Gateway Gazette

Fair Vote Canada Appeals to Party Leaders to Cooperate

Fair Vote Canada is appealing for parties to step up collaboration and cooperation during the COVID-19 crisis, calling on Canadians to add their names in support.

“The critical months ahead in Canada will put our leaders to the test, forcing them to choose between the old habits of power-hoarding and partisan point-scoring, or working together for Canadians” says Fair Vote Canada Executive Director Anita Nickerson. “In this era of minority government, Canadians need leaders to reach across the aisle and put citizens first.” 

When adversarial politics is the norm and trust between political parties is extremely low, it’s tempting for any government to use the need for rapid emergency management as an excuse to consolidate power. The federal Liberals’ attempt to do just that was panned and quickly walked back just a few days ago. 

The COVID-19 pandemic presents a challenge for political leadership that we haven’t seen since the Second World War. Leaders worldwide are responding in vastly different ways to this crisis — with life or death consequences for citizens. We are reminded of how Winston Churchill’s all-party wartime cabinet brought Britain through the Second World War. 

In responding to the COVID crisis, the US and the UK, party leaders have reacted to the crisis in business-as-usual fashion by ignoring other points of view. This is typical of how our first-past-the-post voting system concentrates power in a single party or party leader.However, minority government situations create special opportunities for cooperation. Federal and provincial governments in Canada could draw lessons in cooperation from New Brunswick. In a groundbreaking step, Blaine Higgs’ Conservative minority government in New Brunswick has set up an all-party committee that meets almost daily to oversee the government’s response to COVID-19. The other parties are now ongoing partners in decision-making.

They’ve put on hold the usual practice of developing policy in a party backroom before throwing it out to the opposition parties for reaction. Instead, elected representatives are working together to deliver the most effective policies to deal with the pandemic. All voters will know that their voices and concerns are being dealt with upfront.

Similar inspiring examples of cooperation abound worldwide in countries with a tradition of coalition governments.

In New Zealand, a select committee of all parties will be chaired by the conservative Opposition leader, to monitor and improve the Labour’s coalition government’s response to COVID-19.

In the Netherlands, when the Dutch health minister resigned due to fatigue, the centre-right coalition government appointed a highly qualified opposition member from the Labour Party to fill the role. “In these times, party affiliation shouldn’t matter,” said Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Fair Vote Canada is a cross-partisan national citizens’ campaign representing 80,000 Canadians advocating for voting system reform. FVC promotes the introduction of an element of proportional representation in elections at all levels of government.

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