Democratic rights


Elizabeth May is joining an attempt to challenge the first-past-the-post electoral system as a violation of the Charter.

The case would argue that the Constitution protects the right of Canadians to have “effective representation,” which goes beyond having the right to cast a ballot. The two groups, the Association for the Advancement of Democratic Rights and Fair Vote Canada, have also earned an endorsement from Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

“The key issue is not that it’s unfair to the Green Party,” May said Tuesday at a news conference with representatives from the two groups. “It’s unfair to democracy. It’s unfair to voters, and I think it’s a big reason for the decline in voter turnout.”

Ms. May argues that voter turnout is higher in countries with proportional representation. Going back to some numbers I posted last year, that’s somewhat true: all of the countries listed there, with the exception of Canada and France, use some kind of proportional representation. So while proportional representation is present in Denmark, Sweden, Italy and the Netherlands (all with turnout over 80%), it is also present in Portugal (under 60%) and Switzerland (under 50%).


Democratic rights

  1. Does the Green Party regret Elizabeth May yet? She seems to be doing her best to keep them in the Bizarroland fringe. No court is going to give them what they want – if it ever got to the SCC they’d just punt it to Parliament. Plus there’s the visible sore-loser factor.

    • “No court is going to give them what they want …”

      I am wondering about this. Do you think May knows this is stunt with zero chance of success or is she serious?

      • I think she likes attention.

  2. Srsly?

    Anglo countries that practice first past post have been dictator free for centuries and have produced an enormous amount of wealth to progress humanity. Countries that use some other electoral system have experienced plenty of violence and misery. Not a coincidence. 

    Also, Europeans hate their political systems more than we dislike ours. I honestly don’t know how anyone can be paying attention to what is going on in Europe at moment and use them as example for Canadians to emulate. 

    Is Ms May conscious?

      • Oooops

    • Isn’t Harper Canada’s dictator?

  3. Counter-intuitively the last election made me more in favour of First Past the Post as I had previously been more in favour of Single Transferable Ballot or even a weighted prefential ballot.  I have always been vehemently opposed to proportional representation.  Just because a party runs up big majorities in one region does not entitle it to representation from another where they hardly receive any support.

    But now my thinking has become:

    A person has ONE VOTE and it is only COUNTED ONE TIME so that person better think good and hard about what result they want to produce with that single vote.  Most importantly people must ACCEPT THE OUTCOME.

    For example, if you have a sitting M.P. who is a former firefighter, started up a foodbank and goes on humanitarian missions to Africa, then heaven forefend that such a person should darken our Parliament.  If you are then temporarily seduced by a slick moustache and cast your ballot one way but wake up with a Conservative M.P. representing you instead of the nice former firefighter then tough luck.

    Ms. May is legitimately and duely elected to the Canadian Parliament as the Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands.  I salute her for this victory and hope she will use her time to promote the issues of importance to us all in the environment and speak on behalf of her constituents.

      • No but I think that example is fairly illustrative of what can happen when voters either don’t think through what the outcome of a voting decision can be or are upset at what the outcome ends up being.

        There were people, for example, in the Toronto mayoralty race who voted for Joe Pantoleone  knowing full well that Rob Ford could win but couldn’t bring themselves for vote for Smitherman after the absolutely horrible campaign he had run.  In the end it didn’t matter anyway as Ford received more votes than Smitherman and Pantoleone combined.

        People should vote however and for whomever they want to but just be prepared for the outcome and accept the result.

        • Well, people want to vote for who they want.  Almost as if they have the right to vote for who they want.  And yet, the outcome that that vote all to often brings, is not anything close to what they wanted.  So, which is it?  The logistics of every single Canadian canvassing their own riding to see which way their vote could prevent the outcome they least want is a silly concept.  And yet that is what FPTP requires of us.  And even if we could do such a thing, we’d each have to do the entire riding on the last day, because people change their minds!

    • I don’t follow your thinking…

      Wrt running up big majorities in one region and so on…sure, your scenario sounds bad, but I’m not at all sure that that would be the real outcome.  In fact, the opposite outcome is more likely – ie the diffuse nature of the Green vote would have ‘foisted’ very roughly 20 Green MPs onto ridings where other parties did (much?) better than the actual Green vote.

      Wrt ONE VOTE…indeed, think carefully about how you vote.  In the relatively few close ridings that is a somewhat valid rejoinder, but to the bulk of the over 7 million Canadian voters who didn’t vote for the ‘winner’ that advice is of no practical value.

      Wrt accept the outcome….not at all sure why Ms May and the others are obliged to do that – the request for a system that delivers more representative representation is an entirely valid objective.  They are not asking to form government, only to participate to an extent that is more in keeping with their support amongst the citizens.

