Stable Majority Goverments and Electoral Reform

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AppalledBC
Stable Majority Goverments and Electoral Reform

Since day one of the campaign, Harper and his gang have been consistently spining the message that a majority goverment for his party is good for us because it will provide stability.  Let’s take a closer look at that highly dubious proposition.  
First off, is a majority government in and of itself, no matter what party, necessarily a good thing?  Despite our parliamentary traditions, I think not.  Under our first past the post system, it obviously concentrates power  undemocratically in the hands of one party which may or may not  necessarily represent the full spectrum of Canadian citizenship. Discounting those who did not vote at all in the last election, for whatever reason, and given that three out of four people who did vote in the last election did not do so for the Harperites, Harper’s goverment, it would seem clear, did not represent the majority of Canadian citizens or necessarily their value when it assumed power in 2008.  That’s a very significant exclusion of direct representation for a large number of people -- and that’s not taking into consideration how many who did not vote might not have been supportive of the Harperites, a perspective about which we can only speculate.  So in and of itself a majority isn’t axiomatically a better form of goverment or a better form of democratic representation.
A similar question can be asked about stability.  Does a stable government in and of itself automatically yield “better” goverment - whatever that might be - or a more democratically responsive goverment?  One could argue that a stable goverment provides the ground  of power to get things done, to move legislation and implement policy.  But what if, say, two-thirds to three-quarters of Canadians disapprove of those policies and their legislative forms? Other than grass roots protests and political activism outside the system and perhaps, in limited ways, through the proxy of opposition parties can any sort of poltical objection be mounted.  The problem is, however, that these forms of democratic action, as self-satisfying  and sometimes effective as they might be, lack the efficacy that a voice in parliament would yield.   
Democracy is, as many have said, a very messy business.  We should rejoice in  that fact, not bemoan it,  as so many in the main line parties seem to do.  Real democracy involves real participatory work that needs to be embraced by us all.  From what I can see, the only formal remedy to speed up that full embrace is electoral reform based on proportional representation -- a form of broadbased democratic goverment well established around the world,  the only exceptions in the western world being  -- surprise, surprise -- the U.S., Canada, and Britain, this  last, however, gearing up for a move towards real proportioal representation soon.   Isn’t it about time that we begin gearing up too?
Take a look at what  Fair Vote Canada is trying to do: Fair vote Canada.

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Freedom 55

AppalledBC wrote:

the only formal remedy to speed up that full embrace is electoral reform based on proportional representation

 

How do we get there?

AppalledBC

Freedom 55, 

Here are some suggestions;

1) Establish a network of all the grassroots organizations across the country who have or would support proportional representation -- a sort of ACTION NETWORK focused on democratic reform.

 

2) Seek resources and - judiciously - support internationally.

 

3) Work the media assiduously in an effort to create a wide public discourse  about the issue.

 

4) Begin serious lobbying of the main line parties that might benefit from proportional representation.  (After this election, that may number two, not one.)

 

5) Lobby provincial parties that would benefit from proportional representation in their jurisdiction to bring them on board the NETWORK.

 

5) Consider legal options if necessary and possible.

 

AppalledBC

Freedom 55 

Let me add to my remarks above.  We should all probably have a good conversation about mandatory voting and the notion of a preferential ballot first.  The latter is very attractive as a fall-back position to proportional representation.  When one votes, one chooses a preferential order of candidates.  Political parties use this system, but it too has its problems.  Proportional still seems the fairest, most democratic method even if the results are messy and involve agreements and negotiations.  That's what democracy is all about, one could argue

ImprovingTomorrow ImprovingTomorrow's picture

The obstacle to improving our political system seems to be what Machiavelli was writing about when he said "Anyone who wants to change an established system can expect vociferous opposition from those doing well under the current system, and only lukewarm support from those that may do well after the change."  If you put the question of 'do we need change?' to voters, I'm confident we'd see electoral reform.  As long as any motion for change has to come from elected representatives, the chokehold Liberals and Conservatives have held on power virtually guarantees that neither of them will ever support electoral reform.  You cannot generally convince those who have a surfeit of power to relinquish it voluntarily.  In the unlikely event of an NDP majority, we might see some traction for fixing the system, but shy of that, the foxes are running the henhouse.  

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
  If you put the question of 'do we need change?' to voters, I'm confident we'd see electoral reform.

 

To the degree to which most of the electorate votes Lib or Con, and to the degree that the Cons and Libs have occupied 24 Sussex since Confederation, why do you suppose the electorate would prefer this? Aren't they, really among the lukewarm group?? Sure, in isolated pockets, some Libs or some Cons might benefit from PR, but I think they're clever enough to realize that overall, they won't really.

 

Also, in Ontario and BC, it WAS put to voters.

Northern Shoveler Northern Shoveler's picture

In BC it was voted on in a undemocratic referendum.  The majority of voters voted for change but fell below the artificial super majority required by the rigged law.  It is not only in places like Venezuela that democratic politicians can't resist stacking the decks in their favour before a vote.  

AppalledBC

That's why the strategies I suggest above might have a chance.  I do not believe for one minute that putting the question to the electorate or to the main line federal parties directly will change a thing without a lot of groundwork first  One needs to  exercise a variety of strategies sequentially or co-ordinated for maximum impact. With perhaps enough pressure, the public will could be changed and then the Main line parties could be confronted directly. 

