Will the last country on earth to use first-past-the-post please turn out the lights?

British PM plans to ditch first-past-the-post

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced he will seek parliamentary approval for a referendum to ditch the first-past-the-post voting system for Westminster elections.

Mr Brown said that the switch to the Alternative Vote system could be part of a “new politics” which would restore public trust in Westminster in the wake of last year’s expenses scandal.

In a wide-ranging package of planned reforms, he also confirmed that a draft Bill to create a democratically accountable House of Lords will be published within the next few weeks.

And he gave his backing to parliamentary reforms to give MPs more power over the running of the Commons, new avenues for public petitions to be submitted for debate in the House and the swifter release of official documents under Freedom of Information laws…

It is thought that the Commons will vote on the issue before it rises for its half-term break next Wednesday, and Mr Brown’s spokesman this morning insisted that enough parliamentary time remains for it to reach the statute book ahead of the election, which must take place by June 3.

Mr Brown confirmed that he will campaign for a move to AV – under which voters rank candidates in numerical order, rather than simply placing an X on the ballot paper – in the referendum, which he said should be held by October 2011.

So that’s reform of the upper house, more power for MPs, and electoral reform, in one go. Must be nice to live in a country that can, you know, do things.




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Will the last country on earth to use first-past-the-post please turn out the lights?

  1. I can't believe they're going to beat us to this.

    • Oh I can. Because you can't approach anything that is vaguely constitutional in this country without a massive dogpile. Every interest group in the country shows up with their issue and the log rolling begins (Charlottetown).

      The British can do this because they dont have to worry about certain "complications" that we have over here. Combine that with the self interest of those inside the tent and we get the nash equillibrium we curently have and are unable to move off of.

      • As long as you don't mess with the representation formula, you could do a lot of creative election law reform in Canada without running afoul of the Constitution.

        Australian style preferential ballots could be here tomorrow. Or, in March.

  2. No one gets religion with more fervour than a deathbed convert.

  3. Its funny how electoral reform always seems attractive to politicians who are on their way out under the current regime. Brown plans a referendum on electoral reform for October 2011. Meanwhile David Cameron and the rest of the serious politicians are planning for the consitutional-required general election (FPTP) in May 2010.

    • True. But is that any better or worse than someone who has promised democratic and accountability reform in his lifelong career as a politician and then prefers to announce changes more than make changes, and either jettisons his platform or makes such feeble effort to get it passed that one can only assume he doesn't really care about it?

        • No. One of Obama's many problems is he has no lifelong career in anything to really speak of. Certainly, the things he campaigned for were not lifelong issues for him based on his writings and speeches and the political parties he was a major part in creating.

          • Can you give me an example of some politicians whose childhood passion was democratic reform?

            The fact is that a major premise for Obama's entire run for presidency was changing the way Washington works. He got in there and blatantly did much more of the same. I thought that's the kind of politician you meant.

          • Yes Ted means Obama.

  4. Wow. So the mother country, with a Parliament that ALREADY functions better than ours, and in which MPs have much more independence and relative power than they do in Canada, is going to improve their Parliament.

    Sometimes standing still means moving backwards.

  5. Perhaps if the mother country does all this, it will prod Canadians to take a second look at reforms (real reforms) of our own.

    • Even better, we will get to see which ones work and which ones would only cause more problems for us.

  6. Yup, and the Brits also have a whopping 11 parties represented in their House, and a Prime Minister coming off the wake of a rather massive scandal.

    I'll believe change when I see it.

  7. There must be some kind of mistake, I know it says "before the House rises" – dont they mean before they return from a prorogation? No way Brown & co. could be dealing with QP and thinking up reforms like this…..could they??

    • They can walk and drink tea at the same time.

  8. Gee and Brown is doing it all without a prorogation assisted recalibration. Brown must have like democratic super powers or something!

    • …meaning they know its coming. Meaning it's more democratic. You know, more democratic – like the way Stephen Harper wanted it before he sold out and became a Chretien Liberal.

