Proportional Representation part 3

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JKR

Mr. Magoo wrote:

You really, really need to tell people in concrete terms what they're voting for or against.  That means actually saying the names of the systems.

I think most people have very little idea about and don't care about voting systems like "single-member plurality," "single transferable vote," "mixed-member proportional," the "alternative vote," etc... Asking most people whether they prefer "single-member plurality" over "mixed-member proportional" is very unlikely to get a qualified response. I think to be meaningful, a referendum question would have to be clearly understood by the voters. I think it is almost impossible to have a meaningful referendum on unfamiliar electoral systems. I think we are lucky that we have given the responsibility of making complicated decisions to people who are in a better position to make them such as our elected representatives and bureaucrats. I think it's a good thing that our elected representatives have the resources and time to be able to study and deliberate on complicated issues that we simply do not have the time, energy, or inclination for. So I think the all-party committee will be able to come up with a consensus choice on electoral reform that will be approved of by the House of Commons by political parties representing a clear majority of the voters.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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I think most people have very little idea about and don't care about voting systems like "single-member plurality," "single transferable vote," "mixed-member proportional," the "alternative vote," etc... Asking most people whether they prefer "single-member plurality" over "mixed-member proportional" is very unlikely to get a qualified response.

If they cannot reasonably be expected to understand it -- even as they know all the rules to Skyrim, and follow all the plotlines of ame of Thrones, and can follow a CFL game -- then what makes it OK for those of us who do understand it to simply impose our choice on them?

ed'd to add:  please don't say "Daddy knows best".

JKR

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Quote:
I think most people have very little idea about and don't care about voting systems like "single-member plurality," "single transferable vote," "mixed-member proportional," the "alternative vote," etc... Asking most people whether they prefer "single-member plurality" over "mixed-member proportional" is very unlikely to get a qualified response.

If they cannot reasonably be expected to understand it -- even as they know all the rules to Skyrim, and follow all the plotlines of ame of Thrones, and can follow a CFL game -- then what makes it OK for those of us who do understand it to simply impose our choice on them?

ed'd to add:  please don't say "Daddy knows best".

LOL

I think because we have a system of responsible government, the ones in position to decide this issue are our elected representatives. I think since we are a constitutional monarchy our Supreme Court would also be correct in ruling that FPTP is not sufficiently democratic for our multi-party system.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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I think because we have a system of responsible government,

We do?

I thought they were the problem that a new electoral model is intended to fix.

Can you elaborate on this responsible government?

JKR

Mr. Magoo wrote:

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I think because we have a system of responsible government,

We do?

I thought they were the problem that a new electoral model is intended to fix.

Can you elaborate on this responsible government?

I think electoral reform is meant to improve our system of responsible government through making it more democratic; not replace it.

I think responsible government is one where a government has to maintain the confidence of the democratically elected legislature that appointed it. In this system when a legislature loses confidence in the government it either chooses a new government or new elections take place that establish a new legislature that then chooses a new government. The key to this system of government is that responsibility for decisions are clearly linked to the persons who make them and these persons are responsible for and held accountable for their decisions. This whole system depends on the electoral system being democratic. Unfortunately FPTP becomes less democratic when more than two parties become viable in a legislature. The solution to this problem is either electoral reform or having fewer parties run against each other.

Rev Pesky

Mr. Magoo wrote:

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I think because we have a system of responsible government,

We do?

I thought they were the problem that a new electoral model is intended to fix.

Can you elaborate on this responsible government?

You're wasting your time trying to pin down PR supporters. They're very clear what they're against, but have no desire to defend what they're for

So they dodge and weave, if some aspect of one system is shown to be faulty, they just jump over to anther system, and proclaim they have fixed the problem.

Even JKR, who is fervent supporter of PR cannot state clearly what his ideal system is.

Then there's the old 'FPTP is totally undemocratic', but apparently democratic enough to choose a different voting system. Then there's the committee itself, with one of the twelve members being Elizabeth May. So a member of a party with 1/338th of the elected members gets to be 1/12 of the committee. Tell me that's democratic.

As I've pointed out, if we're going to open up the voting system, there are literally hundreds of changes that could be made, but PR supporters are completely fixated on the proportionality of the parties in the House of Commons. Anything beyond that is out of the question.

Yet at the same time, they cannot, and will not, commit to a single voting system.

Sean in Ottawa

Rev Pesky wrote:

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Quote:
I think because we have a system of responsible government,

We do?

I thought they were the problem that a new electoral model is intended to fix.

Can you elaborate on this responsible government?

You're wasting your time trying to pin down PR supporters. They're very clear what they're against, but have no desire to defend what they're for

So they dodge and weave, if some aspect of one system is shown to be faulty, they just jump over to anther system, and proclaim they have fixed the problem.

Even JKR, who is fervent supporter of PR cannot state clearly what his ideal system is.