Wonder whether any of the Party leaders have read The Prince. 

Snert Snert's picture

Personally, I don't really have a problem with supermajorities for big decisions like this, that have no built in time limit the way sitting governments do.

Anyway, what about Ontario?

ygtbk

Snert wrote:

Personally, I don't really have a problem with supermajorities for big decisions like this, that have no built in time limit the way sitting governments do.

Anyway, what about Ontario?

There's a good argument that changing the rules of the game requires a supermajority. Many countries have concluded that changing the constitution requires a supermajority. Although it's on the dry side, "The Calculus of Consent" (Buchanan & Tullock) goes through this in some detail.

remind remind's picture

Snert wrote:
Anyway, what about Ontario?

what about Ontario?

Given their past and current  majority inability to  think rationally, as evidenced by the election of Harris, then McGuinty, and now Rob Ford for Mayor, while srtill harping about Rae 20 years ago and who is now in another party...which I might add they vote for in the majority, or did...one might expect a little much from most Ontarians when one asks them to  do good things for themserlves by not voting against their best interests.

al-Qa'bong

Whenever I hear the word, "stability," I reach for my bomb shelter:

Quote:
The U.S. invasion and military occupation of Iran's neighbors is "stabilization." Iran's efforts to extend its influence to them are "destabilization," hence plainly illegitimate.

Such usage is routine. Thus the prominent foreign policy analyst James Chace was properly using the term "stability" in its technical sense when he explained that in order to achieve "stability" in Chile it was necessary to "destabilize" the country (by overthrowing the elected government of Salvador Allende and installing the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet). Other concerns about Iran are equally interesting to explore, but perhaps this is enough to reveal the guiding principles and their status in imperial culture. 


Noam Chomsky - Is the World too Big to Fail?

AppalledBC

What abour a referendum vis-a-vis a supermajority or a referendum that requires a supermajority, which is what? 80% 90%? I could live with that perhaps.  51% tellls us nothing. Again, one needs an informed citizentry for  that process to work, and, again, I think the groundwork is crucial for any kind of electoral trasnformation. That did not happen in Ontario or B.C.

Of courseal-Qa'bong, I'm questionng the very notion of "stability"  as a desirable.  It's an illusion if not a crass political ploy.

Northern Shoveler Northern Shoveler's picture

No one got to vote on our current FPTP system. Our voting system was given to us by way of the divinely anointed King.  He channeled the godhead for the British Law Lords and they sent the result to the colonists. It is called the BNA and is Canada's DNA.  

So Snert what do you propose as the percentage required for living citizens to overturn the system designed by a bunch of dead white guys in Westminster?  Being a firm believer in democracy I think that a simple majority of the people should decide the voting system for our House of Commons or Legislatures.  I believe that is called democracy.  I trust the public's wisdom and don't feel the need to give the status quo any advantage.  

George Victor

remind wrote:

Snert wrote:
Anyway, what about Ontario?

what about Ontario?

Given their past and current  majority inability to  think rationally, as evidenced by the election of Harris, then McGuinty, and now Rob Ford for Mayor, while srtill harping about Rae 20 years ago and who is now in another party...which I might add they vote for in the majority, or did...one might expect a little much from most Ontarians when one asks them to  do good things for themserlves by not voting against their best interests.

 

You have us down to a 'T', remind. Smile

But we elected Rae on the eve of the "second worst" recession since the Big One (we are now struggling to stay employed in the The Great Recession).  Folks run scared and look for change. It's called survival instinct.  Unfortunately, one has to play some sort of big game with big money, or they take their marbles and play with people even more frightened, somewhere else. The employed know this, and this time around I think that some know that Jack knows this. The media can't deny his competence.

My "vote yes for MMP" T-shirt hangs in the closet where it's resided since the end of the Ontario campaign four years back. I might live long enough ( we identified as "old guys for MMP") to bring it out again should the prospects for employment in Ontario again look a little brighter.  In the meantime, solidarity with the workers of B.C.

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
So Snert what do you propose as the percentage required for living citizens to overturn the system designed by a bunch of dead white guys in Westminster?
 

As I said, I don't have any quarrel with 60%. That seems a sufficient margin to be certain that we've captured the people's will. 

Anyway, here in Ontario any supermajority was a moot point. We got up to 37% in favour of a change, with 5 of 107 ridings voting Yes to MMP. We could have set the bar to a ridiculous 40% and we still wouldn't have got there.

 edited to add:  I wasn't aware of the SECOND referendum in BC.  Evidently the support went from 57.7% in the first referendum to about 39%.

So I guess everyone that was hungry for change just moved away?  Died?  Sold their vote??  What? 

I'm going to suggest that the 60% supermajority was clearly a good idea.  Without it, the entire electoral system would have been overhauled to a system that the second referendum demonstrates was not what the electorate wants. 

Jacob Richter

[url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parliament_of_Italy#Chamber_of_Deputies[/url]

Quote:
The present electoral system, approved on December 14, 2005, is based on party-list representation with a series of thresholds to encourage parties to form coalitions. It replaced an Additional Member electoral system which had been introduced in the 1990s.