      • Fair point. Right now oppo proposals rest on keeping parliament open forever and a day unless they agree, dont blame em. But the better way is an annual agreed to proroguement, also Prime Ministers questions one day a week rather than a couple of questions every day, and a host of other changes.

        But the original point from Ccc was about how proroguement was something that isnt required. While I dont like the length of time they are off, a convenient excuse, it is fair to clear the table and start wih a fresh agenda regularly. That we dont do it regualrly means the planning cycle is by its nature ad hoc as well.

        • That's fine as long as committees are not shut down and reconstituted every year. That is a huge waste.

          Seems to me the Americans get buy without anything like prorogation and they seem to do alright.

          • However the brits do it is fine.

            Comittees get reordered after every election in the US. Not sure how they clear the agenda, been awhile since I looked at how the US does it, different system.

            As far as continuing to ask questions on Afghanistan detainees….well lets see how much the Oppos really cared about the issue, the comittee and the House will come together soon….lets see if they really cared and really have a point. The PPG watchdogs have been awfully quiet on the issue, they dont run on an agenda…..

    • for a week

      • Usually 3, but it doesnt really matter. It is a short time frame, which as I have said before is the issue, not proroguement. The short time frame is a function of the fact that is planned and regular. In fact Harper has suggested an annual prorogument but was met with howls of "tyranny".

        • If Harper suggested annual prorogation a while back, I'd haven taken him at his word – kind of like I took him at his word over fixed election dates.

          In principle, it's not a bad approach, but the messenger has spoiled the message for me, I admit. :-)

  9. This is being done so that ten years from now, instead of complaining about their votes not counting, Britons can complain about their resuting minority parliaments not achieving anything.

    I just realized that I've become a very cynical person.

  10. And this is a mistake. Thanks to Andrew Coyne and a few other arguments, I've come around to support PR – provided it's simple and clear with no "area voting," "split constituency-party" reps or other schemes to confuse voters.

    AV isn't simple. It isn't clear. And it isn't British… Westminister, unlike our Parliament, was working fine; the problem wasn't the election system, but rather, the fact that third-term rot had set in and people stopped worrying about making mistakes. I hope they don't go through with this.

    • Question: do you think the problems in Canada's Parliament are the result of our electoral system?

      • I think that before we go tinkering with the system we should start by actually seeing if it does work. Lets have a few elections with consistent 90% turn out and then decide if FPTP belongs in the dust bin.

      • No – but the difference is that I think electoral reform can solve some of them, where I don't think it would in the UK.

        For example, take regionalism: a victorious national party in *simple* Canadian PR system can choose the best people from across the country to serve. But in our current system, if a region is unrepresented in government or the cabinet, PMs must choose from the limited selection of MPs who were elected or haul in the occasional Senator.

        Ditto the fact that the existing Canadian system reinforces regional parties at the expense of a national vision; liberals in Alberta, federalists in Quebec and so on go "unrepresented" in huge swathes of the country because first-past-the-post regionalizes in Canada far more than in the UK. Finally, in a PR system, pouring out cash to target seats to game votes becomes less important because it's not as easy to buy one seat by buying a shift of 1,500 votes., reducing the incentive to pork barrel one riding at the expense of another. The whole notion that an MP is "serving" their constituency is often a fraud anyway, let's dispense with it and turn the constit work over to an Ombudsman's Corps or something.

        I used to hate Proportional Rep because it reinforced party power, but with a one-man state no matter who wins or by how much, we're clearly far beyond the point where that matters. In Britain, on the other hand, MPs often show some independence and courage and the support of their local constituency is crucial to that.

        Believe me, I know the arguments against PR – I used to make them myself, and I sympathize with them, especially if the system is as stupid and complicated as the PoliSci 101 fantasies proposed in Ontario and BC. But the idea that a government could actually appoint quality people from across the country to its candidate list instead of just the clowns who can stack a nomination meeting in safe seats – that's what won me over.