Then there's the old 'FPTP is totally undemocratic', but apparently democratic enough to choose a different voting system. Then there's the committee itself, with one of the twelve members being Elizabeth May. So a member of a party with 1/338th of the elected members gets to be 1/12 of the committee. Tell me that's democratic.

As I've pointed out, if we're going to open up the voting system, there are literally hundreds of changes that could be made, but PR supporters are completely fixated on the proportionality of the parties in the House of Commons. Anything beyond that is out of the question.

Yet at the same time, they cannot, and will not, commit to a single voting system.

Directing comments against the people rather than the topic is a sure way of convincing people that you really have nothing to support what you are saying.

And being unable to tell the difference between sweeping absolute statements about people and statements about the actual topic, is unfortunate.

 

JKR

Rev Pesky wrote:

Even JKR, who is fervent supporter of PR cannot state clearly what his ideal system is.

My preference would be STV but I would be happy with most any form of MMP or Dion's P3 system. I also think that AV would be an improvement over FPTP but I prefer the more proportional systems. I prefer all these systems over FPTP because they have been established for multi-party politics.

The reason my ideal system is STV is because it's proportionality goes beyond that of just political parties. The only difficulty with STV at the federal level is that some STV ridings would have to have fewer than 5 members but I think that would be an acceptable trade-off.

Michael Moriarity Michael Moriarity's picture

JKR wrote:
Rev Pesky wrote:

Even JKR, who is fervent supporter of PR cannot state clearly what his ideal system is.

My preference would be STV but I would be happy with most any form of MMP or Dion's P3 system. I also think that AV would be an improvement over FPTP but I prefer the more proportional systems. I prefer all these systems over FPTP because they have been established for multi-party politics.

The reason my ideal system is STV is because it's proportionality goes beyond that of just political parties. The only difficulty with STV at the federal level is that some STV ridings would have to have fewer than 5 members but I think that would be an acceptable trade-off.

I agree with JKR on this, so that's at least 2 exceptions to the Rev's unfounded generalization.

mark_alfred

I prefer MMP over STV because it strives to proportionally represent voters' first choices rather than partially justifying its claim to proportionality upon some voters' 2nd or 3rd or beyond choices.  Seems to me that it's best to go for a system that strives to better recognize the first votes of people. 

FPTP is a miserable failure in this in that very often the proportion of votes a party gets and the number of seats it receives are wildly (laughably, even) so far off that it's just sad.  So sure, STV would be better than this (or even P3) but I still feel MMP accomplishes this better. 

The trade off is that you also want representatives who are local (IE, you want MPs who have sufficient support locally to represent a riding or a district).   So setting the threshold to 0.3 percent (IE, 1/338) for a member of a party to win a seat would not ensure significant local support to justify the MP's existence in a riding or district, I feel.  Conversersely, setting the threshold as high as 16.7% (within a 5 member riding, as P3 does) is far too high a threshold.  The idea is to balance the goal of having respected local representives with having election results that better reflect the votes cast.

And I'm not sure why some people are buying into the populist Reform-Partyish red herring of requiring direct democracy to make this electoral reform valid.  Referendums are generally only for serious constitutional matters rather than mundane issues like democratic reform.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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And I'm not sure why some people are buying into the populist Reform-Partyish red herring of requiring direct democracy to make this electoral reform valid.  Referendums are generally only for serious constitutional matters rather than mundane issues like democratic reform.

Like I wrote:
Wife:  why the hell did you order ANCHOVIES on our pizza??

Husband:  because the last four times I asked you if you like anchovies you said no.

 

JKR

An MMP system could be constructed to be similar to STV. If an MMP system used preferential voting instead of FPTP and the best runners-up approach to select list members, it would be similar to STV. I would be very happy with that kind of system. It would solve the problem of ridings being too large under STV. It would also be easy to make it proportional.

JKR

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Quote:
And I'm not sure why some people are buying into the populist Reform-Partyish red herring of requiring direct democracy to make this electoral reform valid.  Referendums are generally only for serious constitutional matters rather than mundane issues like democratic reform.

Like I wrote:
Wife:  why the hell did you order ANCHOVIES on our pizza??

Husband:  because the last four times I asked you if you like anchovies you said no.

 

Luckily most people ordering pizza know what anchovies are. I think it is safe to say that people are much more familiar with anchovies than they are familiar with FPTP, SMP, MMP, STV, AV, IRV, etc.... A lot of people during the referendum here in BC even confused STV with STD. They thought we were voting on some kind of new public health policy. I wonder if anchovies could help with STD's? Maybe that's one reason this husband insisted on getting anchovies?

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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A lot of people during the referendum here in BC even confused STV for STD. They thought we were voting on some kind of new public health policy.

Really? 