The block voting system is nationwide-based for the House, and regional-based for the Senate. Italy is divided into a certain number of districts for the Chamber of Deputies, whereas each Region elects its senators. Each district is assigned a number of seats proportionate to its total of the population of Italy. The winning coalition receives at least 55% of the seats on national level in the House, and on regional level in the Senate, while the remaining seats are proportionally divided between minoritarian parties. For the House, seats won by each party are then allocated at district level to decide the elected candidates. Candidates on the lists are ranked in order of priority, so if a party wins for example ten seats, the first ten candidates on its list receive seats in parliament.

The law officially recognizes coalitions of parties: to be part of a coalition, a party must sign its official program and indicate its support for the coalition's candidate to the prime-ministership.

Chamber of Deputies

For the Chamber of Deputies, Italy is divided into 26 constituencies: Lombardy has three constituencies, Piedmont, Veneto, Latium, Campania, and Sicily each have two, and all other regions have one. These constituencies jointly elect 617 MPs. Another one is elected in Aosta Valley and 12 are elected by a constituency consisting of Italians living abroad.

Seats are allocated among the parties that pass thresholds of the total vote on a national basis:

Minimum 10% for a coalition. If this requirement is not met, the 4% limit for single parties apply.

Minimum 4% for any party not in a coalition.

Minimum 2% for any party in a coalition, except that the first party below 2% in a coalition does receive seats.

Also, parties representing regional linguistic minorities obtain seats if they receive at least 20% of the ballots in their constituency.

In order to guarantee a working majority, a coalition or party which obtains a plurality of the vote, but less than 340 seats, is assigned additional seats to reach that number, corresponding roughly to a 54% majority.

Inside each coalition, seats are divided between parties with a D'Hondt method, and consequently assigned to each constituency to elect single candidates.

Senate of the Republic

For the Senate, the constituencies correspond to the 20 regions of Italy, with 6 senators allocated for Italians living abroad. The electoral system is very similar to the one for the lower house, but is in many ways transferred to regional basis. The thresholds are also different, and applied on a regional basis:

Minimum 20% for a coalition.

Minimum 8% for any party not in a coalition.

Minimum 3% for any party in a coalition (there is no exception for the first party in a coalition below this threshold, unlike the lower house).

The coalition that wins a plurality in a region is automatically given 55% of the region's seats, if it has not reached that percentage already. As this mechanism is region-based, however, and opposing parties or coalitions may benefit from it in different regions, it guarantees no clear majority for any block in the Senate, unlike the national super-assignment system in the Chamber of Deputies.

Unlike the inherent top-ups of FPTP or AV, the top-ups used in Italy and to a lesser extent Greece aren't subject to the wasted vote argument.

In fact, one other top-up that isn't mentioned but should be: a single party not in a coalition that obtains 50%+1 of the votes should be entitled to enough seats to change the constitution without confederalist or federalist obstacles. [BTW, the Nazis never obtained this; their ascent to power was due to coalition maneuvering.]

I would modify the requirements above to 1% for pro-coalition parliamentary parties, 3% for non-coalition parliamentary parties, and 20% for coalition caucuses.  Generally speaking, there's a government coalition and a main coalition opposition.  I'm not aware of any third-party or fourth-party coalition oppositions.

The top-up system I have in mind might be more complicated.  For example, if there's a plurality winner that is a single parliamentary party, and the runner-up is a coalition, I would be more inclined to award the entire top-up to the single party.

In short, the suggested PR system would encourage coalitions and discourage them depending on the circumstances.

Thoughts?

 

Northern Shoveler Northern Shoveler's picture

Snert in your world relentless propaganda campaigns by the ruling elite have no effect on voters.  After the citizens overwhelmingly voted yes the province was subjected to a three year propaganda war by our MSM, Howe Street and much of the trade union elite.  During the first referendum there were far less chicken little stories about the horrors of STV.  When the voters are told the same lie over and over many of them start to accept it as truth.  But I know from other responses you don't believe voters are swayed by propaganda because you yourself with all your status quo views believe you are not being influenced. 

You claim Venezuela is an example of a rotten democracy because 49% of the people can elect a majority government but you think 41% of Canadians should be able to determine our type of democracy in the face of 59% wanting change.  I can't quite follow your logic but it appears you don't trust the will of the people and believe that chance should be discouraged and made more difficult so that the status quo is not disturbed unless a super majority say so. 

I would prefer legislative accords to any coalitions.  Support for specific budgets and legislation hammered out in advance and then tabled by the NDP minority government would be my preferred governing model.  But that is only realistic if the NDP team is in the neighbourhood of 90 to 100 seats. I'd love to believe we are going to see that result but I have expected big gains in the past when the NDP only gained very marginally.  For me realistically as long as the NDP moves into official opposition this will be a historic break through.

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
Snert in your world relentless propaganda campaigns by the ruling elite have no effect on voters.  After the citizens overwhelmingly voted yes the province was subjected to a three year propaganda war by our MSM, Howe Street and much of the trade union elite.

 

I see. And was it successful because it was rational and correct, or because the people are gullible?

 

Quote:
You claim Venezuela is an example of a rotten democracy because 49% of the people can elect a majority government but you think 41% of Canadians should be able to determine our type of democracy in the face of 59% wanting change.

