LETTER: Deep partisanship is troubling

"We must recognise that political stability comes from the willingness of parties to cooperate and make the best possible policies achievable under first past the post."

Dear Editor:

What I find most troubling in any election? Deep partisanship. 

I was put off by an online comment that suggested that the B.C. greens had been working without a set of policies since 2017. Ludicrous of course. But anything goes, even a total lack of understanding of how democracy works, when it comes to putting down another party. 

But it was rather ironic that the critique came from someone who supports the BC NDP, whose party leadership called a snap election blindsiding the party that had given it its confidence, and had enabled it to form a minority government. 

Instead of gratitude, the party got attacks with wishes for it to be wiped out. 

This show of intolerance for a smaller party is curious as it is troubling. Why would someone question the existence of smaller parties in a democracy? Doesn’t that totally dismiss that renewal often comes from smaller parties. Don’t they do what small businesses do for the business world, provide innovation? To name one of the many: corporate and union donations became a thing of the past. The B.C. greens called it out and banned it from its fundraising seven months ahead of the 2017 election. 

The intolerance becomes alarming though when combined with a lust for a ‘majority’ for ‘their party.’ We know this is not a reflection of percentage of the vote. A largest minority of the vote is turned into a ‘majority’ by the distortion of the district election system. But, with every election, the only real majority are the people who have no representation as local candidates seldom win with more than fifty percent of the vote in their district.

And alarm turns to nausea when that lust is a wish for a temporary one-party-rule in the legislature. Some call this ‘stability,’ but it is effectively a situation in which one party dictates and can’t be meaningfully opposed.

Gladly, the deep partisanship is mostly limited to the hardcore of the bigger parties. 

And I am glad, my parents never told us how to vote. And even if they had, they stopped voting for the liberal and conservative parties in the early 2000s when they realised that these parties weren’t offering the policies needed to tackle the problems that the country and humanity were increasingly facing: growing inequality within society and the increasingly poor outlooks because of climate change. My parents wanted the best for their grandchildren. So they changed their vote to a different party. 

Still we have to remain alert. We cannot let democracy become what some have started to take it for: a space for deep partisanship. That we should never allow. 

Democracy must always be a space for people and parties to cooperate on developing the policies their societies need for the four years ahead, and the longer term. Without question, these policies will be better with input from diverse viewpoints. 

That ideal is not unreachable. It simply requires some level of participation from the voters. Reading the platforms is a small price to pay for the freedoms we enjoy of living in a democracy. These days the CBC offers a vote compass making the process very easy. 

We must recognise that political stability comes from the willingness of parties to cooperate and make the best possible policies achievable under first past the post. The best way for voters to ensure that is to elect minority governments for a while to come. 

 

— Anton van Walraven

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