Gordon Gibson floats a truly interesting idea in this morning's Globe and Mail. He suggests that the antidote to our political polarization, which Stephen Harper has worked so hard to create, lies in a Single Transferable Vote. The idea has been proposed before -- in B.C., and by former Liberal leader Stephane Dion. But Gibson suggests that STV may be an idea whose time has come.
The concept is not foreign to our politics. On one ballot, preferences are listed, 1, 2, 3, and so on. After first choices are counted, lower candidates drop off and their supporters’ second choices are counted, and so on. Most of the parties use a variation of this system to choose their leaders. It not only gauges sentiment and support most accurately; it also militates in favour of civil politics and against polarization. If a candidate wants your second-choice vote, they will be respectful of your first choice.
However, it would take some cooperation between the NDP and the Liberals to make it happen:
To get a joint majority as a temporary coalition, they would only need to prevail in 170 seats, so this kind of deal in, say, 200 ridings should produce that. In a recent poll, 64 per cent of NDP and Liberal supporters liked some such idea. The only condition would be that the winning party (probably the NDP as we speak) would promise as a first item of business to bring in an STV system for future elections. The coalition would then continue to govern for a bit under agreed terms of engagement (as have the Conservatives and Liberal-Democrats in Britain), with the next election and next government chosen under the new and better rules.
There is definitely something out of joint with a system that gives the party that gains 33 - 39% of the vote an overwhelming majority. Gibson's proposal would give the concept of one person/one vote new meaning.