Thursday, January 15, 2015

Now Is The Time, Justin


Talk of proportional representation has been around for a long time. Linda McQuaig writes:

The most widely-supported version of PR for Canada — called Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) — is used in Germany, Scotland and New Zealand, and has the advantage of combining local representation with a seat count in the legislature based on the popular vote. MMP was recommended by the Law Commission of Canada in a 2004 report on Canadian electoral reform. It has the support of nonpartisan groups like Fair Vote Canada and the Canadian Electoral Alliance.

And, last month, exactly such a proposal was presented to the House. It had the support of the NDP, the Green Party and 16 Liberal MP's. Curiously, Justin Trudeau voted against the proposal. The question is why? Stephen Harper is the incarnation of the argument for PR:

The rise of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives — with their aggression, their willingness to flout democratic rules and traditions, their indifference to the interests of those who didn’t vote for them — has highlighted the danger of an over-empowered minority in an urgent new way.
With only 39.5 per cent of the popular vote in the 2011 election (plus an unquantifiable amount of hubris), the Harper government has exercised 100 per cent control over Parliament, using that power to sabotage international efforts on climate change and implement a whole range of other policies at odds with the values of most Canadians.

McQuaig suggests that a minority government may, indeed, be what we are left with after this year's election:

A minority government is distinctly possible — and opposition parties undoubtedly would work together to ensure the end of the Harper government.

That could involve some kind of deal between them, a deal which should require the implementation of proportional representation in order to ensure a permanent guarantee of greater democracy.

If Trudeau the Younger is serious about democratic reform, he should be talking about proportional representation.


Anonymous said...

Agreed. The ABC/CRUSH crowd on FB is supporting JT's phoney reasoning. Partisanship is now an official disease, we can't call ourselves progressive if it can't be discussed with reason. I don't even dare to comment because of the 'rulez'. Glad to see this important discussion on PB.

Steve said...

Yes PR is the answer to nearly a decade of Harper and to be fair a decade of Chretien. I have lived it in Austria and if you look around the world, the best countries to actualy live in all have PR.

Justin should also be giving Harper both barrels for gross economic mismanagement of Canada. Worthless defiects that filled potholes, instead of increasing Canadian productivity with target infrastructure like high speed rail. All eggs in oil, which drove up the dollar and hollowed out manufacturing.

Justin should be calling out Saudi Arabia and pointing out it is this type of hypocracy that is one of the root causes of terrorism

Scotian said...

Sorry Owen, I've never agreed with this point. I am a solid fan of the ranked ballot approach, certainly as the first step, because it is by far and away the easiest to implement both legislatively and for the voters to grasp. It also does nothing to fundamentally alter the power balances between parties and electors either (which I acknowledge is not all good, but when you play with electoral mechanisms I believe it is best to play conservatively because of how important they are), and if over a few elections the ranked ballot doesn't do enough to fix the problem then go for what is clearly the much more complicated both electorally and legislatively fix, the PR approach (the law of unintended consequences is one I never ignore whenever I think of things such as these). I know Trudeau in the past has come out in favour of ranked ballot, and to be fair Owen it would also have prevented the Harperium as easily as PR given the preference of many to most Lib/Dipper voters to rank the other as their second choice.

I've been hearing the PR argument since I was still in public School Owen, and I've never seen any appetite for it outside of a tiny slice of Canadians, usually hard core political activists out for democratic reform. Outside of that it has never caught on, and the very few times it had come up for public consideration it flopped royally. I still do not see enough energy to change that POV out there, I think one can sell the ranked ballot, but beyond that you may well run into the conservative nature (in the proper sense, not political sense) of Canadian voters towards that kind of fundamental change without a lot greater public consultation and agreement than I've seen to date.

Sorry Owen, I simply can't agree on this one, and I know there will be many who dislike what I am saying here, but it is what I see. Sorry.

Owen Gray said...

No need to apologize for a strongly held opinion, Scotian. That said, it's time for Trudeau to get specific about what kind of electoral reform he favours.

He'll also have to get his party behind his plan for reform -- which may not be an easy task.

Owen Gray said...

