06.02.2016 10:32 AM

Electoral reform: kudos to Cullen, Monsef and Trudeau

This is very positive and very big. I’m a sucker for non-partisanship, these days. Well done.

Also, wow. 

48 Comments

  1. monkey says:

    Good move politically but I worry this means PR instead of ranked ballots which is way worse. I’m in Europe now where most countries use PR and things have not been working so well. It takes several months to form a government thus weakening the economy due to lower investor confidence as well as it has meant extremist parties are able to gain more influence whereas at least ranked ballots, which Australia uses, lead to stable governments and weed out extremist parties on both the right and left.

    • davie says:

      Often there is the assumption that the party representing the middle of the political spectrum represents a majority. There is a good chance that the centre of the political spectrum is a minority, even a small minority. I understand, though, why Liberals would want a ranked ballot: lefties would vote Liberal 2nd to keep out Conservatives (as in our election last fall), and Conservatives would vote Liberal 2nd to keep out NDP.

      I think the argument for proportional is that it emphasizes more accurate representation of the voters, rather than maintaining an artificial majority for the sake of investors.

    • Vancouverois says:

      Ranked ballots are terrible. They’re the tool of corrupt governments which are trying to avoid being thrown out by a non-establishment challenger (that’s why they were adopted by Australia in the first place). They amplify the flaws of first-past-the-post while offering no advantages.

      If it’s between FPTP and ranked balloting, we should stick with FPTP.

      In any case, no change should be made without the public endorsement of at least one national referendum.

      • Luke says:

        Could you explain your reasoning?

        I tend to like a ranked ballot because it frees me to vote for a candidate whom I would usually regard as having no chance of winning (e.g., a Green or independent), without needing to concern myself with vote splitting and strategic voting.

        Perhaps the Liberals would prefer a ranked ballot in some attempt to ensure re-election, but I don’t think that’s really a guarantee by any stretch. When the rules change, voting behaviour will change, and parties’ and candidates’ strategies will change too. If we use past polls that consider second and third choices, ranked ballots do benefit the Liberals and NDP (as I recall) but those polls cannot account for how voting preferences and political tact would necessarily change under a different system.

        The major parties in British Columbia once switched to an alternate voting system with the intention of preventing a win by Social Credit or the CCF. Their expectations that the system would benefit them were all wrong, and Social Credit won. So at least in that example, an alternate vote / ranked ballot was a terrible tool for the governing party to keep themselves in power.

        • Vancouverois says:

          1) What’s the point of getting an extra vote to offer moral support to a fringe candidate you don’t expect to win? That’s a meaningless feel-good vote that doesn’t actually give you the kind of representation you want.

          More importantly, It gives you an extra vote, which is not fair to other citizens. You should not be able to use a second or third vote to cancel out another voter’s first and only vote – and vice-versa.

          2) The expectation that it would still be theoretically possible for non-Liberal governments to be elected does not mean it’s perfectly okay to change the system.

          How much more corrupt would the government have to be before voters had enough and managed to throw them out? It’s bad enough under our current system; under ranked balloting I think it would be even worse. Eric Grenier projected that under ranked balloting, the Liberals would currently have 224 seats with only 39.5% of the vote, instead of the 184 they actually got. That obviously is a theoretical projection, but that doesn’t mean it can be disregarded.

          I think ranked balloting would encourage political changes that would be enormously detrimental. Ranked balloting naturally favours not the parties that have the best and boldest ideas, but those that are least objectionable and are therefore more likely to pick up second and third votes. That is not how a country makes progress; that’s a blueprint for stagnation. I think we benefit from having a system where the Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP are all viable parties with a plausible chance of forming the government.

          Under FPTP, a party doesn’t even have to be elected to get its policies adopted, because the very threat that they may get support can motivate the government to change tack. Look at what happened in the 90s. When the Chretien Liberals adopted austerity and enacted the Clarity Act, it was because they knew that the Reform party would gain stature if they didn’t, because those Reform policies were popular and necessary. It may not be fair to Reform, which never got the credit it deserved; but it was good for Canada. I’d make a similar argument for publicly funded health care, which was championed by the CCF/NDP but adopted federally by Liberal governments.

