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, March 4, 2012

Electoral and Parliamentary Reform (part 2)

Electoral reform

All the electoral reform in the world, everybody getting out and voting, more partys represented in the mix, even a better quality of representative will not make one iota of difference if the current “if he said it, it must be wrong, If I say it, it must be right” confrontational, non co-operational, my job is to prove the other guys wrong attitude remains unchanged. We need a quantum change in attitude from both our representatives and the partys that they purport to represent (damit, they are supposed to be representing us!) before we can wrest what is left of our democratic processes out of the hand of the politicians and their corporate lobbyists and back into the hands of our citizens where it belongs.”

So said I some three years ago and this is reflected in the Conservatives report on Canadas Democratic Institutions way back in 2007 where those few who had a say in this 'National Survey' were much more concerned about what our Representative were doing than how they were elected. Little has change over those 3 years except perhaps the 'parliamentary dysfunction' has increased! I am increasingly leaning towards that view myself, whilst electoral reform MAY change the outcome of any election the question remains will it change in any way the partisan nature of our Parliament that is stifling free debate and producing flawed legislation.

Given my previous post whereby I opine that electoral reform is most unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future I am not going to spend a great deal of time laying out the various options, that are readily available on line for those who care to look. Suffice to say that is is not sufficient to say “I favor STV” or “I favor MMP” as each system has numerous variations that can make a considerable difference as to how they affect the resulting parliament. The question is why do we want electorial reform? For many of us it is because we do not like the results that we are getting under our current system, but whether that is a general dislike of the results as not being 'proportional' to the popular vote or more political, i.e. we don’t like the lot that got in via this method. We must be aware that just because we change the way we vote for our individual MP does not necessarily mean that the collective riding’s across the country choices will add up to reflect proportionality, only the MMP system takes that into account.

That said here is a very brief look at the major voting systems generally proposed and a couple of personal comments upon them. I note that such systems may have different names and slightly different features in different countries.

FPTP - First Past The Post
The status quo, simple winner takes all.
Not proportional, can lead to strange results when multiple candidates split the vote.

MMP – Mixed Member Proportional
Proportional, allows voting for MP and Party separately, ridings remain unchanged
Creates 'extra' MPs to produce proportionality, methods of selecting 'extras' complex and controversial.
This is the one that failed to get support in Ontario

STV – Single Transferable Vote
Somewhat proportional, many more individuals to choose from when voting.
Complex, hard to understand, multiple MPs for greatly enlarged riding’s
This is the system that failed to get enough support in BC

AV – Alternative Vote
Allows voters to indicate their 2nd and subsequent choices, no 'wasted' votes, simple, easily understood, ridings remain unchanged
Not truly proportional, however use of 2nd & 3rd choices make it more so.
This is the system proposed but not adopted Great Britain in 2011

Whilst I previously preferred MMP I now am leaning towards AV for a couple of reasons, firstly it is simple, easy to understand and gives some weight to a voters SECOND (and possibly 3rd) choice so that voters who do not get their first choice (and that will invariably be more than 50%) do get some satisfaction from their votes actually impacting the results. Whilst not truly proportional this use of second and third choice is perhaps better as more voters will be somewhat satisfied with the result. (even with truly proportional systems as many as 60% of voters will not see their choice of individual elected, and the riding system can further skew the results of which PARTY gains power) AV is a compromise, and perhaps one which all sides can agree upon, it would sure be better than the status quot!

For those who want to see which systems various countries around the world are using a good overview can be found at http://www.idea.int/esd/world.cfm. These sorts of discussions may be somewhat academic given the chances of seeing any move to actually place such choices before us, but are still important to have to try and reach some sort of consensus as to where we want to go WHEN such a move is made. A look at the 8 Principals of Electoral Systems as provided by Ontario’s Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform a few years ago may help put things in perspective.

As a final observation I must say that we cannot discount “Electronic Voting” as an 'Electoral Reform', a means of voting easily from within our homes, be that by computer or telephone, would markedly increase the number of citizens who exercise their voting privilege. This in and of its self would probably do more to change the political landscape than any change in the way we mark or count votes. The difficulty is to both design a secure and problem free system and to convince the public that it is indeed both those things, given the increasing probability that the existing system is being abused that may well be the hardest thing to accomplish.

Please note:- In view of the ongoing revelations of electoral fraud during the 2012 federal elections I have created a permanent page providing links to some details of this and other recent electoral malfeasance. Click on the Election Malfeasance tab at the top of the page.

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1 comment:

Monique said...

I for one am very interested to see the results of the current scandal. I tend to doubt much will come of it at all, and yet I do hope it may open the eyes of Canadian citizens, even just a tiny bit.