The question that was asked in BC was "Should British Columbia change to the BC-STV electoral system as recommended by the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform?"

The phrases "electoral system" and "Electoral Reform" weren't clues that this wasn't about the clap?

Anyway, you're totally missing the point of the pizza example.  When someone tells you four times that they don't want something then it's dishonest to force it on them the fifth time.

Had there never been the four referendums -- or if any of them had resulted in a yes vote -- then perhaps it would be reasonable to just go ahead, but given that wasn't the case, I think a referendum is entirely appropriate.  There's simply no specific reason to believe that PR is what a majority of Canadians want -- the failed referendums certainly don't suggest they do, and the 39.5% who voted for Trudeau's "sunny ways" really aren't compelling either.

JKR

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Quote:
A lot of people during the referendum here in BC even confused STV for STD. They thought we were voting on some kind of new public health policy.

Really? 

The question that was asked in BC was "Should British Columbia change to the BC-STV electoral system as recommended by the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform?"

The phrases "electoral system" and "Electoral Reform" weren't clues that this wasn't about the clap?

Anyway, you're totally missing the point of the pizza example.  When someone tells you four times that they don't want something then it's dishonest to force it on them the fifth time.

Had there never been the four referendums -- or if any of them had resulted in a yes vote -- then perhaps it would be reasonable to just go ahead, but given that wasn't the case, I think a referendum is entirely appropriate.  There's simply no specific reason to believe that PR is what a majority of Canadians want -- the failed referendums certainly don't suggest they do, and the 39.5% who voted for Trudeau's "sunny ways" really aren't compelling either.

I think the referendums were established by governments that did not want electoral reform. These governments used referendums as a way to simultaneously respond to the growing support for electoral reform and as a way to defeat electoral reform for a generation or longer. I think if governments continue to have referendums on the obscure topic of electoral reform people will continue to stick with what they know in the face of stronger disinformation campaigns. This is especially true because the Conservatives are prepared to initiate a huge disinformation referendum campaign in order to maintain FPTP. It would be very easy for the Conservatives to do this because most people have very little understanding of electoral systems. It would make more sense for the government not to waste people's time on the issue of electoral reform than have a referendum that is most likely to spread disinformation and division. I think if we can't go ahead with electoral reform without a referendum it would make sense for the Liberal government to just say that they will have to stick with our unfair FPTP system because the Conservatives are adamant on keeping their unfair advantage under it. I think a referendum on electoral reform would be divisive and likely won by the side who can tell the better lies. In this case my money would be on the Conservatives.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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I think the referendums were established by governments that did not want electoral reform. These governments used referendums as a way to simultaneously respond to the growing support for electoral reform and as a way to defeat electoral reform for a generation or longer.

That's pretty nervy on their part... holding a referendum on something because they know it's popular.

Quote:
I think if governments continue to have referendums on the obscure topic of electoral reform people will continue to stick with what they know in the face of stronger disinformation campaigns.

Let's parse that.  You seem to be saying that people will stick with what they know (FPTP) in the face of stronger disinformation campaigns.

Is that what you meant to say?

Quote:
It would be very easy for the Conservatives to do this because most people have very little understanding of electoral systems.

This trope is getting very old.  If the electorate doesn't understand the basics of MMP or STV or whatever, it's because they don't really care.  They're not interested.  They're OK with what we've got.  And whether you or I agree with them, those are all perfectly valid opinions.  There's no need to tell me that they're misguided, or foolish, or uninformed -- they're still valid in the same way that voting for the candidate with the best hair is valid.

Quote:
I think if we can't go ahead with electoral reform without a referendum it would make sense for the Liberal government to just say that they will have to stick with our unfair FPTP system

Because a referendum might inform us all of what the electorate actually does or doesn't want?  You're literally and honestly saying that if we have to consult the people then we may as well not even bother consulting the people??

mark_alfred

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This trope is getting very old.  If the electorate doesn't understand the basics of MMP or STV or whatever, it's because they don't really care.  They're not interested.  They're OK with what we've got.

But that doesn't justify having a poor electoral system wherein very often the proportion of votes a party gets and the number of seats it receives are wildly (laughably, even) so far off that it's just sad.  The mandate of striving for peace order and good government should not be frustrated by apathy, as you seem to imply it should.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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The mandate of striving for peace order and good government should not be frustrated by apathy, as you seem to imply it should.

Earlier I suggested that if there is to be a referendum, that it NOT piggyback on an entirely different election, my idea being that the referendum is best served by those who have a genuine opinion (whichever it is) than by someone who's only now looking at an additional question on their ballot and saying "what the hell is this?  I'll just go with the evil I know."

So I'm not suggesting that apathy should win the day.

