Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Rarely if ever has our electoral system undergone such sweeping change. The current hullabaloo is over the Conservatives' scrapping the traditional televised debate format. But in the larger scheme of things this is small beer.

Among the many other big changes in the last few years:

- The Tories have overturned the rules for political party financing. A public per-vote subsidy for the parties was in place. Now the financing has been privatized;

Story continues below advertisement

- They've brought in what they call a Fair Elections Act, a significant reordering that among many other things tightens the eligibility rules for voting;

- After a long-running feud with Elections Canada, the Conservatives via the act have stripped away powers of the agency both to police elections and to run advertising to get people out to vote;

- The Conservatives have changed the very nature of campaigning. They've made it an around-the-clock enterprise, the use of personalized attack ads outside the election writ period being just one example;

- They've changed the rules governing the timing of elections so that we now have a fixed-date system.

What to make of it all? The Tories argue that the changes are for the betterment of democracy. Opposition critics say it's all about the governing party gaming the system to its advantage.

On the party financing changes, the new way favours the party which can raise the most money. The Tories can rightly say that if the other parties aren't as good at fundraising, tough bananas for them. Others argue that we should be moving away from a money-driven electoral system, not closer to one.

With their Elections Act, which this newspaper argues should be thrown out, eligibility changes are ostensibly designed to eliminate voter fraud. That has been criticized as a red herring. With the new tougher voter ID requirements, says elections expert Harry Neufeld, countless numbers of voters will be caught unawares and not be able to vote. A suppressed voter turnout, critics say, favours the Tories. Republicans in the United States, they note, use tactics like tougher ID requirements.

Story continues below advertisement

With the introduction of the permanent campaign atmosphere, we see the harsh advertising, debate often reduced to talking points, a 24 Seven vanity video by the Prime Minister. Do the people really want all politics all the time? Are we moving toward the polarized political atmosphere as seen in the U.S.?

The Tories' fixed-date election reform is a good one. But they lost credibility by violating it with a surprise election call in 2008.

On the change in the debates format, the governing party is right in saying more debates are necessary. But a system wherein it can orchestrate the debates is hardly a healthy one. The Tories are setting up debates on specified topics such as foreign policy and the economy. In such encounters they don't have to deal with subjects like climate change, the Duffy scandal, the Supreme Court, parliamentary democracy.

There will be, it appears, only one English-language debate with wide-open subject matter. From various applicants, the Tories have chosen Maclean's-Rogers to run it with veteran journalist Paul Wells moderating. This again has the look of table-setting, though it could backfire. Sensitive to any impression he'll go easy on them, Mr. Wells might well do the opposite.

Of all the changes, none address two of the most serious problems in our electoral system. One is the first-past-the-post system, the flaws of which are obvious. Some form of proportional representation is needed. The other is our dismal voter turnout. That could be fixed by moving to a compulsory voting system that is used in many other countries. The big argument against it is that you are taking away citizens' freedoms by forcing them to vote. That could be solved by giving people a choice on the ballot to vote for nobody. It might be a popular option.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies