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Proportional Representation part 3

MegB
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Joined: Nov 28 2001

Continued from here.


Comments

Mr. Magoo
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Just for fun, a hockey metaphor.

Quote:

"Who should win the Stanley Cup? The team that wins the most games or the team that scores the most goals over seven games?" asked Kenneth Carty, professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia, presenting a question he used to give to his students.

 


Michael Moriarity
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Mr. Magoo wrote:

Just for fun, a hockey metaphor.

Quote:

"Who should win the Stanley Cup? The team that wins the most games or the team that scores the most goals over seven games?" asked Kenneth Carty, professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia, presenting a question he used to give to his students.

Both are acceptable answers, but they make for quite different competitions. We know how the current system works, but the other suggested system would in effect be one long game, consisting of seven sections, with a running total score, and whoever is ahead at the end wins. It would always go 7 games, and it would not be over until well into the seventh game in most cases.

Neither alternative seems particularly relevant to electoral systems, imho.


Mr. Magoo
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It's definitely not relevant in the sense that we have to do whatever some hockey tournament does.

But it's still an interesting question in the abstract.

If Team A wins the first three games, 10-1, 9-1 and 11-1, then loses the next four games to Team B, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0 and 1-0 then the team that scored 7 goals in total beats the team that scored 30 goals in total.  So clearly Team B is the better team?  Why does that make sense, just because it's not in the context of elections?


mark_alfred
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It's kind of a relevant comparison in that it's an assessment of how to judge a winner in a competition.  Per riding or overall votes in all ridings?  Per game or overall score in all games?


JKR
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Joined: Jan 15 2005
Mr. Magoo wrote:

Just for fun, a hockey metaphor.

Quote:

"Who should win the Stanley Cup? The team that wins the most games or the team that scores the most goals over seven games?" asked Kenneth Carty, professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia, presenting a question he used to give to his students.

 

Hockey games are fair because only two teams can play at the same time. A hockey game would not be fair if more than 2 teams were playing at the same time just like FPTP is unfair when there are more than two candidates vying for election. FPTP with 5 political parties is like a hockey game with 5 teams playing each other on the ice at the same time.


mark_alfred
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For the committee on electoral reform, you can request to appear or submit a brief if you wish. 

http://www.parl.gc.ca/Committees/en/ERRE/StudyActivity?studyActivityId=9...

Quote:

Canadians who choose to submit a brief to the Committee must meet the following criteria/conditions:

  • only one (1) brief can be submitted per person and per organisation;
  • the deadline for the submission of briefs is 11:59 p.m. (EST) on Friday, October 7, 2016;
  • briefs must not exceed 3,000 words (including the summary page and footnotes);
  • briefs that are longer than 1,500 words must be accompanied by a summary; and,
  • it is recommended that within the brief the author present a list of recommendations and their relationship with the principles set out in the motion adopted by the House of Commons on Tuesday, June 7, 2016, outlining the mandate of the Committee.

Mr. Magoo
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Quote:
Hockey games are fair because only two teams can play at the same time.

Each individual game may be, but is a "best of seven" playoff fair, the way it's currently arranged?  See my example in post #3, to see what I mean.


mark_alfred
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Quote:

Quote:
Hockey games are fair because only two teams can play at the same time.

Each individual game may be, but is a "best of seven" playoff fair, the way it's currently arranged?  See my example in post #3, to see what I mean.

But, because it's two teams, as Michael pointed out, your example is more a question of how many games and what their duration is.  IE, is it the best of seven shorter games or one long game (perhaps divided into seven sections of three periods each)?


Mr. Magoo
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I don't disagree that going on points, not games, effectively makes the seven games into one big one for scoring purposes (i.e. there's no need to even consider one massive, 21-period, seven hour game).

And similarly, PR would make the 338 ridings in Canada into one big one for electoral purposes.  As it stands now, each of those 338 ridings is its own "game" and whatever party wins the most of those "games" wins the tournament/election.


mark_alfred
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Agreed.  I did say this in post #4.

To rehash old material, there are systems that preserve the local game while addressing the overall score -- EI, systems that mix the two -- specifically, mix member proprotional representation.  But that's a bit of a diversion from hockey, admittedly.


