The 180

Forget electoral reform, it's time to reform politics

Electoral reform has been a hot topic since the Trudeau Liberals were elected in 2015. But Ken Dewar, a professor emeritus at Mount Saint Vincent University, argues it's not elections that are the problem — it's politics. He makes his case for political reform.
Former Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef holds up a print out of the Gallagher Index in December, 2016. The index shows the difference between a party's popular vote, and the number of seats it gets in the legislature. It was one of many things discussed by the Electoral Reform Committee last year. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

"Often, in trying to do better, we mar what's well."

If any facet of life deserves a Shakespeare paraphrase, in Ken Dewar's opinion, it's politics and government. 

Dewar, a professor emeritus of history at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, argues instead of focusing on elections, Ottawa should focus on reforming politics since it is politics that has become increasingly partisan. 

These cards were mailed to households across the country as the government tried to engage Canadians in electoral reform. (CBC News)

"One doesn't want to romanticize the past, but especially in the last couple of decades, politics has taken on a tribal quality. There is less willingness to compromise, and to reach out, and to accommodate, and in my view that's the essence of politics. Politics is accommodating and conciliating and working out solutions to problems among people of differing views."

He says he has heard one good idea for improvement while participating in electoral reform hearings last year:

"A number of the new members of parliament had decided that they weren't going to applaud their own speakers, their own party members, in question period, and that had an effect of quieting down down question period. An altogether salutatory effect, in my view." 

Dewar says if we want to improve democracy in this country, small fixes like that one that will make a difference, not an overhaul of the voting system. 


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