Gaming the system

Aaron Wherry on an idea that’s too cute by half

Andrew Coyne calls for a one-time co-operation pact aimed at electoral reform.

There are a lot of reasons to prefer proportional representation — I’ve written about it often — but for the opposition parties there is one reason in particular: the current system heavily favours the Conservatives, as the party with the support of the largest single block of voters.So while I don’t see the case for merging the other parties, I do think there’s some merit in a proposal floated by the Liberal leadership candidate Joyce Murray: namely, a one-time-only electoral pact, for the sole purpose of changing the voting system. The Green Party has proposed something similar. And Nathan Cullen famously ran for NDP leader on an electoral cooperation platform. The details no doubt vary, but here’s how I can see it working. The opposition parties would agree on a single candidate to put up against the Conservatives in each riding. Were they to win a majority, they would pledge to govern just long enough to implement electoral reform: a year, two at most. Then fresh elections would be called under the new system, with each party once again running under its own flag, with a full slate of candidates.

Supporters of each party, therefore, would not have to give up their allegiance. Neither, for that matter, would reform-minded Conservatives. They could vote for the reform ticket this one time, then return to the Tory fold when it came to deciding who should represent them in a reformed Parliament.

I guess the theory is here at that the 2015 election could be an election about electoral reform. That strikes me as an odd notion. Are we going to suspend all other issues of consideration? Are the the Liberals, Greens and New Democrats going to put aside all other policy proposals? Are they going to promise, for the year or two it takes to implement reform, to not do anything else of consequence? Or are they going to have to agree on a unified platform? Could the general public be convinced to take electoral reform so seriously that all other policy issues would be secondary?

I also continue to find the idea of riding-level co-operation to be hopelessly problematic. To start, doesn’t the last federal election demonstrate the folly of trying to figure out ahead of time which party’s candidate has the best shot of winning? How many of the ridings that the NDP won for the first time in 2011 would have had a New Democrat candidate if a co-operation approach had been adopted two months before that election?

Alice Funke sees lots of practical issues. But how would this work politically? Having agreed to co-operate on nominating candidates, how tied to each other would the parties be? Could they still disagree amongst each other? Would they have to agree to refrain from attacking each other? Wouldn’t the Conservatives happily be able to exploit differences of opinion and attack the three as a united front—the NDP held responsible for any mistakes of the Liberals and vice versa? What if 200 Liberal candidates are nominated, but, mid-campaign, the Liberal leader is suddenly enveloped in some scandal?

On a local level, how sure are we that Liberal or Green voters will vote NDP or vice versa? What would be the impact locally in 2019 on a party not running a candidate in 2015? Wouldn’t sitting out a campaign in a given riding make it at least a little bit harder for a party to mount a campaign four years later?

As when Nathan Cullen proposed it, the idea still strikes me a too cute by half. I think people who want to see co-operation among the three non-Conservative parties might as well argue for a merger (though I don’t think that makes much sense right now) or the possibility of a coalition government. Joint nominations, in my mind, put you in no man’s land between those two ideas.




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Gaming the system

  1. Refreshing change to see Wherry hasn’t lost his analyzing skills.

  2. Personally I thought the first part of Coyne’s write-up was the most interesting part of all:

    “In the wake of Monday’s byelections, and in particular the result in
    Calgary Centre, a great many people have expressed their concern about
    the problem of “vote-splitting.” I can see why. After all, were it not
    for the split in the anti-Liberal vote, the Liberal candidate would
    never have managed to finish second.

    Similarly, it was only the split in the anti-Green vote that allowed
    the Green candidate to slip into third place. And don’t get me started
    on Victoria, where rampant vote-splitting among the anti-New Democrats
    handed victory to the party that 63% of those voting voted against.
    Clearly it is time to unite the non-Liberal, non-Green, and non-NDP
    forces: a broad coalition of the antis.”

    • So you liked that part?

      What about the rest?

      And what about his overall point?

      • See my other posts on this board posted earlier this morning. Enjoy!

  3. Our current electoral system may not be perfect (and it isn’t) but to replace it with another system will be very problematic.

    There are countries which have changed from first past the post to another set of rules, for instance New Zealand and Germany. But both those countries are not comparable to our country. They are much smaller geographically speaking, and in New Zealand’s case, much smaller population wise too. Smaller countries don’t have many major differences existing between regions because the regions are very close and therefore very similar. Furthermore, not too many countries besides Canada, enjoy such arrangements as finding a ‘nation’ within a ‘nation’.

    Canada’s diversity does not only come about by its great mix of people and their backgrounds (other countries have such mix too); Canada’s overriding diversity is grounded in its coverage of such an overwhelming geographical area.