Mr. Magoo
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Well, Magoo's First Rule of Metaphors:  when you try to add more and more similarities to extend a metaphor it will eventually either break down, or you will discover that you are, in fact, talking about the exact same thing.


JKR
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Mr. Magoo wrote:

Quote:
Hockey games are fair because only two teams can play at the same time.

Each individual game may be, but is a "best of seven" playoff fair, the way it's currently arranged?  See my example in post #3, to see what I mean.

I think a 3 out of 4 seven game series and a seven game total goal series are equally fair. One is a contest over who can win the most games and the second contest is over who can score the most goals. I think it is an arbitrary decision which is a better contest, a contest over winning games or a contest over scoring goals. I think people tend to think winning games is more exciting than scoring more goals. The NHL seems to think so.

As far as fairness is concerned, I think longer contests are fairer than shorter contests because they are less likely to be won by a fluke. Deciding who wins the Stanley Cup in a one game contest would be very exciting but less fair as a fluke could easily decide who wins the Stanley Cup.

Single game contests like the Super Bowl, Grey Cup, and FIFA World Cup that are simultaneously point scoring contests and game winning contests are very exciting. Single-game contests seems to be much more popular than four out of seven series but the advantage of having a series of games is that a more legitimate result occurs because the chance of a fluke the winning contest is reduced. However, a single sudden death game is much more exciting and because of that it can take in more more money via tv revenues. I think seven game series were the best way to make money before television became the main source of revenue for sporting events. I think seven game series are only very exciting when they include a penultimate sudden death 7th game.

I think determining the relative fairness of a contest usually comes down simply to math. Using math we can see that FPTP is fair only when there are no more than 2 candidates running for election. Politicians understand this so they never use FPTP within their own political parties.


JKR
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Mr. Magoo wrote:

I don't disagree that going on points, not games, effectively makes the seven games into one big one for scoring purposes (i.e. there's no need to even consider one massive, 21-period, seven hour game).

And similarly, PR would make the 338 ridings in Canada into one big one for electoral purposes.  As it stands now, each of those 338 ridings is its own "game" and whatever party wins the most of those "games" wins the tournament/election.

The MMP version of PR would keep something like 265 single member ridings and add something like 30 multi-member regional constituencies. The STV version of PR would turn single-member ridings into something like 75 multi-seat ridings with some single-member ridings in areas with sparse populations.


Mr. Magoo
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Quote:
I think a 3 out of 4 seven game series and a seven game total goal series are equally fair. One is a contest over who can win the most games and the second contest is over who can score the most goals. I think it is an arbitrary decision which is a better contest, a contest over winning games or a contest over scoring goals. I think people tend to think winning games is more exciting than scoring more goals. The NHL seems to think so.

I don't know if it was the original author's intent to consider this, but I think it's true to say that it's not even an "arbitrary decision", at least not any more.  Now it's "tradition".  It's how it's always been.  It's how my father watched the Stanley Cup, and if it was good enough for him, it's good enough for me.

To be clear, I'm being facetious -- I don't even like hockey, really -- but I think the Stanley Cup analogy is an interesting way to frame the idea of "most ridings" vs. "most votes".

If nothing else, we can wonder what the value of a "goal" really is, if more of them will win you the game, but not necessarily the tournament.


JKR
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Mr. Magoo wrote:

Quote:
I think a 3 out of 4 seven game series and a seven game total goal series are equally fair. One is a contest over who can win the most games and the second contest is over who can score the most goals. I think it is an arbitrary decision which is a better contest, a contest over winning games or a contest over scoring goals. I think people tend to think winning games is more exciting than scoring more goals. The NHL seems to think so.

I don't know if it was the original author's intent to consider this, but I think it's true to say that it's not even an "arbitrary decision", at least not any more.  Now it's "tradition".  It's how it's always been.  It's how my father watched the Stanley Cup, and if it was good enough for him, it's good enough for me.

To be clear, I'm being facetious -- I don't even like hockey, really -- but I think the Stanley Cup analogy is an interesting way to frame the idea of "most ridings" vs. "most votes".

If nothing else, we can wonder what the value of a "goal" really is, if more of them will win you the game, but not necessarily the tournament.

