Elizabeth May’s proposal for electoral reform

by Aaron Wherry

Here is a copy of the letter Elizabeth May sent to opposition MPs about a pact for electoral reform.




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Elizabeth May’s proposal for electoral reform

  1. First Past The Post is often criticized but in four recent provincial referenda it keeps on winning and usually by very large margins. Most Canadians do not endorse proportionality because it is the opposite of the type of reform they want. Proportionality means your vote goes to the party, not to the individual representatives. While many Canadians trust their party to name candidates, to enforce discipline, and to be the keeper of their democratic proxy, they are probably in the minority compared to those who think individal MPs should be more accountable to their constituents and less to their party, and think that a weakening of partisan party discipline would allow MPs to get together and find solutions and compromises rather than always sticking to the party line.

    Proposals to have preferential or multi-round ballots are more in keeping with the current mood. Within a community, there would be a clear winner of 50% of the votes, which increases their legitimacy. In order to get people’s second choice, candidates would have to find agreement and commonality with supporters of other parties, something that is sadly lacking in the current hyper-partisan elections.

    • I agree that Single Transferable Vote could probably be sold much more easily than Proportional Representation.

      I’d love to see it include a None of The Above option, and if that comes in as first choice in a riding where there is an incumbent, the incumbent is automatically defeated regardless of second-choice ballot counts.

      • Personally, I’d like a Yes/No vote where each voter gets one yes and one no. Subtract no’s from yes’s and then use FPTP to figure out the winner.

        • Doesn’t that have the same problem with strategic voting and not voting honest preferences?

          • Yes and no. By giving the no vote, you eliminate one of the primary reasons for strategic voting: Getting somebody other than your desired candidate in in order to prevent somebody you really don’t like.

            With the “no” vote, people have the power to prevent that directly.
            If they think that even that won’t be enough to keep their disliked candidate out, then yeah, strategic voting can still happen. But I expect it would really lessen the odds of it, plus it would tend to handle the most egregious problem of the system where someone the majority dislikes most can be elected through vote splitting.

    • Could I trouble you to explicitly indicate the four recent provincial referendums to which you are referring?

      • PEI 2005, BC 2005, Ontario 2007, BC 2009

        • I didn’t actually look up the numbers, but IIRC in the BC 2005 referendum the YES side got well over 50% support.

          That is a level of support that many many governing parties could only dream of reaching in a general election.

          [edit] I suppose that you did say usually…..

  2. Much better for the Greens, NDP and Liberals to come up with policy proposals which most of the voters will support. As long as these three parties have not much of substance to give us, the changes of them forming government are slim.

    Geographical-wise, Canada is much too large and diverse to come up with any other electoral system than we have now.

    • I’ll grant you that a pure PR system (ie the “party list” method of PR) wll not do a good job of representing the regional diversity of our country – FPTP does better in that regard.

      But FPTP does a poor job of representing the diversity WITHIN Canada’s regions – just look at Alberta.

      MMP, IRV, STV and P3 all do a better job (to different degrees) of representing both the regional diversity across the country AND the actual diversity within regions than FPTP.

    • And what would the election results look like if each of the
      Greens, NDP and Liberals came up with policy proposals which most of the voters support?
      Quite possibly the exact same result we had in the last election.

    • Addendum

      Is it OK to exagerrate differences between the regions of Canada?

      • There is no need to exaggerate differences between regions, but there is no need to avoid reality either. I like to stick with reality of this country and such reality is based on the regional differences to be had. The regions feed into the federal parties and the federal parties, in turn, must feed the regions. It’s the best balance available.

        • But FPTP does exaggerate the regional differences.

          There are several variants of PR that acknowledge the reality of the regional differences without the exaggeration that comes with FPTP – they do a much better job of achieving the balance you mention.

          • The principal purpose of our FPTP electoral system, as specifically opposed to proportional, is to ensure that urban Canadians do not dictate what goes on in nature and agricultural areas all over the country. Proportional voting would mean that Montreal/Toronto/Vancouver have the last word in all decisions.

          • To be clear, I’m not advocating for a pure PR system. Rather, I’m advocating for STV or P3 or a similar system.

            Also, it isn’t at all clear to me why the MPs from Montreal/Toronto/Vancouver (under a proportional system) would vote together to consistently block the will of the rural voters.

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