Revolution by referendum

Nathan Cullen puts democratic reform on the agenda.

As Prime Minister, Nathan Cullen would: Work to improve how our democracy reflects the will of voters, by making voting reform a priority.  Proportional representation is already used in more than 75 democracies around the world, putting Canada in the minority.

Hold a national referendum on voting reform, asking Canadians if they a) want to change the voting system; and b) which new model they prefer.  Nathan supports mixed-member proportional representation based on the German, Scottish and New Zealand models, which: Ensures every riding has a local MP, elected as they currently are, while ensuring the total composition of the House reflects each party’s share of the national vote; Avoids instability and fragmentation by requiring parties receive broad support—five per cent—before being awarded proportional seats.

Also: abolish the Senate, restore public financing for political parties and hold a plebiscite on the monarchy.




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Revolution by referendum

  1. Maybe Nathan Cullen should move to New Zealand.

    • Or maybe he could stay here, and try to make this a more democratic country.

      • Just because your team didn’t win, it doesn’t make it non-democratic.

        Go sell crazy somewhere else.

        • I don’t have a team, as you well know

          Interesting, however, that you consider democracy ‘crazy’

          • Don’t have a team?!?!?

            Wow…

            I don’t even know where to start with that one.

          • You could start with the truth….but then that would require you to get your head out.

          • Come on, Turd, the fact that Emily publicly supported a Liberal candidate in the last election is completely irrelevant.

        • If the majority of Canadians voted for the other team, then that would be plenty democratic.  More Canadians voted against the Conservatives (and the Liberals in majority governments before them) than voted for them, but those votes are obscured by an antiquated system. Making the rules of fairer won’t necessarily help their team win, but it will make the game a lot more fair for everyone. 

          • The same rules apply to all parties, don’t come crying about how it isn’t fair just because you lost.

          • Well frankly, I’ve been hating our system since Chretien took power, and I’m loving it even less under Harper.

            You can’t justify a lousy system just because everyone has to abide the same rules.

            If democracy isn’t about fair representation, then what’s it about?

            Think you can pull together a non-flippant answer for once?

          • Since taking up an interest in proportional representation, I’ve had more than a few smug conservatives ask where I was when Cretien took to power. Oh, that’s an easy answer: junior high. Not being of voting age yet, I wasn’t overwhelmingly concerned with such issues.

            Since then, however, I’ve actually been a pretty staunch supporter of minority governments, coalitions and voting every two years. Anything to keep any one party from running what Stephen Harper called an effective dictatorship (back in the Nineties when he and the Reform Party whined about Liberal false majorities). In my opinion, when you need a system to run dysfunctionally in order to run fairly, it’s time for a new system. 

        • Regardless of which side wins, FPTP in a nation with more than two parties with substantial support pretty much guarantees that any sitting government will have been voted in by less than 50% of those voting. Thus, at any time, the sitting government is representing the views of a minority rather than a majority of the voters, and that minority gets to dictate to the rest of the country how they want the country to be run.

          Proportional representation gets a country or province a government that more closely represents the desires of the populace. Since you’re clearly worried what this would mean now for the CPC, I note that this would have likely benefitted western Canada greatly in the past.

          • Following your logic, Dion’s coalition would have been welcomed with open arms by the populace yet we know from polls at the time (and the fact that the Liberals eventually backed down), that it was not. Perhaps we should all stop trying to pretend to know what the people want?

            Also, if FPTP is not what the people want then why does it keep being held up in referendums?

          • I’m just saying what I want; I don’t pretend to speak for “the populace”.

            In Ontario, when we were asked, I voted for the proposed alternative. Even though the party in power was the one I wanted in power, and they stood to lose ground uner the new system.

            I think a lot of others may have voted for change had there been a proper focus put on the issue. Politicians weren’t in favour; the campaign to explain how it worked was practically nonexistant, and the media largely ignored the issue.

            I think it lost because people just didn’t know enough and so voted for the status quo because it’s what they knew. People tend to be change-averse.