          I can’t see the same happening under a ranked balloting system, because the centrist Liberals would be less worried about being voted out. How bad would they have to be before NDP voters started putting the Conservatives as their second choice, and vice-versa?

          3) The fact that the system didn’t manage to keep the Liberal/Conservative coalition in power in BC’s 1952 election doesn’t mean it wasn’t intended to do so. And it did still achieve its secondary objective of keeping the CCF out.

          It’s worth noting that the end results of that election were indeed massively disproportionate – just not in the way that the incumbents had expected. The Socreds got 39.6% of the seats with only 27.2% of the vote. And they were ahead of the CCF, which had one seat less in spite of getting 3.6% more of the popular vote (30.8% on the first ballot). So ranked balloting did achieve the goal of keeping out the CCF in spite of their higher share of the popular vote; it just worked to the benefit of the Socreds instead of the incumbents.

          The Liberals and Conservatives actually each got roughly half the proportion of seats they deserved by popular vote – the Liberals got only 12.5% of the seats with a popular vote of 23.5%, while the Conservatives got 8.3% of the seats with 16.8% of the vote.

          So in the end, ranked balloting backfired and they screw themselves and their own voters as well as the CCF. But that doesn’t change the fact that ranked balloting results in profoundly distorted results, results that are more disproportionate than what we get with FPTP. And that is neither democratic, nor a reform.

          • Luke says:

            I really like the points you make in paragraph three of item 2. In one sense I see how a ranked ballot would enhance so-called fringe parties or candidates (liberates people from strategic voting ), but on the other hand there is some incentive for parties to be middling, boring, and similar enough to other parties to snatch second or third choice support, which I could see leading to stagnation. Although there is a certain appeal to the idea of our politics attempting to not alienate people.

            Regarding item 1, you presume it is moral support, rather than the preferred choice. I can imagine that lots of voters never check the Green candidate off knowing that only in a select few ridings is there any remote possibility that others will do the same (strategic voting, etc.), even if that choice is their preference.

            I don’t consider the second choice to be an extra vote; everybody gets to make it if they choose to do so, and it does allow us to vote in accord with actual preferences. I do not accept the assertion that it is inherently unfair.

            In terms of the outcomes being even more disproportionate, that really depends on how you look at it. Your analysis adheres to the notion that first choice support fraction is equal what the final seat share should be. I would argue (devil’s advocate, not sure where I stand) that in the ranked ballot system the thing to look at is whether the final governing party or coalition is made of parties that found the support of most voters (or at least more than the non-governing parties), whether as first, second, or third choice (etc.). If I consider my own point of view, many times I really don’t have a strong preference (federally) whether it is Liberals or NDP in power, so long as the governing coalition is not violating my values or running the country into oblivion.

            You can cite Eric Grenier’s analysis, and there is nothing wrong with it as long as we understand its fundamental assumption and how likely that assumption is to be wrong. You can’t really take a sampling of hypothetical second and third preferences based on polling and apply it to election results in which every one voted under a completely different system. The only way to do that is to assume that no significant proportion of voters would change their first preferences, and that parties’ positions and tacts would be completely identical. I think that is utter nonsense and thus putting any significant value on such an analysis is really not worth more than the most fleeting consideration.

            What do you prefer, in terms of voting systems? Status quo? Proportional representation? To me the problems with those two seem worse than those with a ranked ballot. Although that point you made that I referred to at the top does leave me wondering.

          • Vancouverois says:

            I’m glad I’ve raised points you hadn’t considered. I hope you’ll continue to give them serious thought!

            Regarding item 1, ranked balloting absolutely does give multiple votes to some citizens and not to others, and it absolutely is unfair.

            It might not make a difference to the end result if our political landscape only had two major parties really competing for election, with a few other parties each getting a fraction of a percent of the first round vote. But the vast majority of ridings in this country have three or more viable candidates that represent a significant vote in the riding. And that is where the extra votes are monstrously unfair, when some twenty percent or more of voters not only get to vote for their preferred party, but get an extra chance to cast their vote against their least favoured party. And that’s a double vote.

