Friday, December 18, 2015

Proportional Representation and a Green Canada

Recently,Canada has had a change in Government and the governing Liberal Party promised some form of proportional representation. This is also supported by the New Democratic Party and the Green Party. There are several forms of proportional representation and any form that Canada selects may pose a problem for Canada's environment. Even the present first past the post method of representation carries the same problem.

When we talk of proportional representation, we mean proportional to the population that live mainly in cities strung across the south of Canada. About half of Canada's population live in a few big cities. Our larger cities tend to be ports, transportation, supply, financial, and political centers for a economy that is based on natural resources usually located in the hinterland. Canada's forests are a major carbon sink or repository for the world. Our forest laws and policies for forests that tend to be public rather than private have favored grand scale timber supply that favor the business of the big city while ignoring the sustainability of individual forest dependent communities. Proportional representation will not solve the problem of big cities depleting the hinterland.

The power of cities is reflected in our culture. Before 1900 the average person would have understood the meaning of character, but the notion of personality would be new and little understood. The notion of personality, style, merits of extrovert behavior, celebrity increased through the 20th century as cities grew and became centers for new technology and media. The growth of cities has had a profound effect on human culture. Are these changes in our culture and perspectives good for our relationship with the land and nature outside our built cities?  Will our children that are heavily occupied looking at the screens of various electronic devices have a feel for the farm or forest?

Will the votes from the city ever represent Canada? Proportional representation in Canada needs to include some mechanism that is proportional to the area of Canada. Canada is a vast country and our different regions, areas and environments need representation. There are cultural differences within Canada that are a product of regional environments. Our founding fathers saw the Canadian Senate as the representative of different areas. Western Canada was barely in the picture at that time, and the non elected appointee Senate has declined in stature as a credible institution. Canada is a tenuous country and a reformed elected senate that represents areas or regions could help to hold the country together in the long term.

While there is considerable support for proportional representation, our politicians are unwilling to tackle proportional representation of regions or areas because it will involve the Provinces and constitutional reform. Too difficult the politicians say. Are our politicians being too lazy. An elected Senate could improve the long term stability of our tenuous country.

Provinces in Canada have considerable powers, more than most federal systems. The flow of natural resources from the hinterland is what makes the big cities, financial and political centers of Provinces tick. A major pipeline intended to move Alberta oil or bitumen south to the Gulf of Mexico has been denied by USA. If Canada or the other provinces restricts the flow of Alberta oil to the east or west, Alberta will have the motivation to leave the Canadian federation.

Canada needs some representation proportional to area in Ottawa. A reformed elected Senate could be the necessary institution. Such a Senate would represent the land and the natural environment and ensure that our political system is not dominated by voices from the built environments of the city.

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