The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

An "unnecessary" election?

After a long series of false starts, almosts, and proroguings, we have finally managed to stagger into another election: and a historical one at that.

Whether we end up with the same old, same old, or something entirely new, this much is certain: in a democracy, no election is unnecessary. Elections -- including unexpected elections -- are the only things which keep democracies from becoming dictatorships.

For a democracy to survive, elections cannot be chosen by the party in power alone. Were an election to be called only when a party solidly in power thought the people ought to change their minds: no election would ever be called. The same goes for a party not so solidly in power, where there is more to lose by an election than to gain. Those in power are reluctant to risk that power.

Elections are an opportunity for people in a democracy to change their minds about the government they elected previously. This is their entire purpose for being.

Yet elections can only ever be an opportunity for change. They are not a requirement for change. An election which demands change is no longer a free election.

Even if it turns out that the people choose exactly the same mix of parliamentarians as before, money spent on an election is not wasted. At the very least, it will have been confirmed that change is not wanted by the voters -- at least, not the kind of change that an election can allow.


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