The enemy of the good

For the past few months I’ve been advocating for electoral reform in my home province of Prince Edward Island. On the heels of a provincial election and a controversial coin toss to decide a tie, I argued that “a coin toss is not just a deeply flawed method for choosing a politician, but a symptom of a larger problem,” making the case to reform our tired and broken first-past-the-post voting system.

Luckily the issue has gained steam in the province, with a steady stream of op-eds, panel discussions and debate in the legislature. In Saturday’s Guardian, columnist Alan Holman very clearly laid out the options islanders have when it comes to electoral reform. One of the problems with this debate, however, is that it often degenerates very quickly to a question of proportional representation (PR) versus the status quo.

Holman was right to argue that there are many ways to elect politicians. The system we use affects the quality and makeup of the legislatures we’ll see for years to come. But what he said next was something that has been on my mind for some time:

“While many Islanders feel there’s a need for change they should keep in mind a couple of old adages; perfection is often the enemy of progress, and incremental change is usually the most successful.”

There is a real opportunity and appetite for reform in the province. Just 10 years ago, P.R. was rejected soundly by islanders.  If we fail to truly consider real alternatives like ranked ballots, Prince Edward Island may miss out on this window to adopt a more progressive system.

There is an old Chinese proverb that says: “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”

Let’s not make perfect the enemy of the good.