 

IMHO, another option would be to go with a straight 50%+1 for a pilot project of one election. But yes, I do believe that decisions affecting the very structure of our governance should require a bit more buy in than a government that will last at best a few years before we all get another chance to decide whether we like it or not. How long have we had FPTP? 143 years? I'm not that comfortable that on the strength of as little as one voter, we might change to another system for the next 143. You don't have to agree, of course, but I don't see something other than 50%+1 as necessarily anti-democratic. We've all heard of "quorum", yes?

 

 

Northern Shoveler Northern Shoveler's picture

Snert I didn't expect the referendum to include the line that the new system will be set in stone and never subject to change. I also don't think a referendum should even be required.  

I think that our electoral rules are less important than other things in our constitution and our Westminster system gives the power and authority to the parliament because that is our democratic tradition not referendums.  We elect MP's who go to Ottawa to make laws to promote Peace Order and Good Government (sec 91) and they have been given the authority also to determine how we conduct of our democracy because parliament in our system is defined as the will of the people.  Although it is pretty dry I posted a lecture by Blakeney in his thread where he gives an excellent historical analysis of how our democracy has evolved.  If you haven't listened to it yet I would recommend it to you.  Our 143 year old system vests the authority for electoral change in the MP's not a republican exercise in democracy.  

Quote:

40. Until the Parliament of Canada otherwise provides, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick shall, for the Purposes of the Election of Members to serve in the House of Commons, be divided into Electoral Districts as follows:

 

 

A quorum if I understand it rightly is merely the minimum number of members of an organization or government a constitution or set of by-laws requires before a meeting has the legal authority to conduct any business.  What exactly did you mean? Sometimes you are so obtuse I can't follow you.

Northern Shoveler Northern Shoveler's picture

I think the current House of Commons quorum is 20, if that helps?

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
Snert I didn't expect the referendum to include the line that the new system will be set in stone and never subject to change.

 

OK, but neither has FPTP been formally set in stone either, and here we've been for 143 years anyway.

 

Suppose the referendum were to drop public health care and adopt a private system such as they have in the U.S. -- would you want more than a simple majority for a change of that size? I totally would. Never mind the billions of dollars we'd have to spend on such a change, I think the change itself is just too big to not ensure a very clear, robust majority. Even if we could hold another referendum ten years later.

 

Quote:
What exactly did you mean?

 

That 60% is effectively a quorum, and that we generally don't think a quorum is the death of democracy.

 

Quote:
Our 143 year old system vests the authority for electoral change in the MP's not a republican exercise in democracy.

 

Interesting. But pretending for a moment that parties and MPs don't have their own horse in this race, why should my MP try to institute a change to PR when at the last referendum the electorate basically said No?   

 

 

 

 

Northern Shoveler Northern Shoveler's picture

A 60% quorum?  You think that the House should not be able to do business without 185 MP's sitting in their seats?  Interesting idea but certainly not the current 20 and I think a 60% quorum would leave most boards and groups in a constant state of inertia. 

Referendums have been held because the MLA's in those jurisdictions decided to use their constitutional authority to go down that particular path. Our constitution vests that authority in our democratically elected representatives and that is our 143 year old tradition. If parliament changed to a system that more closely represented the will of the people then obviously that would result in a new parliament with the authority of parliament just like the last elected parliament. If the people think it sucks badly then they will vote accordingly and send MP's to the House determined to either reverse or tinker further.  Referendums may have some uses but only when they are held at the same time as general elections and only if they happen extremely rarely.  But those decisions on process of reform belong to parliament and are not set down in our constitution.  In Canada I get to try too elect an MP from my party to go to the House and if they and similar minded MP's form the government they speak as the people and don't need any referendum to legitimize their actions.  

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:

A 60% quorum?  You think that the House should not be able to do business without 185 MP's sitting in their seats?  Interesting idea but certainly not the current 20 and I think a 60% quorum would leave most boards and groups in a constant state of inertia. 

 

I was referring to a 60% quorum on electoral change. Y'know. The 60%?

 

I'm curious though -- and please be honest here -- if the referenda in BC and Ontario had resulted in Yes mandates, would you be suggesting that referenda are the wrong way to go (and in effect, arguing that we should dismiss those results)? I guess I don't really remember any pro-PR folk, on the eve of the referendum, declaring that the whole think is a mess and that MPs (most of whom would be certain to vote AGAINST PR) should be making this choice.

Fidel

[url=http://wilfday.blogspot.com/2011/01/poll-results-on-canadian-public-supp... taken in 2001, 2004, and 2010[/url] show a majority of Canadians support PR.

So if Ottawa decided to rush ER/PR through Parliament, like they did with sweeping changes to the Bank of Canada Act without any debate in 1991, and even though a large majority of Canadian voters voted for anti-FTA parties and parties promising to either abrograte or renegotiate NAFTA, then should we simply assume a majority of Canadians would come to accept such reforms to modernize Canada's electoral system similarly?[/tongue in cheek]

 

Fidel

I think we should continue pressing for ER of our dysfunctional 19th century electoral system regardless. Court challenges against the currently unconstitutional electoral system should continue until every Canadian of voting age is made equal to one vote. One Canadian one vote.

Snert Snert's picture

I totally agree that we should keep electoral reform alive.  But trying to present FPTP as some kind of violation of my rights?  Best of luck.

Kind of a catch-22, though, when you think about it.  How can an illegitimately elected Parliament vote to change electoral systems?