            And speaking of people being unaware of how politics works, and being change-averse: that’s a large part of why the coalition attempt failed. Harper misled the public into thinking the coalition was illegal and unconstitutional, and coupled with a faltering Liberal leadership, it all fell apart. (Iggy was the last to (reluctantly) sign on to the coalition and quickly backed away when he took over.)

            Personally, I think the CPC throne speech that triggered the coalition attempt was by far more offensive than the coalition attempt it spawned, as it contained quite a few things that were NOT in the CPC platform (i.e. they ran and were elected under false pretences) – some of which were anti-democratic. But let’s not go there; I’ve hashed these arguments out many times, and it’s history. We should be looking forward, not backward.

          • If we had had PR, Harper would never have become PM in the first place, so the coalition crisis would never have happened. That is the issue. Conservatives think that PR is no good for a party that can barely get up 30s in support and no natural allies.

            FPTP is upheld in referenda because the media is in the pocket of the Liberals and Conservatives. The two parties most hostile to electoral reform. 

          • Under a different system people would vote differently and have different expectations.

            Using the faulty old system to argue against a more well thought-out replacement is highly illogical.

    • Lol!   I hear there are two lefties there that want to start a long-gun registry!

    • Maybe you should be more tolerant of an elected member or this country, or any citizen for that matter, expressing a perfectly legitimate pov?

      Give the cons a majority they act like it’s permanent.

      • There is every indication they think it is permament.

  2. A plebiscite on the monarchy?  That got into his top 4 for improving our democracy? Really?

    • Why not? It’s welfare for the rich.

      • No, lemon socialism, patronage appointments, and the Senate are welfare for the rich. The Monarchy is throwing a few bucks to one family for the unenviable symbolic function they serve as living representatives of Canadian heritage.

      • Because in my top 4 for improving our democracy, that comes like 63rd.

  3. “Hold a national referendum on voting reform, asking Canadians if they a) want to change the voting system…”

    Whoa! Wrong move! PR has been offered a couple of times now with varied degree of success, but somewhat fairly firmly rejected nevertheless.
    There needs to be a lot more public eduction conducted in this area before any kind of referendum, which is guaranteed to fail – the subject doesn’t lend itself to simple yes or no votes. It’s pretty obvious that many Canadians only have the merest grasp of how our present system functions
    Besides it is also evident something about PR doesn’t quite grab the country, i’m doubtful if even more awareness of what’s at stake will help.
    Better to take small steps. Work on improving what we have first. It ‘s even possible that a Canadian made form of electing govts will evolve with a PR component – such as a preferential ballot/runoff model

    Plebiscite on the monarchy eh…evidently the ndp or Cullen at least only want to form govt within Quebec…good luck with that. Personally i feel it has to come some day. It may even help to convince Quebec we want them inside the country.

    • I wouldn’t say all referendums were “firmly rejected.”  In BC the STV referendum came very close to passing, and more Canadians voted in favour of that reform than against.

      • Fixed as the Macleans crew like to say. :)

        I voted for that BC one. I agree the barrier was a little high, but it had problems too – too difficult to explain.

        • I agree they did a terrible job explaining it.

          • But are/were you in favour of it?

    • Not to bang on the point too hard, but that’s another reason I like Alternative Voting. The only perceived change from the perspective of the average voter is that they would now get to rate their choices.

      That it represents Canadians choices better, gives MPs more of a mandate and ensures that minority interests don’t win on the basis of split votes, is just the icing on the cake.

      Personally I think people would really like to rate their choices, while at the same time not changing the system so much that they worry about the effects.

      • I’d ‘settle’ for Alternative Voting, but would actually prefer STV.  (For reference, at least if I understand it correctly, STV in an electoral district that only had one riding becomes AV.)

        A benefit that I see with STV is that it should allow those of us who mostly vote based on party preference to avoid an ‘undesireable’ candidate.  Eg, in Calgary presumably CPC supporters would be able to still support only CPC candidates, but they could rank Rob Anders lower than Kenney, Harper, Prentice et al.

