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Dion and Liberals should propose electoral reform – a form of PR for the House.

Roaming around on a quiet day in the blogosphere, I found this posting from Devon, a Green supporter, making the point that the Liberals are now the only federal party (excluding the BQ which he pointedly doesn’t count as a federal party) who are not advocating some form of electoral reform specifically to do with proportional representation. He wonders how long the Liberals can hold out not making some sort of proposal.

As a new Liberal, this is one issue I will probably differ the most from Dion and the Liberal Party as well as the majority of the Liblogs bloggers. I strongly believe that the First Past the Post System (FPTP) needs reforms – we are now only one of the few western democracies left (the US and Britain being 2 notable others) that do not have some sort of form of Proportional Representation in their system of voting. I find the FPTP system exposes voting inequalities all over the country, and that a form of PR would go a long way to address this. Furthermore, it would counteract and expose Harper’s “half-Senate” reforms, which he’s trying to use to pass himself off as some great democratic reformer for proposing it.

I have been told by some bloggers that supported Dion prior to the Convention that Dion had indicated he supported some sort of system of redistribution of votes (Jeff at A BC’er In Toronto can fill in the details – as he’s the one who mentioned it), but I note he’s been very very quiet about it since his win — even when he had the perfect opportunity to present an alternative to Harper’s grand Senate scheme. (UPDATE @4:05 pm: Miranda of A View From The Left kindly provides her interview of Dion here where he appears to be positive about some form of PR reforms, but my original point about him being silent on this issue so far stands).

I have posted on this before, but I will say it again. I’m in favour of the 2/3 FPTP, 1/3 Mixed-Member regional PR system that of all places the Globe and Mail proposed in May 2005. I have their editorials they posted over 3 days sitting on my desktop, and I’d use them to illustrate their arguments for this system, but I fear I’d be in violation of Fair Use Copyright. I can share the specific details for those people interested, but I will say briefly though that I am convinced that this model of MM-PR would not only bring better regional representation of voters intentions to the House of Commons and address some of the regional inequalities, but it is also set up at a level that doesn’t make it an automatic given that the vote under this setup will automatically result every time in a minority government. I can see that there needs to be a balance between stability of a government and representing voters will, and I believe that this is the way to go.

Others will disagree of course. Others will say some other PR model is better, and that’s fine. I prefer debating over what forms of PR reforms would be best for Canada over trying to hide and say nothing and hoping the issue goes away. The FPTP setup has served the Liberal Party well over Canada’s history and its the main reason why they have historically been Canada’s “Natural Governing Party”, so there will be be a lot of resistance and inertia in offering something reformist such as this. But I feel its the RIGHT thing to do.

Furthermore, if there was anything for Monsieur Dion to do to show Canadian voters that this isnt the “same old Liberal party”, a bold reformist proposal such as this would be one such giant step.

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14 comments to Dion and Liberals should propose electoral reform – a form of PR for the House.

  • Introducing proportional representation into House of Commons elections might not benefit either the Conservatives nor the Liberals directly; however, it would be of benefit to Canadian democracy overall, by giving more Canadians a voice in their/our parliament.

    We will see which of the two “governing” parties will be the first to put true democratic reform ahead of their own party’s strategic interests.

  • Scott, I have not read the article(s) since May. If you would be kind enough to send me the Globe and Mail articles I would like to read them to refresh my memory. ([email protected])

    Please see Fair Vote Canada (pdf) for an interesting response to the Globe and Mail.

    The predictive model (which I reject) suggest a tendency towards Liberal/Grit coalitions. If you feel the model is valid, you will need to be prepared to convince Quebecers that a system that reduces the Bloc’s seat count is in their interest. That may be particularly difficult in the months preceding a separation referendum. :em35:

  • [quote post=”18″]The Globe’s analysis of past elections only works if you assume that voters would have voted exactly the same way under a PR system. There is no evidence to support that assumption so their predictive tool is invalid.[/quote]

    Before I argue with you that your assumption is preposterous :em19: , i’m wondering if you’ve actually read the Globe articles that I speak of.

    If you havent, I will offer to send them to you so you can read up on them to allow you to reassess your claim here.

    I reject totally the argument this is a system that only benefits Ontario.. it is designed to address the regional disparities in Canada, and from what I see, it does it well.