        • I've argued both sides of this debate, and at the end of the day, I still think we ought to get apathy down and turnout up before we start saying our electoral system is to blame (even in part) for our political woes.

          Having spent a great deal of time wondering why the heck our country's residents can't just get it together and think along the same lines, I'm inclined to believe that regionalism isn't a bad thing. Our geography, population demographics, and differing histories kind of suggest that we were headed toward regionalism as a nation many, many moons ago. Different parts of this country have different needs – some of those needs can be addressed in national conferences (first ministers' conferences, or in Parliament or the Senate) and others need to be addressed by the region itself. That's not a bad thing, that's federalism. PR wouldn't "solve" regionalism, because whatever issues the regions have aren't "solved" simply by broadening the terms for representation in the House.

          As for the selection of MPs from across the nation, the principle of responsible government suggests that both the government as a whole and the individuals therein are responsible to the electorate. That becomes all the more difficult if your MP is responsible to a diffuse group of people (who may not have wanted that particular guy in office in the first place, even if they DID vote for the party).

          Besides all this, I would argue that the reason we can have successful parachuting and stacking (and logrolling and…) in Canada is because of a) low turnout, b) low engagement and c) the lowest party membership rates IN THE WORLD. Like this prorogation – do you think it would happen if people were active and paying attention?

  11. Andrew:

    You follow this closer than most. Perhaps in a reply or in a new post, you could summarize for us where other Westminister-style Parliaments have gone on FPTP and other reforms. If you were truly ambitious, it would be greatly appreciated to see how other Parliaments/elected bodies around the world function, mostly in Europe but in India and other democracies.

    My sense is that "evil coalition", "pizza Parliament", "tyranny of the minority" and like phrases are more uniquely a Canadian fabrication or concern.

    • The most famous case is New Zealand and no, the place hasn't sunk into the Pacific.

    • Only subscribers get to custom-order columns, Ted. Make sure you're up to date!

      (New subscribers get a personal visit from Feschuk (opt-out) and a jazz mixtape from Wells (opt-in))

    • I spent 1989-1994 in Germany, and 1994-2001 in Austria. PR and caleidoscopic party coalitions are facts of political life in both countries. Unless you want all power to the parties, Tedbetts, you don't want to go there.

  12. Andrew don't be so naive, Gordon Brown doesn't have the political capital to make enact these reforms. There is not enough time in the legislative calendar to have these bills passed before dissolution, unless they are rammed through with insufficient debate. Also, I doubt that a move to proportional representation would be popular in the UK. It would wipe out the influence of Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish in Westminister.

    I saw you typing away on your lap top last night (6PM-ish) with a very serious look on your face. Two questions. 1. Are you writing another book? 2. Is that cafe nice?

  13. Afghanistan is one issue and it has gotten the lion-share of attention because it is the most brazen attempt by Harper to avoid accountability.

    But more generally, the work of the committees in vetting laws with the public, going over expert testimony, considering the many ramifications on the many different sectors of the public one new bill may have, etc. All of that is lost with prorogation and wasted.

    • Right. Committee work. You know, the one real opportunity in our broken system for ordinary MPs to use their experience, represent their region, manage issues, improve legislation, and make a difference.

      The kind of thing that was important to Stephen Harper back when he was shaking my hand and asking for my vote.

  14. What are the odds that he'll (a) be prime minister long enough to get this past Parliament and to a referendum (b) win the referendum? So far he's way behind Ontario and BC in trying to reform his electoral system.

    • Agreed, but this seems to be the comment thread where we all pooh-pooh on "Canada's Democratic Backwardness" and its outdated electoral system. No sense being *logical* here…

      • If I had been a key member of the UK government since 1997 and I finally pulled this out of my butt two months before the writ drop for an election I had no chance of winning, I'm not sure "reformist zeal" would be the best way to describe my behaviour.

        • Yes. We should all be so lucky to have what comes out of our hindquarters (at the last minute) referred to as "reformist zeal".

          • Once again I agree with Lynn. I think Andrew is getting a bit ahead of himself here.

