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There IS Such a Thing as Fun for the Whole Family

by | Feb 20, 2024 | Curriculum, Special Days | 0 comments

Jerry Seinfeld is WRONG

There IS such a thing as fun for the whole family.  It’s called Family Day.  Regardless of how you spend it, or with whom – it’s BIG FUN because it often stretches a weekend into a four day fiesta.

Family Day is a relatively recent addition to the calendar.  Here in Ontario, its commemoration is the result of an off-handed promise made by Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty during his reelection campaign in 2007.  He pledged that, if he won, he would give Ontarians an additional holiday in February.  Two days after winning an even bigger majority in parliament on October 10, the McGuinty government established Family Day on the third Monday in February as a statutory holiday.

And so, since February 18, 2008, many Ontarians have been able to take advantage of this time to extend their weekends. And many schools schedule their Professional Activity day on the Friday before Family Day, making the weekend even longer for students hungry for a break during a pretty bleak stretch of winter-time.

This brief history is a neat footnote to an ADRABA lesson in Canadian history about election reform.  Election reform, you say?  What does a new long weekend have to do with how we elect government officials?  The answer can be found on the October 2007 ballot.  On the same day that Ontarians opted to rehire Dalton McGuinty as their Premier, they also had the choice of changing elections from “first-past-the-post” to “mixed member proportional representation.”

If that last sentence sounded like word salad to you, you were not alone.  Ontarians didn’t go for it by a whopping margin.  However, they missed a golden opportunity to transform how we as citizens are represented in government.

Typically, when voters go to the polling station to vote in an election, the winner is determined based on which candidate got the most votes (i.e.,which one was the first to “pass the post.”)  This has been the norm in practically every jurisdiction in North America.  It also makes logical sense.  If you get the most votes, you win.  Everyone else’s votes get chucked in the waste bin.  What’s the problem with that?

The problem lies in how first-past-the-post can often distort the results of voting.  If your side happens to spread its vote across the province (or “state” in American), squeaking out victories in a number of ridings (or “districts” in American), you might only get 33% of the total vote, but walk away with 47% of the seats in parliament!  HUZZAH!

…And let’s not forget about all those votes that end up in the waste bin.  What about the voice of those folks?

Instead of sticking with the status quo, what could have happened on that October day could have revolutionized how Ontarians would be represented in provincial parliament. “Mixed member proportional representation” is a mouthful, but it’s a pretty easy system to understand.

When you step up to vote in your riding, on top of getting to choose which candidate you want representing you, you get a SECOND VOTE.  Your second vote is for the party of your choice.  At the end of election day, all the votes are tallied.  Seats in provincial parliament are first filled by the winning candidates in each riding.  Then, the remaining seats are filled by party candidates based on the percentage of TOTAL VOTES they received across the province.  This way, you not only have a shot at sending “your person” to represent you (and your riding) in provincial parliament, you also have an additional opportunity to have “your party” represent your values and ideals as well. So even if “your person” loses, you still have a voice.

Ontarians did not go for this change, but hope sprung eternal eight years later as part of Justin Trudeau’s federal campaign in 2015.  “We’ll make sure that Canadians have a stronger voice in Ottawa — a voice that reflects and represents them,” Trudeau said then. He promised to end first-past-the-post because he wanted to”make every vote count.”

Justin Trudeau landed a solid victory in 2015, but soon forgot his promise. In the 2019 federal election, the distortions of first-past-the-post worked in Trudeau’s favour.  His Liberal party won 157 seats (or 47%) with 6,018,728 votes (or 33%).  This was bad enough, but even worse when you looked at the vote count for the opposition Conservatives. They garnered 6,239,227 votes! That’s 34% of the vote!  …But because of how this 34% was spread across the province, the Tories only won 121 seats.  It thus shouldn’t surprise anyone that, by 2021, electoral reform was gone from the Liberal party platform…

With another election on the horizon, it is doubtful we will see any changes to how our votes are counted, and the distortions will surely continue…  But at least we still have Family Day, which continues to be fun for the whole family!  Huzzah!

 

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