            You even demonstrate it yourself when you say that you don’t care whether the government is Liberal or NDP. You basically want two chances to act as a spoiler for the Conservatives – to deny Conservative voters their fair share of representation. That simply isn’t right, no matter how strongly you may feel about the Conservatives.

            It’s false to say that everybody gets the extra votes if they want them. The extra votes are only counted if the party is eliminated before the final round, so the voters whose party comes in second never get a chance to have their secondary or tertiary votes affect the outcome. It results in a false consensus.

            That’s also why the claim that it prevents strategic voting is total nonsense. A party must make it through the first round in order to benefit from being voters’ second choice. To take a simple example, I can confidently promise you that the Liberals would continue to tell Green voters to vote for them anyway, because the Greens can never win overall, while the Liberals can… butif the Liberals are eliminated first the seat might go to the Conservatives, because a good number of Liberals would vote Conservative over Green. So if you want to keep the Conservatives out, you should vote Liberal down the line from round one onwards. And they would be perfectly correct, because that’s how the system works.

            So if you expect that ranked balloting would lead to enough voters splitting off from the Liberals to make the Greens come ahead of them, think again. The motivation to vote strategically is still there, and it’s pretty much just as strong under ranked balloting as it is under our current system.

            As for it not mattering if the end result is even more disproportionate: better representation was the whole justification for pursuing this process of so-called “electoral reform” in the first place. It would absurd to say that we’re going to improve our system by making it even *less* representative of how people actually vote. That would reveal the whole process to be exactly what its opponents say it is – an attempt not to improve our system, but to subvert it permanently in the Liberals’ favour.

            An actual reform to make our system more representative would most likely end up with mixed-member proportional representation. There’s already a precedent for switching from FPTP to MMPR in New Zealand (and note, they did it with not just one, but THREE referenda).

            However, I don’t think there’s any need for a major change at all. I think our current system is actually pretty damned good. I think it’s underappreciated, because people get frustrated when their favoured party gets fewer seats than they think its proportion of the popular vote deserves (and I can understand that, having felt that way myself). However, in practice it has a lot of good points that other systems just don’t have, while avoiding a lot of their worst flaws.

          • Luke says:

            I think we will have to disagree on a couple of things. I like the point about strategic voting; there is still an argument for it under a ranked ballot. It is a weaker one, and I suspect the Greens and NDP would enjoy more first preference support under such a system than they enjoy in terms of vote share now. But there is still a motivation for strategic voting, particularly in ridings where it is essentially a two-party race with the others on the fringes.

            Whether a ranked ballot outcome is more or less proportionate depends on how we define proportionality. In proportion to what? Your definition appears to be how well seat share reflects first choice vote share. I think that is a flawed way to evaluate the ranked ballot system, because the whole point of the ranked ballot is not to issue seats according to first choice preference, but to give seats to those two find the most support among the voters. (An alternative way to view it is the least hated option.) Here, support means having earned a position on people’s ballot at all — if the voter does not support any party but one or two, they ought not to select any others as down-ballot choices. I think if you were to evaluate how proportionate the ranked ballot system is, you have to look at whether the seat share of the winning party or coalition is proportionate to the amount of support the voting population has given them. Did the winning party/parties have the support of about the same percentage of voters as they have seats? [In the case of coalition, such a comparison gets messier, I would say, because we don’t vote for post-election coalitions. But that is a problem with any of the systems, whether PR, ranked ballot, or first past the post.]