            Doesn't anyone recall Joe Clark's massive attempt at the mother of reforms in 1992. Look where that got us.

          • I often find myself agreeing with LynnTO.

          • Agreed. Glad to see some commenters around here showing common sense.

        • Sounds like grounds for…

          [dramatic music, crescendo, hold non-resolving chord]

          an instalment of Coyne vs Wells!

  15. What does turnout have to do with it?

    • I think his point is that with higher turnout a FPTP system would more accurately represent the majority views of all Canadians, and would become a superior electoral system as a result. The way I see it, he problem is that higher turnout could go one of two ways, either people who don't vote have roughly similar opinion breakdowns as those who currently do, with perhaps some shift from one mainstream party to another, and the problem still remains as it is now; or more voters bring a greater diversity of opinion to the table and an increasing number of small parties gain greater vote share, further fractionalizing elections and making a greater number of votes in every riding meaningless. Higher turnout in and of itself is of course immensely desirable, either of the shifts above being more democratic in an absolute sense, but my point is that it in now way addresses the problems envisioned by PR activists (myself included).

      • Indeed.

        The goal of any system is to most effectively provide the greatest good to the greatest number.

        If people don't vote, then we can't truly know whether the issue is one of representation (a diverse, diffuse range of opinions) or organization (concentrated opinions). Each has a different set of systemic and organic solutions, which…maybe we don't need if participation increases significantly.

        And before y'all start telling me about the reliability of statistical sampling techniques, we can only do so much when response rates are even lower than voter turnout (sometimes as low as 10% in phone surveys).

    • We would get to see what kind of representation substantial turn out provides us. I would imagine even a coupla green reps would make it to the house. Its a guess but thats just how I feel.

      • David, I take your point, but I'm also a political guy… and in my experience, there's three reasons people don't vote: (1) our system is weaker than people know on enumeration so people see they're not on the list and walk away. (2) the voter doesn't know about politics and so doesn't care or (3) the voter knows but doesn't believe his or her vote will make a difference. "Convenience" is a joke, with advance polls so accessible now, anyone complaining about internet voting or whatever is simply lazy and looking for an excuse.

        It's always seemed to me that #3 is the largest category, and dragging more frustrated people out to the polls to waste their vote on the same, one-leader, one-government FPTP system won't change their level of frustration.

        As an aside, I've often voted in races where I know the candidates, and know that no one I like has a hope of winning. But recently, I've voted anyway solely because I knew they'd get my $1.75 or whatever the matched funding was each time. And now my good friends in Ottawa want to take that away. Since some of those throwaway votes were cast for Tory candidates, I know they won't mind if I vote for someone else this time, since they don't want the money on principle…

    • Not sure why you'd rely on him for any kind of meaningful reforms. Heck, he couldn't even endure democratic races to win the nomination in his own riding, or secure the leadership of the Liberal party. Just saying.

  16. "Mr Brown confirmed that he will campaign for a move to AV – under which voters rank candidates in numerical order, rather than simply placing an X on the ballot paper – in the referendum, which he said should be held by October 2011."

    Andrew, correct me if I am wrong…isn't this the same system Stephane Dion and the Liberals were talking about in the 2008 election?

  17. At least electoral reform is on the agenda in Britain, but unfortunately, Gordon Brown is still trying to wring partisan advantage with the Alternative Vote. He opposes a proportional voting system, which would give parties appropriate portions of seats and power, and instead supports a system that would probably give Labour more seats without increased support (by picking up second choice votes from Lib-Dem voters). It would be a change, but hardly a reform.

  18. We did nothing worse than entrenching the Constitution as we did in 1982. It was a blunder of incalculable proportions. Trudeau and the Premiers at the time tried to "Americanize" our constitution, and we ended up with Frankestein's monster, made up of the worst aspects of both. We lost the extraordinary adaptability of the older constitutional framework, but regionalism assures that American-styled amending formulas are rendered all but impossible. After Mulroney's two-time failure at amending the constitution, no politician in the country will even let the thought of suggesting amendments flicker in his consciousness. Look how Layton and Iggy immediately qualify every suggestion of change with "we don't need to amend the constitution."

