The true test of Trudeau’s new politics? Electoral reform

Will the Liberals take on Parliament Hill’s version of Dungeons & Dragons?


 
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A voter enters a polling station for the Federal Election in Toronto (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Nothing on Parliament Hill says “Screw you” better than the words “Democratic reform.” That’s why there’s a curious mix of optimism and cynicism surrounding Justin Trudeau’s promise to make the 2015 federal campaign the last first-past-the-post election.

The current winner-take-all system has few defenders. After all, the Liberals won a little more than 39 per cent of the popular vote, but took 184 seats, or almost 55 per cent of the House of Commons. It was no better under Stephen Harper’s majority. Trudeau himself, who just benefited from the old system, has long argued that there should be a closer alignment between popular vote and seat count. So, what will he do?

The Trudeau promise is either a crafty ploy to solidify power or a genuine desire to work with other parties to fix a broken system.

Let’s be cynical for a second, set aside those sunny ways, and follow path one. Call it payback time.

Liberals could ram through a new electoral system that would put the Conservatives adrift on the political tundra, gnawing on their boots to survive while waiting to be discovered by a Franklin-style search party. That system is called the Ranked ballot, and it just happens to be the one Trudeau prefers.

In the basic ranked ballot system—also called “alternative vote” or “preferential ballots” (there are multiple variations)—you mark down your first, second and third choice of candidate. If a candidate gets 50 per cent of the vote, they win outright, but if no candidate gets 50 per cent, then the candidate with the lowest vote total is knocked off the list and their vote is split to the others according to each voter’s preference. That happens until one candidate reaches the 50 per cent threshold.

It’s no great surprise why the Liberals like this system. “Given that the largest block of voters in Canada is now Liberal-NDP switchers, they are the parties that would most benefit from any ranked ballot system,” says Darryl Bricker, the CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs. “The Conservative party would likely suffer from their lack of second-ballot support.” In other words, in this system, Liberals could solidify power and still fulfill their democratic reform promise. For a party with no natural allies, like the Conservatives, it could be a fatal blow. (Worth noting, however, looking at the 2011 vote, the Liberals were not second choice on most ballots, so it doesn’t work all the time!)

Conservatives already sense the trap. At a recent post-election gathering hosted by Maclean’s, the Conservatives’ former spokesman Kory Teneycke thundered on about the need for full public consultation in the form of a referendum. To be fair, many supporters of a more robust proportional representation system agree that a referendum or plebiscite making any major change to the electoral system is essential.

But a senior Liberal speaking to me on background said there is actually no need for a referendum. The Liberals ran on changing the system, they have promised to strike a multi-partisan committee and come back with an answer within 18 months. That would be the required public consultation. Then they could, if they wanted, legitimately put forward legislation and change our system.

It might not go down this path at all, but the Conservatives’ paranoia that this is all about political payback is a kind of delicious irony. Blame the cynicism on their own work, beginning with the now infamous fiscal update on Nov. 7, 2008. On that day, the Conservatives announced a plan to end the $1.95-per-vote subsidy.

Immediately, the opposition parties pulled the fire alarm. Under the guise of democratic reform, Stephen Harper’s gang (who, to their credit, had a better organized and energized donor base) were cutting off the federal subsidy to which the Liberals, NDP and Greens had become addicted. The vote subsidy actually served to somewhat level the playing field of the wonky first-past-the-post system. Parties that gained high levels of popular vote, but could not translate those votes into seats—like the NDP and the Greens—actually used the subsidy to build their base. The Conservatives knew this. Cutting off the financial supply lines meant starving them all to death.

Uproar ensured. The confidence vote on that fiscal update precipitated high drama—the short-lived coalition to bring down the Harper government followed by the sudden prorogation of Parliament. Ultimately, after a series of opposition bumbles, Harper temporarily withdrew the idea, survived and went on to win a majority government. And then he cut off the subsidy.

Over the next four years, democratic reform became something of a Halloween prank, the kind where a mischievous kid—in this case, former minister of democratic reform Pierre Poilievre—would put the political equivalent of a paper bag full of dog dirt on the front porch of his neighbours, light it on fire and ring the doorbell. You could see him watching gleefully from behind a committee chair, as they tried to stamp it out, all the while getting covered in … well, you get the idea.