Northern Shoveler Northern Shoveler's picture

Snert wrote:

Quote:

A 60% quorum?  You think that the House should not be able to do business without 185 MP's sitting in their seats?  Interesting idea but certainly not the current 20 and I think a 60% quorum would leave most boards and groups in a constant state of inertia. 

I was referring to a 60% quorum on electoral change. Y'know. The 60%?

I politely gave you a good definition of the word quorum.  Please educate yourself further on the usage of the term at your leisure.  The requirement to have more than a simple majority is called various things including super majorities in the popular lexicon.  You will find most boards and other organizations require special majorities to change constitutions and bylaws.  However they do not exercise any sovereign authority like our MLA's but are instead are creatures of the legislations that created laws like the Societies Act.

snert wrote:

I'm curious though -- and please be honest here -- if the referenda in BC and Ontario had resulted in Yes mandates, would you be suggesting that referenda are the wrong way to go (and in effect, arguing that we should dismiss those results)? I guess I don't really remember any pro-PR folk, on the eve of the referendum, declaring that the whole think is a mess and that MPs (most of whom would be certain to vote AGAINST PR) should be making this choice.

You have missed my point so I will reiterate it.  The legislation of BC has the sovereign authority to determine how it elects itself.  That is the Westminster tradition that predates 1867 by a couple of centuries.  The BC Liberals used their authority in the parliament to set up a Citizens Assembly and a referendum.  Once the parliament has made that chose that is the legitimate method.  It however is not the normal method in our system.  It was a right wing bone given to the Reform voters for voting for a party with liberal in its name.  Direct democracy and open government were the lies that Campbell ran on.

I have always believed that the referendum was unnecessary and merely cheap right wing politics with a "democratic" process tilted in favour of the very system that had just landed them in office with all but 2 seats after less than a 10% swing in the popular support. 

Snert Snert's picture

Interesting, but even PR won't guarantee that right for everyone.  If I'm one of seven people who vote for the Totally Unpopular Party, my vote won't count.

Also, while I'm no Atticus Finch, I would read the above to say that we all have a right to vote in elections, and we are all equal in that right.  Only with considerable stretching can that be read to say that everyone one of us has a Charter right to have our vote equally influence Parliament.

And if you do that stretching then you run into the problem from the first paragraph.  How do you intend to solve that problem?  If the answer is to say "well, there won't be that many of them, so we'll just ignore them" then that's pretty much what we do with marginal parties right now.  If it's a Charter violation when it happens to the Greens, Family Coalition and Totally Unpopular Party supporters then it will remain a Charter violation when it happens only to the Family Coalition and Totally Unpopular Party.

Fidel

Snert wrote:

I totally agree that we should keep electoral reform alive.  But trying to present FPTP as some kind of violation of my rights?  Best of luck.

It's funny you say that, because the Law Society says SMP/FPTP violates [url=http://laws.justice.gc.ca/eng/charter/page-1.html]sections 3 & 15 (pdf)[/url] of the Charter of Rights.

The Charter wrote:
Democratic rights of citizens

3. Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.   /.../

Equality before and under law and equal protection and benefit of law

15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

Affirmative action programs

(2) Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.(84)

Some lawyer types named Smith & Aucoin, Pros and cons of mixed member PR (LCC 69-71). Mind us, those guys are prolly wordsmiths and have gleaned every consanant and syllable, parsing front to back and vice versa the list of rights. They prolly aced every English class from grade school grammar to Victorian lit etcetera. I mean, those guys are real hair splitters and not prone to missing too much even.

Fidel

So you're saying that until an absolutely perfect system is devised, we should stick with the most mathematically absurd and least efficient one?

Why not go the other way, and instead of the remote possibility for pluralities by a single vote in every riding guaranteeing 110% of political power to one of two old-old parties, we could just have a round robin between the two most popular cliques and settle things with a coin toss? Wouldn't that save the taxpayers a lot of money every four years? Why not just appoint a lady of the lake to decide? Or Excalibur perhaps? Stone of Scone? Witen?  What do we really mean by "stable government"? Is that like when some votes count while millions of others are either cancelled outright or just wasted in general?

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
So you're saying that until an absolutely perfect system is devised, we should stick with the most mathematically absurd and least efficient one?

No, I'm suggesting that if a remedy to a Charter violation only fixes it for some of the affected citizens, I don't think you'll get much traction with it.

Suppose I'm an employer, and one of my policies disadvantages female staff. How far do you think I'd get proposing a remedy that fixed things for half of them?

Personally, I'd like to see us try some flavour of PR. But if it doesn't actually fix the problems of FPTP for everyone, I still retain my doubt that the SCoC is going to order Elections Canada to switch to it. If anything, mounting a Charter challenge to FPTP would probably open the door for exactly the same challege aimed at MMP or STV, unless they can be made into a remedy for all voters. The section 15 you quoted above is a double edged sword.

Northern Shoveler Northern Shoveler's picture

That is why our elected representatives need to study the issue carefully and make the decision.  After all that is what we elect them to do and they are the only people with the constitutional authority to make the change.  Unless you want to put the whole parliamentary system we operate up for discussion then the use of referendums is not even on the table.  Except for a few rigged experiments by right wing governments they are no more a part of our electoral system than Presidential elections. 

