Every vote counts


Adam Goldenberg doesn’t like Elizabeth May’s suggestion to the Green and New Democrat candidates in Etobicoke Centre.

If the election results were tainted, and the Supreme Court tosses out the result, then every one of those votes will be voided … As I argued here last week, the result of an election is not the same as its outcome; the result is the final vote tally, the outcome is the identity of the winner. The question for the Supreme Court, under a truly democratic interpretation of the Canada Elections Act, is not who should or should not have won, but rather whether the result – that is, the number of votes cast for each candidate – was affected by Election Day irregularities. Votes for Mr. Optiz and Mr. Wrzesnewskyj are not the only ones that matter. Why count every vote unless every vote counts?

As I noted yesterday, there’s some precedent for parties sitting out a by-election, but I’m not sure there’s any precedent for doing so in these circumstances.

Since 1949, five results have been declared void: Annapolis-Kings in 1949, Yukon in 1957, St. John’s West in 1962, Comox-Alberni in 1968 and York North in 1988. In the case of York North, all the parties that participated in the original vote fielded candidates in the by-election. In Annapolis-Kings and Yukon, only two parties were represented in the first place. In St. John’s West, the NDP was represented in the by-election, despite finishing a distant third in the original vote. The 1968 vote in Comox-Alberni resulted in a nine-vote win for the Liberal over the New Democrat, but the Progressive Conservative still ran in the subsequent by-election—though the Social Credit Party and the Communist Party seem to have sat out after finishing a distant fourth and fifth respectively in the original vote.

Mind you, the official records don’t indicate why the Socreds and Communists declined—and the reason for sitting out would seem important here.


Every vote counts

  1. Every vote doesn’t count in our antiquated voting system where a candidate can win because of vote-splitting. We need to modernize our existing system by requiring that MPs *earn* their seats with a majority from local voters (Instant Runoff Voting.)

    With IRV, a Green voter, for example, can vote for a Liberal or NDP candidate if their candidate doesn’t make it to the runoff round. (This is achieved by voters ranking preferences on their ballots instead of selecting one.) This ensures a person’s vote isn’t wasted and that their first choice is counted.

    Like fixed election dates, this minor reform can be legislated on a party platform mandate.

    • I wonder what steps a government made of a newly popular NDP and a Liberal party mired around 20% would take to adjust the system.

      Even if it were self-serving for both parties, after the way the CPC handled the per vote subsidy it’s not like there wouldn’t be precedent for adopting a system that favours your current arrangement.

      • People talk a lot about a Liberal/NDP merger. Some pundits say “one more election” before a merger becomes necessary. With IRV, there is no need for a merger.

        NDP/Liberal swing votes will automatically be transferred to the leading NDP/Liberal candidate on runoff ballots. So the parties can remain intact.

        Hopefully the parties will figure this out in time for 2015. If they form a minority government, they can legislate IRV and prevent the Cons from becoming the natural governing party of the first half of the 21st century (against the wishes of the vast majority of voters.)

        The NDP is pro-Proportional Representation (which is a major change that requires a referendum mandate.) They need to take the two prong approach: fix our existing system first; then build support for a PR/IRV-Westminster referendum. (Unfortunately the idiots at Fair Vote Canada are anti-IRV, which creates another useless hurdle to overcome.)

          • I think it’s a little complicated (electing 3 to 5 MPs per riding rather than one)

            In my opinion, electoral reformers should stick to the KISS principle (keep it simple…)

            Instant Runoff Voting is much simpler to understand than the multiple-ballot Alternative Vote. Mixed Member Proportional is much easier to get than Single Transferable Vote (all I get is a headache trying to make sense of that voting system.)

            So offer these two basic practical reforms to ensure the word is spread to as many people as possible. First put out the fire, then work towards a potential better solution.

        • I don’t know where you get the referendum being mandated. Yes, some provinces had a referendum on electoral reform. Since when does a province doing something give rise to a precedent federally? I’ve heard this argument before, but I’ve never heard WHY!

          • I think as far as the law is concerned PR could be legislated on a party-platform mandate. Like Mulroney’s 1988 “Free Trade” election. So if the NDP were to run on PR and won a majority they could claim they had the authority to change the system (which does not require any constitutional change.)

            My point is that IRV doesn’t change our existing system, it just raises the requirement for a candidate to be awarded power: from leading to majority support. So a referendum is certainly not required. A party or coalition could even legislate this out of the blue on the justification that it improves the current system by ensuring democracy. (A party could run on restoring FPTP just as easy.)

            The neo-Liberal mini-referendums were a farce. They were meant to abort electoral reform in Canada before it built up momentum naturally. Most voters knew little about the referendum so opted for the safe choice: the status quo.

            My position is to promote both IRV and PR (MMP, STV, etc.) Some people don’t like PR but think IRV is a good idea. So the more people who are engaged the better chance some form of change will happen.

  2. I`m confused Lizzie.
    If i live in Etobicoke you want me to vote Liberal.
    If I live in Quebec you want me to vote NDP.
    If I live In Saanich Gulf Islands—-i`ll bet you want me to vote Green.
    Here`s the problem for you and the Dips and Liberals. You have spent all these years telling me why your individual Party is the one that has the principles that best reflects my thinking. And now i`m supposed to toss away that ideal and just vote for another Party because it`s convenient for you.
    Maybe your principles are mushy.
    Maybe you are a hypocrite.
    Maybe you are just power-hungry.
    Maybe I`ll vote for a Party that won`t be sent off in 3 directions when they form government.

    • I`m confused Lizzie.


      Well you’re a Conservative. It’s pretty much a given :)

      • One would think a Conservative would be less confused than someone who votes for one of the Non-Con parties.
        You vote Conservative—you get pretty much what you`ve had for the past 6 years.
        You vote for a Non-Con Party (-might be a good start on naming the new Party, since non-con seems to be the only sure principle of the opposition Parties ) –you don`t know what you get—it`s a box of chocolates.

        • “You vote Conservative—you get pretty much what you`ve had for the past 6 years.

          Exactly…the best reason to vote ABC (Anybody But Conservative). For some, the only reason.

          • You have proven my point.
            Those that vote for the Non-Con Party do so not because of any great ideological reasons, but for strictly negative reasons—-no way to run a country.

          • Voting for ABC is, IMO, voting for positive change, and the best way to run this country in the eyes of an apparently growing percentage of that majority who never voted for the Cons in the first place.

        • Actually, there are a number of policies that all three parties (and the majority of Canadians) agree on. Cooperating would allow those issues to be addressed.

  3. Elizabeth May wants a bloated parliamentary pension. The only way she can get it is if no Liberal or NDP’er runs against her in the next election. Hence, her position on cooperation.

    She is just talking her own monetary self-interest.

    The NDP shouldn’t think twice and steamroll the Liberals and the Greens as quickly as possible. The only alternative to Harper and the Conservatives should be to vote NDP. That is what the Liberals always did to NDP. That is what the NDP should do to the Liberals.

    Kick ’em when their down. Beat them with a stick until they are dead. Don’t let them get up off the ground. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

    • That’s funny, because I distinctly remember both the Liberals and NDP running against her in the last election and her winning handily.

      • I also recall scrutineering in Ontario during that election, and the cheers from the NDP and Liberal scrutineers when we heard May won the seat.

    • Thanks! Taking advice from Conservatives when you are the NDP and the Official Opposition can’t be something any NDPer would think a smart move, surely. Heh, this is advice you gave to the party of Hope, Love and Optimism, if you recall. Be really, really funny if they took it.

      • Considering their relative positions, if the NDP had any smarts–doubtful–they should take advice from Conservatives rather than Liberals.