    People are shaped by their geographical setting as much as they are shaped by any other influence. So if Canadians were to do away with the first past the post system under which such system the geographical diversity is being reflected by means of constituencies, how then would another electoral system be able to reflect that geographical diversity?

    When selecting MP’s by means of percentage of votes gathered country wide, who will decide which party members will be turned into seats of Parliament? Will such seats still be filled with candidates coming forth proportionally? And if so, by which method?

    • Why not keep the ridings just the way then elect each MP using STV on a per riding basis?
      That way you keep whatever “diversity” exists and the most popular candidate locally get elected. Then there is no need for party lists which are inherently corrupt anyway, (Nobody votes for a party they vote for an individual MP.)

      • Yes, and on the other thread, the one about Selley’s proposal, I have said as much, but………….(see my post there).

      • I find it nonsense to say that nobody votes for a party but that they vote for an individual MP. What would an individual MP be without the party and what would any party be without individual MP’s? Nothing!

        • Completely agree that any claim that voters vote strictly on this basis OR they vote strictly on that basis OR they vote against this OR whatever is nonsense.
          There are probably about as many different sets of reasons that go into determining a single vote as there are voters.
          Having said that, I’m comfortable suggesting that:
          - for some voters party affiliation weighs very heavily
          - for other voters the MP himself/herself weighs very heavily
          - and some voters do vote strategically, they vote against someone by voting for someone else who they hope can overtake that someone
          - and there are even a few who carefully weigh out all the different policy positions and so on.

          • Yes, good points.

        • While lazy and easily led politicians do run on a party platform. Election law is such that you actually vote for the person and not the party. Sure the party is included on the form for information but as anyone can run, being in a party is not required before you do run. So people legally vote in the individual not the party.
          Parties would love for election law to change to just include parties especially if the voting method changes so party lists are used. I think that true democratic representation would be devastated if that happened. In fact I think parties should be abolished as they are by definition anti-democratic as anything that puts itself between the MP and those who elected them is. How many MPs have voted contrary to their constituency’s interests because of the Party?

          • Trying to run Canada without political parties. I can just imagine everyone waiting for that to happen. What a circus that would be!

            “How many MPs have voted contrary to their constituency’s interests because of the Party?”

            I don’t know. Canada isn’t easy to govern whether the MP’s are free to vote at all time or are not to vote free at any time. I think we have a pretty good mix, knowing that a lot is going on simultaneously and yet, Canada is not doing too badly.

          • We’ve become used to the corruption that is party loyalty and generally we are either too lazy or too loyal to the party to want to change the situation.
            Parties exist to ensure the party hierarchy is looked after and party sponsors are paid off, then after all that is done the electorate might get a look in.
            The current crop of hacks who inhabit our parliament are prime examples of what happens when politicians are not accountable to the people that hey serve. How many of the Senate and Parliament have risen through the ranks on party largesse? How many of them would actually find a jobe that pays the same outside of party politics? Our mailboy PM? Not a chance.

    • Just to reiterate harebell’s answer…

      STV or Dion’s P3 systems maintain geographical diversity and maintain the ability of constituents to know exactly who they are actually choosing. And actually either of those systems does a better job than FPTP of recognizing the diverstiy within regions that FPTP does not recognize.

      • Posted earlier on this site:

        It
        could just as easily be argued that the current system is the best
        system for Canada. Since we are considering federal elections here,
        Canada’s geographic reality must be taken into account.
        And our
        current system does. Under our current system, political parties must
        have a federal outlook in order to be successful at the polling station.
        Federal political parties therefore must, at all times, keep in mind
        the workings of this two-way street, namely that the regions feed into
        the federal party policy and that the federal party policy must be
        sell-able to the regional levels in turn.

        And so, come federal election day, each and every region (the
        constituencies) vote as if it were a small Canada in its own right, each
        constituency verifying that the regional-federal balance has been met.

        Each constituency is therefore not concerned with the overall outcome
        of the federal election, or with percentage of votes begotten over the
        whole of the federation, but is concerned that the regional needs are
        being met by one particular political representation over another. The
        sum of all those ‘small Canadas’ will then form the make-up of our
        federal government. Pretty democratic, I would say.

        • Sure, FPTP is pretty democratic, but we can do better, we can have a system that is very democratic.

        • There’s nothing about FPTP that ensures political parties have a federal outlook to win power. Certainly no advantage over IRV (requiring MPs earn their seats with a majority of the vote) or Proportional Representation.

