Too many elections? Please. - Macleans.ca

Too many elections? Please.

Barring coalitions, things can only get worse from here on in

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Which is more annoying?

(1) Politicians in a democracy moaning about the inconvenience of having to audition for their jobs (that is, run for election); or

(2) The innumerate mantra, “four elections in seven years.”

Since No. 1 is merely par for the course among our grumbling political class, perhaps we should strive to erase the second from polite discourse. When Barack Obama runs for re-election next year, not a single American will complain, “two presidential elections in four years, that’s too many; as for two Congressional campaigns in two years… well!”

Yet that’s exactly the way the 4-in-7ers calculate, counting only elections and not the periods in between them. This is actually Canada’s fourth election in 11 years, since the campaign of 2000. That’s one vote every 2.75 years, not too far off the historical average of one every 3.6 years.

As for other parliamentary democracies, the United Kingdom over roughly the same period (from the 1868 election) has had 36 campaigns (one every 3.97 years). Australia, where politicians present themselves for voter approval much more often than their shy, election-averse Canadian brethren do, has had 43 elections in the 110 years since its founding, an impressive pace of an election every 2.55 years.

That would seem to put us in our usual happy place—smack in the middle—but we have exceeded the Australians (and thus our current rate) before. Counting via the 4-in-7 manner, Canada had five elections in the eight years from 1957 to 1965, a cracking one election every 1.6 years rate. Even counting rationally—five elections in the 11-year period from 1957 to 1968 (one every 2.2 years)—that era beat out not just the Aussies but our clearly enfeebled selves.

But think positively. If current voting patterns hold and the very word “coalition” is successfully rendered immoral, illegal and unutterable, our future may well feature annual elections.