| Jan 26, 2006

Feature Article - January 26, 2006

Feature Article

January 26, 2006

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It went as predicted -- sort of

Editorial by Jeff Green

In some ways the Federal Election went about as you might have expected. The Liberals were thrown out, but not obliterated, and the Conservatives were elected, but not given enough power to implement their own agenda. And the NDP gained ground, but not too much ground. Locally, Scott Reid won re-election easily, receiving 51% of the vote this time, compared to 48.8% in 2004. The Liberal vote slid quite a bit in Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, from 30% to 25%, and this led to an increase in the popular vote for Helen Forsey of the NDP, who received 16% of the vote (in 2004 Ross Sutherland polled about 13% of the vote for the NDP).


The fact that the Liberals held their own nationally has to be seen as a bit of a surprise, but the one big surprise nationally was how well the Conservatives did in Quebec relative to the Bloc Quebecois. With the Bloc dropping to 42.5% of the vote, the cause of Quebec Independence was dealt a severe blow, just as it was beginning to look as if an independent Quebec was on the horizon.

Some of the peculiarities of the Parliament that will result from this Election are worth paying attention to from the perspective of our own riding. First, there will be a distinctly rural feel to the government side of the house. Of the 124 Conservative MP’s, none represent Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver, although many come from suburban ridings and from smaller cities. For farming communities, however, and for rural concerns generally, a government that owes its existence to small town and rural voters should pay more attention to rural concerns.

As a rural politician, Scott Reid has talked about how programs like the Canada Ontario Municipal Infrastructure Program (COMRIF) were set up with a bias against small rural municipalities. For one thing, cities with a population of 250,000 were defined as rural, and the application process for the program is quite onerous, making it expensive for small municipalities to file successful applications. Hopefully, this kind of perspective on rural infrastructure will translate into federally supported programs that are more aware of the reality in this riding and others.

The way this election turned out, with no obvious means for any one party to control the agenda, may indeed be a breeding ground for a serious consideration of Proportional Representation. It has always been difficult to see how a majority government would see its way clear to changing a system that gives them absolute power. If, as it seems is the case now, obtaining a majority is becoming a long shot, it might be in the interest of the governing party to look at a more democratic voting system.

At one of the All-Candidates meetings in Lanark Frontenac Lennox and Addington, all of the candidates said they support Proportional Representation. It was the only question asked that night that provoked universal agreement.

Unfortunately, the NDP failed once again to obtain the balance of power in this new Parliament. As the only other party with seats in the house that has a strong position in favour of Proportional Representation, it would have been one of a few issues that Conservatives and the NDP could easily agree on.

As the author of a position paper on the issue advocating setting up Citizens’ Forum on Proportional Representation, and as someone who has studied all aspects of Proportional Representation in the past, Scott Reid would be an ideal individual to bring this issue to the fore now that he will be sitting on the government side of the house.

The 49% of voters in Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington who did not vote for Scott Reid would surely appreciate his efforts. - JG

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