The prank escalated to an all-out war, when Harper weaponized his political drone, Poilievre, programming him to carpetbomb experts from Elections Canada during the fight over the Fair Elections Act. I recall watching the upstanding and modest head of Elections Canada, Marc Mayrand, almost reduced to tears after Poilievre’s public attack, which alleged Mayrand simply wanted “more power “ and “less accountability.” It was a baseless claim, especially after Poilievre had already wilfully misconstrued another report on the Fair Elections Act—this one by the stout, former B.C chief electoral officer, Harry Neufeld. Poilievre pushed the idea there was mass voter fraud occurring by conflating voter irregularities, such as a misspelled name, to sinister voter fraud. Neufeld repeatedly insisted Poilievre was taking his report out of context. The Fair Elections Act was, according to Mayrand and Neufeld, more than just a solution in search of a problem. It was a problem in search of a political wedge.

It’s understandable that in this climate, Trudeau’s suite of parliamentary reforms—from giving MPs more power to taking power away from the Prime Minister’s Office—are regarded with some wariness. But the most consequential reform will be ending the first-past-the-post system.

It is a hard system to defend. As Kelly Carmichael of Fair Vote Canada—an advocacy group for proportional representation—told me, more than nine million Canadians in this past election did not get to elect any representative.

“We have to get rid of these false majorities,” Carmichael said, referring to the fact that neither  Harper nor Trudeau got close to a majority of Canadians voting for them. Should a government that gets less than 40 per cent of the vote get to lead as a majority? Shouldn’t the seat totals equate with the popular vote total?

Carmichael believes the ranked ballot is just the same first past-the-post cake, but with more icing sugar, a system that still favours one party over another at the expense of voter choice. “It really doesn’t solve any of the fundamental problems, and likely helps centrist parties such as the Liberals,” she said. “If they don’t have a full, public consultation and possibly even a real, genuine referendum—with a fair question and real public education—then it will all look like a partisan trick.”

Change isn’t going to be easy. As bad as it is, the first-past-the-post system is easy to understand. It’s almost like a long-term employee who looks horrible on paper—there is no logical reason to keep him based on the resumé—but he keeps defying the odds, performing reasonably well. First past the post has actually proven to be surprisingly flexible and responsive.

After all, since the 1990s, Canada has had more changes in government than Italy, the supposed example of unstable proportional representation. Is that so bad? We keep switching from majorities to minorities, wiping out some parties while resurrecting others. Our old battered system has actually been quite democratic … except, of course, it’s not been at all. As Fair Vote points out on its very comprehensive web site, in the 21 elections since the start of the Second World War, Canada has had only four real majority governments. Four! Most people never get their vote counted.

The Law Commission of Canada tabled a report back in 2004 recommending a change to a form of proportional representation, and there have been countless other studies. All repeatedly show that any form of proportional representation would be fairer and more progressive. More women would be represented. Regions would get better response. Voter participation would increase. All great, right? The problem is, pitches for proportional representation keep failing to win over the general population.

In 2005, B.C. tried to switch to something called Single Transferable Vote, or STV—yes, the acronym does sound vaguely like a venereal disease. In that system, your preferred candidate can win, but if they cross a threshold, your votes transfer to your second choice. And then, to a third. Okay. Math is involved, and without pulling a Prentice here, math is … well, hard. Still, 58 per cent of the B.C. population chose it. But the threshold for change was actually 60 per cent, so down it went.

In 2007, an Ontario referendum asked its citizens if they wanted something called mixed member proportional representation, but only 37 per cent of the population voted for it. Carmichael blames the failure on the Ontario government’s lack of support and information about the initiative—did McGuinty wilfully sabotage it to keep the status quo? Still, it was a serious blow to PR advocates.

All those who believe we need electoral reform are looking closely at Trudeau. While this might not be an issue that voters key into during an election—one wag told me that democratic reform is the Dungeons & Dragons of the Parliament Hill crowd—it has huge impact.

Whoever becomes the minister of democratic reform on Nov. 4 will have a very long mandate letter, and will be in charge of some of the most substantial electoral changes in a generation. It could turn out to be the most important position in cabinet. It will likely determine if the Trudeau government does practise politics differently or if power inevitably favours the status quo.


 

The true test of Trudeau’s new politics? Electoral reform

  1. If the committee wants to torpedo electoral reform it will propose a pure proportional representation system and possibly require that it get a super-majority in a referendum. For good measure, it could require that voters in each province approve the change. The door is wide open for manipulation to get the required result.

