Fixing the system


Chris Selley calls for a move to a ranked ballot.

In the longer term, however, there is a simple and bloody obvious solution to all of this, which is to hold an instant runoff election, using a ranked ballot, in each riding. Non-winning candidates are disqualified in succession, and their votes redistributed, until one has 50%. That way, everyone who goes to Ottawa does so with a majority mandate from his or her constituents. No partisans need be denied their candidate. Citizens needn’t be denied a robust debate between as many different views as desire to be heard. And people who don’t want to vote for anyone but the Greens, or the New Democrats or Conservatives, needn’t do so: They can mark a single X and head home.

No new electoral districts or ridings. No “list members,” who represent nobody but their party. Just the same old House of Commons, but populated using a fuller, more thoughtful, more pragmatic and more democratic expression of voters’ wishes.


Fixing the system

  1. Chris Selley’s option is the more realistic option.

    But why the need to change our system if the outcome of any other systems have problems too.

    What about continuous coalition governments?

    What about holding elections every other year or so because the coalition governments don’t work all that well?

    You think we have many parties on the left now? We may see many more parties appear when going with a different electoral system.

    There is no perfect electoral system, no matter which way you look at it.

    • All of which amounts to – what if we had a system that really represented the democratic will of voters? The answer to which is – the country would be more democratic.

      • Who says that any new electoral system will be supported by more people than the system now in place? Are you suggesting that our current electoral system sits outside of a democratic process? And what if any new system would garner just as much support as the old one, would such new system then be democratic enough only because it’s new?

        Perhaps you are thinking that democracy equals perfection, but it ain’t so.

        • Every MP elected in the system proposed by Selley would go to Parliament with the support of more than 50% of the electorate in his/her riding. Under our current system we have MPs sitting in Parliament by virtue of having recieved less than 1/3 of the votes in their riding.

          The only one talking about “perfection” is you.

          • I understand what Selley is proposing. But his proposal does not indicate that such system would be more democratic. Yes, MP’s would get at least 50% of the vote but do you really think that everything else will remain the same?

            Who is not to say that under such Selley proposed system, a bunch of regional parties will be set up? Perhaps all of the provinces will come up with parties to run federally. We would then get a federal election in which mostly regional parties participate. Would such be good for the federal democratic process? Other scenarios could come to the fore. Who is to know what will happen when changes are made to the current electoral system. And that is my point. That no matter which system is being implemented, there is a process which develops according to which system is in place. Elections are now run with the current system in mind and all parties act in accordance with such an outlook of the electoral process. But the same will happen when a new system is put in place. Don’t think that under a new electoral system, political parties or politically interested entities will act the same as they do now in order to win votes. They too will adjust to the new system. And that taken all together does not have to make things more democratic. That’s just something hoped for on your part.

          • Yes, who knows what would happen if we had a system in which MPs were demonstrated to represent the will of the majority of electors, other than the fact that we’d have a system in which our representatives were elected with the support of a majority of electors – also know as democracy.

          • But lenny, there is more to democracy than just wanting MP’s to get votes over 50%. Canada is much more complex than that.

            Federal elections are for the federal level. Political parties, to be successful, must therefore hold a broad appeal across the nation. That, for me, is a very important aspect of our federal politics. And I would say (and this is just my opinion) that most Canadians expect the federal elections to be run by federal parties. What if, by means of a new electoral process, such federal aspect of our federal elections would be lost? What then would the value of democracy be when a federal electoral outcome no longer remains federal in outlook?

          • The value of democracy would be what it always is – a system which expresses the will of it’s participants.

          • Absolutely. And when federal elections turn out to no longer be about federal politics, than I, for one, would consider my democratic right to be diminished.

          • Falling into the minority isn’t a diminishment of your democratic right.

          • Soooo.. rank the candidates who espouse federal views higher than those who don’t.

            If enough of your fellow constituents agree with you, no problem. If they don’t.. well.. that’s part of what sucks about a democracy.. sometimes your opinions aren’t popular.

          • But we have that system already in place now.

          • Are you absolutely sure about that?

          • No, we don’t. We have an absolute choice of 1 over all. Not a ranking system. FPTP is only a ranking system for two choices, or if you’re a moron who doesn’t understand “ranking”

          • Let’s see – Harper et al got about 7 million votes, some 34 million people in Canada hmmm. oh wait, only about 25 million voters – let’s see, 7 million out of 25 million – I’m not entirely sure about the math here, but I’m having a bit of trouble translating 7 million out of 25 million into “majority” – any advice here???

          • Wow, what an incredibly original observation.

          • If it is the will of the people to set up regional parties, then so be it. That’s democracy.

            But, the system Selley proposed does to support regional parties any more than FPTP does. So far, only Quebec has a regional party, and it imploded recently. Regional parties would simultaneously do better and worse in a proportional scheme. They would win some seats as they may only need to bag 20 or 30% support to get one out of a multimember constituency, but their number of seats in the House would be small. No more Bloc as the Official Opposition.