I would like to see a debate on more participatory democracy but I will settle for a tinkering with the electoral system by our MP's.  If we get a stable minority parliament that is functioning there should be no problem for all our representatives of the people to get up to speed on the ideas and views of Canadians and to then make a reasoned decision.

Fidel

Snert wrote:
Suppose I'm an employer, and one of my policies disadvantages female staff. How far do you think I'd get proposing a remedy that fixed things for half of them?

Why not just roll-back women's suffrage while we're hot? And every acre of land should have one vote. And we could fit one another up for blasphemy and burn the neighbors barn down once in a while to liven things up. It could be rilly fun.

Snert wrote:
The section 15 you quoted above is a double edged sword.

It's pretty straightforward as far as I can tell. "Every individual is equal before and under the law"... Our absurd voting system is part of the law of the land. And FPTP contradicts section 15. So do we scrub section 15 or FPTP? I know which one I'd choose. It's the democracy gap-canyon.

Northern Shoveler Northern Shoveler's picture

The Charter does it balancing in Section 1.  So while FPTP might be a breach of s.15 the SCC would almost certainly rule it to be justified under Section 1.  Just like our pot laws that the SCC said were a breach of the Charter but justified under Section 1.

Quote:

1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. 

Wilf Day

AppalledBC wrote:
Real democracy involves real participatory work that needs to be embraced by us all.  From what I can see, the only formal remedy to speed up that full embrace is electoral reform based on proportional representation -- a form of broadbased democratic goverment well established around the world,  the only exceptions in the western world being  -- surprise, surprise -- the U.S., Canada, and Britain, this  last, however, gearing up for a move towards real proportional representation soon.   Isn't it about time that we begin gearing up too?

Take a look at what  Fair Vote Canada is trying to do: Fair vote Canada.

Agreed. And then take a look at the model designed and recommended by the Law Commission of Canada in 2004, which has never been rejected.

Snert wrote:
I guess I don't really remember any pro-PR folk, on the eve of the referendum, declaring that the whole thing is a mess and that MPs (most of whom would be certain to vote AGAINST PR) should be making this choice.

Not something one says in public on the eve of a vote. However, Quebec has been debating PR for years -- decades, even -- and the Charest government even introduced a draft bill. It did not provide for a referendum. They don't use referenda for such matters. In the 2003 election all three parties supported PR, so the only problem was designing the model, which they got bogged down on.

The current NDP platform does not call for a referendum. No country except New Zealand has used a referendum to change to PR. France has changed back and forth to and from PR four times with no referendum. BC, Alberta and Manitoba changed their voting systems twice with no referenda.

As to the 60% threshold, New Brunswick premier Bernard Lord decided to hold a referendum on PR (which he favoured) with a 50% threshold, which he called the normal way to make decisions in a democracy.

Fidel wrote:
[url=http://wilfday.blogspot.com/2011/01/poll-results-on-canadian-public-supp... taken in 2001, 2004, and 2010[/url] show a majority of Canadians support PR.

Correct. ;)

Snert wrote:
I still retain my doubt that the SCoC is going to order Elections Canada to switch to it. If anything, mounting a Charter challenge to FPTP would probably open the door for exactly the same challege aimed at MMP or STV, unless they can be made into a remedy for all voters.

There's not much we can do here except wait. The Charter case is now at the Quebec Court of Appeal level, awaiting their judgment, and then it will no doubt proceed to the Supreme Court.

Snert wrote:
what about Ontario?

Three answers:

1. The referendum was botched by the whole timetable starting a year later than the Democratic Renewal Secretariat had planned, leaving not enough time for deliberation and little time for public education, and then Elections Ontario was told to do no public education on the question; the government even refused to send out the Citizens' Assembly's Report we were voting on. Polls showed those who understood the question voted for it.

2. Regardless, the OCA model was rushed and failed to provide enough voter choice; closed province-wide lists were a very hard sell. The Law Commission's regional-open-list MMP would have been much more acceptable.

3. The provinces don't need PR as badly as the federal level does. The exaggerated regional differences (no Liberals in Alberta, no Conservatives in Montreal or Toronto, etc.) cry out for PR more than any provincial need.

AppalledBC wrote:
We should all probably have a good conversation about mandatory voting and the notion of a preferential ballot first.

Fair Vote Canada takes no position on mandatory voting. It opposes the preferential ballot for parliamentary elections (it's a good way to elect a mayor or a president.) 

Fidel

Northern Shoveler wrote:

The Charter does it balancing in Section 1.  So while FPTP might be a breach of s.15 the SCC would almost certainly rule it to be justified under Section 1.  Just like our pot laws that the SCC said were a breach of the Charter but justified under Section 1.

Quote:

1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. 

 

And that's exactly where we're at, the justifying stage of things. If our's is a free and democratic society, then it's debateable and nothing written in stone. They used to use stones for coronation of kings who were once absolute dictators. Not anymore. In the city of York the law says it's legal to murder a Scotsman within the ancient city walls, but only if he is carrying a bow and arrow. I don't think anyone has tested that law in modern times though.

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:

It's pretty straightforward as far as I can tell. "Every individual is equal before and under the law"... Our absurd voting system is part of the law of the land. And FPTP contradicts section 15. So do we scrub section 15 or FPTP? I know which one I'd choose. It's the democracy gap-canyon.

 

What would be the point of scrapping FPTP (because it cannot satisfy section 15) and then replacing it with a different system that also cannot satisfy section 15?

