rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Why doesn't Stephen McNeil follow through on electoral reform?

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Photo: GovNL Photos/flickr

Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

There is something rich -- and richly ironic -- hearing Stephen McNeil fret about the number of voters who didn't bother to cast ballots in last week's three provincial byelections.

McNeil, after all, chose the date. He could have called the byelections for late spring when voters might conceivably have been more engaged. Instead, he picked a day in the sunny middle of barbecue/beer/beach/backyard/school break/summer vacation season. Why? Because low voter turnout favours the party in power.

After his government's recent stumbles -- the film tax credit debacle that dominated the spring legislative news cycle, the ongoing drip-drip revelation of yet another, and then another good-doing organization whose future has been jeopardized by his government's brutish spring budget -- the last thing Stephen McNeil wanted was for anyone to pay attention.

That said, we should never dismiss a politician talking sense.

And Stephen McNeil is -- almost -- talking sense.

"I think people are looking for ... ways to deliver elections differently to Nova Scotians," McNeil suggested after Tuesday's abysmal voter numbers. Fewer than 50 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots; in Dartmouth South, the  figure was just 38 per cent. "People need to feel there is a reason why they're participating," McNeil said.

His suggested solution -- a preferential ballot in which voters rank order their choices, and the person with the lowest number of votes drops off after each ballot until someone gets a majority -- may not be the answer. Experts, in fact, argue preferential balloting does not increase voter turnout whereas some form of proportional representation might.

But the real problem is not with McNeil's proposed solution. It is with the fact he appears to have no interest in following through on his musings with an honest, open debate about electoral reform.

Talking with reporters last week, he danced away from committing himself to even discussing the issue during the remainder of his first term in office.

That's too bad.

Given that Nova Scotia faces all sorts of intractable problems -- an aging population, out-migration, lack of immigration -- that have seemed beyond the power of ordinary politicians to solve, a political leader who at least managed to help make our electoral system more open and involving would leave a legacy worth remembering.

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber's Halifax Metro column.

Photo: GovNL Photos/flickr

Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.