    As for a ranked ballot system leaving the CPC “adrift on the political tundra, gnawing on their boots to survive while waiting to be discovered by a Franklin-style search party”: that would not happen, or at least not happen in more than one election. The CPC would (eventually) figure out that it would need to not needlessly alienate voters outside of its base, and would in fact need to tailor its policies (and tone!) to be acceptable, or at least not repugnant, to a significant swath of voters who lean to voting LPC (and, to a lesser extent, NDP) but could be persuaded to vote CPC as 2nd choice once the glow runs out of the LPC government.

    • Jim. You are right. The system of ranked ballots may indeed force parties like the CPC to seek positions that help them become the second choice. It does change the dynamic. But does it mean we won’t get new outside the norm ideas ? We get some rush to the mushy middle ?
      It would be very different.

      • Well, there are two dynamics at play with a ranked ballot. The first dynamic is that you need to get more first place rankings in order to get to the later stages – so you have to offer a powerful and convincing differentiation from the other parties.

        It’s only the second part – where second place rankings are being distributed – that avoiding distastefulness becomes important.

        Would that create a mushy middle? It would be a mistake to think that running to the middle under a ranked ballot would be any more helpful than under FPTP. There’s just a natural boundary of what is acceptable in the other direction. Many parties may also find that the public is very tolerant of wide policy differences provided they find the tone to be respectful of the majority of the public.

  2. The devil is always in the details. Poland has a true PR system, yet in this week’s elections the winning party won a majority (235/460) with only 37.6% of the vote. The reasons lie in the fact that
    about 17% of votes cast were for parties or alliances which failed to pass their 5% or 8% respective thresholds to have ANY seats, and in the way seats were allocated to those which did pass their thresholds. 6 parties got in. At the same time, a Senate was elected, and the winning party won 61 seats out of 100 classical single-member first-past-the-post (FPP) electoral districts (some independents won).

    The lesson to be learned is that the voting system chosen needs to be carefully thought out, because some PR systems can produce results even more skewed than FPP. Furthermore, PR systems can be more complicated and idiosyncratic than most voters can understand, which is true in Poland, and affected the referenda in BC and Ontario.

    • I maintain that STV failed in BC because of its PR component that would have resulted in multi-member ridings with up to 6 MLAs per riding. If instead STV had stuck to being a pure ranked ballot system, instead of a hybrid PR-RB system, I believe it would have passed. My opinion – YMMV.

      • I think this is correct. Certainly the major change between the 2005 referendum and the 2009 one that saw a much lower level of support was the No campaign’s relentless focus on the size of the ridings people would be in – it seemed to be a deadly argument in the north.

  3. Canada, like all the oldest democracies that employ FPTP or AV voting, prides itself on its inclusive outreach to even the smallest minority. Ironic then that Canada so ignores its ‘silenced majority’, the 2/3 of voters regularly denied a voice at the cabinet table where the real decisions are made. I suspect Trudeau’s AV voting will be our promised ‘reform’, passed with Conservative reluctant support, giving us semi permanent Liberal governments. All the voters denied a voice in parliament for their vote will still be left out in the cold. So let a cry arise from across the nation in one voice : “The 2/3 Wants In !”

  4. Ya we can turn into Italy which has had 70 Governments since the Second World War that’s the ticket,..

    • Or continue to leave 2/3 of all Cdns out in the cold every election : your choice.

  5. Ranked ballots have an immediate advantage that they render wedge politics unsupportable.

    In contrast, PR systems encourage wedge politics and in particular have encouraged white supremacist parties to flourish in several countries.

    I understand the philosophical arguments for PR, however for pragmatic reasons I would prefer ranked ballots.

    • My support for ‘inclusive voting’ is moral, not philosophical — I simply do not believe it is moral that 2/3 of all Cdns should be taxed without representation, election after election. You call your choice to continue to exclude millions of hard working Cdns “pragmatic” — I call it cold hearted….

  6. What I would like to see from the media, the Liberal party and/or any other champion of electoral reform is our most recent election results based on the status quo alongside some of these proportional representation schemes. Until I (and I hope the Canadian public) get to see what difference it would have made, all this talk is very dangerous “smoke and mirrors.”

    Would Elizabeth May have been elected? Would Gilles Duceppe, Joe Oliver and Paul Dear have lost their seats? Personally I dislike landslides and try to avoid them. In politics they can also be damaging.

