A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Electoral Reform – The Parties Position

Its sometimes hard to see where the parties stand on any particular issue given the hype, bafflegab and spin that issues from almost all of them at times and the ever changing positions taken depending upon their position in the polls or whether they are in power or not. As far as I can tell the following is their current position on Electoral Reform.

Trudeau is a supporter of a preferential ballot, having made it a plank of his leadership platform.
Liberals say they will launch all-party consultations on reform. The party passed a resolution at its convention earlier this year that said a Liberal government would launch an all-party consultation on reforming the electoral system, including looking at a preferential ballot.

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Liberal Party pursue political reforms which promote:
  • Open, democratic nominations of candidates;
  • Fewer “whipped” votes in Parliament and more “free” votes requiring individual MPs to assume full responsibility for their decisions;
  • Stronger Parliamentary control over public finances, including an annual deadline for the budget; accounting consistency among the Estimates and the Public Accounts; more clarity in voting on Estimates; a costing analysis for each government Bill; and a requirement that government borrowing plans must get Parliament’s pre-approval;
  • A truly independent, properly resourced Parliamentary Budget Officer;
  • A more effective Access-to-Information regime with stronger safeguards against political interference;
  • An impartial system to identify and eliminate the waste of tax-dollars on partisan advertising;
  • Careful limitations on secret Committee proceedings, Omnibus Bills and Prorogation to avoid their misuse for the short-term partisan convenience of the government;
  • Adequate funding, investigative powers and enforcement authority to ensure Elections Canada can root out electoral fraud;
  • Pro-active disclosure of parliamentarians’ expenses, a more transparent Board of Internal Economy and better audit rules;
  • A truly independent Senate not based upon partisanship or patronage;
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT immediately after the next election, an all-Party process be instituted, involving expert assistance and citizen participation, to report to Parliament within 12 months with recommendations for electoral reforms including, without limitation, a preferential ballot and/or a form of proportional representation, to represent Canadians more fairly and serve Canada better.

Tom Mulcair, Leader of NDP replied to a letter from the Electoral Alliance thus-
...our commitment to electoral reform was again reinforced at our 2013 NDP Convention where delegates debated and passed a resolution in support of electoral reform. ....

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the federal New Democratic Party reaffirm its desire to reform Canada’s electoral system by way of a system that combines proportional representation and direct election of Members of Parliament from constituencies, that is to say, through a version of mixed member proportional (MMP) representation that is adapted to Canada......

The Green Party takes a much broader view in their longstanding support for Democratic Reform simply saying that a proportional system should be considered along with parliamentary reform, a position which I personalty also favour. Given the way in which our MPs and political party’s are operating these days having one without the other will probably not change much.
Reform our voting system. Hold a national discussion on the health of our democracy, address the growing and undemocratic power of the Prime Minister’s Office and explore the options for a more meaningful electoral system. Consider the risks of “first past the post” and vote on whether it should be replaced. Consider proportional representation.

  • Establish a Public Inquiry into Democracy, with powers of a Royal Commission, to engage Canadians from coast to coast and address anti-democratic trends within Canada:
    • 1. The growing and unhealthy power of the Prime Minister’s Office;
    • 2. The lack of scope for independent action of individual MPs;
    • 3. The use of prorogation to avoid political embarrassment, in violation of Parliamentary practice and tradition;
    • 4. The abuse by the Senate of its role of “sober, second thought” in voting down bills approved by the House, as in the case in November of 2010 in their defeat without debate of Bill C-311 (the Climate Change Accountability Act);
    • 5. The inequity of the current voting system with a view to replacing it with a system based on proportional representation
    • 6. The recommendations of the Public Inquiry will be presented as options to Canadian voters.
  • Adhere to fixed election dates permitting political stability and fair elections.
  • Reduce the mandatory $1,000 candidate deposit to encourage more Canadians to participate in the democratic system.

Its difficult to find an official position of the CPC on Proportional Voting, we have seen what their idea of Electoral Reform is in the (un) Fair Election Act that was jammed through with minimal debate and only modified somewhat by intense public pressure. Nowhere in this document that I can see is there any commitment to study or move towards a different means of selecting those sitting in the House. In 1997 when in a minority position an essay penned by Stephen Harper and Tom Flanagan extolled the virtues of both proportional voting systems and coalition governments however once brought to power by the FPTP we have heard nothing of this, its not that they don’t know there is a better way its just that it is not currently to their political advantage to promote it at this time.

Only in politics do we still entrust power to a single faction expected to prevail every time over the opposition by sheer force of numbers. Even more anachronistically, we persist in structuring the governing team like a military regiment under a single commander with almost total power to appoint, discipline and expel subordinates.
Among major democracies, only Great Britain so ruthlessly concentrates power. .......In most of the rest of Europe, proportional representation ensures that coalition governments routinely form cabinets.
Many of Canada’s problems stem from a winner-take-all style of politics that allows governments in Ottawa to impose measures abhorred by large areas of the country. ..........Modernizing Canadian politics would not only be good for conservatism, it might be the key to Canada’s survival as a nation.

In New Zealand, which used to have a Canadian-style system of concentrated power, the voters rebelled against alternating Labour party and National party dictatorships: electoral reform now ensures coalition cabinets.

To sum it up they all at some time or another have been in flavor of electoral and or parliamentary reform but once in power it seems to fall by the wayside, will future leaders follow up upon their promises and will that lead to modernization of our voting and parliamentary systems remains to be seen. Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers


Owen Gray said...

The real test, Rural, isn't the promises they make about electoral reform, but what they do when in power.

They have to get there by using the old system.

Rural said...

Exactly Owen, Will any party elected under the FPTP system actually support reform once elected and will we be able to actually get someone who 'promises' to bring in change elected with the current system.

Gyor said...

Tom Mulcair has promised not just mixed member porportional representation, but that there would be no referundum if he won, he'd just do it, that his election into government would be his mandate to do so.

Rural said...

Thanks Gyor, can you provide a link to further info on that?

Ron Waller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rural said...

Whilst you make several good points Ron, you seem to have no respect for others that support a different path to electoral reform. Until and unless we can find a reasonable middle ground AND a party in power prepared to move forward with some kind of reform we are doomed to just continue discussing the options adfinitum.