The decisions and direction of the resulting government will reflect the majority of the people it represents.

Obviously assumption 3 is a crock of poo: what government has ever
represented the majority of the people it represents in Canada? From the start of colonization (when the majority of folks were aboriginal) to today, governments are elected by, at most, a handful of voters. And you can bet that that handful is from the richest part of society, not only because they have the time to vote, but because they have to most money to lose.

Assumption #4: the electoral system must be fair because we use it.

That assumption is like saying capitalism must be the best economic
system because we use it. The rich in our society (10% of Canadians own 53% of our wealth) have always controlled our governments and therefore have written the rules that we are expected to obey (you know, laws and taxes and electoral systems). Why would the people with the power voluntarily create a system that could take that power away? They may be inbred, greedy, unhappy and smell real bad, but rich people are not stupid (well, most of them at least). All “legal” systems are written by the rich, for the rich…except when we force them to do otherwise!

Assumption #5: we can’t change the system.

Whatever system that assumption refers to can not only be changed, it
must be changed! How can anyone sit back and allow a group of thieves to run our governments? Yes, thieves. First they steal our governments (hello, 10% Mayor, 22% Premier, and the 17% Minister who blatantly lied throughout the recent federal election; sign the petition to recall him here) and then they use our governments to steal our money (by taxing us and giving tax “breaks”, contracts, and subsidies to their friends and themselves in the corporate world).

Not only do we need to change the electoral systems at every level, we
need to bring democracy down to the neighbourhood level where all of us can participate (Cuba is an excellent example of how to do this). And we need to stop the looting of our resources (both natural and personal) by changing our economic system (Co-operatives in Northern Italy dominate their huge economy).

How? Start by talking. Then talk some more. Get others interested. When you’re ready, start working together. You’ll find the way. Trust yourself. But stop trusting “the system.” You’ll be surprised at how different the world looks when you do. And how quickly it can all change…