    Our current system that at times has allowed a party to govern (temporarily perhaps) with only 35% of the vote, nevertheless has ensured that no party can afford to tick off the other 65% for very long. That 65% does not have to take to the streets in protest because it knows it only has to wait until the next election if change is needed. The difference to the lives of mainstream voters, whether they are part of the 35% or 65% is too small to justify the civil unrest we see in other so-called democracies.

    Let’s keep it that way!

  7. The discussion dwells upon proportional representation too much. There is another equally or more important side to the issue: majority rule (i.e. democracy) at the constituency level. Parties elect their candidates and leaders using a version of the “ranked ballot” where there is a run-off election after the least preferred candidate drops out and another vote is held until one candidate receives a majority. The ranked ballot is simply an instant run-off where the voter selects all their preferences at once.

    Have you never wondered why we don’t have majority rule at the level where the people make their choice of person and party? Isn’t this where we should certainly have majority rule? Right now we often elect MPs whom the majority in their riding detest. And this happens merely by the accident of how the vote is split between parties. We just had a massive example of how our voting population has to stampede back and forth seeking a way around the vote splitting dilemma. Think about it. To begin with, let us get simple majority rule.

  8. Something working against referendums on PR is there’s built-in resistance to change. People are used to seeing governments change, but not their electoral system, even though first past the post is demonstrably undemocratic.Also, if there is a referendum, you can bet Tories & other players will pour huge money into attack ads that will scare-monger & spread disinfo about PR,enough to scare enough voters off to kill the idea. I believe this is why the 2009 BC vote for PR was much smaller than the 2005 one: The scare-mongering disinfo campaign was better organized & bettter funded by 2009.

    BC’s proposed PR system was STV (single transferable vote) & was chosen by a citizens’ assembly, a large group of citzens randomly chosen the way a jury is. They spent months studying various possible systems, & settled on STV as most preferable. If, instead of an all-party committee as they’ve proposed, Liberals use a similar process as BC, that would be fair enough a process, imo, without needing to also proceed to referendum, a referendum that will be made to fail as poorly informed,skittish voters will be scared off by fear-fanning disinfo from Tories & others.

  9. Solomon- as I’ve noted elsewhere, it is largely the left that clamors for PR. This is mostly because it will entrench a leftist wing in Parliament which will most certainly have the net effect of disenfranchising and ultimately enslaving those not inclined to support the incessant expansion of the confiscatory needs and powers of government.
    You’ve lived most of your life inside a socialist enterprise. For you, the state and its confiscatory powers have been a financial boon. For many of the rest of us, the state is a rapacious and ravenous waste, not to mention the single largest financial burden in our lives. In spite of that, I’ve seen Bigfoot more often than I’ve seen a Canadian journalist do an honest appraisal of what the impact of PR might likely be on those of us obligated to actually pay the tab for the leftist wet dreams you guys tend to cheerlead.
    Is actual journalism really THAT hard?

    • Thanks for at least being honest that your opposition to reform has nothing to do with democratic principles.

  10. Proportional representation advocates turn me off with their first argument: “Your vote doesn’t count.” Of course it does. In the last election (2011) MPs were getting in with a handful of votes. I dislike the way the argument removes responsibility from the voter to just show up, never mind make rational assessments of the candidates.

    I’d like to see more discussion on engaging the voter between elections and for Elections Canada’s ability to educate about voting brought back. If there was a consensus about proportional representation, I’d have to accept it. But I think there’s some valid criticism about it and I’m quite okay with Trudeau looking at other options as well.

  11. For those interested, some numbers about proportional representation:

    Of course with a different electoral system the campaigns and votes would have been different (no strategic voting necessary) but if this election result was processed through the electoral system of my home country the Netherlands this would have been the seat count: Liberals 135 (now 184), Conservatives 109 (now 99), NDP 67 (now 44), Bloc 16 (now 10) and 11 (now 1) for the Green Party

    Media outlets report slightly different numbers (one less for Lib & Con and one more for Bloc & Green) and this is due to the system one can use for determining ‘rest-seats’. When the total amount of votes is divided by 338 you need 51950.75 votes for a seat. Libs get 133 full seats, Cons 107, NDP 66, Bloc 15 and Green 11. This totals 332 fully won seats and leaves 6 remaining.