            Regarding getting more than one vote or the whole mechanism being unfair, I mostly disagree. Everybody gets to fill out the ballot as they see fit. The number of preferences that gets counted on a given ballot is not that important. If my second choice never gets counted, it is because my first choice was always doing well enough to not be eliminated. There is a case in which it can be unfair though. Suppose my first choice ends up coming in second in the end. My second choice never got counted, true. And that could be unfair, because maybe had my second choice gotten counted (and others who voted similarly) , that second choice support might have altered the balance and eventually yielded a different winner. That is the flaw, as I see it. What I have to weigh is whether that flaw is sufficiently bad to render a ranked ballot any worse than FPTP or PR. In FPTP, we never know if the winning candidate has the support of the majority of voters, except under that unusual circumstance where a candidate earns a majority of votes (which can also happen with a ranked ballot). I think this is probably a bigger flaw than the one above. At least with ranked ballot, the likelihood of finding the overall most preferred (or least disliked) candidate is high. In the case of pure PR, it becomes all about parties and locally voting for a representative no longer exists, which I think is not a good thing. Ranked ballot can occur on the local level and thus use the existing riding boundaries. In a mixed FPTP-PR thing, you get the problems of FPTP at the local level, and proportionality is maintained by sourcing candidates from party lists. I am not sure if that is something I find acceptable — the parties then decide which individuals they will install as top-up’ MPs, if you will, which would seem to lend itself perfectly to ‘trained seal’ type party cheerleaders. (Not than any system appears to be immune to that sort of thing.)

            Ranked ballot seems like the least offensive option to me. Maybe we could do one where we use a ranked ballot, but instead of doing rounds of counting, we assign points based on position on the ballot — 1st = 1, 2nd = 1/2, third = 1/3, or something like that. Then everybody’s cumulative preferences would be added and counted in the result.

          • Vancouverois says:

            Again, I must point out that the entire justification for this drive for so-called “reform” is the complaint that the end results of elections are not representative of people’s actual votes. Arbitrarily redefining “representative” or “proportionality” to mean “the least objectionable result that a bare majority of voters are willing to live with as an end result if their real choice doesn’t win” is just sophistry.

            Similarly, the claim that people have the option of just not voting for a second or third choice is just more sophistry. It’s another attempt to justify the spoiler effect of those second and third votes; but they cannot be justified, because the bottom line is that they are still extra votes being used to cancel the votes of others.

            We seem to agree that it’s completely unfair to the voters whose candidate comes in second. However, that isn’t a trivial matter; it completely undermines the case you’re making for ranked balloting. It demonstrates that even if we were to redefine “electoral reform” to mean finding the least objectionable consensus candidate, a single ranked ballot doesn’t achieve that.

            Your proposal that we somehow weight the already ranked choices adds another level of complication, and I’m not convinced it would be fair anyway – how do you come up with the numbers to use for weighting?

            Another point to consider: in Australia, which does use a ranked ballot, at least there is a strong counterbalance to the House of Commons. The Australian Senate is triple-E (equal, effective, elected), and Senators are elected using a Single Transferrable Vote variant of proportional representation – pretty much the opposite of a ranked ballot. Here in Canada, we don’t have equivalent safeguards – the Senate is appointed by the governing party.

          • Luke says:

            Defining whether the outcome of an election is acceptable on the basis of what proportion of the population supports the ruling party is certainly no more arbitrary than going by first choice proportion. You can call them both arbitrary if you like. The first way I stated seems like a reasonable way to decide whether an outcome is democratic.

            As for the second-place scenario I outlined, I guess the question is how frequently it might occur that the uncounted second choices would have changed the result. I haven’t sat down to figure out the mathematics of how likely that scenario is. A point system (like the one I mentioned) would get around it altogether, but of course we would have to agree on whatever was the arbitrary scale. Indeed, it would get messy verging on silly, and although it wouldn’t really be a problem to tally the scores, there is certainly the possibility that a significant proportion of voters would not understand their own voting system, which seems inherently upsetting.

            Wait, how is the single transferable vote significantly different from a ranked ballot? They are basically the same thing, as I understood them. The term single transferable vote nicely captures why the ranked ballot arguably doesn’t give more votes to some people than to others. To me, it is one vote and the ballot options that change with each step. Step 1: all options available; Step 2: one fewer available because it was too unpopular; etc. Each step is basically a new ballot.

          • Vancouverois says:

            A false consensus is NOT democratic. It isn’t what NDP and Green voters support, and it is NOT what a majority of voters mean by democratic reform. If you go by the votes in this past election (which I don’t, but for the sake of argument), ranked balloting can only be said to have the support of a fraction of the 39.5% of popular vote that the Liberal party got – not the full amount, because Liberal policy didn’t specifically endorse ranked ballots, just amorphous “electoral reform”.

