Dear Editor

February 16, 2004

To the editors:

The federal government's current problems with the 'sponsorship' scandal, while unusual in scale, are all too typical. This is not a Paul Martin problem. It is not a Liberal Party problem. Scandal touches every Canadian government, and every Canadian Prime Minister is soon described as arrogant and out of touch. The root problem is a political system and a political culture which foster complacency and discourage transparency.

What we have here is a failure in accountability.

Prime Minister Martin himself has correctly described the problem as "too much power in the Prime Minister's Office", and it is to his credit that he has identified our democratic deficit as a top priority. Unfortunately, the remedies he has proposed will not amount to much.

The greatest problem with our democracy is the fact that we almost always have single-party monopoly governments, although that is not what we vote for. We usually give the government about 40-45% of our votes, but our voting system gives them 55-60% of the seats in Parliament, a phony majority. That is why we have too much power in the PMO. That is why ordinary MPs are "nobodies" off Parliament Hill. That is why we have arrogant and unaccountable government, whether it is Liberal or Progressive Conservative or whatever.

The seventy-five countries in the world which use proportional voting systems, (and many have been using them for 50 to 100 years), usually have coalition governments, which means they must truly command the confidence of Parliament to remain in power. These include all the best-run countries in the world, countries like Norway and Sweden and Switzerland and Germany and Holland and on and on. We know from studies and polls that citizens in these countries have greater confidence in their governments and in their politicians, and that they have, in general, better social, economic and environmental policies.

If Mr. Martin is serious about restoring faith in government to Canadians in the wake of this scandal, he must first take action to let Canadians choose a fair voting system, so that we can get the government we vote for, for a change.

Wayne Smith