    Two ways of calculating rest seats are, rest-votes and biggest average of votes per seat. Rest votes is easy, the party with the most votes left after the full seats have been accounted for gets the first of the rest seats, Libs got 133.39 seats, Bloc 15.95 and Greens 11.66 seats. In this scenario all parties get one extra seat and the Bloc also gets the 6th rest seat for their biggest shar of rest-votes (that is if you don’t want to give it to the Libertarian Party for their 0.2% of the popular vote, meaning you should put in a condition of only being eligible for rest seats if any seats have been won fully, the Netherlands does have this condition).
    Determining rest-seats with ‘the biggest average of votes per seat’ means calculating what-ifs, what if we give this seat to this party, how many votes would they average per won seat. Give Libs the 134th seat and it is 51717 votes per seat, also give them their 135th and they average 51334 votes per seat. If we give Greens their 12th seat they would average only 50488 votes for those 12 seats, which is lower than averages for the Libs. In this scenario Libs get 2 extra, Cons get 2 extra en the NDP and Bloc get 1 extra. This favours bigger parties but there is an argument to be made for public representation of a seat with these vote averages.

    Anyway, a great proportional representation system as long as you install a threshold of something like 2.5% of the popular vote (which would translate into a minimum of 7 seats) so you can avoid total splintering of parliament. (the Netherlands does not have a threshold and has 11 elected parties in parliament)
    I don’t know the exact rules and what the Canadian constitution says about representation per province in the House but if it is required or if you just want to you can simply have proportional representation on a per province base. Which means that for BC there is a proportional representative election for BC’ers that elect 42 MP’s to parliament, 34 for Alberta, 121 for Ontario and so on. So the representation per province in parliament remains the same. However the seat distribution with the votes casted last week in a ‘per province proportional representation’ would be as follows: Liberals 143, Conservatives 107, NDP 66, Bloc 15 and Green 7. (also based on the Dutch system of the biggest averages of votes per seat deciding so-called ‘rest-seats’) With this system the Greens lose some because they wouldn’t get to 1 seat from the Prairies or Atlantic Provinces but a full on PR system the votes there would give them something, in this system Elizabeth May would have been 1 of 3 Green MP’s from BC, with 3 others from Ontario and 1 from Quebec.

    The Greens want proportional representation,
    Liberals forming commissions to first explore options to me is holding off tha boat. And after some years of doing that, any decision process takes too long for Elections Canada to make a new system work for the next elections, or even worse they will put it in a referendum (which is saying we don’t really want change and are going to let conservative attack adds make you fear this new proposal of electoral reform).

    The NDP favours a mixed member representation, it can be done in (at least) two ways. First way is to divide parliament into two parts, one part elected by district and one part proportional, which to me does not make much sense from a ‘principles’ point of view. It’s a practical form that combines the two systems to keep everyone happy but I don’t see how on principle this is something you see as the way to have a democracy.
    Or you can choose the German mixed member system, which can be quite complicated;

    Germans cast two votes and in essence have 600 MP’s (but this can change depending on the election outcome), one vote for the district and one for the party in the proportional system. They have 300 ridings that go first-past-the-post. Winner takes all and the elected MP’s are guaranteed a seat in parliament. The second vote is the proportional one and allocates how many seats a party actually gets, not as part of the second remaining 300 seats but overall. So if you get 10% of the popular vote ballots you get 10% of the seats in parliament (60 of the 600), regardless of how many districts, if any, you won. But all seats are pre-allocated to the different states/provinces so they can have a lot of what are called ‘overhang seats’ because you can win more districts in a province that your popular vote would not entitle you to, but you do get to keep those district seats (i.e. a province has 10 seats, 5 districts, one party may sweep the districts with 40% and also get 40% of the second popular vote which would mean that they would only be entitled to 4 seats, but they get to keep the fifth they won in the districts, with the other parties that won 60% together are taking the 6 other seats and the province now has 11 representatives, adding more to parliament. They have around 30 of these extra seats now in Germany’s parliament to make 631 MP’s.
    And on top they have an exceptionally high 5% threshold that invalids all votes to parties with less than 5%. So the last time in 2013 the CDU/CSU won 236 of the 300 ridings, the SPD 58, the Greens won 1. But in the popular vote CDU/CSU won 41.5%, SPD 25.7% and the Greens 8.4%. 15% of the votes (from millions of people) were for parties that did not meet the threshold so for the parties that did, the percentage is increased by a factor of about 1.17 to account for the discarded votes.
    The CDU/CSU got 75 extra seats from the proportional part as they won so many districts, the SPD got 135 extra to correspond with their 25.7% of the vote and the Greens got 62 extra seats for their 8.4%. (bear in mind that 15% of the votes were cast for parties that did not reach the threshold and were discarded).

