Let the people decide how they want to decide


Jonathan McLeod rips the idea of asking the courts to rule against first-past-the-post.

A judgement in favour of pro-PR side would likely spell the doom of the current voting system for not just Quebec, but every province. Here in Upper Canada, we rejected electoral reform by a direct vote. If you’re trying to enhance democracy, you shouldn’t do things that will that will directly thwart the will of the people. If you want PR, get it back on the ballot. Don’t turn to the courts.

Voters in Ontario rejected proportional representation in 2007. Voters in British Columbia rejected similar reform two years later.


Let the people decide how they want to decide

  1. In BC a majority voted for change, the government set the bar higher than 50%

    • That was true on the 2005 referendum, where 57.69% of the citizens voted to change to a PR system, but 60% was needed to actually make the change.

      In the 2009 referendum though (as noted above) over 60% of British Columbians voted in favour of FPTP.

  2. Was the First Past The Post system we have now decided based on the democratic will of the voting population? Was Suffrage decided on by a referendum?

    • Yes, it was; and, completely irrelevant, but it was also generally passed (varying by jurisdiction) as an ordinary law correcting a historical injustice. (I assume you mean Women’s Suffrage, but extending the vote beyond the propertied classes – as first happened significantly with the Reform Act of 1832 – is also Suffrage. And still validates my point.)

      The Constitution Act (passed as the British North America Act) was an Act of the then-Imperial Parliament. Legislating a system ‘similar in principle’ to that then-existing in Britain was, in fact, a democratic decision, to the extent that any legislation of the past is.

      Now, if you’re suggesting that we should ignore laws made in the past, when the understanding of a democratic system of government was different than ours today, here and now, you’re opening up a constitutional can of worms that you can’t imagine.

      (If you’re challenging the validity of FPTP in the further historical past, because you want to be convinced the evolution of that system over the past millennium was in itself a democratically supported decision, there is no rational answer that can please you.)

      • So, if neither of these electoral reforms required a referendum, why does this one?

        • It doesn’t. 

          But since there’s very little popular support that translates to MPs being spurred to do anything about it, referenda are a simple way to foist that off on the electorate to make the decision directly; that way they don’t have to take a stand themselves.

          Also, if there’s ultimately not enough support to win a referendum, nor for legislation, what more expression of democracy do you need?

          • Presumably you felt this way when Reform argued that low threshold referenda were a perfectly valid way to change whatever it was Stockwell was twittering on about?[ i forget now] 
            All i can honestly remember for some reason is the opening bars of a spanish song…Que sera sera…whatever will be will be…  and what’s Mercer doing in my head?

          • I was ten years old when Reform happened and I’ve never endorsed frequent referenda. Try harder.

  3. PR is BS.

    P.S. Suck it Wherry!

    • Past your bed time son.

  4. If I recall correctly, Jack Layton ran two national election campaigns in which this was his #1 priority (or one of his #1 priorities).

    If I were a journalist, I’d be asking the 9 (or is it 11 or 12 now…) individuals running to replace him whether they’ve drafted a factum to intervene in support of this, and if not, why the suddent change of heart.

    • Or ask Harper why he supported PR when he was in opposition (when his party was still called the Reform Party), but now when he is in power he isn’t doing anything to bring it in.

  5. In my opinion, it’s pretty clear that Ontario didn’t vote for PR it they weren’t properly informed and educated, not to mention the fact that the question was oddly worded. The randomly-selected Citizens’ Assembly overwhelmingly selected PR as the best system.

    • Ah, the “Ignorant proles don’t know what’s good for them” justification. You run with that, see how much it helps.

      Also, if the randomly-selected Citizens’ Assembly made the correct decision over that of the general provincial electorate, in your opinion, why shouldn’t we just make that our form of government? After all, it’s clearly better at making a properly informed and educated decision, to your mind.

      • To be fair though, the ignorant proles DON’T know what’s good for them, it’s just that they’re perfectly entitled to revel in their ignorance, lol.

        It’s like the B.C. HST referendum.  Just because people probably shouldn’t vote for stupid things that are obviously detrimental to their own interests doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t respect the results of votes in which stupid things that are against the interests of the citizenry are nonetheless supported by the citizenry.  As someone wrote about the HST vote, the people are perfectly entitled to vote to cut off their noses to spite their faces.

      • Well, the Citizens Assembly spent a bit more time thinking about it and came to a different conclusion. So perhaps yes, the general public are ignorant. I doubt most of those who cast a vote actually understood what was on the table.

  6. Big fan that i am of the charter i’ve got to say Ms May is putting the court in an invidious position here. No way is she going to win. Not with failed referenda precedents out there. The best result she can expect is: yes it is unfair – so what? It’s up to Parliament and the people of Canada to change that if they so wish. It is not for the court to make such a call. 

    • I’m not 100% sure, but I believe that May’s role is more of a supporting role (endorsing a challenge launched by someone else & requesting intervenor status) rather than actually leading this whole effort singlehandedly, so to speak.

      In any event, I’m not so sure that these actions (May’s or the other participants) are all that invidious – sure, they are not very likely to win (has the court even agreed to hear the case at all), but the road to a fairer system is unlikely to be a straight line form “here to there”, and I’ve got no problem at all having the court say “Yes, the current system lacks some elements of fairness, and we (strongly?) encourage Parliament to seriously assess other options.” and so on.

      I guess I’m just not sure that there is really much of a downside to this move, and one never knows for sure how this might become a catalyst for some future change.

      • You’re absolutely right of course. No harm in asking. I even share her view of FPTP.
        I’m just rather not have the charter bandied about as if it is a sort of veto on parliamentary democracy – it is not.

        • Agreed about role of charter.

          I’m giving 1 in 3.84 odds that the court agrees to hear the case.

  7. In October of 2007, 2 days before the election, is when I first learned by spam mail that there was a referendum question on the voting ballot, which would ask if the voter was in favour of MMP, Mixed Party Proportional.  The spam fear mongered the issue and gave what I now know as misinformation.  As it turned out in the polls, 63% voted to keep the First Past the Post system and 37% voted for the reform.  I voted against the reform, and felt like a schmuck when I realized that my uninformed vote was exactly against that which I wanted, fair representation of all of us.   As it stands now, one party can win a riding by a handful of votes, and do that in every riding, and have a government with no opposition party representation at all.  Further, an entire half of the country could have no voice at all in their government.  This is a terrible system.  To have the MP’s of party allegiance be representative of the number of voters that support those parties ideas, is the only way of having representation that is truly of the people.    

    • On the bright side, you at least took the time thereafter to get informed.  Even if too late for the vote, it still puts you head and shoulders above most who never even bother to do that.

      So kudos to you.

Sign in to comment.