        • I liked that about stv too – it’s why i voted for it. The downside was that it is necessary[in BC at least it was] to structure it in such a way as to make ridings, or perhaps just rural ridings, much larger; evidently voters didn’t like this idea…pity …i liked it…i don’t like party lists. Although a greenie friend of mine assures me it worked well in NZ.My friend was either elected or a party worker[ god i should learn to listen to people] He claimed their MMP[ correct in NZ right?] which allows for non riding candidates to be on the party list is good for a very good reason; it allows the party to nominate people who are eminately qualified to be in govt but may be unelectable in todays charisma obssessed world. If true that’s avery big plus IMO. How many people do you know who you think would make great mps, but you just know couldn’t get elected by popular fiat to dog catcher? How many of the other sort do get elected?

          I’m not sure i know exactly what alternative voting is – is it similar to the Aussie system?

          • Large ridings: Not so.

            AFAIK, you could run STV using the exact same ridings that are in place today. Then, where it makes sense – and it almost certainly will not make sense everywhere (eg Nunavut), particularly in the large northern or rural ridings – you group two or three (or as many as you want) ridings together in an electoral district. Inside of that electoral district, you have the STV system. If it turns out that there is only one riding in an electoral distrcit you still run STV, but is essentially behaves as Alternative Voting, also known as preferential or ranked voting.

            As to eminent people, I’m of the belief that that is what the Senate is – and should be – for. We just need to respect that aspect of the Senate. Furthermore, the Senate is where regional balance should be achieved, with the House being driven towards rep by pop.

  4. A great idea but it will never happen as long as Stephen Harper is in power.. He thinks that getting less than 40% of the vote grants him the God-given right to ignore the other 60% of the voters.

    • So did Chretien, so did Mulroney, so did Trudeau. Complianing about that is like saying Canadian winters are too cold – it’s the same for everyone. Granted Harper is as likely to go for PR as Tony is likely to start telling us the truth about gazebogate.

  5. While I would prefer an alternative vote system, MMP would be fine as well.

    Basically anything that removes the FPTP system and makes results more proportional has to be an improvement in my books.

    While a lot of people seem to fear the idea that parties would have to learn to compromise to get work done, frankly I can’t see what all the handwringing is about.

    What’s fair about letting a minority of voters dictate everything for five year stretches?

    I didn’t like it under Chretien, and I sure as hell don’t like it under Harper.

    Democracy is about representation of the people. ALL the people.

    Besides, it seems to me that a lot of the abuses of power that have sprung up over the years can be traced to the fact that Prime Ministers have far too much power.

    In a proportional system the PM would be far more reigned in, and if you hated Trudeau, Mulroney, Chretien and/or now Harper, then you have something to gain here.

    • While i think you’re essentially right about Chretien, CBC did some interesting # crunching the other day[Kady?]. It seems that while Chretien had his foibles in using closure for instance when you take a look at the number of ammendments[ democratic compromising right] he blew Harper away. Basically Harper doesn’t give out ammendments; he seems to think it’ll make him less of a man or something.
      Our system can work, if the goodwill is there. It’s been sometime since we’ve seen much of that around Ottawa.

      • That’s likely because the Liberals’ positions tend to be centrist, and therefore there are many points of interest shared with the other parties. The current brand of conservatives however have nothing in common with the NDP and a political interest in not appearing to agree with Liberals.

        Not to mention the fact that a lot of the conservative positions don’t make rational sense.

        Since we can’t count on goodwill, I’d suggest a system which indirectly enforces it by making it impossible for anything to get done otherwise.

        In that kind of model Canadians would not only know their votes have impact, but that the most supported ideas will find the most traction in the House of Commons.

        Believe me, it’s time for change.

        • That makes a lot of sense and it further underscores the notion that we are still essentially a liberal/centrist nation – the present incarnation of the CPC are the rank outsiders.It also explains a good deal of the strategy that Harper feels he has no choice as a true conservative but to follow; i reject that myself. He has a choice and cooperation would do a lot more to advance his agenda[ or the best of it] then merely being a dick.
            How to have the system reflect that reality when the outsiders are the insiders and don’t or can’t afford to cooperate is a toughie. You’re proposing reforms that better relect the voter’s real choices in our Parliament then? 