    So not only is the german system very complicated, it also varies in the amount of members of parliament each time depending on the results. It also means that to make something like this system work in Canada we need to double the size of parliament or double the size of the electoral districts.

    The German system is complicated but can be simplified as it comes down to a PR system in which the PR vote determines how many seats a party gets and the disctic vote determines who gets to sit on part of those seats. But you don’t get (as) good parliaments that way I think as districts vote for only one person and parties only put forward one candidate in each district, the white old man is still very much overrepresented in this system. Where with a PR system that works with party lists you can easy put together a balanced list to ensure a better gender, age and ethic distribution on the list as well as have specialists on the list who are experts but may not be the most eloquent or electable people. With party lists these ‘specialist’ people can ride the waves of party leaders into parliament without having to be photogenic, well spoken or a peoples person.
    In the end the problem is that power corrupts, the conservatives don’t want PR because they can never get more than 40% and therefore will never get full control again with such a system. Greens and NDP have always been underrepresented and want more power from such a system. The Liberals are the party of old, like the conservatives and therefore don’t want change because in situations like this election it can turn out in their favour. They were severely underrepresented last parliament and have rallied against conservatives abuse of a 40% ‘majority’ but now in the same situation the power corrupts too easily to not make any changes. This is one of those things where politicians just need to do whats right………..
    Anyway these are just some numbers and thought……….pick your poison.

    • Nice work. We need a larger Parliament like we need laws targeting the illegal hunting of Sasquatch, or regulations against alien abductions, so…. You touched on one of the flaws of PR. Without expanding the legislature, then you face the prospect of many ridings being represented by someone they didn’t really elect. They guy who came in third could be the MP. Another really bad idea is the election of what you call “specialists”. That’s another word for expert, and we don’t really need experts in government. An expert in any particular field can very often be a daft bugger in almost every other aspect of life. Being an expert in one filed can often mean being wholly ignorant of even the things that your area of expertise affects, and especially the negative effects.
      We desperately need more generalists in government. Broad understanding, albeit shallow, of scores of subjects is always preferable to “eggheads”. (See: Stephane Dion. An intelligent man, he is still wholly incapable of grasping why it was important that he be able to communicate effectively with 80% of the country, something he remains incapable of doing.)
      Plus, if we have to modify parliament in order to adopt PR, why not just reform the Senate instead? I find it curious that the left is all over remaking the HOC for PR, yet resist all attempts at proper Senate reform, which could easily accommodate a PR component. A Triple E Senate could easily be reconfigured for PR. 10 Senators per province, fixed 6 year terms, elections for half of them every three years, with a single transferable vote or some variation thereof. This would allow the left to have their representation, while holding them in check at the same time.

      • I agree we do not need a bigger parliament but that is not due to PR but only an issue if you choose mixed member system. Full PR can actually make a smaller parliament a lot easier.

        I would not go for an Single transferable vote as it is still a district based system and still does not allow for minority opinions to be heard, just a few of the biggest. You say “it allows ‘the left’ to have their representation” but that is very shortsided, if everyone on the left of conservatives was simply ‘just left’ they would all merge parties and beat conservatives every time but parties are quite different, though it may seems positions on issues are often the same the Greens have significantly different priorities (and ways of doing things) than Liberals and that is hard to come together on. This is the issue of the whole debate, it is not about left and right, it is about all the nuances you have in between and on the edges and an STV system does not account for a minority voice to be heard. It still does not represent the people accordingly but just very roughly. In Alberta ridings with STV where 3 MP’s are chosen they will field 3 conservatives, two of them will win seats if anywhere between 50% and 75% will vote conservative. Rougly 2 out of 3 is good but I find 50% for 2/3 or 75% for 2/3 quite the difference. With mixed PR it would still be the first-past-the-post like it is now but just bigger ridings (169 ridings nationwide, however still smaller than with STV) and with full PR there are no ridings but just overall representation. Which I think is a concept some Canadians don’t fully grasp, no districts and no designated local representation.
        Anyway I believe it would be good because MP’s are there to govern Canada as a country for all Canadians, not waste money to bring home the sweet stuff. You see this happen when i.e. 90% of new medical facilities the past years are built in ridings with a conservative MP and even though I wasnt here in Canada no doubt that the same happened the other way around when Liberals were in power. These things simply don’t happen in a PR system because a vote on one side of the river in town gives you just as much as a vote on the other side in a rural area or wherever.
        Anyway I think a lot of Canadians are stuck with their thoughts in a two-party system and simply don’t see how other systems would change the entire landscape of politics and why a full PR system as the only actual change there is. STV and ranked ballots and mixed member are great ways different ways of electing the same people and parties as we do now. But it won’t change the politics. Only PR would change the landscape by giving room for more opinions. With a PR system you will see another right wing party stand up that for instance is fiscally conservative but socially more progressive, or the other way around, or the Libertarian Party will finally be able syhoon off votes from the conservatives because strategic voting is not necessary and they can get a couple seats (corresponding with the people in the country). Still both right wing parties would often work together and vote the same but it is about parliamant being representative of what the people are/want and a PR system will enable that fundamental value of democracy like no other system.

