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Conservative Values

Kelly McParland: Washington proves the value of a strong Harper

There’s a constituency that argues Canada needs a more representative electoral system to dilute the power the present system gives to parties with limited voter support. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives won less than 38% of the vote in 2011, yet have four years to run things however Harper sees fit, without fear of defeat.

The argument is that a more representative government would make for a purer democracy, which more accurately reflects the multiplicity of views and interests that make up the nation. It might also stanch the authoritarian instincts that seem to overcome prime ministers secure in the knowledge they can’t be easily overruled.

It’s a great theory. Unfortunately, it’s a bit like socialism: brilliant in concept, disappointing in practice. As it happens, some of the worst-run countries in the world right now were produced by variations on more representative government. Think Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Greece. Belgium tries so hard to ensure representative government that it took 18 months or arguing to form an administration after the last election. The problem is that they’re all plagued by weak parties, in which nobody is strong enough to make a decision. Instead you get compromises, half-measures and negotiated settlements, which do little to resolve serious problems.

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