          • Absolutely. I’m good with whatever works well, and I’m not picky about the method of doing so, as long as the public is comfortable with it and it acheives the main goal: a real reflection of Canadians and what they want/believe.

            As it is, most people I talk to don’t believe that voting really gives them any kind of actual voice these days.

          • Agreed. I have the feeling too many reformers, though well meaning are blocking progress by insisting on making things too complicated. Give Canadians just a little taste of truly proportional rep and they will never look back.

          • Completely agree, naturally! LOL

    • By alternative vote system do you mean the Alternative Vote system or any system that provides for alternative voting, which would incldue AV, STV and maybe others that I can’t recall at the moment?

      • Well I’d accept any system that ensures the majority of votes means the majority of say. I personally like the Alternative Vote System because I get to rate the parties AND because the resulting MP essentially has more than 50% support in his/her riding. But again, I’m good with any form of voting where the majority means the majority.

    • Just curious, but how would the PM be more reigned in? Or do you mean simply that the PM would be much less likely to have a majority?

      After all, so long as it’s the PM that signs the nomination papers, thus controlling who gets funding for advertising, thus basically controlling whether a candidate has a chance to get elected, proportional representation or no, the PM will still maintain control over the underlings. MMP, in fact, strikes me as far worse because doesn’t it rely on party lists?

      To control the power of the PM, we need to ensure that the MPs have a greater reason to listen to us than the party. Thus citizen recall.

      If you want to go for some alternative voting system, I suggest the 308 vote, where every citizen can vote for up to 308 candidates of their choice and ridings are eliminated. This forces every candidate to campaign on their own merits, as campaigning for the leader won’t help them at all.

      • It doesn’t have to rely on party lists.  Or to be more specific, you can choose somebody from the party list if you choose–thereby moving him up the list.

        • Again though, this does nothing to address the main problem: If you’re going to be moved up the list, you need advertising dollars. If the party leader controls the advertising dollars, you have to keep your lips planted on their behind.

          • Not if it is MMP.  They would have a riding association behind them in that case and can fundraise locally.  Although, I really expect advertising to be less effective than being a known hard worker, sensible less partisan, great orator or whatever quality a voter particularly likes in their candidate.  I can think of one (at least) MP from each party that I’d like moved up on any list and I didn’t need them to advertise to come to my mind. 

          • You’re involved, however.
            Remember, we’re talking about the general public — the ones that put paper NDP candidates against known workers in the other parties.

          • @Thwim:disqus 

            Yes, but those people are what lists are designed for.  The people who like a competent representative for the riding are the ones involved enough to know the kind of reprentative they want–and can pick them out of a list.

          • STV, Jenn and/or Thwim?

          • @PhilCP:disqus 
            I’m good with that, but I personally like open list MMP better.  But if you brought in STV I’d be happy.

          • @2Jenn:disqus  They may be what the lists are designed for, but as they’re controlled by the party, it’s the candidate who gets the most advertising money that’s going to get their name moved up the most — even if it is by the ignorant.

          • @PhilCP:disqus I’m not a huge fan of any system that requires ranking.  Though it’s certainly better than what we have now, and beats MMP in my opinion.

            It still holds the same problems though — if you don’t have enough money to spend in advertising, you can be the best candidate in the world and get left behind. 

            (For the record, I realize the 308 system also has that problem but with every citizen having 308 votes, the hope is that it’s diluted.)

          • @Thwim:disqus 
            Hey, a 308 system?  I haven’t heard of that one.  Please (start a new thread and) explain it.

      • Hey Thwim.

        I simply expect that under any form of voting that requires a true majority from the populace in order to pass legislation, you’re going to end up with no single party forming a majority, so yes I expect minorities, and that would reign in the king…er I mean the Prime Minister. LOL

        Even in cases like Alternative Vote Systems, the chance of getting a true majority in the single party sense, is very low.

        MMP relies on voting lists only for a handful of MPs, in order to establish balance. Most MPs would still be riding representatives and thus held accountable.