I think the author's intent (Ken Carty) was to say that all electoral systems are fair, including FPTP. In a sense this is true. FPTP's strength is that it limits the amount of political parties to the greatest extent possible. FPTP is the best system for people whose primary value for an electoral system is that the political system have as few big tent parties as is possible. I think Carty prefers having a two-party system where the Liberals and Conservatives alternate in power federally. Because of this he thinks FPTP is the best system. My guess is that he thinks it would be very good for Canada if the Greens and NDP merged with the Liberals. During the committee meeting he did say it was a very good thing that the PC Party and Reform Party were able to merge into the Conservative Party. I think he also added that huge big-tent parties have helped keep Canada united despite the political cleavages we have in Canada.

The final argument that people who support FPTP usually use is that there is nothing to stop political parties that are negatively affected by FPTP vote-splitting and FPTP strategic voting from merging together. They say this is how FPTP works and the other parties should just accept it and play within those FPTP rules just like the right did when it merged in 2003. So they tell the people like May, Cullen and Boulerice to stop complaining about FPTP and just merge with the Liberals if they want to be treated fairly under our FPTP electoral system.


Mr. Magoo
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Quote:
FPTP's strength is that it limits the amount of political parties to the greatest extent possible. FPTP is the best system for people whose primary value for an electoral system is that the political system have as few big tent parties as is possible.

Perhaps, but as the number of "big tent" parties shrinks, the size of those tents necessarily grows, whether for good, or bad or indifferent.

The usual high-five that I see people giving FPTP is that it produces stable governments.  That, and you don't need a slide-rule to figure out who won.  Add in "tradition" and you've got a very stubborn status quo.

Having said that, this is as good a time as any to (re)say that when PR was on the ballot in Ontario, I voted for it, as did Mrs. Magoo.  I don't think FPTP is better, but I also don't think that someone who does think so is denying me my rights, or clearly hates democracy, or whatever.  I also don't think that if (say) MMP gets adopted, the STV purists will go gentle into that good night.


Rev Pesky
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As long as we don't appoint Gary Bettman as the Chief Electoral Officer...


Sean in Ottawa
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I have been lurking and reading. I decided to get into this discussion because it is an interesting idea.

To compare a sport to politics is common and we have an interesting conversation here about it. The major point I am interested in is the question of interests. Whose matter most is the question in both sport and politics.

With sports the prime interests are:

1) The viewer to have a suspenseful exciting experience

2) The players to have a fair context and be safe

3) The teams to make money

Non participants have virtually no interest except perhaps secondary economic benefits/ costs or competition for attention.

With sports the interests of the teams and players are given by far the most weight. The debate surrounds whose interests matter the most: players, teams or viewers. Viewers have economic power as they choose to buy tickets or not.

The most important thing is generally to win at that level of sport and for the viewer to have a good time.

****

With politics you have a different set of interests

1) The parties (which is all this conversation has discussed)

2) The country, community etc.

3) The voters

4) The individual candidates

5) Business interests

With Politics those not participating have interests. With politics interests are for the most part legal and moral rights. Most important, the interest of the voters generally are more important than the parties (teams) or candidates (players) or even the observers (political junkies and journos) but this is often forgotten. Conflicts between the interests of candidates vs parties vs voters are significant.

With politics the most important thing for the parties is to win but for the public it is to get the best, most responsive representation and to get the government that most possible people want. Also to get the best possible government that is stable.

I say all this because the key issue with PR is a question of interests and the priority of outcomes. Some think that the most important thing is to have a stable government. Others, that the government is representative proportionally to what the people want. Others that there be a tighter relationship between individual candidates and the voters. Ranking the priorities changes which system is desirable. This is where the analogy to hockey falls down. With hockey generally winning, teams making profits and viewers enjoying the game rarely cause a conflict as they are agreed priorities. But in politics, the conflict between stable government, the interests of parties, candidates and voters are yet to find any kind of common ground. In fact, different voters have different types of political priorities beyond their political choices.

All this explains the problem with simple sports analogies as interesting as they may be.


mark_alfred
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Hey Sean, good to see you.


JKR
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Rev Pesky wrote:

As long as we don't appoint Gary Bettman as the Chief Electoral Officer...

He would move all the ridings to the southern States. The Conservatives would love having ridings in places like Arizona, Texas, Alabama, and Utah.