 

Don't forget that fans of FPTP, assuming there are any, may dislike MMP, but fans of STV hate it. You don't think they'd challenge it?

 

And of course fans of MMP despise STV, and could be expected to challenge it as well.

 

Quote:
 The referendum was botched by the whole timetable starting a year later than the Democratic Renewal Secretariat had planned, leaving not enough time for deliberation and little time for public education

 

Wjy is "public education" necessary, if, as the link above suggests, the majority of Canadians support PR?? That doesn't make sense. They support it, but they won't choose it when asked? Can someone explain?

Northern Shoveler Northern Shoveler's picture

But Snert I like STV but I don't hate MMP and my wife likes MMP but doesn't hate STV.  I know that is only anecdotal evidence so could you please give us some cites for your insistence that we are anomalies not the norm.

Right wing parties set the referendums and they are set up to fail.  Those kind of measures are foreign to our political system and were brought into the political discourse in Canada by Manning's Reform Party.  They are populist not necessarily democratic instruments.  Easily manipulated by powers that pull the levers and make the smoke and mirrors in our body politic.

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
But Snert I like STV but I don't hate MMP and my wife likes MMP but doesn't hate STV.

 

I amend my post. Real fans of STV.... :)

 

Thing is, I don't think I've ever seen someone, in the context of a discussion on PR, say "I'm a supporter of FPTP, and MMP sucks ass". But I've seen plenty say "I'm a supporter of STV, and MMP sucks ass". Ironically, while the choice is between FPTP and PR, the public mudslinging seems to be between STV and MMP.

Northern Shoveler Northern Shoveler's picture

Wilf Day wrote:

Not so. Fans of STV hate closed lists. MMP with fully-open lists, as in Bavaria (the list order does not matter), satisfies them. And fans of MMP despise the three-seaters in Ireland and prefer the six-seaters in Northern Ireland which are pretty proportional, so they were not ecstatic about the BC-STV model designed by the Boundaries Commission for the second referendum -- average district magnitude 4.25, not quite high enough to give the Greens the full share of MLAs -- but "despise" is far too strong.

Excellent analysis and encompasses both my and my wife's views.  I like STV because I see it as check on anti-democratic central party control.  I will accept any system where anyone with a chance of getting elected must have put themselves forward in an election.  So MPP with party lists is a complete no starter for me.  MPP with the 'best" candidates who didn't secure a seat is good because then the people's assessment of the individuals is part of the equation.  In BC part of the manipulation was reducing the number of seats per riding and thus the potential to get any more parties into the House almost disappeared.  

Why did the second referendum fail?  After a majority picked it but not the quite the rigged majority, the right wingers watered it down and and made it thin gruel instead of hearty porridge.  As well the numbers of voters in the last election was very low compared to the election where STV won the majority vote.  I think part of the second results were that people who would like to see change saw the undemocratic nature of both parties response and didn't go to the polls.  Driving down the vote seems to be a right wing idea these days.  Telling young people that 41% of the voters got their desire on the referendum and the majority got the shaft was probably a factor in the next elections lack of youth turnout. 

Wilf Day

Snert wrote:
Quote:
 The referendum was botched by the whole timetable starting a year later than the Democratic Renewal Secretariat had planned, leaving not enough time for deliberation and little time for public education

Why is "public education" necessary, if, as the link above suggests, the majority of Canadians support PR?? That doesn't make sense. They support it, but they won't choose it when asked? Can someone explain?

First, the reason Ontario ended up with a closed-province-wide list model is because the Citizens' Assembly ran out of time to go back and reconsider whether their final model, with 39 compensatory MPPs, now could permit regional lists, and therefore allow open lists, as explained here.

Second, the main problem was that no one could explain definitively how the list candidates would be nominated, because the model came out too late for even the NDP to come up with a proper answer; it was already in pre-election mode. All we could say was, in New Zealand, the Labour Party uses six regional nomination conventions, and then folds the six lists into one, which I'm sure is what the Ontario NDP would have copied, but they had no time to determine that. The Liberals never said anything except that they would set up a democratic method. The PCs spent months saying that they opposed MMP because candidates would be appointed by the party headquarters, and when the press finally asked them why they were saying that when no other party said that, they finally conceded -- one week before the referendum -- that they would nominate them democratically. One irony I loved was when a Liberal Senator was interviewed on TV saying that he opposed MMP because the 39 MPPs would be appointed like, um, Senators.

Third, the majority of voters didn't even know we were having a referendum on MMP until they got to the ballot box. And then they had no idea what "Mixed Member Proportional" meant, or what the Citizens' Assembly was. The Citizens' Assemby had carefully produced a user-friendly pamphlet suitable for mass distribution, and were ready to print enough when Elections Ontario said they would not distribute it since they had to be "neutral." That's the first thing I mean by public education: the basics. The second thing I mean is enough discussion in the media to rebut the myths and complaints by opponents, who got a free ride in the media. And I could go on.

Snert wrote:
Don't forget that fans of FPTP, assuming there are any, may dislike MMP, but fans of STV hate it. And of course fans of MMP despise STV.

