Sunday, August 24, 2008

Elections - Nunavut Style

While there has been a lot of focus lately on the upcoming US Presidential Election and a flurry of media speculation over a federal election here in Canada, I should also point out another election which will be had right here in Nunavut this fall. On October 27, 2008** Nunavummiut will head to the polls to elect members for the territory's 3rd Legislative Assembly.

The political system here is a bit different from most other Canadian jurisdictions. Nunavut, along with the Northwest Territories, operates by a system of consensus government. Awhile back I came across a good little item by a former Speaker of the Nunavut Legislature, explaining how consensus government works. The author also points out some of the strengths and weaknesses of this system. For those of you jaded by politics and politicians, one of the advantages of this style of government is the lack of political parties here. Outside of Iqaluit its pretty rare to see any of those annoying "Vote For Me" elections signs which seem to clutter the streets of Southern Canada. In a consensus-style government, all candidates run as independents. Even yours truly could run for a seat in the Nunavut Legislature. (Now there's a scary thought!)

Rather than bombard you with my own political thoughts on a Sunday evening about this upcoming election, I'll save my thoughts for the time being.

**A few days before returning from summer vacation I recall seeing a newspaper headline which hinted at a possible FEDERAL election on this date as well. I strongly doubt this will happen and I haven't heard anything else since then with all the focus on the Olympics over the past couple weeks. I'm sure this may have been a Canadian first if the two elections had coincided though.


Megan said...

Hey, it's all different over here!

Meandering Michael said...

Excellent link and thanks for the post.

I, for one, really appreciated the consensus system when I lived in the NWT. I really liked being able to vote for the person that I thought would best represent my interests and the interests of my riding without having to worry about following some "party line".

I know the consensus system tends to be a little slower than a party-based system, but at least the discussion tends to be productive and civil. Sometimes, I would tune in to the televised legislative broadcast to listen to the debates and always felt comfortable enough to call my MLA to share my thoughts when I felt the need to weigh-in on an issue. It's not something I did often, but when I did, it was very satisfying to see those views reflected in the legislature.

Now that I live in the Yukon, I just shake my head at the party-to-party bashing that goes on. I never watch the televised broadcasts because it's like watching kids in a school yard arguing about whose dad can beat whose dad in a fight. Voting is especially difficult because it really becomes more about choosing the party and less about choosing the individual - and most of the time, none of the parties' views are my own. I don't feel comfortable talking to my MLA because my views seem to matter less than those of the party's. It hardly inspires a person to get out and vote.

The consensus system has it's problems, yes, but I believe that in a northern context, the benefits outweigh the problems significantly. If it were possible in some way, I would love to see the consensus-style system come back to the Yukon.

But I know that's only wishful thinking. How do you get rid of political parties when their sole purpose is to entrench themselves?