    As to Brown, bravo. The guy was dead meat a month or two ago, and now he's brilliantly found a way to put Labour back in the race.

    • With all due respect, this misrepresents what actually happened.

      Thanks to our colonial existence (which I was fine with, btw), our constitution was already a hybrid of paper law and convention – in short, we *already* had the worst of both worlds before Trudeau was even an MP. The Charter was a separate matter; Trudeau's real achievement was taking the power of amendment fully into Canadian hands. If he hadn't done that, the Canadian Constitution wouldn't be "extraordinarily adaptable," as you suggest, but the opposite: it would have been almost impossible to adapt, depending as it did on the UK Parliament and/or the JCPC for last-resort decisions and amendments.

      The fact that we've screwed up amendment efforts since then only reinforces the point that making any changes would be even harder if we'd stuck with what we had. Imagine every amendment effort since 1982, only with the British Parliament involved every time… do you think that would have been *easier* to manage?

  19. "Must be nice to live in a country that can, you know, do things."

    Yes and no. PM Brown has only proposed this, which has a close to nil chance of passing before election in a few months, because he thinks electoral reform is a wedge issue. Even Labour MPs are said to be skeptical of Brown's plan. Proposing massive change to electoral system that's been in use for hundreds of years as part of PM's tactics to divide opposition shortly before election is not wise policy decision making. It reeks of desperation, not sound judgment.

  20. Brown is doing this because he's losing so badly in the polls.

    • Do some math, scf. Brown won't benefit from this change. Next election must happen by spring of this year. Referendum is in 2011. Thus, it wouldn't take effect until an election thereafter. If Brown is likely to lose the election, he won't continue as leader.

      It seems more likely that he is proposing a change that he believes is genuinely good for the country. FPTP is a terrible system that causes all kinds of perverse outcomes. The only thing going for it is that it is simple. A bug that many people call a feature is that it gives small pluralities massive power. All fine when you're in the small plurality, but you really hate it when you're not. Think back to Chretien. Conservatives were frothing at the mouth.

  21. On another note, I was just wondering why nobody here at the Macleans blog, including Aaron "Prorogue" Wherry, seems interested yet in Iggy's vow to institute national daycare no matter what the dent to the nation's finances. Principled move? Cynical? Ideological? Idea-driven? Anything?? Or are we just supposed to keep looking for a yet-to-be explored issue related to prorogue?

    • There's no time for that when we need another umpteen posts about Omar Khadr.

      • Yeah, I guess it's only one politician that's supposed to be "held to account" in this country. Everyone else can say whatever the heck they want, and the "prorogue" media won't care two bits, I guess.

  22. Who might have guessed that the Reform Party's last breath would serve as an eleven o'clock wind against Brown's flagging sails. Not ever would I have guessed that.

  23. Anything is possible when it comes to politicians trying to feather their own beds.

  24. Not relying on him as much as recognizing that he's the only 'ideas person' that has a chance of forming government. It should be noted that Ignatieff supported OMOV and has seen through the modernizing of an institution as old as Confederation itself. Further, it's a Liberal strength to show up and listen to Canadians, respect alternative points of view, make compromise, protect the most vulnerable and give a vision. Democratic reform is definitely one of those vision things that will test all of these strengths.

    • I'm sorry. I thought there was a chance that you weren't a kumbayah Liberal. My bad.

      • I'm definitely a Liberal that believes in human and spiritual unity, closeness and compassion, thank you for bringing the fact to light. In all seriousness, can anyone objectively envision Harper's government bringing forward such ideas? And if not Harper, the pragmatist in me says "look to Iggy." I hope he steps up.

        • In fact, he has an idea for Senate Reform and he's actually tried to pass it. It's been Liberals who have opposed it at every turn, and only now promise to offer "me too" changes. And I emphasize the word "promise".