Not so. Fans of STV hate closed lists. MMP with fully-open lists, as in Bavaria (the list order does not matter), satisfies them. And fans of MMP despise the three-seaters in Ireland and prefer the six-seaters in Northern Ireland which are pretty proportional, so they were not ecstatic about the BC-STV model designed by the Boundaries Commission for the second referendum -- average district magnitude 4.25, not quite high enough to give their Greens the full share of MLAs -- but "despise" is far too strong.

I think what sank BC-STV in the second referendum was that the public had forgotten what the Citizens' Assembly was (it got great publicity when it was at work, unlike Ontario's) and didn't understand the point of the transferable ballot. However, a poll after the referendum showed that 44.3% of those who voted for first-past-the-post in the referendum responded they are in "favour of replacing first-past-the-post with a voting system in which the percentage of seats a party gets in the legislature is more in line with their percentage of the popular vote." That makes 66% of BC voters in favour of some proportional system. Just like all the polls show.

Wilf Day

Northern Shoveler wrote:
So MPP with party lists is a complete no starter for me.  MPP with the 'best" candidates who didn't secure a seat is good because then the people's assessment of the individuals is part of the equation.

I'm not opposed to the "best-runner-up" model of MMP used in the German province of Baden-Wurttemberg (which just elected a Green-Red Coalition government). Many women are opposed, since all candidates in Baden-Wurttemberg are nominated one at a time, worse than STV where the major parties will nominate several candidates in a district, likely resulting in more women being nominated. Indeed Baden-Wurttemberg has lower numbers of women elected than the rest of Germany. So they would prefer open-list MMP where the regional MLAs (Bavaria uses seven regions) were nominated at a regional party convention but the voters then vote for their party's regional candidate they prefer; the voters' assessment of them is crucial. It makes for a larger ballot, but that's what it takes to give voters that choice.

Fidel

Wilf Day wrote:
One irony I loved was when a Liberal Senator was interviewed on TV saying that he opposed MMP because the 39 MPPs would be appointed like, um, Senators.

lol!

RickW

Freedom 55 wrote:

AppalledBC wrote:

the only formal remedy to speed up that full embrace is electoral reform based on proportional representation

 

How do we get there?

By getting significant representation in The House by parties that PR would benefit.  Neither the Liberals nor Conservatives want PR.

RickW

Snert wrote:
Also, in Ontario and BC, it WAS put to voters.

It wasn't really.  The wording was  ostentatious.  Any referendum on PR should be to the point.  The average Canuck (who thinks about PR) figures that 60% of the votes = 60% representation, and looks askance at anything not as straightforward as that.

Wilf Day

RickW wrote:
Neither the Liberals nor Conservatives want PR.

Some Conservatives do, like Senator Hugh Segal, Rick Anderson and others. And Reform originally did. But on the whole, not many, except perhaps in BC and Quebec.

Quite a few Liberals do; not Ignatieff, although he's never said he's opposed. Liberal voters need PR. On March 3 both some Liberals and the Bloc supported it.

RickW

Wilf Day:  I should clarify my statement by saying that I refer to the PARTIES as opposed to individuals within those parties.

Wilf Day

RickW wrote:
Wilf Day:  I should clarify my statement by saying that I refer to the PARTIES as opposed to individuals within those parties.

The Liberal Party in Ontario never took a position against MMP. Several cabinet ministers supported it, and some backbench MPs, but of course the government did not favour it either, and their instructions to Elections Ontario put the nail in the coffin.

The federal Liberal Party has, as far as I know, no position against PR. But they are not in favour either. However, they appointed a known PR supporter, Carolyn Bennett, as their Democratic Reform critic. That might have been a device to attract non-partisan PR supporters, or a device to neuter her (as critic she has stopped speaking in favour of PR), or both. But it may also demonstrate that they have left the door open. As a Fair Vote Canada person, I prefer to try to work with those Liberals who do, or could, support PR.

Wilf Day

kropotkin1951 wrote:

I liked the concept of STV it is really only proportional when the minimum seats in a district is 5 and the majority of seats are 7. Tasmania which has the smaller districts of 3 to 5 seats usually only has three parties in its House.
I think that it would be a better system for municipal elections for councils especially if done city wide. In Burnaby I don't like the municipal FPTP system we use although I do note it has given our left leaning government back to back council sweeps and decades of majority dominance.

Yes, STV would be excellent for Burnaby. Your system is even worse than FPTP, it's the "block vote" where a single slate of candidates can win every seat, even worse for political diversity than a ward system. If I lived in Burnaby I'd want either STV at large for eight councillors, or two four-seater wards elected by STV. The day will come when the left loses an election for Burnaby city council. The Saskatchewan NDP held power for 16 years, and right at the end of their run they put electoral reform in their platform: if elected to a fifth term they would have held a Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform which would have recommended some PR system. Too late.

By the way, Tasmania is a lovely example of STV District Magnitude: they had seven-seaters, until the Greens won four seats and held the balance of power. The two big parties disagreed on everything except one point: changing to five-seaters. When they did so, the Green caucus shrank to one. Mission accomplished. Recently the Greens managed to hold the balance of power supporting a minority Labour government, and reached a deal to go back to seven-seaters again. The Liberals agreed; but then they withdrew their support, and Labour backed out on the spurious grounds of wanting all-party support. "Increasing the size of the House of Assembly to 35 members is not a priority for the Government, but Ms Giddings (Labour Premier) said there was a mandate for such a change, but "Until we see a pathway out of our financial concerns it's not a priority," she said.