Mr. Magoo
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Hey!  You've been gone nearly as long as it takes to make a whole new human from scratch!

Anyway, my only quibble:  how can we differentiate between a party that only wants power for power's sake, and a party that wants to be the party that the electorate wants to take power?

In other words, what's the difference between "We want to take power" and "we want the electorate to choose us" -- given that if the electorate does choose you, you take power.


Sean in Ottawa
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Mr. Magoo wrote:

Hey!  You've been gone nearly as long as it takes to make a whole new human from scratch!

Anyway, my only quibble:  how can we differentiate between a party that only wants power for power's sake, and a party that wants to be the party that the electorate wants to take power?

In other words, what's the difference between "We want to take power" and "we want the electorate to choose us" -- given that if the electorate does choose you, you take power.

Well I have not been making any humans in my spare time ;-)

I don't think there is a difference -- the party's interest is short and long term power and money to preserve it.

I like to think that some individuals also have an interest inproviding the best government for the people but I don't see how that translates to a party unfortunately even if the party in theory has a majority of candidates who want to do what is best.

I tried to list some conflicting interests. I am not sure where I said that this distinction can be made -- that was not intended. From my point of view the party interest is often in the way of the correct direction.


JKR
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Mr. Magoo wrote:

I also don't think that if (say) MMP gets adopted, the STV purists will go gentle into that good night.

I also think that as long as we have FPTP, politicians from 3rd parties like the NDP and Greens will continue to support electoral reform and they are not about to go gently into that good night either.


JKR
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Mr. Magoo wrote:

Anyway, my only quibble:  how can we differentiate between a party that only wants power for power's sake, and a party that wants to be the party that the electorate wants to take power?

In other words, what's the difference between "We want to take power" and "we want the electorate to choose us" -- given that if the electorate does choose you, you take power.

I don't think there is a majour problem with this differentiation as long as the government is supported by a majority of the voters. FPTP does not meet this basic requirement.


Sean in Ottawa
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JKR wrote:
Mr. Magoo wrote:

Anyway, my only quibble:  how can we differentiate between a party that only wants power for power's sake, and a party that wants to be the party that the electorate wants to take power?

In other words, what's the difference between "We want to take power" and "we want the electorate to choose us" -- given that if the electorate does choose you, you take power.

I don't think there is a majour problem with this differentiation as long as the government is supported by a majority of the voters. FPTP does not meet this basic requirement.

I agree because the motivation of the party is secondary to the purpose of the representation. The greater concerns lie in finding some agreement on the form of representation. There is a lot to unpack given that we have different views on how best representatives can be accountable. Many who would agree with me think that having majority support for a party is essential. Others are more concerned with the tight relationship between a small geographical area and their MP. Some who think majority support is essential do not stop there and expect rough proportions in party representation. I agree with this.

Interestingly we also have differences between advocates of referenda and those who believe that they should be used sparingly. I agree with the later because we need short-term accountability for how a program fits together and long-term accountability for it over time. This is the value of representative democracy – their job is not just to get short term agreement with the population but to ensure that their name is attached to decisions that are viewed in context over time. Secret ballot referenda do not have any accountability or responsibility that decisions do not contradict one another or that they work over time.

Of course electoral reform has two avenues: the first is the requirement that a government get binary support from the population through some kind of run-off until there is a majority support. This fulfills the requirement of majority support and is certainly better than what we have now. However, the second avenue is the requirement that the general views as sorted into parties be representative of what the voters voted in the proportions they voted. This of course is PR – the total share of the vote equals the share of parliament each party controls – understanding some approximation and imperfection due to rounding, constituency sizes etc.

As we have discussed some parties gain more in a system of runoff and stand to be over-represented. This is where the interest of a party comes into play and supporters of a particular system would be sorely tempted (at least) to want to choose a system that would help their party rather than choose what might otherwise be best. My warning to them is that the configuration of parties evolves whereas these systems are there for the long term. Right now a run-off system appears to help the Liberals and might keep extreme right positions out of government. Should the Conservative party split and have stalking horses to the right of them, we could find ourselves with a system that optimizes the right wing vote and through coalitions puts right wing parties, so extreme that they presently do not exist in FPTP, into government.