As I wrote to Scotian, Steve, we're at the time when the rubber hits the road. It's time for Justin to get specific and come out swinging.

Owen Gray said...

It's time for the opposition parties to get their act together, Anon.

Unless they do, we'll pay Harper's bills for the next four years.

greg said...

I've heard various things on PR thing. The no people say it will spread and splinter things too much. But then I read it works perfectly or very well in other countries. I also like the idea of the ranked ballot because it's easy to sell. So, could the ranked thing work as well? Confused a little on this thing.

Owen Gray said...

I have to admit that, when the question was put to Ontarians a few years ago, I came out against it, greg.

But events have made me change my mind. Not all proposals are equal. But a ranked ballot would be a cautious beginning. If we're wise, we'll take a cautious approach to electoral change.

mogs moglio said...

It very much seems to me that the so-called "Harper Government" even by its self named is anti Canadian in the worst possible way...

What to do? Show up in droves at the voting booths and unseat every con including Harper are you listening Calgary?

Owen Gray said...

It will be interesting to see what Calgarians do, Mogs, if Alberta goes into recession.

Anonymous said...

Harper is so low of character, he can walk under the belly of a snake, wearing a tall hat. I firmly believe Harper will cheat to win this election, as he did the last election.

Harper is a traitor doing acts of treason, towards this country and the people. Harper's sneak deal with China was so secret, he met China in Russia, to plot his evil deal with China behind our backs.

That Harper is still here, doing his vile dirt to Canada? I have no idea why, Harper isn't in prison? The opposition is absolutely useless.

Owen Gray said...

It's time the opposition offered some real alternatives, Anon.

Steve said...

Looks like Harper is getting his ducks in a row for an early election. This can only mean a pit stop in Ukranine and Isreal before the announcement.

Owen Gray said...

With the economy going in the tank and Duffy going to court, Steve, I suspect that Harper wants to get out in front of the bad news.

lungta said...

the feeling i keep getting on trudeau from his lack of coalition co-operation and his voting record on issues such as this
is he wants the old school - i won and screw you - give me the glory and the power type of win that only a FPTP voting system and corporate pandering can provide.
harper-lite with slightly less control and corruption from harpers old bunker
maybe it is that i just can't get the picture of him and harper hugging out of my mind at any mention of his name
trudeaus' non-cooperation, corporate alignment and reliance on the population to just have faith and vote for me and my untried abilities and unstated policies looks like a determination to split the vote and a tacit endorsement of harper
or a sky high miracle upset win more than anything else

Owen Gray said...

That's precisely the problem, lungta. We still don't know who Trudeau is.

And time is running short.

Scotian said...

Thanks Owen, I know my being less than a fan of PR has not gone over well with many who in other respects I tend to be in agreement with, so I was anticipating similar here.

I would add I think Trudeau endorsed ranked ballot and it is a part of the Lib policy platform, but I won't swear to that last part. I AM sure I've heard him in the past couple years since becoming leader endorse the ranked ballot approach for electoral reform, but offhand I don't remember from where, sorry. So he has actually taken a position on this issue, though he has not exactly been all that loud about it, that I'll freely grant, but he has taken a position.

My main problems with PR in any form comes down to the difficulty in implementation and in re-education of the voters in the system changes, while with the ranked ballot and making it a requirement to have under it 50%+1 to win a riding, that is easily implemented and easily understood, and may make some that stopped voting feel like their voice/vote is being heard.

If it turns out after trying this for a few elections the problem still needs being further fixed, then go to the more complicated route, and because you started conservatively with the ranked ballot you prepared the ground in the wider Canadian public for going to this more fundamental change, and you also make it easier to have the energy needed to sell this strong a change built up as well. I am firmly of the POV that any fundamental changes in how we elect people should be done in a conservative manner because it is so important AND because the law of unintended consequences plays no favourites, and has this nasty habit of showing up in things people believe can't be anything but a good thing. Call it the cynic in me, but I tend to view that along the same lines as "it can't happen here" in terms of trustworthiness.