  • The Globe’s analysis of past elections only works if you assume that voters would have voted exactly the same way under a PR system. There is no evidence to support that assumption so their predictive tool is invalid.

    The only benefit of a partial simple proportional system is to give Dippers and Greens more seats.

    The danger is significant. Party leaders will choose which candidates sit at the top of the house of commons because they will dictate the order in which candidates are elected. Further entrenchment of power in the hands of the party leader is exactly what Canada does not need right now.

    Scott, your system would provide more fodder for the separatist argument that Ontario controls Canada. Your large population would wield more power than it already does under simple PR.

    We need a system that preserves or enhances the power at the riding level, and not one that benefits only Ontario.

  • [quote comment=”88″]As for proportional respresentation, I keep in touch with a New Zealander and she does not think too much of it. Apparently, the more parties in the country, the worse. Think how many parties there are here in Canada! Nothing would get done. I think Paul Martin was thinking of a mixture, so it would not be as bad.[/quote]

    You must have missed the part where I said in my post that the system I advocate would allow for better regional representation but not always gurantee perpetual minority governments. The Globe did a study of the last 5 elections using this model.. and only the 1997 election would have been a minority government rather then a majority.. I went back further and found the ’84 election wouldnt have been affected either. What WOULD have occurred was the Progressive Conservatives in ’93 and the Liberals in 84 would have avoided the massive wipeout at the polls they suffered because of the winner take all FPTP system.

    I am fully prepared to email out copies of the Globe Editorials showing how their MM-PR system would work if people would like to read up on them. I’m just not going to post them online due to copyright concerns.

  • As for proportional respresentation, I keep in touch with a New Zealander and she does not think too much of it. Apparently, the more parties in the country, the worse. Think how many parties there are here in Canada! Nothing would get done. I think Paul Martin was thinking of a mixture, so it would not be as bad.

  • Scott, here’s the Dion blogger interview where I ask him about electoral reform during the campaign:

    http://bcinto.blogspot.com/2006/05/dion-on-electoral-reform.html

    I don’t think it’s wholly unsurprising we haven’t heard anything on that from him since Montreal, I’d imagine/hope it’s been a very busy couple of weeks. Also, that’s something he would need to build some support for within the LPC.

    But I’d imagine right now work is beginning in developing a platform for the coming election, and I would hope something in this area would be part of those discussions, and included in the next platform.

  • Scott, your system is 2/3 right. : :em21:

    Reform that better reflects voter sentiment is beneficial but any system that further entrenches party supremacy may be dangerous. Chretien demonstrated how powerful a party leader can be. Harper has turned it into a science by assuming absolute control over the CPC.

    My preference is a runoff system. There is insufficient room here to fully debate it, but I like it because it affords voters the opportunity to vote for ideals and to vote against a candiate.

  • [quote comment=”84″]Why not make the senate seats per province multi member constituencies that are elected on lists from proportional representation?

    Kill two birds with one stone.[/quote]

    Lovely, except you need to open Constitutional talks to reform the Senate in that manner. I dont know of anyone who wants to do that or who would think anything productive would come out of it.

    The House on the other hand, only needs a vote in Parliament to change its voting setup.

  • Kyle

    Why not make the senate seats per province multi member constituencies that are elected on lists from proportional representation?

    Kill two birds with one stone.

  • [quote comment=”81″]Re Dion and electoral and senate reform, I asked him that question when I got a chance to interview him in June, his answer can be found here: http://a-view-from-the-left.blogspot.com/2006/06/in-conversation-with-stphane-dion.html%5B/quote%5D

    Thanks Miranda. I’ve updated my original post to reflect your link.

  • I was going to post about that, but you beat me to it. When I first heard of an “alliance” between Lib and Green, my first thought was that their first priority under such a scenario should be to look into ways of finally implementing PR.

    I want PR!

  • Re Dion and electoral and senate reform, I asked him that question when I got a chance to interview him in June, his answer can be found here: http://a-view-from-the-left.blogspot.com/2006/06/in-conversation-with-stphane-dion.html

  • […] I couldn’t agree more. You want uniqueness for a policy? I hate to beat a dead horse over and over again, but I’m going to again anyhow – you can find nothing more unique then proposing electoral reform and proportional representation. For the Liberals, it would be downright attention grabbing of they were to propose (for them) such a bold reformist proposal. […]

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