        That’s why I like the Alternative Vote System over others. Not only do you ensure that MPs have the support of the majority of their riding voters, but each and every MP still has a riding and can therefore be held to account.

        Which is also a key reason why I don’t want the ridings eliminated. I think even now accountability can be had this way. Cheers.

  6. No! No, no! If you want PR, make it PR and blow up the stackable local nominations. Blow up the absurd debates over whether a great candidate actually lives in his or her seat or not. Blow up the childish redistribution games and the little local empires when you do it. Proportional means proportional, not somewhat proportional.

    Have provincial distribution of seats by vote share, period, full stop. No Mixed Member PR, no Mixed Martial Arts PR, no Advanced Dual Preference Multi-Constituent Dial-Up PR. If it’s a hybrid system, it’ll give us the worst of both worlds just as our lazy, corrupt ‘adaptation’ of the Westminster Parliamentary system has given us everything that’s lousy about that system with none of the advantages the British enjoy.

    I’m more sympathetic to the concept of PR than ever before, but not the truncated versions that fix one set of problems by replacing them with another. The virtue of PR is clarity: you know what you’re voting for, and it’s a party. The party knows who it’s picking to get voted in, and can pander or select on merit accordingly without any confusion over which. Clarity is useful. If you’re going to go down the PropRep road, don’t screw that part up.

    • The problem with the system you are proposing, if I understand it correctly, is that people vote for party, not person – which would exacerbate the current mess where the leaders of the parties aew the only ones who really count, and the rest are marionettes and seat-warmers. If you represent a riding, you are (IMO) more accountable. With pure PR, how do you know who is representing you? Who do you go to with local issues?

      Don’t get me wrong: I’m definitely in favour of replacing FPTP. I’m just not convinced a pure PR system is the right option.

      • Since when were local MPs accountable? In any interaction I have ever had with an MP or an MLA, it was them telling me that my opinion was wrong and explaining their government’s position to me.

        In our current system, we do not vote for our representative to the government. We vote for the government’s representative to us.

    • “Proportional means proportional”??

      Why, because you say so?

      In case you missed it, the reason why some people support MMP is because they’d still have a local representative to call on for day to day purposes.

      False dichotomies don’t help that do they?

      Some people, such as myself, support an Alternative Vote System, which is proportional in a sense, but not fully proportional either. I support it because it keeps much of the system intact while ensuring that the winning representative has more than 50% support from the riding.

      And for the record, I haven’t “voted for the party” in any meaningful sense in twenty years. I certainly do have views on parties, and it does influence my vote, but I vote for my representative first and foremost, because he/she is the person that will be fielding my calls for the next few years.

      If you want to get something done locally, they’re the people to call, believe me.

  7. Nathan Cullen is greatly to be commended for bringing the critical issue of fair voting reform to the forefront. The NDP supports PR, but they need to get it off the back page of their platform.

    We need a referendum asking Canadians to support the principle of proportional representation, then a citizen-driven process such as a national citizens’ assembly to thrash out the details.

    Above all, we need cross-party support, political champions, and a government that actually wants the process to succeed. Too many previous referendums have been set up to fail.

  8. Well I’d accept any system that ensures the majority of votes means the majority of say.

    I personally like the Alternative Vote System because I get to rate the parties AND because the resulting MP essentially has more than 50% support in his/her riding.

    But again, I’m good with any form of voting where the majority means the majority.

  9. Hey Thwim.

    I simply expect that under any form of voting that requires a true majority from the populace in order to pass legislation, you’re going to end up with no single party forming a majority, so yes I expect minorities. Even in cases like Alternative Vote Systems, the chance of getting a true majority in the single party sense, is very low.

    MMP relies on voting lists only for a handful of MPs, in order to establish balance. Most MPs would still be riding representatives and thus held accountable.

    That’s why I like the Alternative Vote System over others. Not only do you ensure that MPs have the support of the majority of their riding voters, but each and every MP still has a riding and can therefore be held to account.

    Which is also a key reason why I don’t want the ridings eliminated. I think even now accountability can be had this way.

    Cheers.

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