          I don't know what you look at. I try to look at what's actually happened.

          • Of course Harper gets points for trying for making an attempt to unilaterally impose his reform plans. Also many points for promising to do things differently. Conversely, he loses points for the unilateral part and the failure part. Also for the broken promises part. And I emphasize the word "broken".

            I like to look at the future as well as the past. From this, I can state with some certainty that Harper does not possess nor is willing to learn the skills of compromise and conciliation necessary for such sweeping constitutional changes. Iggy just might.

          • Like I said, you're obviously a kumbayah Liberal. You look to them to answer all your hopes and dreams, and they get answered no matter what they do. Got it.

          • Oh, I see you meant that as a derogatory. Now I'm the one feeling sheepish for giving you the benefit of the doubt. Having long criticized my party and continuing to do so, I'm hardly the cheer leader you characterize me as. Given that the Libs finally seem to be giving heed to voices like mine in the grass roots, I am hopeful they are starting to get it. I'm not a zombie and resent your categorization.

            Iggy's a man of letters and ideas and many remain hopeful that he can bring these to the table. God knows we need ideas and the capacity to work with others to see them through. Those who dismiss the ideas of others by claiming mastery or ownership of a particular issue are working against the common good. One would hope you are not such a man.

          • I don't think you're being sincere. You just finished telling us that the Liberal party has always been about listening to the people, yet you're now telling us that Iggy is changing all that, even though his rise to power has been undemocratic, and his offering of ideas has been slim at best. Kumbayah.

          • Please don't put words into my mouth.

            As I said, it's a Liberal strength to show up and listen. Like you, I prefer basing my beliefs on "what's happened" and it's plain to see that Harper is unable to "show up and listen" but rather prefers groomed crowds and pre-screened questions from the media. You've avoided responding to the fact that democratic reform cannot be achieved without achieving broad consensus. Without consensus, the institutions lose legitimacy, which is exactly what is sought when undertaking these reforms. Preaching reform and then throwing one's hands up when failing to achieve it unilaterally is disingenuous at best.

            Iggy has responded to the thirst for involvement the wider population seems to have expressed through the hundreds of thousands on Facebook. He's talking about these things. While talk is cheap, shutting down debate without contributing any more ideas to the discussion is obstructionist. Calling into question someone's perceived character by questioning his sincerity instead of moving forward the discussion through arguing the merits of the ideas in question is undemocratic.

          • Like I said, you're obviously a kumbayah Liberal. You look to them to answer all your hopes and dreams, and they get answered no matter what they do. Got it.

          • You're right, Harper does have an idea for Senate Reform, but he's killed it by proroguing. Excellent example there, Dennis.

            Or were you talking about the other idea for Senate Reform, where he stocks it up with the Mike Duffys of Canada, and then when it STILL doesn't pass legislation on his schedule, claims it's a Liberal conspiracy against him, so that he gets public opinion curried enough to do away with the whole darn thing?

          • Honestly, it this the best that some of you can do? Like I said in the other blog post. The Harper bashers can't go to sleep without their hourly fix nonsensical prorogue bits. lol.

            For example, the idea that this rather routine 5-week prorogue of Parliament in any way impacts Senate Reform is nonsense. Harper's tried for four years now, and he's been blocked each time by the very same Liberals who now say they want reform light. Whatever.

            Also, it's only now that Harper has been able to attain a plurality of seats in the Senate, isn't it? So, no, it wasn't a conspiracy that blocked legislation in the past. It was actual Liberal senators, right?

      • I'm definitely a Liberal that believes in human and spiritual unity, closeness and compassion, thank you for bringing the fact to light. In all seriousness, can anyone objectively envision Harper's government bringing forward such ideas? And if not Harper, the pragmatist in me says "look to Iggy." I hope he steps up.

  25. I was trying to find the section of the constitution which establishes FPTP as the method for electing MPs but without success. Is the method of election a constitutional requirement or merely statutory. If its statutory getting rid of it only requires that parliament pass a bill changing the method of representation without having recourse to a constitutional amendment.