But if a majority of Canadians don't want to change systems, I think they have a right to that opinion, even as I disagree with it.

mark_alfred

We'll have to agree to disagree.  I see no need for a referendum.  I don't buy into the idea that referendums are necessary to legitimize government legislation on any issue, including on mundane issues such as democratic reform.  The call for a need to legitimize government legislation via referendums (IE, direct democracy) is populist right wing politics, in my opinion.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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I don't buy into the idea that referendums are necessary to legitimize government legislation on any issue, including on mundane issues such as democratic reform.

Changing the very way we elect representatives, after 149 years, isn't mundane the way a plebescite about a new stop sign at Main and Elm is.  What makes this small potatotes?

Any thoughts on recall referendums?  I've seen a lot of folk at babble sing their praises.  But how could the average 60 IQ voter really know whether they're voting to oust an ineffective politician, or just voting because of the grumbles?

 

mark_alfred

Like I said, I'm not a fan of referendums.

JKR

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Quote:
I think the referendums were established by governments that did not want electoral reform. These governments used referendums as a way to simultaneously respond to the growing support for electoral reform and as a way to defeat electoral reform for a generation or longer.

That's pretty nervy on their part... holding a referendum on something because they know it's popular.

Quote:
I think if governments continue to have referendums on the obscure topic of electoral reform people will continue to stick with what they know in the face of stronger disinformation campaigns.

Let's parse that.  You seem to be saying that people will stick with what they know (FPTP) in the face of stronger disinformation campaigns.

Is that what you meant to say?

Quote:
It would be very easy for the Conservatives to do this because most people have very little understanding of electoral systems.

This trope is getting very old.  If the electorate doesn't understand the basics of MMP or STV or whatever, it's because they don't really care.  They're not interested.  They're OK with what we've got.  And whether you or I agree with them, those are all perfectly valid opinions.  There's no need to tell me that they're misguided, or foolish, or uninformed -- they're still valid in the same way that voting for the candidate with the best hair is valid.

Quote:
I think if we can't go ahead with electoral reform without a referendum it would make sense for the Liberal government to just say that they will have to stick with our unfair FPTP system

Because a referendum might inform us all of what the electorate actually does or doesn't want?  You're literally and honestly saying that if we have to consult the people then we may as well not even bother consulting the people??

I think an electoral system should be fair to minorities and minority opinions. I think it should be fair to smaller political parties like the NDP and Greens and also to the minority of voters that vote for parties like the NDP and Greens. I think political systems and their electoral systems should protect the rights of minorities. Having a referendum where the majority can override the rights of the minority seems undemocratic to me. I think politicians from the parties like the NDP and Greens have the right to an electoral system that treats them fairly. I hope the NDP and Green members in the all-party committee are succesful in establishing an electoral system that is fairer than our current system. I think that would be to the benefit of all Canadians, whether they be in the minority or majority.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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Having a referendum where the majority can override the rights of the minority seems undemocratic to me.

But an election, where the majority win over the minority is the goal we should be working toward?

JKR

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Quote:
Having a referendum where the majority can override the rights of the minority seems undemocratic to me.

But an election, where the majority win over the minority is the goal we should be working toward?

I think minority rights must be preserved whatever the results of an election may be.

mark_alfred

Quote:

I don't buy into the idea that referendums are necessary to legitimize government legislation on any issue, including on mundane issues such as democratic reform.

Changing the very way we elect representatives, after 149 years, isn't mundane the way a plebescite about a new stop sign at Main and Elm is.  What makes this small potatotes?

To my knowledge, nothing being proposed regarding PR, which involves proposals on altering the design of the ballots along with the redrawing of riding boundaries, is anything new.  Ballots have been redesigned before (IE, to include party names along with candidates) and redrawing riding boundaries has been done before.  Updating methodologies for the counting of ballots to obtain greater accuracy has no doubt been done before.  Updating rules for elections has certainly been done before.  All of this is small potatoes.  It is administrative changes to improve the efficiency of the vote count.  That is important, and should not be treated as something radical requiring a referendum.  Improving the efficiency of the vote count should be seen as a given for government to do.

Further, to my knowledge, nothing about this represents a constitutional change.  Elections being held at minimum every 5 years is in the constitution, so possibly a referendum on changing that might be useful, but that's the only thing that springs to mind that might qualify the use of a referendum (and changing that is not being proposed).  And something that wasn't small potatoes was including the vote of women.  There was not a referendum on this that I'm aware of, and that was certainly a significant change. 

mark_alfred

Quote:

Changing the way we elect representatives to give the people more power, and ensure that they are all represented in Parliament, doesn't seem to me to be undemocratic. After all, if at some future time the people want to give thenselves less power and return to government by the largest minority, they can.

But perhaps some are afraid that the voters won't want to do that.

Yes, exactly. 

Sean in Ottawa

Mundane? No. But that is not a test for referenda.

Yes, you can build an argument for a referendum on electoral reform and certainly it is an option but it is not essential.

