There were two articles in the Globe and Mail today bearing on the issue of democratic reform. The first of these (a cover story no less) speaks to legislation being drafted to address long delayed changes to the distribution of seats in the House of Commons. This re-allocation of seats will result in a move toward more even representation across Canada (that is, a regime which has something closer to a one person-one vote approach)and will start to redress the imbalance in favour of rural voters over urban and sub-urban voters that has been built into our Parliament for decades.
The second article deals with the depressing reality of the ever declining percentage of the electorate that turns out to vote. The writer links this to an absence of policies and debates that matter to many of the voters but fails to draw the link to the earlier issue -- the devaluation of urban and suburban votes. The reality of our system has been that we have had a built in incentive to weight our debates disproportionately toward matters of interest to rural voters and voters in Quebec because these voters carried disproportionately greater weight in every election. Not surprisingly these issues are of not such great concern to many of the residents of the cities and new suburbs who are not farmers, are less white, are younger and who have radically different concerns rural Canadians.
The growth of influence of the cities and suburbs will hopefully start the process of engaging these voters in our electoral system as they actually have a chance now of seeing governments pay attention to their issues.
Of course, we still have to face the other reality that ever since the early 1980's we have lived in a political climate which has denied the importance of government. One the right the mantra has constantly been "government is bad". For many progressive people, the courts have been viewed as more effective forum in which to press for social change or to shore-up gains made in the past. All of this has engendered a culture which by its very nature devalues the right to vote by devaluing what is being voted for. Perhaps making our institutions more democratic will start to reverse this trend as well.