What is a Political Mandate?

Posted: June 28, 2011 in Personal Whining, Philosophical Debris, politics

I’d like to put aside for the moment the fact that we have a Conservative government.  The following analysis would be valid regardless of the party in power.

What is the nature of a political mandate?  In the last election, less than half of the population of Canada cast a ballot for the currently ruling party.  Even translated into seats, the ruling party only has about 60% of the seats.  The history of democratic evolution is one that has fought towards the idea of representation by population, and one might argue that we have that in our current parliament.  Even though it may not exactly reflect the popular vote, all aspects of our electors are represented in parliament.

However, the current government was thirsty for a majority government for a reason.  I don’t think anyone would argue that the reason the current government wanted a majority government was clearly so they could do whatever they wanted to do, without interference from the other parties.  Without interference from those representatives who stand for over 50% or the Canadian population.  The situation is made a little more extreme (…and here I realize that I’m being partisan and anti-Conservative…) by the fact that this thirst for a majority government was paired with an arrogance and intolerance with any other ideologies or ideas.  Compromise and open mindedness were/are not in the equation when it comes to majority rule in parliament.

This, it seems to me, is a flaw in our political system.  The mandate seems to be that a majority government can do whatever it wants.  I don’t feel that should be the mandate.  The mandate should be to govern in the interest of all of the people.

If you were a member of a club with 20 members.  Voting on an important matter, such as how money should be spent, has 11 members voting one way while 9 voted in a very different way.  What would you do?  Many would likely quit the club or start a new one.  It happens all the time.  Similarly, in a corporation, major changes to a constitution require either two thirds or three quarters votes in order to pass, just to accommodate this issue.  Perhaps the same should be true about our government.  Perhaps 50% is not a good enough standard for voting.  Certainly majority rule is convenient, but is it effective?  In leadership training we teach that consensus is preferable to majority vote, for a reason.  Consensus takes more time, but are we in a hurry?

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