Probably the most important issue is that it is reverseable. It is administrative and, in terms of fundamentals, it has to meeet a legal test. If somehow the process were not democratic then it could be challenged.

That said I think there are other tests. It is reasonable to expect that the party elected should have contained it in their program: they did. It is also reasonable to expect in this case that parties representing over 50% of voters in the last election be in favour. In this case not only were parties representing over 50% of the vote in favour, four out of five parties had it in their program and three of those campaigned on it. There is no lacking moral authority to proceed.

Arguably, the same things could have been said about the FTA in 1989. On the positive side, the government won a majority having campaigned on it. On the negative side parties campaigning against represented a majority of voters. All parties at the time campaigned on one side or other. The FTA was much less reversable than electoral reform which can be changed with little effect on later elections.

There is no constitutional requirement that elections be FPTP although there would be a requirement that they be to some fairness standard.

Since the population is widely aware of the issue now (although not individual proposals) and this could impact confidence in the process, there is the possibility of justifying a referendum, even though no other test seems to be compelling. I would not criticize a government for holding a referendum on this. However, I see no reason why they must.

I can think of one reason not to -- if they do not need to: If there is significant support probably it would win but it could even on winning expose regional differences that would be hard to justify if the vote were not needed.

I cannot stress enough that this is entirely reversible without significant side effects which is a key test for not needing referenda.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Quote:
It is reasonable to expect that the party elected should have contained it in their program: they did. It is also reasonable to expect in this case that parties representing over 50% of voters in the last election be in favour. In this case not only were parties representing over 50% of the vote in favour, four out of five parties had it in their program and three of those campaigned on it. There is no lacking moral authority to proceed.

I'm generally reluctant to just assume that if someone votes for a party, they unanimously agree with everything that party campaigned on.  But if this is a reasonable measure of the public's desire for something then it could make governance more efficient.

We can, for example, skip over any kind of consultation or debate on TPP, for example.  Both the Conservatives and the Liberals campaigned on it, and between them they received over 70% of the popular vote.  So really, Canadians were consulted on October 19 and the overwhelming majority said "Yes please!".

Same with lots of stuff.  A two-state solution, continued NATO participation... pretty much anything that the Libs and Cons agreed on.

mark_alfred

No one is arguing against consultation and debate. 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Like a referendum, they're both fine, but we don't really need them.

As I said, Canadians were consulted on October 19th. 

mark_alfred

My understanding is the idea of a referendum in this circumstance is to undermine proposed legislation of the government in the case of electoral reform.  Federally that's a step that's never been taken before.  Legislation generally requires consultation and debate, in the House of Commons, in Question Period, in committee (often involving testimony of experts and/or of interested parties), maybe in press scrums, etc.  Undermining the legislative process via the populist demand for "direct democracy" (IE, referendums) is a mistake, in my opinion.

Michael Moriarity Michael Moriarity's picture

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Quote:
It is reasonable to expect that the party elected should have contained it in their program: they did. It is also reasonable to expect in this case that parties representing over 50% of voters in the last election be in favour. In this case not only were parties representing over 50% of the vote in favour, four out of five parties had it in their program and three of those campaigned on it. There is no lacking moral authority to proceed.

I'm generally reluctant to just assume that if someone votes for a party, they unanimously agree with everything that party campaigned on.  But if this is a reasonable measure of the public's desire for something then it could make governance more efficient.

We can, for example, skip over any kind of consultation or debate on TPP, for example.  Both the Conservatives and the Liberals campaigned on it, and between them they received over 70% of the popular vote.  So really, Canadians were consulted on October 19 and the overwhelming majority said "Yes please!".

Same with lots of stuff.  A two-state solution, continued NATO participation... pretty much anything that the Libs and Cons agreed on.

Do you think we should have referendums on all these other matters, Magoo?

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

With regard to a two-state solution vs. a single state solution, I don't think that our government's opinion of the conditions in another country, or the remedy for them, are really on par with changing the system we use to elect our governments, but folk are certainly entitled to demand one anyway, if they wish.

As far as NATO goes, if the government has reasonable cause to believe that Canadians would like to withdraw from NATO (e.g. four previous referendums on the topic telling them so) then perhaps it might help to clairify, once and for all, what the electorate wants.  You in?

ed'd to add:  is it possible that THAT is why referendums are undemocratic and horrible?  Because once they clarify things, one of the two sides can no longer claim that Canadians agree with them, and they basically get to zip their lip for a few years?

I'm thinking that the only interesting thing about Schroedinger's Cat is that it's both alive and dead at the same time.  Otherwise it's just a cat, or a dead cat.

Sean in Ottawa

Mr. Magoo wrote:

We can, for example, skip over any kind of consultation or debate on TPP, for example.  Both the Conservatives and the Liberals campaigned on it, and between them they received over 70% of the popular vote.  So really, Canadians were consulted on October 19 and the overwhelming majority said "Yes please!".