          In fact, because a party only needs 40% of the vote to get 100% of the power, they can write off regions of the country and still win: like Chretien wrote off AB and Harper wrote off QB. Not only that, FPTP distorts the regional vote (in AB the Cons got 96% of the seats off of 67% of the vote.)

          The best way to ensure all regions of the country are represented is to ensure government represents a majority of voters like it does in the rest of the developed world who ditched slipshod FPTP decades ago.

      • That’s a good point. FPTP not only doles out unwarranted power to the leading minority party, it also distorts the regional vote. The Cons got 67% of the vote in AB in 2011, and 96% of the power. In 2008, the Bloc got 38% of the vote and 65% of the power. Also in 2011, Harper got less than 40% of the vote, but 54% of the power, giving him a fake, unearned majority.

        Dion’s system is a waste of space. Few Canadians would take that seriously. The major systems are IRV and PR (MMP or STV.) Many Canadians don’t like PR because it gives too much power to the fringe parties. But they are not aware of the benefits of IRV, which would make our existing system democratic. (Requiring MPs earn their seats with a majority of the vote.)

        According to the G&M if we had IRV, the last election would’ve turned out much different (IRV/FPTP):

        Con 142/166
        NDP 118/103
        Lib 46/34
        Grn 1/1

        G&M: How would Harper fare in a French-style run-off election?
        http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/how-would-harper-fare-in-a-french-style-run-off-election/article2424783/

        • AFAIK, Dion’s P3 system is STV lite, so I’m unsure why you don’t like it. Can you expand?

          • The premise that there will be 3 to 5 politicians elected per riding does not sound like something particularly appealing to the public. In the end, you have to sell the system to a majority of voters in a referendum.

            STV is a complex system, but one that is already established in some countries.

            I think that PR supporters should get behind the simplest system, which is MMP. PR is an uphill battle in Anglo-Saxon countries. The media here hates PR, including the Toronto Star which campaigned against a PR mini-referendum in ON. So you have to keep it simple.

            It’s like Cap and Trade vs. a Carbon Tax. The second system is better, but harder to sell to the public. So you get your foot in the door with the lesser system, then work towards moving to the better system.

            I also think the two-prong approach to voting reform is best. The first is modernizing our existing system with Instant Runoff Voting directly through legislation (like fixed-election dates it doesn’t require a referendum.) The second is building support for a full, fair, PR referendum. That way it’s not an all-or-nothing bet on PR, which has lost 4 times already among the provinces.

          • Thanks! :-)

    • I disagree with that geographical setting thing. It may have been true at one point, but I don’t think it really holds sway any longer. For instance, I have more in common with friends I talk to in urban Toronto or on their acreage on Vancouver Island than I do with family living in Cardston, Alberta.

      Sure, in days before the internet, you wound up talking to whoever was around you. Complaining about the shared experience of weather certainly builds bonds, or at least opens doors to do so. Now though? Those restrictions are gone, and with them some of the links that made regional representation make sense.

      I’m not saying that it’s completely gone as a link, obviously shared geography brings certain commonalities of experience, but there’s a lot more areas where people can easily find commonality these days, so if you’re using geography as a reason to keep our FPTP riding level system, that’s a pretty weak leg to be standing on.

      And that’s without ever pointing out that nobody was suggesting removing the ridings. That was a straw man that you brought up.

      • Personally you may have more in common with people living in urban Toronto, or people living elsewhere. But when you live in Toronto, as a voter, you are concerned about job opportunity in the Toronto area and when you live on Vancouver Island you may be concerned when a pulpmill is shut down, because your son or daughter or whomever, may not find the right opportunities, or you may be concerned that less money will flow into provincial coffers to cover healthcare for instance, when pulpmills are wiped out. The Toronto voter is perhaps not that upset by the closure of a pulpmill or two, and the one living in the pulpmill area may not be so concerned about a bridge to be built going over to Detroit. Yet, both the pulpmill and the bridge are of concern to the federal parties running within federal elections. All these regional issues must come to a federal understanding if they are regulated by the feds (therefore not to be confused with provincial jurisdictional issues!). Regional issues are to be found everywhere, effecting everyone who lives in that particular region. Each region has its particular outlook on things (and there are many things).

        And so a balance needs to be found.

        • That’s fair. I disagree that FPTP is any sort of way to find that balance.

  4. And when Stephane Dion did not allow a Liberal nomination in

    Central Nova (2008 ?) so that Elizabeth May could have a good

    run at L’il Pete, it didn’t work out so well. Partially ,at least, because

    there was a particularly strong NDP candidate who drew a lot of

    Liberal votes that it was assumed would go to May.
    Maybe it’s of some interest that the same NDP candidate subsequently
    barely lost the Halifax NDP nomination to Megan Leslie.