            Single Transferable Vote is very different from ranked balloting. It’s a system of proportional representation:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_transferable_vote

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8XOZJkozfI

            I recommend CPG Grey’s other videos on electoral systems too.

    • gyor says:

      They also weed out democracy creating a forced consenus that serves the powerful very well.

  2. Bill says:

    The only really important question is if the proposed changes will be the subject of a referendum. It makes no sense to suggest that the current system somehow does not reflect the democratic will of the people and then have that body that was elected under that system determine how it should be changed without a referendum.

    • davie says:

      An argument used to reject a referendum is that our referendum legislation applies only to changes to our constitution, and that a change to the way we elect MP’s would not change our constitution.
      However, I wondering if there might be election changes that would change our constitution. I think some Atlantic provinces are guaranteed no fewer MP’s than they have senators. For example, PEI has 4 senators, therefore has to have 4 MP’s, not matter what their population. So I am wondering if some possible changes, say, proportional representation (partial or full) would changes parts of our constitution.

      • Cory says:

        Exactly.

        An argument could be also made however that changing the electoral system, whether RB or PR, is in fact a constitutional change:

        1) our constitution also includes unwritten rules and conventions, so just because FPTP isn’t explicitly mentioned in writing that does not mean it isn’t part of the constitution (the BNA and Charter make this clear)

        2) It was part of the agreement which led to confederation, therefore changing it is changing the terms of confederation (and if changed may require a rebalancing of the confederation)

        3) the preamble to the BNA states that the colonies wish to form a union “similar in principle to the UK” and the UK uses FPTP

      • Bill says:

        My point is not a legal argument but one of legitimacy. How can the body that was elected under a system that is somehow flawed change that system without the change being ratified by the electorate?

        Changing the composition of the committee poses little risk to the Liberals since Elizabeth May will vote with Liberals for a preferential ballot even though she proportional representation would be her first choice since a preferential ballot is better for the Greens than the status quo.

  3. Matt says:

    Electoral reform needs a referendum. Period.

    • Cory says:

      My personal opinion is that there should be a referendum, however I believe if it could be also changed using the constitutional amendment formula (7/10 provinces with majority of population I believe).

      Either way, they can’t do it unilaterally.

  4. Vancouverois says:

    That’s nice; but if they want to change how our votes are counted, THERE STILL HAS TO BE A REFERENDUM.

  5. dean sherratt says:

    Even as a convinced partisan I’m happy to not see this as simply a government pushing through its own agenda. Now the committee will make recommendations but the government will still decide what it wants to do. What will the committee do given 5 Liberals 3 CPC, 2 NDP 1 Bloc and 1 Green? There is a fair possibility of an impasse. It seems to me likely that the GP and NDP will opt for PR of some sort but that won’t pass without CPC or Liberal support…both of which are unlikely. I don’t see the Bloc as opting for PR and a ranking system can just as easily backfire on the Bloc. The CPC are most likely to opt for the status quo but also ask for a referendum which is also unlikely if the process takes too long. The Liberal’s (likely) preference for a ranked system will not easily get the support of any of the other parties unless they decidedly vote against their own electoral interests.

    • Cory says:

      I would think the BQ would be in favour of PR. They would have more MPs under it.

      • Vancouverois says:

        I expect they still remember the 90s, when their number of seats was disproportionately high, and hope for that again.

        • Doug says:

          Yes BQ has a dillemma, they can hope for a comeback under FPTP and win a pile of seats through vote splitting on the other hand PR would secure them a semi-permanent rump of seats but deny them the results of the 90’s.

  6. patrick says:

    Well done by the liberals. If it fails they can blame the other parties. If it succeeds then they can’t be accused of bullying an electoral system that slants in their favour. And it puts the Cons in with the Bloc – you know the guys who want to break up the country – and that will look really good on a resume.

    And a note – I’d put in a rider that even with a ranked vote that no politician can get in without at least 75% of the riding voting. And, if that riding doesn’t hit 75% then that seat sits empty until that percentage is reached. After the official election just have one local place to vote until the numbers are reached. I believe empty seats will only happen once, unless it’s a protest against the politicians running in the riding.

