May Day in Vancouver
By Scott Adams

Last May 1st, May Day 2002, a small group of people calling themselves the Anti-Poverty Committee held a public rally at Victory Square at Cambie and Hastings in Vancouver. They were protesting our new B.C. Liberal government's minimum wage cutback from $8 to $6 per hour as a new "training wage" for employees.

Holding peaceful and orderly public demonstrations against government legislation is obviously our democratic right. And when they marched several blocks to a McDonald's restaurant, with police escort and no doubt a city permit, they blocked traffic on one of the side streets for an hour or so. All well and fine. The police even tolerated their blockade of McDonald's so that patrons could not enter. They effectively shut down business there for about an hour.

Then they entered the Pacific Centre Mall, breaking glass showcases and confronting mall patrons. This is where democracy ends and gang rule takes over. Obviously we cannot condone gang rule and violence. The police arrested them, as it should be.

In a democracy we can publicly denounce our government and tell our politicians what we don't like and don't want -- without violence and without fear of reprisal (section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms). It's a win/win concept. We can protest without violence and not worry about being arrested.

That being said, one of the organizers did make a valid point on the CTV National News that evening -- the demonstration and mall mini-riot was also shown. His point was clear: our premier was not listening to the thousands of demonstrators on the lawn of the legislature in Victoria. Therefore, violence was necessary to get the attention of the media, and the government.

I don't agree with this. Just as we have the democratic right to express our opinions, the government must have the right not to listen. We elected the government to govern and not to simply cave in to any and all special interest groups that want to complain. If they don't listen, we have the democratic right to expel them from office in a general election.

But our existing democratic system of government is flawed. I agree with the one person, one vote; the secret ballot; constituencies; and the first-past-the-post method of electing the next government. However, when the winning party wins all the seats with only 60.5 per cent of the popular vote (New Brunswick, October '87); or all but two seats, B.C. in 2001; or when only 20,000 voters get to have a representative in the House of Commons out of about 80,000 in the average-sized federal riding, a change is necessary.

Canada now has 301 ridings with about 100,000 people and about 80,000 eligible voters per riding. The total population is about 30 million -- with only 301 Members of Parliament to represent them. The provincial legislatures work roughly the same way, with fewer people and fewer seats.

We need to find a way to have better representation. The solution is simple. Use the candidate with the most votes in each riding to determine the winning party and new premier -- as at present -- but also give seats in the legislature (or House of Commons) to those winning the second and third most votes, each having a voting share in proportion to the number of votes each has garnered on election day.

Everyone would not have to sit in the legislature or House at the same time. Only those with special interest in the topics and issues scheduled for debate on a particular day might attend, perhaps one-third of the members at a time. Variations of this could be possible.

There are other problems at the federal level. As an independent candidate in Vancouver Centre in 1988 and 1993, I was given about five minutes on national television to explain my position, one time only, while the two largest parties received much more time. Also, at public rallies, the media will not talk to me and between elections, the leaders of small parties get zero media coverage. This is not democracy.

I can't agree with the May Day Anti-Poverty Committee's position that violence should be necessary to get media attention. On the other hand, if the rules and regulations of the Canada Election Act are not improved to give all Canadians fair representation, there may be more violence, whether we like it or not.

Scott Adams is the author of several books on the social, economic and political issues of today. He will run as an independent candidate for Vancouver Centre in the next federal election as leader of his new party, the Prosperity Party of Canada (formerly Habitat Canada), Box 538, 1027 Davie St., Vancouver, BC V6E 4L2.