By James Keller
There are some very basic concepts on which most democracies–and ultimately the very definition of democracy–stand on. Secret ballots, universal suffrage, freedom of expression of one’s political views and, perhaps most important, everyone having an equal say. One person, one vote.
Oddly enough, this is a concept not everyone agrees with–even those who claim to be championing the rights of the people.
Enter the Fair System Party, a new federal party formed to represent, according to the Web site (www.fairsystemparty.com), "the interest of the poorer and unimpowered majority." The party’s whole platform rests on electoral reform that would inversely weigh Canadians’ votes proportionally to their wealth. A poor person has a vote worth more than a wealthier one. A self-proclaimed "new-left" party, FSP claims "respect for the democratic process remain[s] at the forefront" of their mandate.
Now, to be fair, there is some rationale behind what party leader Steve Glickman is trying to do here, and he raises some interesting points. The party claims, and perhaps rightly so, that while everyone has an equal vote, wealthy people–the so-called "wealthy elite"–can exert political influence above and beyond said vote, whereas poor individuals cannot. This is a very important aspect of our political system that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, this isn’t the answer.
The people who Glickman fights for already make up the majority. By virtue of calling the ruling class a "wealthy elite," the party assumes said elite is in the minority. Whether a voter is middle class, lower class or somewhere in between, that person already has, collectively with others of the same class, the most say. Further scaling of votes would not solve anything, but make the equality of Canada’s voting system even more unbalanced.
FSP ideology makes the plight of the ruled class even more difficult. If the wealthy are truly controlling us and we need to fight back, why further segregate the power of the non-wealthy? Remember, with the formula FSP is proposing, middle-class voters have less power than lower-middle class, and so on. Pitting smaller sections of a subjugated group against each other would only weaken their resolve and accomplish nothing.
What the FSP is proposing is not democracy. Instead, it’s just as bad as the system it’s fighting. It doesn’t give equal power to all, but concentrates power in the hands of a specific group. Whether or not that group is wealthy is unimportant. If the party truly despises voter inequality rather than simply despising wealthy people as a rule, this is a step backwards.
Real reform of money’s political influence could come by limiting political donations, making contributions public, both on the giving and receiving ends, and even banning such activity altogether. While the FSP is arguably commendable in spirit, it is misguided and destructive in theory and practice.
Since this system would probably be monitored by income tax returns, says Glickman, you can get a head start lowering your bracket and getting a larger vote–a party membership is surely affordable at $35 (tax deductible no doubt), especially if you’re poor.
Tune into CJSW 90.9 FM Thursday, June 13 at 6 p.m. for an interview with Steve Glickman.