          • I don’t want to deal with the BQ problem here (see Coyne’s thread).

            Selley’s proposal is willing to give losers a second choice. In other words, first you can try and give support to a small or up-start party and if they don’t get anywhere, well then you get to have a second shot at voting within the very same election. Let’s suppose that under Selley’s proposal the CPC would decide to split back into Conservatives and Tories. That split could be a regional split. And if, on the first try, either one wouldn’t get over 50%, well then they would be given a second chance to vote for their cousins who came first. Try-out for any smaller party, be they regional, ideological or otherwise, would become very easy. But I’m not sure if it would enhance our federal political process, or that it would enhance democracy when considered that federal elections are for matters being federal.

          • Why would/should Albertans have to stop voting for Reform and vote Tory? Could the Reform and Tory parties form a coalition?

            Coalitions are not inherently bad. They tend to be unstable in FPTP, where minor shifts in voter support can yield wildly different outcomes. If the outcome of an election is more or less the current configuration,the incentive to vote no confidence and trigger an election is diminished. Cooperation and compromise are the only way to get things done.

          • “Why would/should Albertans have to stop voting for Reform and vote Tory? Could the Reform and Tory parties form a coalition?”

            I thought we were talking about Shelley’s proposal of run-off elections build in on the same ballot, a second choice if one party would not get 50% of the vote (drop everything but the first two, etc).

            On the other note: No, coalition governments are not inherently bad. People just get sick of it after a few have been had. I happen to come from a country where coalition is now the only choice available, because so many parties participate (and most silly parties at that – I believe one was for animal welfare, one for voters over 50 and so forth). Coalition governments usually don’t last very long. And so the voters have to go to the polls often (in the Netherlands, over the past 10 years, I believe 5 times…. and people do get tired of it, because it is not just about going out to cast your ballot, but weeks and weeks of election debates back and forth while nothing gets governed on).

          • Exactly what type of PR system do they have over in the Netherlands?

          • Every vote is counted and there is a list of names in place and according to the votes gathered the list will be drawn upon – per party.

            But….and this is a big but: The Netherlands size-wise, would fit about 17 times into Alberta alone. Not a big area to cover for work or living etc. Also, the provinces in the Netherlands have very little power. Most institutions are nationally regulated. There is not a provincial healthcare, for instance. And so forth. Comparing The Netherlands to Canada, governing-wise, is indeed like comparing apples to oranges. It can’t be done.

          • A few hours ago you offered some observations about The Netherlands as it relates to coalition governments, and the overall tone seemed somewhat negative.

            So, I think to myself, I should try to find out if those learnings are applicable to Canada, so I ask you for more info.

            And your response: “Comparing The Netherlands to Canada…..can’t be done.” This confuses me a bit.

            Setting that aside, I actually do think that there are some learnings, and they are that if we want to think about PR, we should look for PR systems that don’t rely on party lists, and we should be very careful about PR systems that would allow very, very narrow parties from clogging up parliament.

            Thankfully there are systems that deliver a result that is much closer to PR than FPTP, and those systems do not rely on party lists and they can’t get clogged up with fringe parties.

          • All those silly uppity people wishing to participate in the governing of their country.

          • “Selley’s proposal is willing to give losers a second choice.”

            It took a while, but you couldn’t hide your utter contempt for democracy forever.

  2. Westminster system, first past post is just fine – we need fewer po-faced lickspittle MPs than we have now and add some left and right ideologues. Very little different between the three main parties right now – they are all tax and spend social democrats. How about three parties – conservatives, liberals and progressives – who propose policies that have something to do with their ideology and people vote for which sounds best.

    • The problem is that the FPTP system, when combined with 24hr privately funded national media, rewards the parties with the po-faced lickspittles more than it does independent thinkers.

      FPTP alone isn’t the problem, but FPTP with a news media that needs to sell advertising? That’s a problem. One or the other needs to change or nothing will.

  3. Instant runoff might be ok in a by-election, but not when a national or provincial election is taking place. A party might have say 5% of popular support nationally, but not enough in any one riding to be in the top 2-3 percents of vote-getters, and get zero seats overall in the election – which means 5% of the people (which would be ~1.7 million people in Canada) would have nobody sitting in the House of Commons speaking for them – some form of PR would give them ~15 seats, a considerable difference from zero seats. Which would, it seems to me, be far more democratic, esp when you consider the wild inconsistencies of FPTP, such as Harper having a solid “majority” with under 40% of people voting for him. (or Chretien before – no party should have a majority unless they actually get a majority of people voting for them as first choice.) Democratic revolution, now or never – http://www.rudemacedon.ca/vgi/backgrounders/revolution.html

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