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by Gabrielle Taylor

December 17, 2000

In the stereotypical nuclear family, that dreamlike unit of the American 1950s with a mother, a father, two children and a baby, the mother would do the cooking and therefore have ultimate say over what made up dinner. The father, as the one who paid for the dinner, had the second most amount of say. Children might express an opinion which might or might not be factored in. The baby, not being able to speak, would have no say, and being a baby, possibly no interest.

That 1950s mother, who may never have existed, was one of the last vestiges of the barter economy, which only works when there is trust on both sides. Trust can only develop when there is a positive relationship. Where there is trust, there is the opportunity for resolution.

More importantly, where there is no trust, there is NO opportunity for resolution!

This is apparent both in the Florida fracas and in the November 27 Canadian election. Regardless of who becomes President in the United States in 2001, and regardless of the Liberal party in Canada winning 170+ of 301 seats (which is considered a stunning majority) none of them actually represent the majority of the people in, respectively, Canada or the United States.

In the US, the electoral map was like a bullseye: blue around the edges and red in the middle. However, Al Gore and Dubya Bush both got nearly the same number of votes. Whichever one of them becomes President will have disenfranchised half the country.

In Canada, the map is more like one of those rainbow popsicles: the Canadian Alliance green (green for American dollars, not for the environment, one surmises) out west, bleeding into Liberal red in Ontario, red chequered with Bloc Quebecois indigo in Quebec, and with Progressive Conservative blue in the Atlantic provinces.

(Plus some orange dots for NDP who I can't take seriously anymore.)

That summed around 170 seats for the Liberal party, out of a possible 301. That 56.5% of the seats came from only 40.8% of the popular vote. In a country with four (and a half) time zones, only two time zones are strongly represented in the new government.

In the States, Gore's votes were shaved away by Ralph Nader (rumour claiming that some of Nader's ads were underhandedly paid for by the GOP to split Gore's vote; plausible; could be true). In Canada, the schism was far more dramatic; the right wing split into its constituent elements of sleaze and humility and, while each element got a lot of votes they missed out on the seats. The upstart sleazy Canadian Alliance took 25.5% of the vote but only 22% (66) of the seats, which is probably "close enough", plus I don't like the Alliance anyhow; but the once-proud now-humbled Conservative Party got 12.2% of the vote and only THREE PERCENT (12) of the seats!

Now, I voted Conservative, so I admit bias, but still, with a total voter turnout of under 13 million (out of a potential 21 million; lowest turnout in 75 years) I'd like to see that million Conservative votes mean more than 12/301 seats in Parliament, particularly when the Bloc Quebecois netted 38 seats with 10.8% of the popular vote.

(The scene was even more dramatic in 1992 in Canada; the Conservatives took roughly a third of the popular vote and ended up with exactly two seats. that incarnation of the Conservative Party needed to suck the pipe, but the wisdom of hindsight suggests it may be bad to disenfranchise a third of the vote.)

The reason the Conservatives got stomped is the same reason Gore (with his slim popular majority) isn't already redecorating Pennsylvania Avenue; our forefathers in their infinite wisdom realized it wasn't fair to give the city folk all the rights to legislate the country folk. So they made ridings (or in the US, districts) and tried to spread the power around some.

This is a very good idea in the US; it checks a candidate from being able to ignore nearly everywhere but California, Florida, New York and Texas. Every state's worth at least something, so everybody gets at least a bit of say; mother and father get to decide if cousin Jimmy is coming to visit but at least Willie can try to sway them by saying Jimmy can sleep in his room.

In Canada, it doesn't work as well, because Canada only has 30 million people, of which about a third are concentrated in Ontario and Quebec. This meant that where I was born, in British Columbia on the west coast, that the election had already been decided several hours before the BC polls closed.

Which means that in this election the Canadian west got screwed twice; traditionally, by ultimately not having any real electoral power, and voluntarily, by plastering itself with votes for a party that is not in power, but who it felt represented them.

The same screw is imminent for half the American people: whether Bush or Gore becomes president, half the people didn't want him.

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