    • MacKay was almost certainly winning that riding under any circumstances, the silliess was her running there in the first place. Your idea might hold true in other instances, but not that one.

      • Sorry. I checked through my little comment for for
        evidence of anything resembling an idea … don’t
        see it. But your first sentence is certainly correct.
        And anyone who actually lived in the area could
        have told Dion that.

        • I made a comment when E. May indicated her intention to parachute into Central Nova that amounted to: Why there??? Although Alexis MacDonald did do well in that election, Elmer’s boy is inexplicably popular in Central Nova.

    • They’re not Liberal votes, NDP votes or Conservative votes, they’re the votes of individual Canadians. It’s the politicians’ jobs to prove themselves worthy of them, and our job to decide who gets them. They don’t own them, we do… any indication otherwise is irresposible and false.

  5. As long as MPs and the media continue to talk about Process, horse-races and ‘gotchas’, voters will continue to tune out.

    None of that is of the slightest interest ….or use….to the average Canadian

    Only interesting to political junkies….which is what most posters on here are.

    But what we need is a leader, a direction, and a plan.

    I don’t see anything so far. Or even the media calling for it.

    • Some of EmilyOne’s remarks:

      “Bibi believes in the ‘push them into the sea’ solution”

      “Cons never know when to quit…they always go over the top. Jump the shark.”

      “Baird is related to Harper who’s related to Ford ….they’re all ignorant buffoons”

      Now EmilyOne says: “None of that is of the slightest interest ….or use….to the average Canadian”

      See what personal reflection can accomplish?

      • ‘The only good place for a Cat is in a box.’

        E. Schrödinger

        • “The cat is out of the bag, just like I had predicted.”

          Francien Verhoeven

          • Yes tis, Cat….only it’s a box

            You have a distinctive writing style….dippy…so you’re recognizable. Sorry.

            But now you can go talk nonsense to other people, since I don’t converse with Cats. Ciao Meow. LOL

          • “But the cat came back the very next day.”

    • Voting reform is a very important issue. Our present system awards absolute corrupt power to a minority, which is the literal opposite of democracy. Considering all developed countries (except Canada and the UK) have modernized their voting systems, this is hardly an issue voters tend to tune out from.

      People are not stupid. When an issue attracts enough attention they weigh in. No sense dumbing down the debate or waiting for a messiah.

      • Nobody cares, except the political junkies.

        People want jobs, they want access, they want a future….the voting method is irrelevant.

        • I gave you a point for that one!

          • Cons like FPTP because it now favors their party with the center-left vote split 3 ways. They hated FPTP, however, when the right-wing vote was split and the Liberals won easy fake majorities.

        • The voting system is, no doubt, irrelevant to those who are ignorant of how it operates. But many wonder how Harper got absolute power when a super-majority was opposed to him. The answer is our corrupt and undemocratic voting system.

          This is an issue that has been dealt with in almost all other developed countries that opted for the literal interpretation of democracy: a majority of voters being represented in government. How can people vote for “jobs” if their vote is wasted and an arbitrary minority gets all the power? (Like the Liberals in the 1990s, or the Conservatives now?)

          Clearly you do not speak for the vast majority of people who supported voting reform in the rest of the developed world. Your assertion that you speak for Canadians on this issue is absurd.

          • How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

            That’s how much it matters to Canadians.

            Yawn.

          • The problem is Canadians are largely unaware that we are only one of two developed countries stuck with a backwards and undemocratic voting system — that other countries modernized theirs decades ago.

            Canadians are smart enough to figure out this an important issue, if it’s put to them. Just like the 1988 free trade election (that lost, BTW, 55% against.)

            Some people of limited intelligence have difficulty comprehending the importance of the issue and understanding how the voting systems are different. Of course they are a small minority of all the millions of voters across the developed world who supported voting reform in their own countries and won.

            I certainly have no reason to think Canadian voters are different than those in the rest of the developed world…

          • Canadians have already voted on it….3X I think…and turned it down everytime.

          • You are wrong Emily. And I have been out asking. Have you?

          • I repeat ‘Canadians have already voted on it….3X I think…and turned it down everytime.’

        • I have to agree with you. Irrelevant plus a major mess waiting to happen, it won’t work as pretty as they would like it to.

          • Can you supply some details about the mess that is waiting to happen?

          • There was nothing in there about ‘waiting’. And the mess includes turning lakes into tailing ponds–we may have a lot of lakes, but not a single one of them deserves to become a tailings pond!, muzzling scientists, corroding our internet freedom under the guize of catching pedophiles, asking for border security money and spending it on gazebos 100 miles away, removing the ability of our elected representatives to do their job of holding the government to account by withholding information from them, the budget officer, the media, and Canadians, destroying our economic diversification, and on and on and on.

