Canada’s two main political parties, Liberals and Conservatives, are similar to America’s Democrats and Republicans. This country accommodates smaller federal parties (NDP, GPC and PPC) and regional representation (BQ), but as in the USA, federal and regional governments are controlled by duopolies. Western Canada is unique in that Conservatives have taken on different party names and New Democrats form one-half of the ruling pairs.
Far from being “broken,” our political system is doing precisely what it’s designed to do. It wasn’t built to deliver results in the public interest or to foster policy innovation, nor does it demand accountability for failure to do so. Instead, most of the rules that shape day-to-day behavior and outcomes have been perversely optimized—or even expressly created—by and for the benefit of the entrenched duopoly at the center of our political system…
The authors believe present systems are incapable of delivering solutions to key economic and social challenges and they are not optimistic that beneficial changes will occur. Gehl and Porter reached five key considerations about the nature of American politics:
• Although people tend to think of the American political system as a public institution based on high-minded principles and impartial structures and practices derived from the Constitution, it’s not. Politics behaves according to the same kinds of incentives and forces that shape competition in any private industry.
• The dysfunctions of the politics industry are perpetuated by unhealthy competition and barriers to entry that secure the duopoly’s position regardless of results.
• Our political system will not correct itself. There are no countervailing forces or independent and empowered regulators to restore healthy competition.
• Certain strategic changes to the rules of the game in elections and legislating would alter incentives in ways that create healthy competition, innovation, and accountability.
• Business, in pursuing its short-term interests, has become a major participant in the political-industrial complex, exacerbating its dysfunction. The business community must reexamine its engagement model and throw its weight behind structural political innovation that would benefit both business and society in the long term.
Gehl and Porter hold out hope for democracy if changes are made to electoral systems. Their preference is for Ranked Choice Voting. However, material modifications are inevitably resisted by entrenched powers.
We saw that in BC in 2018 when the NDP government pretended to favour reform but required a supermajority for change and was happy to have a long time party insider join with Liberals to lead a small group of power-brokers working to defeat proportional representation.
First-past-the-post does not serve democracy, but it does serve British Columbia’s political duopoly.