        I do believe we need a PR system for the House because it is the house that is where the actual law making and power is. The Senate has a different function and I would strongly object to directly elected Senators because everywhere where that happens the senate becomes politicized and you get a total gridlock when both houses aren’t the same. In the Netherlands senators are actually elected by all members of provincial legislatures, which are elected by the people so it is an indirect election. I prefer this much more as it again doesn’t make sentors to have to ‘campaign’ to the public and politicize their work. Yet they are still accountable as they bring down party image with spending scandals and the party will feel the heat unlike here currently in Canada where conservatives voters don’t have anywhere to go anyway.

      • “… 10 Senators per province…”

        There we go. 10 Senators from Ontario and 10 from PEI.
        Proportionality solved.

        Hopefully the mathematicians and lexicographers are the first “experts” to go. I think we’ve just demonstrated their redundancy.

        • Actually, 4-6 senators per province would actually be more ideal. But elected would be ultimately be a necessity. What kinds of experts do we need in an elected legislature? None, really. The legislators need expert advisers, but ultimately the advice of experts is only worth so much. That expertise must be translated into value for the taxpayers, and the advice from experts is often tainted by the expert’s own prejudices and foibles.
          Because of that, we need good generalists to help sift through all that. A good example is our military procurement programs. So-called experts claim that you need to have a “robust” bidding structure whereby the purchasers set out parameters for the desired equipment, and then potential manufacturers bid for the projects. Well, this is assbackwards. Anyone who has ever spent any time making things, which is apparently 0 people in Ottawa, know that the lowest cost way is to buy what someone is already making. An expert often doesn’t realize that you can often get 90 or 95% of your target criteria at a fraction of the price of a custom designed product, yet that’s how we’ve bought way too much of many of the things procured by government.
          I’ve seen their bid sheets, and much of it is plain stupid, because a MFN expert got involved. I tried to bid on a project with off-the-shelf hardware that was exactly what was needed, except for one esoteric and extraneous detail. The finished product cost the taxpayers a major limb and the supplier lost his ass. The finished product was not any better in any fashion than if they had used the readily available components.
          Multiply that one instance by God knows how much and you can understand the scale of damage that too much reliance on experts can achieve.

          • I agree that an equitable, rather than an equal, number of senators is preferable. Whether 4-6 or 3-5 or something else. I also agree with an elected senate as long as the senate does NOT have the ability to hold up legislation indefinitely. In my perfect world the senate would be able to hold up legislation for at most, say, 6 months. This would provide time for grassroots opposition to organize and make itself heard by the HoC. Thus, any legislation that is truly opposed by a significant percent of the population would be held up to significant and ongoing scrutiny. The government could then decide whether to go forward or retreat. So, elected senate, yes, but without the power to create unending gridlock – we don’t need the dysfunction that plagues the US.

          • I guess the joke went right over your head.
            The joke being that your suggestion that a province have the same number of senators as another province with 100x its population demonstrates either that you have no idea what the word “proportional” means, or you have serious trouble with math.

  12. As soon as the parties get elected all proportional electoral reforms go out the door until the next election for the past 30 years. Political Parties run the country with less than 40% of the vote yet require Unions to get 51% or more of their members votes to go out on strike. As the song goes: “when the wind changes how quick they forget including we the people”.

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