I have one wish for the Canadian electorate: that we never again have a majority parliament - and Monday's election was a good start. Let Jean Chrétien's shameful final term stand as a reminder of all that is wrong with the party parliamentary system.
Canadians are an unusual lot. If you believe our self-promotion, we are tolerant, gentle, kind and always willing to compromise; however, if you look at our politics, we seem power-hungry, fractious, and completely opportunistic. What else can explain the Conservatives and NDP's desire to bring down the government last December? And what else will explain the collapse of our current minority government in, oh, 24 months or so? If Canadian politicians were truly committed to compromise, they would attempt to make minority governments work.
Yet even with the prospect of less "stable" governments, and the chance that we return to the polls soon, I'm more convinced than ever that a minority government is the best bet for balanced and responsive representation. To borrow from Lord Acton: Power corrupts, and absolute power in the form of a majority parliament gives a few people close to the Prime Minister the licence to do whatever the hell they want and turns our representatives into bobble-headed yes-men and women. In a minority situation, everybody's input is valued simply because of political expediency. Power can't rest at the top, or the structure will collapse, so Prime Minister must become less rigid.
Our current system also fails in acknowledging sizeable segment of the population who don't accept that there are only three choices. Currently, independents and candidates from small parties have little hope of "breaking through." How could they with the media focusing only on three parties (and in reality on only the leaders of two of those parties). People who vote for the smaller parties are repeatedly told that their votes are "wasted." We need a fundamental change in our voting system, so that the people can feel good about voting for the person or the ideas that really matter to them.
And although I can't say much good about the provincial Liberals, I do believe that the Single Transferable Vote (STV) is the best solution to fix a broke system. The Australian ambassador, where STV is used, described it as choosing the least unpopular rather than choosing the most popular candidate. Like consensus-building, the STV allows most voters to say, "I can live with that." Some people argue that a government can't fulfill its mandate without a majority, but, let's face it, if a majority government collects only 40 per cent of the 70 per cent of people who bother to vote, then its mandate isn't that strong to begin with.
If a party knows going in that it will have to compromise and find common ground with a disparate group of politicians, then they'll compromise. And generally, a compromise will make more people happier more of the time.