      Your allusion to an existing MP is too vague for me…care to provide a less subtle hint for those of us (me?) who don’t know who you’re taklking about?


      • Glen Pearson, London North, defeated mostly by a phone smear campaign that he spent time way from parliament.

        • Ahh, thanks, Mr. Pearson…I recall noticing that he wasn’t returned, but wasn’t aware of the details.  But who is the guy with the slick moustache?   ;-)

          I persued http://www.elections.ca website…if I have it correct, there are 3 ridings that ‘involve’ the city of London.  I combined the results of those 3 ridings, and it does seem to make a very good case for STV, which LIKELY would have delivered these resuslts:

          –  Ed Holder would be the CPC rep from the Greater London district (via the London West riding) (CPC gets 40% of combined vote, 33% of seats)
          –  Irene Mathyssen would be the NDP rep from the Greater London district (via the London Fanshawe riding) (NDP gets 32% of combined vote, 33% of seats)
          –  either Glen Pearson or Doug Ferguson would be the LPC rep from the Greater London district (LPC gets 25% of combined vote, 33% of seats).


          • I assumed he meant Layton and that the vote was split enabling the Con to win.

          • *Hand to forehead* Moustache, Layton, of course…:-)

            Not at all sure that Pearson lost that seat because of a shift of votes away from Pearson and towards the NDP candidate – ie a pure NDP/LPC vote split.

            Instead it seems (to me) more likely that:
            – first, in that riding the Green vote moved from Green to NDP (yes, mostly due to the slick moustache and even a sense or hope that the NDP might actually eke out a minority win)
            – then, recognizing the surge of the NDP across many parts of the country (and maybe even in that particular riding), conservative Liberals moved away from the LPC/Pearson towards the CPC – rather the devil they sort of knew (Harper) than the devil they had no trust in at all (Layton)

            So, sure, it sort of looks like a vote split on the left, but I don’t believe that it truly was a vote split.

            Btw, are you an STV supporter?

          • @PhilCP:disqus 

            Re Prop Rep
            I’m really on the fence.  Not happy with FPTP but I can never get my head around the alternatives. 

          • Does the BC in JanBC signify British Columbia?  If so, did you support the STV votes, if you don’t mind my asking?

  4. I think countries with high voter turnout have populations, media, and political parties that don’t spend all their time crapping all over their politicians, civil servants, and government officials.  

    Now this is all a bit rich coming from me, but my opinions of who should be a politician have been shifting a lot lately, especially while living through Republican primaries. My personal fave was Mitt Romney telling a young man who was asking for advice on getting into politics that there is no way he should become a politician, that they’re horrible people and making a big joke about it. I thought that an odd moment. 

  5. Good on Ms May for endorsing the efforts of those two groups.

    • God this Disqus is a pain for responding.  Yes I’m on Vancouver Island – Ms. May’s riding in fact.  When we had the referendum I made an effort to understand it, gave up and voted against it, based on who was for and against it.  I wish the proponents would come up with better messaging.

      • Wrt DISQUS….yeah, worst ever (although I’m only familiar with the predecessor…).

        Wrt Saanich-Gulf Island riding….congratulations??

        Not sure what to say about STV to help you vote for it ‘next time’. I realize that it is easy to portray it as complex…..but does that really matter? It delivers a much more representative result – see my ‘prediction’ about the electoral district of Greater London, made up of the three existing ridings that include London – while still allowing folks to vote for the actual candidates (no lists).

        My bottom line with STV is “What’s the worst that could happen?” We get stuck with a disfunctional government for 4 years? It’s not like THAT has never happened before. ;-)

  6. ” it is also present in Portugal (under 60%) and Switzerland (under 50%).” still better than us.

    this is pointless. Harper won’t ALLOW any more federal elections. He is PM4LIFE, yo.

  7. May, it says “effective” representation. Not “fair” or even “representative”, but effective.

    As such, the particulars of the voting system are irrelevant.  What this charter item really suggests is a completely different parliamentary system.  After all, private members have bills brought forward by lottery, for goodness sakes.  How the hell can such a system give Canadians “effective” representation when your representative might not even be able to get their bill brought forward — because of luck of the draw?

    Soooo… good luck with that.

  8. I don’t know why this issue is not getting more attention. The very meaning of democracy is majority rule. Not majority of MPs, but majority of popular votes. In Canada, we have a very unusual electoral system in which the “winning” party does not receive anything close to a popular majority of votes. So in truth, Canada has a system of minority rule, like the one we had in South Africa under apartheid. If the Charter guaranties us democracy, then that right is being violated by our current electoral system, period.

    Right now we have 39% of voters (mostly in Alberta) telling the rest of us (61%) what to do, even if we strongly disagree. How is that democratic? Doesn’t this bother anyone? Are Canadians really that apathetic?

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