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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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Electoral Reform in our Future?

With all parties except the Cons promising electoral reform and with what appears to be a lot of support for such a change we must look at exactly what is being promised to help us chose our next government in what looks like will be a minority government. Both the system and the manner of its inception vary from party to party, Mulclair would impose his choice of voting system upon us, Trudeau would have an all party committee study the options and make recommendations as would the Greens.

Specifically under the NDP’s preferred MMP system (a voter) first ticks which candidate she wishes to become the local constituency MP (in a First Past the Post selection method) —as voters currently do. But she then has a second vote. On the ballot, they then turn to a regional list of names (selected by the Partys) presented for election by the party where they can then decide to tick the party name alone (and thereby accept the existing order of the names on the list) or tick the name of a person on the list whom she wants to see go to the House of Commons ahead of others on the list.

The Liberals prefer, but are not necessary promising, a Preferential Ballot system wherein you place the local candidates in order of preference and you second and subsequent choices are taken into account in selecting your MP. The Greens say they will determine the form of proportional representation best suited to Canada through extensive public consultation by an all-party committee.

Whilst many citizens support “proportional representation” there is far from agreement as to what system would be best for Canada, indeed I wonder how many citizens really understand the wide array of systems available under this heading and how each of them actually works. Many will have heard of Mixed Member Proportional or Party List, Preferential Ballot, also known as Alternative Vote and Single Transferable Vote (similar to AV but with multi-seat constituencies) but may not realize that each of these systems have numerous ways in which they are implemented within these broad categories. The MMP in particular in addition to voting directly for the Party of you choice can present you with a list of individuals ranging from a number of 'district' candidates to lists of candidates from across the country chosen by the party, it all depends upon the way in which the 'proportional' bit is implemented.

It is insufficient to say I support this or that voting system with out knowing the exact details of the proposed implementation. Having previously supported a form of MMP I now, after studying the systems and considering the implications for several years, lean towards the Preferential Ballot system wherein you place the local candidates in order of preference and you second and subsequent choices are taken into account in selecting your MP. This still keeps all the candidates representing your riding, allows you to vote for perhaps the candidate you prefer as #1 and the candidate for the party you like as #2 (or visa versa) and even if you do not get your first choice you may well get your second
Additionally it would seem to make those dreaded polls which have become so influential because of first past the post wins all, both locally and nationally, all but useless or at least much less reliable which is probably a good thing.

Some say that AV is not truly a proportional system as it does not take into account the overall popular vote in selecting the PARTY that receives power, I would suggest that by taking into account folks second and third votes (should they wish to make such) there would be far less citizens opposed to the result. It retains true local representation and does not present voters with a list of candidates who do not live in their local riding and are uncountable to them. Let us not forget that with the diverse population counts across our country true government by proportional representation would leave some areas with hardly any say in their own federal representation.

I do hope we will get the chance to select one of the more progressive systems in the next couple of years or at a minimum that all such choices be thoroughly discussed and considered before implementation. It will not be an easy process but let us at least approach it with our eyes open and a full understanding of the various alternatives. Personalty I am increasing concerned with the practicalities of an MMP system and would prefer, at least initially, the much more simple preferential vote or AV, no matter which “proportional” system is adopted the allocation of the balloting will be more complex and results will take longer to be known unless ballots are tabulated by machine and computerized.

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Anonymous said...

I think the Preferential Ballot is synonymous with 'Ranked Ballot', which is what I support hands down. It's easy, it works and ensures people are still your representative rather than the MMP system which helps line up a bunch of bureaucrats for golden pensions.

That said, the key for the electorate is to hold ALL progressive parties to their promise and be on them after the election, especially if we have a minority government.

As a segue, it'll be important to outline Parliamentary rules when the House always has to work with minority governments. Which is why we ultimately have to ask 'should our leader be elected separately from our representatives'. I feel the answer is 'yes', which points us to a US style of republicanism.

Rural said...

I am not sure that with PV, RB, or AV (all basically the same thing) we need to separately elect a 'leader' or party but otherwise agree with your points Anon. As you say irregardless the 'rules' for minority and coalition governments need to be carefully spelt out and the partys need to work together more for the good of Canada not their own particular partisan agendas.

Glenn Ashton said...

My preference is for the commission appointed by the new Parliament to study alternatives, hear from the public and others, and the recommend two sytems to be placed before voters in a national referendum, to be held within 15 months of the October 19 election. Neither of these alternatives is to be the existing FPTP system, because both opposition parties are running on platforms scrapping that and replacing it with a better system. In the referendum, voters choose A or B, and the choice that wins the most votes is the one to be legislated in within 3 months thereafter. That means we will have a new electoral system within 2 years, applying to our next election. There should not be any minimum vote (whether percentages or geographic areas). The choice is A or B with the one getting most votes cast winning. So if 40% of voters vote in the referendum, then 20% plus 1 vote will determine what new system we will use. There should also be a sunset law - or at least a legisltated reviewal of the system after either 3 elections or 12 years, whichever comes first. That review should consider whether the new system needs tweeking.

Rural said...

We will see after the election exacts how things are going to go Glen, how its all going to be decided and how long it is going to be to get legislation passed to invoke the new system! Non of the parties are currently proposing a referendum.

The Tory Pirate said...

There are also 'weighted voting systems' where the relative strength of each MP's vote in Parliament is effected by the popular vote. One system called 'Single Member-Proportional Vote' keeps the entire system the same and modifies the power of each MP's vote in Parliament while 'Direct Party and Representative Voting' has voters cast one vote for the MP they want and one vote for the party they want to govern. The second vote determines how strong of a vote the MPs of each party will have.

Under either system the 2011 election would have given the Conservatives the seat advantage (large talent pool and regional representation to draw on) while effectively making passing legislation behave as if they only had 39% of the seats (which is all the popular vote would entitle them to). And unlike most proportional systems neither costs any more than the present system.

Personally I prefer Single Member-Proportional Vote but I'm biased since I came up with it. :)

Rural said...

There are dozens of voting systems many with variations of one sort or another , Pirate. Each of us has a favorite and that is part of the problem in deciding (and getting) one that will serve Canada best in the future.