I know it is fashionable to make up facts these days in politics but it is surpirsing in a place like this (where people pay attention and are willing and able to check things) that anyone would try such bald-faced fabrication.

The Liberals purposefully DID NOT campaign in favour of the TPP. In fact they did campaign on more debate and making sure Canadian interests were listened to. Unlike electoral reform which the Liberals campaigned on (saying this would be the last election under FPTP), the Liberals in fact refused to take a position for or against the TPP. The stated they were in favour of trade generally but promised an open debate.

https://www.liberal.ca/statement-by-liberal-party-of-canada-leader-justi...

In January the Liberals were reported as inching towards a favourable position.

"But Trudeau was careful not to oppose the pact itself, promising only that, as prime minister, he would hold a full debate in Parliament before making a final decision."

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/01/27/justin-trudeau-government...

It would be more helpful to have these debates without people making up facts to suggest ridiculous positions.

The suggestion that: "We can, for example, skip over any kind of consultation or debate on TPP, for example." based on what the Liberals campaigned on is ridiculous since a debate is the only thing they actually did promise -- and campaign on.

Doug Woodard

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Changing the very way we elect representatives, after 149 years, isn't mundane the way a plebescite about a new stop sign at Main and Elm is.  What makes this small potatotes?

Changing the way we elect representatives to give the people more power, and ensure that they are all represented in Parliament, doesn't seem to me to be undemocratic. After all, if at some future time the people want to give themselves less power and return to government by the largest minority, they can.

But perhaps some are afraid that the voters won't want to do that.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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The Liberals purposefully DID NOT campaign in favour of the TPP. In fact they did campaign on more debate and making sure Canadian interests were listened to.

I stand corrected then.

Are they in favour of it now, because Canadian interests were listened to? 

Sean in Ottawa

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Quote:
The Liberals purposefully DID NOT campaign in favour of the TPP. In fact they did campaign on more debate and making sure Canadian interests were listened to.

I stand corrected then.

Are they in favour of it now, because Canadian interests were listened to? 

I am not defending the government position or supporting the TPP.

I am not saying the Liberals have met the promise of either transparent debate or defending Canadian interests.

My point is only that this is what they promised.

It does look like they are quietly moving to the same position as the US with little debate or public discussion. However, they definitely did not campaign on or get any mandate for this.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership stands to remove trade barriers, widely expand free trade for Canada, and increase opportunities for our middle class and those working hard to join it.

Sounds like they were totally on the fence, though.  How could their pen be hovering over the dotted line when they're so uncertain?

Centrist

JKR wrote:

I think an electoral system should be fair to minorities and minority opinions. I think it should be fair to smaller political parties like the NDP and Greens and also to the minority of voters that vote for parties like the NDP and Greens. I think political systems and their electoral systems should protect the rights of minorities. Having a referendum where the majority can override the rights of the minority seems undemocratic to me.

We have to be consistent here though, no? The BC NDP has also promised electoral reform (likely MMP) for BC after they are elected in May, 2017. BUT... they will hold a referendum on same thereafter. Seems that it has now become established political convention in Canada to hold referendums on electoral reform (ON, BC, PEI). Certainly the BC NDP agrees with same.

Doug Woodard

Centrist wrote:

Seems that it has now become established political convention in Canada to hold referendums on electoral reform (ON, BC, PEI).

If practice makes the convention, we would have to say that it is the convention to hold a referendum requiring a 60% supermajority, with adequately informing the public. Is that really something we want to repeat?

Doug Woodard

The 2005 and 2009 Referenda on Voting System Change in British Columbia [with brief discussions of Ontario and PEI], by Dennis Pilon:

http://ojs.unbc.ca/index.php/cpsr/article/view/251/301

 

Sean in Ottawa

A very interesting point here. A difference might have been only whether it was campaigned on or not. When the government did not take a position (or a definitive position) a referendum may make more sense. As I remember the provincial government did not take a position. However, the argument of precedent has weight when it comes to legitimacy.

In the end there are general tests for referenda (such as if it is significant and nonreversible); there are legal requirements (if there is a law or constitutional requirement); and then there is general political legitimacy.

The first two do not meet the test when it comes to the kind of electoral reform we are looking at (in my view) but the latter is another story. I do not take a strong position as cases can be made on either side when it comes to legitimacy. I waver on this personally.

On the no-need side you could have agreement among political parties that have between them a significant majority mandate, the fact that these parties had it in their programs and platforms, and that it was raised during the campaign specifically.

On the need side you have the importance of public confidence in the process and this history of referenda including the results.

In holding a referendum you may bind a future government to holding one when otherwise they would not have had to when  possibly the policy ought to have been developed by experts  and representatives who have long-term political accountability.