I understand the zeal and the fervor of those who see PR as the only solution, but to be honest Owen that zeal and fervor also worries me, because that is the sort of mindset that the Law of Unintended Consequences loves to thrive in, and I am also bothered by the habit of many PR boosters to sneer at any other of change such as the ranked ballot approach despite it being a far easier starting point given our system. As a process geek I tend to recognize just how much real difficulty there will be in implementing the PR approach even with a major buy-in from the wider public (which I have seen no-one demonstrate exists in any form), without one, nightmare city seems the inevitable result to me. Ranking a ballot is a much easier sell, does nothing to change anything else in terms of power relationships within our electoral infrastructure yet clearly makes a real difference in terms of results/outcomes, and makes a voter feel like their vote is not a total waste if their first choice fails. Seems like the place to start for me.

That's my nickel on this one Owen.

Owen Gray said...

I seem to recall Trudeau saying he favoured a ranked ballot, Scotian. But he's been pretty quiet on the issue.

And his quiet is beginning to become a problem. He's letting Harper define him. He's got to be more than the anti-Harper. He has to stand for something.

bcwaterboy said...

Proportional representation, while a long overdue electoral reform in Canada, is the least of our worries at this critical tipping point of 2015. Unless Justin gets out with the boxing gloves on, and soon, all we have to look forward to is another 4 years of tearing Canadian infrastructure to threads. More omnibus bills to hide those small incremental changes that so few of us are aware of, more stonewalling on climate change and more "terrorism" related fear mongering along with goodbye to the CBC which is on its last gasps anyway. Come on Justin, get with the program and remember Tom Mulcair is your friend, Steve Harper is not.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, waterboy. If Trudeau and Mulcair can't identify their real enemy, he'll dispose of both of them.

Scotian said...


Tom Mulcair is Trudeau's friend?!? ARE YOU SERIOUS??? Have you been paying any attention to how his "friend" has been speaking and treating him since he came to be leader? REALLY???

I'll go along that Harper is their mutual enemy, and that it would be best if they allied and both made Harper their primary focus instead of either/both of them making the other their primary electoral focus and Harper secondary, but from what I've seen the chances of one making the other the main focus is more Mulcair to Trudeau than the other way around. It is after all the NDP and Mulcair that are looking the weakest going into this campaign, not Trudeau and the Libs, and it has been the NDP and its partisans that have been spending the greater time going after the Libs than the other way around from all I've seen (not saying there is none the other way, I'm talking in total and which side appears to be doing it more).

I've been waiting for the NDP since 2005 to make Harper their primary focus. I understood when they didn't while the Libs held power, I disagreed with it but I understood the logic of it, but for two elections AFTER the Libs lost power the NDP still made the Libs their primary focus, which is no small part of how we got to where we are today. I'm hopeful that this pattern might finally be ending, but I would love to see more evidence of it, because I can't recall seeing a time where relations between Libs and Dippers was more toxic and antagonistic than they are today, with that idiocy around the harassment issue last fall being no small part in that, way to go there Mulcair.

Not to mention Harper WANTS a stronger NDP, he NEEDS a stronger NDP to get him the vote splits for his candidates to run up the middle to form another majority government. So no doubt we have actual CPC operatives pretending to be ardent Dippers stirring the pot, and without a much stronger calling out of such from Mulcair (which he won't because Mulcair is clearly first about party electoral advantage same as Layton was) it will only further enhance that divide, not reduce it. THAT is why I find your phrasing so difficult to deal with, Mulcair is clearly not Trudeau's friend, far from it! Nor for that matter is Trudeau Mulcair's friend. I know those of us that see Harper as the true enemy of us all would prefer otherwise, but we have to deal with reality as it is, not as we wish it were.

Owen Gray said...

I'll let waterboy speak for himself, Scotian. But I read his comment as a reminder that there is more potential common ground between Turdeau and Mulcair than there is between either man and Harper.

Scotian said...


Oh, I agree with you regarding the common ground, the problem is neither side is showing much caring about that fact. I doubt I would have reacted so sharply if he said that Mulcair can/should be his ally, but friend was way too strong in my view. Personally, I would be happy if both leaders made Harper their primary target and kept defending their respective flanks from each other to a secondary level focus and limited how far they damaged the other so as to not give Harper the advantage, if I saw that from both sides I would be overjoyed. The problem from where I see things is that one side is much less willing to do that than the other, and of course you know from my prior comments who I see that being and why I think so.