          • Somehow I don’t think that is what Claudia has in mind! :-)

          • Our current system is a major mess happening right now. Canadians suffer under the tyranny of a minority for God sake. It doesn’t get any more absurd than that. That’s why the rest of the developed world abandoned primitive and sloppy FPTP decades ago.

            If FPTP is not good enough for political parties to elect their leaders with, it sure isn’t good enough to found our democracy on.

            Harper said FPTP produced a “benign dictatorship” while in opposition. Him and the rest of the Cons don’t mind as long as he’s the “dictator”…

    • A leader, direction and plan is only of value if said leader gets to be PM. In addition to our current PM, we will have three leaders with directions and plans–a lot of it the same because why would you pick the second or third best solution, and many (not all) address the same issue. Since most of us want those issues addressed, it only makes sense to see one of those leaders as PM. Cooperation won’t choose which leader that will be, it will only increase the odds that it won’t be our current PM.

      • Like I said, what we need is a leader with a direction and a plan.

        Then Canadians would have a choice, and a reason to vote.

    • A Forum Research poll October 27, 2012 showed 70% of decided voters approved of proportional representation.

      • Totally meaningless.

  6. Another important consideration is campaign spending limits. Our parties are allowed to spend a certain amount which is based on the number of ridings they’re running in. In 2011, if you ran in 308 ridings, you had a spending limit of 21 million. If you ran in, say, 75 ridings, you had a spending limit closer to 5 million dollars.

    Is there any chance at all that the NDP and Liberals would each agree to limit their spending in the next election to 11 million dollars while the Conservatives spend the full 21 million dollar amount? I don’t think there is. Off the top of my head, a leader’s tour of the kind we’re used to seeing from our major parties, when added to the salaries and costs of running a central national office, costs about 5 million dollars. After the tours, the Conservatives would have 15 million to play with, and the NDP and Liberals only 6 million each for advertising, polling, staff, and other expenses. Joint nominations would amount to nothing less than a unilateral disarmament by the opposition parties in the air war.

    • What if both parties nominate candidates in every riding then withdraw some during the campaign?

      • That would be way too confusing for non-political-junkie voters. There was a situation two elections ago in Saanich-Gulf Islands (I’m straining my memory here, so I may have the riding wrong) where the NDP candidate had to drop out because he was a monumental fuck-up. He still received a sizable share of the vote, partly because of dirty tricks from the Conservative side (as noted by Elections Canada), but probably also because his name was still on the ballot and people just weren’t paying attention to the news.

      • A possibility, but not one I favour. For one thing, it isn’t honest. But, this is a war to save our democracy, so I may grudgingly have to allow that total honesty becomes victim to some collateral damage. Hope not, though.

  7. First past post electoral systems have created the most political stability and wealth creation compared to anything else humans are trying so there are no good reasons to prefer proportional representation system. Europeans like their politcal systems less than we like ours. And the Europeans and their proportional representational systems are in EU rigamarole where EU bureaucrats can remove Prime Ministers. No thank you.

    It is quite easy and sensible system Canada has – be the party that appeals to the most people in each riding. It is only the kooks who get nine percent of vote or somesuch who complain about how unfair it is that MPs need to appeal to wide base within communities.

    Need more ideologues in our parties, three main parties are tax and spenders, there is very little real difference between them. We are suffering from narcissism of small differences in Canadian politics, we need some give me liberty, or give me death types and some people who want to nationalize the oil sands for the good of Gaia. Canadian politics is dull as dishwater.

    • If wealth creation is among the criteria for determining the “best” electoral system, why don’t we just emulate the Chinese? Has their economy not expanded at an astounding rate in the last decade?

    • “First past post electoral systems have created the most political stability and wealth creation compared to anything else humans are trying”

      What an utterly ridiculous statement. The only developed countries that still use FPTP are Canada and the UK (the US uses the system but it’s a two-party state that elects three branches of government, so one can scratch “political stability.”)

      The idea that Canada and the UK are the wealthiest countries in the world is sheer nonsense.

      The rest of the statements, like EU bureaucrats having the power to remove PMs, are drivel.

    • And, of course, those 9% kooks aren’t entitled to have a say in the laws that govern their lives.

    • Actually, since the greatest increases in GDP have occurred within my lifetime it is more than clear that I alone am responsible for record growth in GDP.

      • Seems indisputable.

      • GDP as in Grandiose Delusional Pretensions? ;)

      • :)

  8. Are not there also significant campaign spending limitations on a party level if a party does not run a complete slate of candidates? And if parties are cooperating, should not the cooperating parties be considered a single party for both campaign spending and campaign contributions?