  26. It's great to see that England can consider recalibrating their voting system without proroguing. But Brown is, to my great regret, still playing phony reform games. He would ditch the first-past-the-post voting system in favour of — another winner-take-all system. Far from proportional representation as already enacted in Scotland, Wales and London, his new gimmick was rejected by the Jenkins Commission as a partisan scheme to hurt the Tories by sucking up second choices from the Lib Dems, Greens, etc.

  27. The Times mentioned this a while back, and I wrote about it. Two things the commenters seemingly haven't considered, like many Brits in fact, used to majority governments. 1) There's a long way to go, but anyone who's been following Brit politics and understands the electoral map, and the forces in play, realises there's a very good chance of a hung parliament. Given the Lib Dems have electoral reform as their biggest, most longstanding demand, and it's already worked out OK in Scotland, Labour, by getting this idea out now, stakes a position in case of a hung parliament, or minority government, as we Canadians, instinctively dismissive of Parliament, are more used to saying. It may be that Brits' aversion to minorities means there's a least minute wave to the leading party. But there are a lot of efficient, entrenched Labour seats…2) As the Times paraphrased Hain: "If a voting reform bill does become law, it would be a “poison pill” for an incoming Conservative government. David Cameron, the Tory leader, would be forced to decide whether to use political capital and parliamentary time to repeal the legislation.". Times article: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/ar

  28. Brown must have internal polls predicting that Labour will be extinct after 2010 General Election. You might as well go for broke, like promise to repeal the notwithstanding clause….

    Cameron……soldiers with guns…..in our cities……..British cities!…..we're not making this up…..vote Labour…….

  29. Before generally addressing the democratic deficit should we not pose the question what it is we want to rectify? For instance, do we expect our political system to be pro-active or do we expect it to be reactionary??

    When we demand democratic reform, do we refer to drawing a clearer line between executive, legislative and judicial powers, or are we merely demanding for optics to be changed?

    In other words, is there an underlying and therefore deeper concern which needs to be addressed at its core?

  30. Dear Mr.Coyne,
    for what it’s worth in regards to democratic health, I want to add a few more comments on the topic. The mind works in mysterious ways because I have to tell you that while trying to decypher an article by Noam Chomsky, entitled The Mysteries of Nature: How Deeply Hidden?, fragments concerning the well being of our democratic system keep popping up in between, and so I might as well release these fragments of thought here and now.

    I’m not sure that PR is the medication we need. It may turn out to be as benign as the workings of a placebo, or it may turn out to be devastating in outcome, as likewise the presciption of wrong medication tends to be.

    Geographically considered, Canada is far too large and too diverse for PR to be able to work its wonders. Adopting the PR system in Canada might, in the long run, add to our democratic deficit, not overcome it.

  31. But instead of dwelling solely on the topic of PR versus 'first past the post' there are various other means by which we can improve our democratic deficit.
    Trying to conceive CONSISTENCY within the democratic system should be on the priority list, pronto! For instance, when the anti-prorogation club insists and demonstrates in the street that the PM should be severely restricted in his or her right to use the right of prorogation, because the act of prorogation coming out of the PMO would be considered an executive power interfering with legislative power (and in principle I am not against such restriction although it would require alterations to our current head of sate senario), then surely the act of appointing senators must be restricted also, for both, the act of prorogation and the act of appointing senators originate in the PMO and are therefor both acts of executive power interfering with legislative power.

  32. And although the appointment of senators allows for the act of interference to last much longer than the act of prorogation (senators appointed long ago interfering with a current government) we see few people on the street s demonstrating in favour of senate reform. I don't know WHY that is but I do know WHAT it is: blantant inconsistency on sight with the recent demonstrators.

  33. So why not dispell some of the myths by which the experts hold themselves up in high regard.? Why not differentiate between, on the one hand, expert opinion which tries to educate and, on the other hand, expert opinion which tries to dominate?

