Eduard Hiebert of Manitoba on Premier Greg Selinger – Letter to the Editor – October 17, 2011

Dear Editor!

Did Manitobans really vote to give Selinger almost two-thirds of the Legislature?

Shining light on the paper thin electoral code that all political leaders love to use for feathering over and obscuring several natural democratic principles of fair play, illuminates that the answer is an emphatic and resounding “no”!  Here’s why, including how Hugh McFadyen’s sudden death resignation, as Gary Filmon’s before him, reveals more of the anti-democratic rot housed in Manitoba’s multi-partisan dominated legislature!

Defining and differentiating between the total “electorate” and the “selectorate” — those that vote to select the elected — in round numbers, Manitoba’s 751,000 strong electorate was Gerry-mandered down to a selectorate of 431,000 — those who were allowed to vote.  This smaller group was further divided among 208 candidates so that the 57 who were “declared elected” only had the support of 250,000!  That’s right!  The entire crew of the 57 seat legislature comprising one Liberal, 37 NDP and 19 PC, was only supported by 57.9% of the voters or about one third of the eligible electorate.  And the partisans’ share who will form government?  Only 35.6% of the selectorate — a mere 20.5% of the electorate!

Canada’s voting system translated this paltry support (20.5% electorate, 35.6% selectorate) into 65% of the seats in the legislature!  Restated in the alternative, almost 80% of the electorate — 64.4% of the selectorate – never voted for the 37 NDP MLAs, yet Selinger now controls 65% of the legislative seats.  Note, votes for the 151 candidates not elected are given equal weight to the degree these candidates have a say or standing within the legislature!

So, how does Canada’s voting system make such anti-democratic results possible?

Canada’s single-mark ballot system, often disingenuously misnamed for what it really truly is not — a “first-past-the-post” system — is, the truth be told, extremely vulnerable to vote-splitting.  Vote-splits divide the voice of a genuine popular majority and are easily manufactured to produce a victorious candidate who is not supported by the majority.

Among all of the Gerry-mandered electoral steps, consider alone the step where a clear majority of five out of nine voters divide their vote in a three-candidate election between two similar candidates.  Candidate A gets 2 votes and B gets 3, while C, not approved of by the five (the majority) yet receives 4 votes, C is declared elected!  Incontrovertibly, a situation where the majority who voted may end up with no say in who is declared elected!

All popular punditry aside, several additional logically sound perspectives underline further Manitoba’s Greg Selinger’s election outcome is truly a “phony majority”!  In Saskatchewan’s 2007 election, 10 MLAs were supported by a solid 50% plus 1 democratic majority, not only of those who voted, but of the entire electorate.  In Manitoba?  Not one!  Even Steinbach’s Kelvin Goertzen (PC) whose highly touted plurality of 85.2% represents but a 43.3% electorate plurality!  Every one of Manitoba’s other 56 declared elected MLAs had even less support.  All the way down to Tyndall Park’s Ted Marcelino (NDP) with a selectorate plurality of only 44.75% (Goertzen 85.3%) or Flin Flon’s Clarence Pettersen (NDP) electorate plurality of 20.76% (Goertzen 43.3%)!  That is, not a single MLA was endorsed by an honest 50% plus 1 majority of the electorate and 6 were declared elected where among those who voted, a clear 50% plus one majority never voted for the one declared elected!

Using these outcomes as a benchmark, three candidates had better vote pluralities than Marcelino, but were not elected.  These 3, plus a further 21 had better electorate pluralities than Pettersen, but were not elected!

Examining the election from one more perspective, had on average as few as 610 additional voters presented themselves at 10 key districts and voted PC, then the PC crew would have had a razor thin phony majority of 29 MLAs to the NDP’s 27 and Liberal’s 1!  It is absurd that an additional 8/10ths of one percent of the electorate showing up at the polls could shift the outcome from one lop-sided extreme to another.

With Hugh McFadyen being so few votes away from forming a phony majority government, it’s peculiarly odd that a party which addresses abortion and same sex marriage as specifically religious moral issues – “Saving marriage for the Church!” — then surely such a party would be aware that Biblically defined leadership is either a good shepherd willing to die for his/her flock or a hireling.  Yet the PC leaders, now two in a row, without even a word towards naming, much less resolving these highly anti-democratic electoral outcomes simply resign?  Coincidentally the “voluntary” resignations ease the masquerade of installing the next hireling…, irr… (I meant) “leader”.

With actions speaking louder than words, once these anti-democratic realities become known to the public, what does this reveal of the other party leaders?  Considering these hidden from public view realities, what else do our party leaders from across the political spectrum have in common but are not telling the public?

Individually, people see that their wishes are not fairly reflected in election results, so it is no surprise that voter turn out is declining everywhere this defective ballot system is used.  You be the judge whether a real or false carrot; to correct this, the 2011 Liberal platform included moving to a preferential vote1,2,3… ballot.

By reducing the divide and conquer risk of vote-splits, the vote123 ballot system does in fact empower the popular majority to elect whoever they prefer.  However, instead of waiting for such a Liberal platform pie in the sky future, I personally, yet prior to the election, made known to the Liberal party’s provincial campaign organiser and to Elizabeth May and her provincial Green leader, that if the people were helped to conduct a vote123 straw-vote poll prior to election day, such community minded action would empower the electorate to achieve now already in the election then yet before us, the democratic benefits of a vote123 ballot!

Surrounded by party faithful, Elizabeth May without hesitation exclaimed the proposal was appealing and directed a party executive member to explore this further.  Despite reminders, all talk, no action!  And the Liberal organiser?  At first, being unaware that vote123 was a party platform, refused!!!  After putting to bed several further excuses, the final self-serving principle of “what’s in it for me” rested on the 50% party rebate even when confronted with River East’s 2007 election results.  Then, the Liberal candidate had more than enough to split the vote but still a hopeless distant third and quite some distance short of the 10% plurality, the minimum required to get the rebate.  The other two candidates?  Less than 50 votes apart, each with only minority support.  Now in 2011, however improbable the probability of achieving 10%, the organiser refused to help the people achieve the democratic benefits of a vote123 poll on the pretext this might preclude the liberal candidate from getting the rebate!  Hmm?  In the end, the River East candidate was still short of 10%.

Despite the rhetoric coming from all party leaders, with precious little on how they will better serve the public than the others, more on how bad the others are, as if they will not be worse; each one of the leaders, including a McFadyen or Filmon as just demonstrated earlier, watches the other party leader’s back more favourably than the people they are seeking to shepherd!  Not one of them is willing to challenge the anti-democratic power all party leaders have appropriated over the years over their own party candidates.  Namely, regardless of how many thousands of Canadians might endorse a candidate, such will not be listed on the ballot as a party candidate unless and until the nomination paper is “signed by the leader of the party” (new federal law during my lifetime) or provincially in Manitoba can not even be a party candidate!  How does this effect the candidate’s nose?  Including when already elected and wanting to run again?

In short, the above casino like election outcomes are oppressive to and do not serve the general public interest, the 99%.  Historically, it is the oppressed who need to pull themselves up with their own bootstraps.  A people’s democratically conducted preferential vote123 straw-vote poll, long on little more that some community minded elbow grease, can break the current anti-democratic logjam and is a small but democratically valuable step forward.


Eduard Hiebert

A third generation prairie family farmer near Winnipeg and former long time member of the NDP, including developing and running under the party banner in “non-targetted” constituencies.

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Best Western Cornwall



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