While extreme parties could possibly participate in power in a representative system, this is less likely as the more mainstream left and right parties are proportional to the actual voting. The amplifications of a runoff system increase the danger in my view of an exaggerated number of extreme candidates getting into government as people make strategic ranking decisions.

 


Rev Pesky
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Sean in Ottawa wrote:
...This of course is PR – the total share of the vote equals the share of parliament each party controls – understanding some approximation and imperfection due to rounding, constituency sizes etc.

What would be the point of constituencies in a pure PR votiing system?


Sean in Ottawa
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Rev Pesky wrote:

Sean in Ottawa wrote:
...This of course is PR – the total share of the vote equals the share of parliament each party controls – understanding some approximation and imperfection due to rounding, constituency sizes etc.

What would be the point of constituencies in a pure PR votiing system?

Direct connection to local people and concerns. Advocacy of a geographic community. Greater connection understood by the people locally.

I have agreed that this is important and a useful part of the political process, however, I do not agree that it is impossible to construct a local connection inside of a PR system.

A combination could look like:

1) People run locally as they do in FPTP. We total the vote nationally and calculate the proportions of vote and how many seats each party will get. Then they would get their top performances up to that number -- in a three way race there would need to be rules for a handful of conflicts to determine which but this is possible.

2) Super-sized constituencies where there is more than one party winning in each area based on vote proportions (discussed here a lot).

We can combine FPTP with PR in the following ways:

1) Additional non constituency members as have been discussed here often.

2) A complicated mechanism where regional votes are decided by FPTP representation but for national non-regionalized votes these get weighted according to the party's vote proportions so that a party that has 60% of the seats but only got 40% of the vote would have their votes adjusted accordingly so that they take a proportional weight. The problem with this is the complication but in a mixed system you could have this reserved for key votes and confidence measures like national budgets which would force greater cooperation down the line.

There are many lists models that can ensure that the representatives of each party also represent where that vote came from while still being in proportion to the total vote.

Like many things, what might be better in some respects may also be more complicated. It does not mean that we should not do it but that the design is important and should be done carefully.


redream
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Mr. Magoo wrote:

Just for fun, a hockey metaphor.

Quote:

"Who should win the Stanley Cup? The team that wins the most games or the team that scores the most goals over seven games?" asked Kenneth Carty, professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia, presenting a question he used to give to his students.

Illustrating a democratic system's aspirations using a sports metaphor is inaccurate and should be dropped.

Sports are zero-sum, winner take all events, after which the champions/gold medallists are not charged with taking on government responsibilities. The aftermath of sporting events are generally quite inconsequential. Yes, a sporting event can become politicized and highly charged with symbolism, but that is quite separate from the sport competition itself.

The goal of representative democracy is to give an entire population the best possible representation in a government that will make decisions that affect lives and livelihoods. Are we to demean the political views and choices of people by saying they are analogous to a set of straight parallel lines on a track, or to how a muffin-sized disk of vulcanized tropical tree sap is knocked around?

An election is not akin to a 100 metre dash, for example. Say 3 parties are running in a district, and they place with 35%, 34% and 31% of the vote. The first-place candidate has not won the 100m race, but rather, it's more like the electorate has taken a single lane and cut it into 35m, 34m, and 31m portions to be managed among the candidates. Is the first place finisher entitled to how the whole 100m strip is managed until the next race?

The “fuel” of a sporting victory is the athleticism and teamwork of athletes.

The “fuel” of an electoral victory is the trust handed over by a myriad of diverse voters to candidates to make decisions that will affect real lives for the next four or so years. One cannot even begin to say a sporting event and a choice in government are similar in complexity and consequence.


JKR
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Sean in Ottawa wrote:

JKR wrote:
Mr. Magoo wrote:

Anyway, my only quibble:  how can we differentiate between a party that only wants power for power's sake, and a party that wants to be the party that the electorate wants to take power?

In other words, what's the difference between "We want to take power" and "we want the electorate to choose us" -- given that if the electorate does choose you, you take power.

I don't think there is a majour problem with this differentiation as long as the government is supported by a majority of the voters. FPTP does not meet this basic requirement.

