A fundamental feature of democracy is majority rule and the consent of the governed; government of the people, by the people, for the people. It is about the importance of the individual in the context of government. (See the various definitions in the reference books.) Democratic government is supposed to be about people NOT political parties. In the riding system, a member is supposed to represent the people in the riding not a party or political point of view. Riding representatives are supposed to speak for all the people in the riding as well as on Province wide issues.
The best system is where everyone represents themselves in a town hall type of meeting as occurred in the ancient Greek city state democracies. But in a large modern state this is impractical and impossible. So we elect representatives to represent us. The party they belong to should be relevant only as an indication of where they stand on certain issues. Even then we have a right to expect them to exercise their judgement, listen to their conscience and listen to us voters. Granted parties are necessary to ensure that a program the majority of the people want is carried out – without a party, party discipline and party platform, you get the kind of government you have in Toronto where they can’t agree on very necessary new taxes. Never-the-less a party not having a seat is irrelevant in a system based on the government being responsible to the people.
Proportional representation is based on the party system and just isn’t the same thing as representing people; it is designed to give parties a voice even if they can’t convince enough voters in a single riding to win a seat. In the proposed MMP system, you can’t get around the fact that list members are going to be primarily responsible to the party that put them on the list not to the people. The people are voting for a party not an individual person on the second vote even though they know who is on the list. Automatically awarding a party seats if it gets a set minimum percentage of the vote could destroy the dynamics of the party system. Compromise is a strong Canadian trait; we generally chose the middle ground and party platforms are made up of compromises.
Yes, we are political entities; we discuss ideas all the time. We feed our ideas to both political parties when we attend party meetings and conventions and to our government through committees – who do you think is making presentations at the second reading committee stage of legislation. I know I was listened to when I voiced my opposition to amendments to the public libraries act that would have made library boards committees of council to my Member of the Provincial Legislature even though I hadn’t voted for him. The committee also listened respectful to our (KPLB) presentation and asked some very good questions. Our riding representatives certainly hear from us and hopefully listen when issues like the environment or same sex marriage are being debated. I repeat, whether or not a particular party has a seat is irrelevant if our riding representative is truly responsible and doing his/her job.
In my experience our current first past the post system is working relatively well despite a drop in voter turn out and riding winners receiving less than 50% of the vote. Voter turn out won’t be increased by MMP nor will MMP fix the less than 50% problem. I usually vote for the person reather than the party and he/she isn’t usually the winner. I don’t feel I’ve wasted my vote when that person doesn’t win and I will continue to vote as long as I’m able. It’s democracy and there are other ways to get my ideas across. First past the post works for me while the proportional part of MMP just doesn’t feel right.