I think there is a very strong case to be made when a previous referendum has failed on a similar question that you have to go back to the people to reverse it. This latter point may be the strongest argument in favour of a referendum on the present electoral reform proposal. I say this even though without this history I would think a referendum in this context would be completely unnecessary and divisive. I am not a fan of the process except when it is really required. However, I must respect the argument to hold such a vote when you seek to contradict (or come close to contradicting) a previously held public vote.

One could argue that you only need to hold a vote in the provinces that have previously held votes but we could not offer that level of consultation to some provinces without others. Those provinces could have, at the time, campaigned on and implemented a policy with respect to electoral reform in consultation with their oppositions but having picked this route, they may have created a compelling reason why Canadians will expect those who follow to use it despite it originally being unnecessary. The present government may already be bound to hold such a vote purely to obtain legitimacy. This is unfortunate.

As well, this track is a dangerous one as other referenda could be argued for based on this precedent. Whether it is best to try to put the genie back in the bottle or to live with the result is a difficult debate with respectable arguments on both sides.

Previously, we only considered referenda when it came to irreversible constitutional change.

Those governments that held the referenda in BC and Ontario, in my view, abdicated their responsibility by holding a referendum that was not required and they may have created a permanent change just by holding those votes. This change is a new test for referenda and a diminishing of the accountability of representative democracy. Ironically, if they had proceeded without one, at most, we would have had a reversible change. Those were gutless political decisions made by those governments to hand back a decision they would have been rightly expected to stand behind, for a secret ballot where nobody ever will have to defend the policy no matter what the impact is to the future.

Going forward we could end up increasingly governing by referenda, a development that would lead to less accountible, less coherent, less practical and more divisive governance. There are good reasons why we choose to support and elect a whole program rather than an à-la-carte mishmash of individual policies in a representative democracy. Parliament, when properly functionning, with individual votes on policies contained in a program should be enough, with the exception of irreversible constitutional change.

Ironically, now the entire Canadian constitution can be changed through an amending formula by the federal government and provinces without a vote, but electoral reform now may have a higher test unless we find a way to reverse the precedent.

Michael Moriarity Michael Moriarity's picture

I would suggest that the so-called referendum precedent be simply ignored. If the population doesn't like it, they can throw the bastards out, and elect a government that will reinstate FPTP.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Quote:
Previously, we only considered referenda when it came to irreversible constitutional change.

Seems that federally, we've held three referendums, only one of which was about constitutional change.  The others concerned prohibition and conscription.

Provincially there have been many, dealing with everything from sales tax to bridges to video lottery terminals.

Sean in Ottawa

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Quote:
Previously, we only considered referenda when it came to irreversible constitutional change.

Seems that federally, we've held three referendums, only one of which was about constitutional change.  The others concerned prohibition and conscription.

Provincially there have been many, dealing with everything from sales tax to bridges to video lottery terminals.

You are right good points.

We mostly forget the early ones since we only talk about what this generation faced. One of those was almost 75 years ago and the other over 100.

However, considering the history of referenda in Canada there is only one fair conclusion: apart from those for constitutional reasons like Charlottetown the main purpose is for a gutless government to not have to take responsibility for its mandate.

Like I said -- I am not a fan.

A number of these are very good illustrations of things a government rightly could have dealt with in parliament/legislature. Many more significant decisions are routinely made by parliaments/legislatures so importance is nothing to do with it. Political responsibility and fear of governments is.

Rev Pesky

The process in BC is an instructive one. Despite what Denis Pilon says, the government of the day did not try to subvert the process. In fact they did everything but just go ahead and institute the change without any kind of process at all. The one thing they did was put a 'greater than a majority' qualification on the outcome, and that is a qualification that is often used for making fundamental changes to a governing system.

The Citizen's Assembly was composed of self-selected persons who wanted electoral system change. They were given time and resources to come up with a plan. And that's where the whole thing went off the rails.

You can't find two different individuals who favour electoral reform, and favour the same system. So in the end, the Citizens Assembly endorsed the most ridiculous of the options, a hybrid sort of STV system they dubbed BC-STV. They couldn't explain the system to themselves, much less anybody else, but that's what they ended up going with.

The devil is in the details, as the old saying goes, and that's where the problems arise. To begin with, most people don't care what electoral system is used. A minority desire a PR voting system, and they become the driving force. The majority, who don't really care one way or the other, end up being driven by a small group of dedicated PR fans.

But then the PR supporters get together and try to find a system that satifies all of them, and they can't. That reality is reflected in this thread where it's easy to find those who want an end to FPTP, but very difficult to get them to commit to any particular system. That's precisely what happened in BC. And that's most likely what will happen with this federal committee.

