Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fixed election dates: a dumb idea whose time has come.. and now may be going again

Once more the new orthodoxy that our parliaments must have elections every four years on dates fixed years in advance falls afoul of political realities. A leading candidate for extra-parliamentary appointment as premier of BC thinks she would want an elective mandate before 2014.  Despite the rush to fix that date some years ago, most voters seem to agree with her.  [h/t Stephen MacLean]

Maybe we will have to try some more of these ill-conceived electoral reform ideas to see how unhelpful they actually are. Trying fixed election dates has certainly exposed the flaws in the concept.  One might imagine, by analogy, that nothing would undermine support for an elected Senate like trying it for a few years (as actually happened in the 1850s-60s).  Nothing would expose the illusions of proportional representation like trying it (essentially, that's where New Zealand is now).

But "throwing the bastards in" can be a risky experiment.  We've had about ninety years exposure of the folly of entrusting leadership of political parties to a process of massive competitive vote-buying -- but it's still sacrosanct everywhere in Canada.

[A note on BC leadership politics.  In November I was denying that any parliamentary caucus in Canada had successfully brought down a leader who was inclined to fight. I should acknowledge that the threat of 13 BC NDP backbenchers to leave caucus if their leader Carole James did not consent to a leadership convention looks like a successful exception to my rule. Being willing to destroy the party, yeah, that will work.  But one of the points I've tried to make is that Canadian parties and politics need leadership review systems that can work without destroying the party  -- or costing millions, or taking months, or....]
Follow @CmedMoore