    • Cory says:

      Why would the BQ be in with the CPC?

      The BQ would have more MPs under PR (and probably RB as well).

      If anything I would think the BQ would love to see the government argue that a referendum isn’t required to independently and fundamentally change confederation…like a unilateral declaration of some sort?

      • patrick says:

        Just from the article Warren linked said that the Pc and Bloc are the only one’s who want status quo as per voting.
        I wasn’t referring to the possible need for a referendum.
        I would ask how this changes confederation?
        This is a change in voting structure, not in the country itself.
        I’m divided on the necessity of a national referendum on the issue.
        Unless they do what I think they should do then I’m good with it being rammed in over opponents dead bodies. LOL.

        • Cory says:

          Patrick, as I mentioned above, there are various reasons why changing the voting system is in effect a change to the constitution. As I mentioned above:

          1) our constitution also includes unwritten rules and conventions, so just because FPTP isn’t explicitly mentioned in writing that does not mean it isn’t part of the constitution (the BNA and Charter make this clear)

          2) It was part of the agreement which led to confederation, therefore changing it is changing the terms of confederation (and if changed may require a rebalancing of the confederation)

          3) the preamble to the BNA states that the colonies wish to form a union “similar in principle to the UK” and the UK uses FPTP

          There’s also the issue that proportional representation itself may be unconstitutional because it ensures all votes are equal, yet by requiring a minimum number of MPs for some regions regardless of population our constitution effectively guarantees that some votes are worth more than others.

      • Vancouverois says:

        Nope. Its seems that they’ve already taken the position that there has to be a referendum.

        I don’t see how they – or any party that wants to call itself democratic – could do otherwise.

  7. JH says:

    Credit to Cullen. Don’t see any for Monsef or Trudeau. They created the problem and let it continue. Didn’t even want to let May or the Bloc have a vote, effectively disenfranchising their voters in the process. Holland’s attitude didn’t help either.
    Good day for NDP and Cullen’s leadership aspirations.

  8. Kevin T. says:

    Very good turn of events, but I think the irony will be that, the NDP’s motion got this and it is their win, it will likely be the Trudeau Liberals who’ll get the credit for being open-minded and compromising.

  9. Cory says:

    This makes me think electoral reform is dead and the Libs are doing the killing.

    NDP, Greens are on record against RB and for PR. BQ is probably the same for partisan purposes.

    This leaves the Libs who sound like they may be in favour of PR but are probably against it for partisan purposes. There’s also the issue that PR may be unconstitutional as non-PR is “baked in” (PR ensures one person=one vote but the constitution has minimum number of MPs for regions regardless of population, therefore, some votes are worth more than others).

    I’m willing to bet that since they’ve compromised on this, they’ll now compromise and agree on a referendum, probably ranked ballot with FPTP as an option, which will kill it.

    They’ve seen what a can of worms this would open and how much political capital it will take and they’ve decided it’s not worth it.

  10. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Bill,

    They can’t do a referendum. The average Joe and Jane don’t have the time nor the inclination to bone up on this. Instead, they will go reflexively for the status quo.

    Now, if only politicos and pundits voted — then the referendum would pass.

    • Cory says:

      That argument could also be used to invalidate general elections.

      If the average person can’t follow the single issue of electoral reform how could they follow the dozens of issue presented during a general election? (which would invalidate the argument that the Libs have a mandate to change the voting system because of the general election they won)

  11. Francis says:

    As a Liberal myself, I have a slightly different and nuanced perspective on this entire manner.

    Firstly, I’ve never really been a proponent of electoral reform. I personally feel that while our system is indeed flawed, it is one that best rewards winners and punishes losers. The resulting seat count of an election is undoubtedly an exaggeration of the total vote share, but I feel like its served its purpose since confederation. Liberals ourselves have benefitted from this flawed system more often than not and I don’t know if I want to ruin a good thing; caveat: unless the new proposes system (whatever it is) benefits the Liberals even further.