    Europe and their PR systems are an economic and fiscal mess, and it really is descending into a dictatorship of unelected technocrats imposing dictats on elected governments from Brussels and Frankfurt.

    I don’t believe Canada would survive PR. Canada needs big tent governing parties to broker the regional differences. The centrifugal forces of the country pulling the regions apart would overwhelm PR governance.

    My preference is for a more minor experiment. A 5-region PR Senate,

    • Northern European countries are doing better than Canada, the US and the UK (only FPTP developed countries.)

      Sweden, Finland and Germany had stronger recoveries coming out of the “Great Recession.” Scandinavian countries have 50% or less government debt. Germany has 82%, UK 83%, Canada 85%, the US 103%.

    • “And if parties are cooperating, should not the cooperating parties be considered a single party for both campaign spending and campaign contributions?”

      That’s my favourite solution, to have a small NDP-Liberal-Green party. Although it may not be favoured in many target ridings and in my view each riding should get to decide themselves how they Cooperate.

  9. PR is not the only form of voting reform; nor is it necessarily the best. We can actually fix our existing system by simply requiring that MPs earn their seats with a majority of the vote.

    This is done with Instant Runoff Voting. Voters can rank candidates on a ballot instead of just selecting one. That way they are ensured a vote on a runoff ballot if a candidate doesn’t win with a majority on the first.

    IRV stops vote splitting, prevents wasted votes and does away with the need of party mergers. Since it only modernizes our existing system, it can be legislated without the need of a referendum.

    • According to the G&M, here’s what the 2011 election results would’ve been under IRV (IRV/FPTP):

      Con 142/166
      NDP 118/103
      Lib 46/34
      Grn 1/1

      The NDP and Liberals would have 53% of the seats off of 50% of the vote. The Cons 46% of the seats off of 40% of the vote (as opposed to the 55% they got under FPTP.)

      G&M: How would Harper fare in a French-style run-off election?
      http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/how-would-harper-fare-in-a-french-style-run-off-election/article2424783/

      • Losers often want to change the rules of the game.

        • Democracy is not a game. It’s about carrying out the will of the people. That can only be accomplished if government represent a majority of voters, not an arbitrary minority. That’s why almost all developed countries have modernized their voting systems.

          There’s absolutely no reason why voters should get saddled with politicians and governments they don’t want and didn’t vote for.

          • I guess you must have been marching in the streets in outrage, when Glenn Clark won that BC provincial election despite losing the popular vote.
            Oh wait, that’s right, you weren’t. Because your team won.

          • You don’t actually know for sure how Ron felt about that Glen Clark win, do you?

            I can tell you that personally I feel embarrassed when a party that I’ve voted for gets a majority without receiving majority support.

          • I don’t want any team to win. I want a majority of voters to be represented in government. That way if we get really bad government (like the Harper Government,) then voters only have themselves to blame.

        • FPTP is like a crutch. At some point we all have to stand on our own two feet, and let our ideas succeed or fail on their own merits. PR supporters are ready.

      • How could you possibly calculate the IRV results for the 2011 election?

        Our way of marking ballots, by making a single choice, doesn’t provide enough information of each voter’s preference to calculate an Instant Runoff Vote.

        • The G&M article indicates that the projected seat counts are based on second choice polling – so indeed those numbers are not “carved in stone”, but they also are not WAGs.

  10. I’ve been in favour of some such arrangement [until now...maybe??] Those are some great unnitended consequences issues raised by Aaron and others. Progressives [and others] need to think this all the way through. Do the counter factuals; think about what the almost predictable Harper response will be.Three cheers for Coyne for backing this though. It’s a great idea and idealistic, but is it workable?

    One possible upside from trying to sell such a proposal as the Murray/Cullen/Coyne one might be… what if it actually caught the public’s imagination? That might make simply running against it Harper style ie., lowball, an extremely fraught political proposition?

    • A Forum Research poll October 27, 2012 showed 70% of decided voters approved of proportional representation

      • That’s good news.

  11. It could just as easily be argued that the current system is the best system for Canada. Since we are considering federal elections here, Canada’s geographic reality must be taken into account.
    And our current system does. Under our current system, political parties must have a federal outlook in order to be successful at the polling station. Federal political parties therefore must, at all times, keep in mind the workings of this two-way street, namely that the regions feed into the federal party policy and that the federal party policy must be sell-able to the regional levels in turn.

    And so, come federal election day, each and every region (the constituencies) vote as if it were a small Canada in its own right, each constituency verifying that the regional-federal balance has been met.