It is also what has happened around the world. We know this because you can't find two countries that have the same PR voting system. They all have some variation of PR becuase they need to fix probems that arise in the actual use of PR. Each country then decides how they're going to fix the shortcomings, leading to a hodge-podge of systems that are all PR, but some variation thereof.

Forget the referendum on the voting system. Before you could have one, you'd have to identify which system it is that you're voting on. That might take twenty years, and in the end you'll have a proposed voting system as designed by a committee (BC-STV, or as we used to call it, WTF voting).

Or perhaps you could list on the ballot all of the possible PR systems, and ask people to choose one. How many different systems are there? a hundred? five hundred? Could be a large ballot. And of course the result would be a 'FPTP' result which would be unacceptable to the PR supporters. So I guess then we'd have to have a run-off, or rather several dozen run-offs, to decide which system meets with the approval of most of the population.

And I can guarantee you, that after all that, people would still be complaining that politicians don't listen and throw taxpayers money around with gay abandon.

Or to put it another way, if indeed, as the PR supporters would have it, the electorate is too stupid to be able to pick a voting system, why are they allowed to vote for a government?

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Quote:
But then the PR supporters get together and try to find a system that satifies all of them, and they can't. That reality is reflected in this thread where it's easy to find those who want an end to FPTP, but very difficult to get them to commit to any particular system. That's precisely what happened in BC.

In BC it was hardly surprising that the right-wing, and the "moneyed classes" weren't supportive of a PR system, but if I recall correctly, weren't there a number of prominent left-wing types who also chose to show their solidarity with the status quo and campaigned AGAINST the change?

I think that's probably the real reason for the proposal of a vague referendum question that doesn't actually specify a system by name.  No, not because an intelligent adult is going to think "STV" means a venereal disease, but because of the risk that a PR supporter who doesn't get their wish granted will similarly withold their support.

Rev Pesky

crickets...

Rev Pesky

Mr. Magoo wrote:
...In BC it was hardly surprising that the right-wing, and the "moneyed classes" weren't supportive of a PR system...

My memory tells me it wasn't that cut and dried. For instance, the Fraser Institute had an electoral reform conference which included a prominent right wing supporters of electoral reform in BC (Nick Loenen).

Here's a reply to Loenen's proposal for STV from Andrew Petter, Dean of Law at UVic. Note this took place in 2001, long before the actual referendum. This is available on the Fraser Institute's web site.

A response to Nick Loenen

Quote:
Let me say from the outset that I am substantially in agreement with Nick Loenen's analysis, particularly with respect to the failings of our current first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system.

...I agree with Nick that FPTP is fundamentally unfair and undermines legislative accountability. I also agree with him that the remedy lies in adopting an electoral system in which there is greater proportionality between citizens' voting preferences and electoral results.

Nick Loenen was a Socred MLA, and a board member of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, hardly left-wing.

Here we get to the crux of the problem with PR. From the same site as above:

Quote:
...Where I differ from Nick is in my choice of mechanism to achieve this result. He favours a single transferable vote (STV) system based upon multi-seat districts. I believe that such a system is a second-best solution in that it requires too great a loss of local representation to achieve too little a gain in proportionality.

As Nick himself concedes, STV produces "substantially proportional results" only with districts large enough to elect five or more MLAs, thereby severely compromising local representation. (Indeed true proportionality could only be guaranteed if there were one electoral district for the whole province). On the other hand, if local representation were fully protected through the maintenance of single member constituencies, STV would become indistinguishable from an "alternative voting" (AV) system and produce results that Nick acknowledges are "as disproportional as FPTP".

Quote:

Pardon me for highlighting the 'true proportionality' statement, but it just so happens to be almost exactly what I posted further upthread.

In any case, this conference on various aspects of political reform took place under the auspices of a very right-wing organization, and the only two speakers who addressed the electoral system directly were both favouring some form of PR.

As one would imagine, there were no left-wing speakers.

Sean in Ottawa

There are many ways to get to a more proportioanl system. This is not the fault of those who want one nor is it a problem with a more proportional system.

That said those who want a more proportional system will accept other models than their favorite before FPTP.

This debate here keeps coming down to something like this:

Let's assume the majority hate yellow and want one some shade of blue.

There is no authority to organize people into a choice so they all have different opinions. But they do want blue and most have individual preferences.

Then you get some people like in this threadspeaking like this: if they don't automatically agree on a shade or even if they don't have a strong preference of which shade of blue that means that they really don't want blue after all and they may as well stick with yellow.

So also what has been covered here many times --- the options are:

1) vote on the concept of PR rather than a particular varient and then narrow the many possibilities after

or

2) have an organized method to find a consensus on an acceptable option first

The fact that this is not there automatically, without any leadership authority, is not a problem with the idea it is merely an indication that there are many ways to do it and many preferences.

What we are getting is the suggestions that if this thing does ot start out specific and defind it is a bad idea and nobody wants it.

That is just false.

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