    To add on that first point, electoral reform has often been the war cry of chronic losers; as in election losers and not the Trump kind. The NDP have been complaining about the voting system for decades since they’ve never been able to break their own glass ceiling. Similar situation with the Greens who fail to garner enough votes to make any meaningful impact in ridings across Canada — save for a few BC ridings. So, the notion of electoral reform has always sat with me as a consolation effort more than democratic endeavour. I’d prefer that smaller parties earn their relevance in the Canadian political landscape than have it artificially magnified through some kind of reform. Its been done before and can happen again but I really don’t want a new voting system that produces a hodgepodge of political fringe parties that exert control in the HofC like other democracies because it inevitably causes chaos.

    Secondly, on the concession itself: this is the second time in two weeks that the Liberals have conceded to the NDP on the Hill and I’m beside myself about it. When this whole controversy was raised about the Liberals having a majority on the committee I was sure that no matter what, the Liberals wouldn’t give up their majority on the committee just to placate the CPC and NDP. I think its a decision that shows weakness and could possibly set a precedent for the NDP more easily getting what they want from the government. More importantly, I think the Liberals have allowed themselves to get bent over by the NDP 2 times too many this month. First elbow-gate/motion 6 and now this; the NDP is exercising far too much influence for a rump protest party thats’ sole intention is to replace the Liberals as the alternative to the Conservatives. Consensus, cooperation and bi-partisanship is a good thing but it shouldn’t come at the cost of a hard-earned majority government.

    Thirdly, now that the Green and Bloc are voting members on this committee (which doesn’t happen because they’re not recognized official parties in the House), this situation is going to play out much differently than previously expected. None of the parties will agree to a proposed system and electoral reform will die on that committee table. Liberals are now completely absolved of responsibility because they no longer control the bulk of the seats on the committee. Come 2019, you will see either the Conservatives or the New Democrats become the lightning rod for this failure. At best, we could get a token change to the system that would make minimal difference if the CPC cooperates with the Liberals. Again, highly unlikely but if mutual benefit can be achieved through agreement then its possible either the CPC gets screwed or the NDP.

    Anyhow, at least we’re seeing tangible movement on election promises from the Liberal government. The media can stop bloviating on about “substance vs style”.

    • doconnor says:

      What you call losers are the representatives of a substancial portion of the Canadian people.

      • Francis says:

        Substantial? Sure. Consequential? Not really.

        Let me just clarify, when I use the term “losers” I strictly mean in the sense of winners and losers; i.e. government or not government.

        In the last election, every party was fighting to form government but only one succeeded. Out of the remaining two parties, only one of them is the Official Opposition. This is the process under which out Parliamentary system operates and it inherently produces winners and losers.

        So, while there are undeniably many voters who support the “losers” in this scenario, their vote is less and less consequential with the fewer seats their respective party is able to attain. Representation is a good thing but with truer and truer representation, political parties are less inclined to work hard for their votes to have meaningful success and only have to pander to their specific base to stay relevant. It produces factionalism within the Commons and you end up with a situation like Israel where governments placate extreme views to stay in power.

        Our loser-winner system forces our political parties to develop platforms that are appealing to the broader population if government is their intention. If a political party fails are attracting enough votes to form government or Official Opposition then they should have to reassess their approach or resign themselves to accepting their role as a fringe, protest party with no probability of forming government. I personally don’t believe these parties should be rewarded for failing to inspire a larger number of voters to support them through electoral reform.

        • doconnor says:

          In Canada there is more to electing MPs then “winning” government. It’s about gaining influence in Parliament so you can influence laws that are pasted and how the government is held to account.

          Forcing parties to develop broad platforms has many negative effects. It makes parties more and more similar creating the perception that there are no real choices. Because the differences are small the debate becomes about small differences rather then the big issues and encourages negative and personal attacks.

          What you see as factionalism I see as a vibrant debate that honestly reflects the diversity of opinion in Canada and parties trying the woo voters by inspiring them to change thier minds rather then vanilla parties endlessly sniping at each other over trivial scandals and always changing themselves to follow what they percieve as the mood of the people and very little inspiration.

          • Francis says:

            Honestly, you’re probably right.