    Each constituency is therefore not concerned with the overall outcome of the federal election, or with percentage of votes begotten over the whole of the federation, but is concerned that the regional needs are being met by one particular political representation over another. The sum of all those ‘small Canadas’ will then form the make-up of our federal government. Pretty democratic, I would say.

    • So, as a result of this arrangement, we’ve ended up with Liberal governments in which Alberta has had little regional representation and (currently) a Con government in which Quebec has little representation. In fact, in recent decades, it’s hard to argue that any party has had an indisputably national mandate, with solid support in all regions of the country.

      I, for one, don’t find such outcomes optimal.

      • Yet,…. it is true that at any given time of such electoral results (majority government), one political party over another did get the most constituency wins. So, seen over the entire country, most constituencies voted for that federal party which they thought reflected the balance of region/federal outlook the best.

        Any federal party must always keep the region/federal aspect in mind. And the party which can do so best will most likely win over the most constituencies.

        And as such, the regions which are excluded because of an overall balance found to be superior most elsewhere, are therefore out of tune with what the winning party has found to be as balance accepted by most regions. The regions who did not opt for the majority of balance found, must either fold into such balance found come next election, or must try and garner support for the way they see the region/federal balance to be better.

        And political parties do in fact cater to that idea. Any political party which wants to be successful will keep finding better ways for letting more regions buy into that which is most successful for all.

        But it’s pretty tough to win ‘m all, in any system.

        Question for you: why take the time to spell out Liberals but not take the time to spell out Conservatives?

        • “Question for you: why take the time to spell out Liberals but not take the time to spell out Conservatives?”

          Habit. I noticed that myself after I’d posted the above comment. It’s partly because I have a disability and type with one finger. “Conservatives” is a lot of keystrokes.

          I used to call them Tories but I don’t think this particular government exemplifies that brand any more.

          • You have no idea how much I appreciate the fact that you have taken the time now to answer that question. And yes, we all have habits.

            Your explanation is a valid one. I, too, find myself thinking at times that spelling out all that which is polite, takes longer (and I am a ten-finger typer!)

            I’m not saying that you belong to this group I am trying to identify thus: the word ‘con’ has negative connotations, of course, as in ‘con-man’ or ‘ex-con’ for instance. And it is my opinion that many prefer to write the word ‘Con’ when referring to the Conservatives because of that negative connotation. By using the word Con instead of Conservative, the incline of the dialogue reaches into negative territory for the Conservatives from the get go. I find it unhelpful and disrespectful to say the least.

            A level of respect is needed specially when conversing back and forth about the state of our democracy. So thank you.

        • You suggest that “most constituencies voted for that federal party which they thought reflected the balance of region/federal outlook the best.”

          That’s a fine theory except that constituencies don’t vote, individuals do, and it’s aggregates of individuals, each voting independently in a way that he/she believes most likely protects his/her individual interests, that determine the outcome. I doubt that many individual voters, when they step into the voting booth, ever give much (if any) conscious thought as to which party “reflect[s] the balance of region/federal outlook the best.” Indeed, before the outcome is determined, how could an individual voter possibly know what the regional balance is going to be, let alone what’s “best”?

          Furthermore, it’s nice to think that “the regions who did not opt for the majority of balance found” would just quietly “either fold into such balance found come next election, or…try and garner support for the way they see the region/federal balance to be better.” However, what we get, instead, are outbreaks of regional discontent, as exemplified by the cry, “the west wants in” and the welling up of western alienation during the years of Lib (see, I can do that, too) hegemony.

          So I don’t think that an electoral system that fosters regional factionalism is, in any way, a good thing.

          ’nuff said…I’m done.

          • I agree with ’nuff said. I’m now switching over to the CBC webpage where hundreds of Canadians are leaving comments in regards to the Gun Registry. Yup, that’s right: Justin Trudeau said it was a bad policy! Go check out the comments if you want an update on how much the regional and the individual overlaps………………….

    • FPTP rewards regional parties. The BQ had an outsized influence in the House after winning barely 10% of the vote. They were the Official Opposition!

      • Yes, the BQ had an outsized influence in the House. But that was as a result of a provincial party being allowed to run within a federal election. This should never have been allowed under our federal electoral system. Note: The BQ could not have run candidates in other provinces for having done so would have spelled the end for the BQ. In order for the BQ to exist, it could only run within the province of Quebec.

        So, don’t blame that on FPTP system. Letting a provincial party run within federal elections is not the same as running democratic federal elections.

        • So we should be able to ban parties we don’t like? Should Reform have been banned, too, for not running candidates in every riding?