    Don't forget that the formation of positives (in matters of acquiring visuals, as in being able to look with the mind's eye) always, and inevitably, works in unison with the formation of negatives; expert opions undifferientiated as to be either informative or domineering, form a blurred line for not seeing a clear picture.

    When not being able to make out which is which, whether the positive is in fact the negative or vice versa, has tremendous consequences for our democratic process as it is being played out.

    First and foremost, we need clear vision while trying to tackle the democratic deficit.

  34. Also, and of great importance when trying to improve the quality of our democracy: should universities slowly be allowed to slide into beings of grand-scale copy-making machines, or should our educational institutions backtrack into being the instiller of life long-learning they once managed to be?

    and…(also very important for the well-being of our democracy)

    should the so-called experts (on constitutional matters, for instance) be decision makers or should they merely be providers of objective information when called for?

    Say what you will, but if we don't ask the right questions we will not be able to bring about democratic reform in earnest.

    If that is what we want, of course.

  35. As usual with the hard-to-kill PR crowd much promised, little delivered. Brown will have a stiff battle on his hands to get this sold in "jolly-old" but the real problem that Coyne and other Pro-PR's fail to see that PR in and of itself will not deliver democracies to some promised land of a government responsible to you and you alone. It will however remove much of the visible politics of argument, debate, diatribe and denunciation. All that unseemly contentious behaviour will be replaced by scholarly discourse in the offices of the political parties, "Yisss, I believe I would like to be placed on the Party list and not have to work to sell myself or my aprty, we'll hire some PR (coincidence? I think not) flaks to create a Campaign."
    Proportional Representation is a Trojan Horse, great for the weaker political organizations, bad for the individual.

    • "Proportional Representation is a Trojan Horse, great for the weaker political organizations, bad for the individual."

      That makes no sense at all. The reason many individuals are poorly served by democracy is precisely because our systems reinforce stronger political organizations at the expense of weaker ones – and, of course, at the expense of individuals.

      Let the hate flow, Ritchie. :-)

      • I believe you have that backwards, Brian.

        The party list will have to be created somehow, and Richie is right in that the party politics will be fought more and more inside, not through riding nominations etc. PR means doing away with our understanding of constituencies. But constituencies do form an important role within our political landscape.

  36. Which brings me to the next item on the list of priorities for trying to eliminate our democratic deficit:

    when so-called experts insist that particular changes in our system could not happen because our constitution would not allow for it, then are they insisting that our constitution is a none-changing entity, forever to be held above our democratic system?

    Where then does the division between the legislative and the judiscial bounderies exist if the house could no longer instigate the will of the people?

  37. Good. His party will go down in flames anyways and so to will this insane idea. No one in Canada will touch a redo once they lose. Like BC and Ontario where the same thing was floated another defeat helps keep that idea where it should be.

    Everyone for better or for worse in our House is voted in. The last thin I want is a percentage to be named from a list of second to last placers in any election. Talk about a opportunity for bribes etc. Does not Israel and or the forty plus elections in Italy since WWII not compute with anyone.
    Canada is one of the best in the world in most ways– please do not break it!

  38. Alternate Voting is not a PR system.

    I'd love to see Canada move to an AV system, personally. It changes the way politicians behave, leading to a more civil level of discourse (you don't want to demonize other parties because you want those second or third votes of their supporters), and it also leads to parties seeking support outside of their traditional bases (again, looking for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd votes).

    That it is not as "democratic" as PR is not an issue to my mind. More democracy does not equal a better government, though PR supporters throw that "democratic deficit" idea around like it's a given fact. Democracy needs to be balanced and, to a degree, mitigated. Furthermore, I've never heard a convincing explanation as to how PR would change how politicians behave. As long as they're still competing for one vote, they've got no incentive to play nice(r). And I loathe the idea of getting rid of riding representation and leaving the selection of MPs to party leaders.

    Anyway, I'd love to see one of our national parties pick up on this. Just, for the love of god, don't go with PR!

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