            My view on Canadian politics is very cynical and grim so I look at the optimistic perspective of politics as being naive and untenable for functional government. I think about issues like gay marriage and how fringe groups on the right still vehemently oppose it. If it were easier for them to form a party and be reflected in the seats of the Commons then their opinions would gain un-due weight. Its populism on a smaller scale and countries that have this sort of problem can’t move past what would otherwise be seen as ridiculous matters.

            I see vanilla parties as a means to safely govern Canada in a way that doesn’t result in extreme shifts to either side of the spectrum. A way to build a broader consensus instead of magnifying and exacerbating differences.

            Is vibrancy in discourse a good thing? — of course. I just don’t think it produces the kind of true governance we would hope it would.

  12. Greyapple says:

    A fine gesture, and a sign of cross partisan compromise, to make up for the blockheaded move of stacking the original committee. Cullen’s plan was always the most fair, and will give the committee’s work much more legitimacy. Amusingly, I note that several online Liberal partisans who were, oh such a short a time ago, dismissing Cullen’s idea as an underhanded NDP ploy to stack the deck in their favour, are now singing its praises. Of course, for them, all honour and glory belongs to Trudeau, as if Cullen has no role in this. My goodness, partisans can be so shameless and witless.

    Will this matter much in the end, that remains to be seen. It should prove an interesting summer with the electoral reform issue at the forefront of political discussions. If we are to change, I would prefer the proportional system as it strikes me as the most fair, despite its propensity to create minority/coalition governments. Though I should point out the status-quo is not intolerable to me. I suspect a majority favour retaining FPTP, and may make themselves heard at town hall forums this summer and impact the final report. How many Liberals favour the status-quo (and I suspect there are many), will prove key.

    But any change must be enacted by a binding referendum. Changing how we elected governments is a major and fundamental change to Canadian democracy, and demands validation from the public. Otherwise, it will stink of illegitimacy and game rigging. The cackling from the same online Liberal partisans that any change would permanently disenfranchise the Conservatives proves this point, and gives me considerable pause in going forward. I support proportional representation as I believe it is more democratic. For the same reason I also support a referendum on this (and other) fundamental issues. Citizens need to be more engaged in their civic life, and a referendum is an excellent opportunity for it.

  13. Mulletaur says:

    Referendum or revolution.

  14. Maps Onburt says:

    This committe can do what ever the hell it wants but if the government passes a law without the support of the people through a referendum on how we should vote there will be a majority of seriously pissed of Canadians. We have May on a committee casting a vote even though her party of one got less than 6% of the national vote. Ditto for the Bloc. The NDP gets even more. The very people arguing that the vote should be “proportional” want this so called committee to be stacked in their favour. The progressives can be very hypocritical when it suites them.

    • doconnor says:

      The Greens get 6% of the vote and a whole 8% of the vote on the committee. Things are soooo stacked in thier favour.

      • Maps Onburt says:

        You must be thinking of the POLLING for the greens. They actually only got 3.5% of the vote so at 8% on the committee, they have more than twice as much weight as they should under their preferred system of PR. Same for BQ. The real question is why do two parties that don’t make up 1 vote between them get 16% of the vote? Could it be that once again, the Liberals want the deck stacked in their favour??? A referendum is the ONLY thing that most Canadians will accept as legitimate and all you progressives who applauded loudly when Beverly and the Supremes shut down PM Harper on having a election instead of a PM appointment for a senate seat SHOULD be saying that Trudeau has no right to touch this but we all know you are hypocrites and will come up with all sorts of pretzel logic to try to get your way.

  15. Bill Templeman says:

    Warren, This is still a good news story. Elected politicians are suddenly acting like adults by listening to each other, negotiating and making decisions for the common good. What’s not to like? Most of us do not have the time/bandwidth/ability to dig into all the technicalities of PR vs MPR vs RB vs FPTP. I don’t need to vote in a referendum on what my accountant, my mechanic or my doctor tells me. All I have to do is trust their judgment. And if I don’t like the outcomes, I can find a new doctor, mechanic, etc. I like Cullen’s idea of this being an iterative process. We don’t have to get it right the first time.

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