          BQ could have nominated candidates in every riding and not campaigned. Or encourage Canadians outside Quebec to vote for a party that would represent Quebec’s interests.

          Canadians should have the right to vote for a regional party if they so wish… who are you to say they should not?

          • “So we should be able to ban parties we don’t like? Should Reform have
            been banned, too, for not running candidates in every riding?”

            I wasn’t talking about banning federal parties which want to run in federal elections.

            A truly federal party (like Reform) has as goal to field 308 candidates, but may not be able to do so within the first go around because of financial restraints or other reasons. Any party which cannot field 308 candidates for the reason no other than that doing so would undermine the party itself is another story all together. You are trying hard, once again, to place the Reform Party in the same frame of mind as the BQ and that is utterly false and misleading.

            Only fools would respond to the rest of your points.

          • The point remains:

            Canadians should have the right to vote for a regional party if they so wish… who are you to say they should not?

          • You are right: Canadians should have such a right. But remember now: the BQ was set up under the slogan of “finding ways for leaving Canada”, and I would not consider such attitude to be Canadian. And I think not many other Canadians would either.

          • Sure. But separatism is a legitimate form of political expression. Unless you intend to charge separatists with treason…

          • I would love to charge them with treason, because that’s what it is when sitting in a federal House working against the very House one sits in. But Canadians are the polite kind and let things fester instead. Not a smart choice, but it’s a choice I suppose.

          • That’s an idiotic opinion. If anything could ever ignite politically motivated violence in this country, it would be charging Quebecers with treason for representing [ constitutionally and legally] their constituents wishes.

          • So now you’re of the opinion that the CPC is treasonous?

          • Did the Reform Party ever actually put 308 candidates up? Just asking.

          • Now you are wasting my time. I have to write another letter. A more important one. Goodnight.

            Oh, and if you will write me another post telling me that I’m cornered, you won’t get a response. If you’re that bored, go pick your nose.

          • Wow…when challenged (not cornered), rather than responding to substantive questions, you just get nasty…how disappointing.

            For what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re a credit to your cause.

          • The point remains:

            Canadians should have the right to vote for a regional party if they so wish… who are you to say they should not?

          • Francien, I fear you are (once again) painting yourself into a logical corner from which you can’t escape without (once again) simply levitating from the room.

          • You wish!

          • Apparently in vain…when cornered, you simply evaporate, without ever addressing serious questions,

  12. WE ALREADY HAVE SUSPENDED ALL OTHER ISSUES FOR CONSIDERATION. The Harper government got their majority with 6400votes – 300 more than the town of Kimberly BC. That is .02% of all Canadians. .02%!!!

    They don’t care what 60% of Canadians think about policy. In fact, they sit on their perches laughing at the Opposition. Our democracy is broken. Stolen in the last election. Until all Canadians are representing in OUR government, there is no bigger issue than electoral reform. Harper’s bond with Big Oil, Big Pharma and the hateful Right will be our undoing – look for your local Cooperate Group – they will be popping up across the Country – if the Parties cannot work together – WE WILL!

  13. I think Andrew Coyne’s ideas are excellent. In fact, individuals in various ridings are already working on this strategy. It is high time for supporters of the LPC, Greens and NDP to come together for the benefit of the country, a country that Harper is destroying each month he remains in office.

    There is time to work out an equitable manner in which the parties co-operate.

    But…co-operate they must, if they truly love their country.

  14. The problem with the winner-take-all voting system is obvious. About half the alleged citizens are electing nobody. Taxpayers without representation, and an inflexible and unresponsive Parliament, are not living in a democracy.
    .

    Changing over to representative democracy is hard to imagine because, regardless of party, the winning phony majority government never wants to do it.

    The best hope , as Andrew Coyne, points out, is that opposition parties with a combined large share of the popular vote decide that the time for democratic voting reform has come and jointly present that proposition to the people of Canada in a general election.

    Would they need a few other shared policy ideas to sustain a coalition government? Of course, but that’s not difficult to imagine.especially for a limited period of time.

    Would the opposition parties be able to identify the 60 or so swing ridings necessary to provide a coalition victory and put forward a unity candidate in those ridings? Would their activists and voters support a democracy candidate in those ridings to the extent necessary for opposition victory? Maybe — and maybe not.

    Would all supporters of the current Conservative coalition of interests vote against democratic reform? Probably not. Some would vote for it.

    There is no foregone conclusion about the election of 2015.

    The question is whether Canadians will be asked to settle for a re-run of the elections of 2006, 2008 and 2011, and the resulting minority rule, or whether the opposition will try to harness and channel the growing public discontent to make Canada a representative democracy.

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