I agree because the motivation of the party is secondary to the purpose of the representation. The greater concerns lie in finding some agreement on the form of representation. There is a lot to unpack given that we have different views on how best representatives can be accountable. Many who would agree with me think that having majority support for a party is essential. Others are more concerned with the tight relationship between a small geographical area and their MP. Some who think majority support is essential do not stop there and expect rough proportions in party representation. I agree with this.

Interestingly we also have differences between advocates of referenda and those who believe that they should be used sparingly. I agree with the later because we need short-term accountability for how a program fits together and long-term accountability for it over time. This is the value of representative democracy – their job is not just to get short term agreement with the population but to ensure that their name is attached to decisions that are viewed in context over time. Secret ballot referenda do not have any accountability or responsibility that decisions do not contradict one another or that they work over time.

Of course electoral reform has two avenues: the first is the requirement that a government get binary support from the population through some kind of run-off until there is a majority support. This fulfills the requirement of majority support and is certainly better than what we have now. However, the second avenue is the requirement that the general views as sorted into parties be representative of what the voters voted in the proportions they voted. This of course is PR – the total share of the vote equals the share of parliament each party controls – understanding some approximation and imperfection due to rounding, constituency sizes etc.

As we have discussed some parties gain more in a system of runoff and stand to be over-represented. This is where the interest of a party comes into play and supporters of a particular system would be sorely tempted (at least) to want to choose a system that would help their party rather than choose what might otherwise be best. My warning to them is that the configuration of parties evolves whereas these systems are there for the long term. Right now a run-off system appears to help the Liberals and might keep extreme right positions out of government. Should the Conservative party split and have stalking horses to the right of them, we could find ourselves with a system that optimizes the right wing vote and through coalitions puts right wing parties, so extreme that they presently do not exist in FPTP, into government.

While extreme parties could possibly participate in power in a representative system, this is less likely as the more mainstream left and right parties are proportional to the actual voting. The amplifications of a runoff system increase the danger in my view of an exaggerated number of extreme candidates getting into government as people make strategic ranking decisions.

 

I very much doubt the Liberals are foolish enough to try to legislate instant runoff voting over the objections of all the other political parties. This is especially so since the Liberals make up just a minority on the all-party committee. The Conservatives are likely going to stick with FPTP no matter what happens so the Liberals will probably end up striking a deal with the NDP and Greens on some kind of semi-proportional system that may include preferential voting. My guess is that the committee will support some kind of MMP system. The committee might also recommend a reference to the Supreme Court. I think the Conservatives genuinely think that instant runoff voting is the fairest system but they are not supporting it because they know it would set back their election prospects for at least a decade as their party would likely have to split up in order to make the right side of the political spectrum competitive again. Under MMP their party may also split up again.


Rev Pesky
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Sean in Ottawa wrote:

Rev Pesky wrote:
...What would be the point of constituencies in a pure PR votiing system?

Direct connection to local people and concerns. Advocacy of a geographic community. Greater connection understood by the people locally.

I have agreed that this is important and a useful part of the political process, however, I do not agree that it is impossible to construct a local connection inside of a PR system.

I didn't say it was impossible, I asked what was the point. The reason I asked was that PR supporters go on and on about every vote counting. Then, when faced with the reality of what pure PR voting means, they back up and introduce some way of making the system less proprotional.

It is the case that around the world there is no country with a purely porportional system. Not only that, but many of the PR voting countries are constantly juggling the system to repair faults.

If there's too many small parties, they raise the minimum percentage of vote to eliminate that problem. But that makes the system less proportional. To counter the problem of local representation in a pure PR system, they introduce MMP, which again, lessens the proprotionality of the outcome. When a party in a MMP system gets too many seats via the FPTP portion of the vote, they change the size of the legislature.

In fact, there are no two countries that have the same PR system. They're all different, and they're all changing more or less constantly.

Whenever I bring up the problems PR voting causes, the PR supporters have an automatic answer. They change the character of the PR system to solve the problem. An ever changing set of goalposts, which they wish to inflict on us. I'll just point out that we have only one elected federal body, that is the House of Commons. You can't have different electoral systems for one parliamentary body. You can have only one system.

Propose your system, then let's deal with the possible problems.

Meanwhile, there is a clear 'democratic deficit' in this country. That is, the Senate. You can have the most proportional parliament possible, but you still have the un-elected Senate to deal with, but apparently that doesn't bother PR supporters.


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