All I ever wanted was Harper prevented from reaching power, and once there removed as fast as possible. I've only ever advocated for the way in which I see it as possible, because I also understand that Harper and his CPC is something utterly alien to our political way of life, and it infuriates me whenever I hear anyone try to equate the Harper CPC to another party as a government. The record is blatantly clear that this government has repeatedly acted in ways no prior government ever had, or would have considered acting, both Lib and PCPC, and it infuriates me whenever I see that being ignored for purely partisan spin or worse because someone is so down the ideological/partisan rabbit hole that they really can't see these differences despite how massive they truly are.

So at this point I have lost any patience I have with anyone that appears to me to be not seeing the realities as they are, and that Mulcair is Trudeau's friend bit, well sorry Owen, that just seemed downright delusional given the actual reality between the Libs and Dippers these days, and especially the clear antipathy Mulcair has for Trudeau and clearly a not much better feeling from Trudeau to Mulcair these days.

Mulcair is if anyone's Harper's friend, because he really needs a strong NDP to retain government, this is simply the reality of the current Canadian political landscape. If anyone needs to be making the sacrifice play to get Harper gone it is the NDP and Mulcair, because time and again we have had it proven that he and the NDP simply cannot command enough support nationally to win even a minority, and that the votes they take when they are at their strongest come mainly from Libs and send the other centrsits to the CPC instead to counterweight, that was what happened in 2011, and I fear would repeat itself this year in a similar situation.

The problem most Dippers have is they do not realize that most Canadians are not political progressives, they are political centrists, which is why the Libs were so successful for so long and have been able to recover so well so far from 2011 with Trudeau inspiring and also showing good party leadership in rebuilding his party. It is always going to be the centrists who decide the government, and I strongly believe that especially after living with one ideological extremist government the last place they will want to go is to risk another from the other side, which means I just do not see the NDP as being a serious contender for government this time out, only a spoiler even more than in most election years.

Owen Gray said...

Jack Layton made the decision to declare war on the Liberals, Scotian. And it brought the NDP closer to power than it ever had been.

Having drunk from that cup, the Dippers have no desire to give up the quest for the brass ring -- even though that decision might be best for the country.

Scotian said...


The fact that Mulcair is recreating the Layton 2011 election campaign team after having spent the time since he became leader having them pushed out sends loud signals as to what the strategy for the NDP will be this time out, attack the Libs first last and always and just some the Harper CPC. Listening to Mulcair using that entry level position line was also telling (every PM is entry level the first time they gain that office, almost by definition it is entry level, it is a unique level of which there is entry or not, and you learn on the job for the first while because there is no other way). Mulcair has arguably the same amount of federal political experience as Trudeau and only a matter of months, not years, more as leader, not years, so I have to wonder how well that argument is going to work for him, it certainly didn't for Harper.

I also think Mulcair may be falling into a trap that Harper created by his own one-man government. I have noticed one crucial difference between the Libs and the CPC/NDP, in that they appear to be much more focused on a governing team sales pitch as opposed to the one leader approach. Granted that may be in part necessitated by Trudeaus relative youth, but it is still a fundamental difference and speaks much more to the traditional way of looking at Canadian governance, and I have to wonder how strong that appeal may be for those yearning to go back to good responsible government like we used to have before the Harperium nightmare began. When I look at the Libs I can see many people for cabinet, both already in caucus and that have fought for/won nominations, I just do not see that within the NDP, especially with the loss of the last three senior members, two to retirement, one to the OLP in just the past few months.

Bottom line like I've said many times before and I know you've noted yourself Harper needs a strong NDP to win big, and the NDP simply lack the national ability to form even a minority government because contrary to their beliefs the largest plurality of Canadian voters are not political progressives, they are political centrists. Our one big hope is that enough of those centrists saw how Harper lied about how ideological his government truly would be in majority and will now stick with the Libs even with a young leader, because most of those voters simply do not appear to have any willingness to cross to the NDP. Chantel Hebert made this point on last night's At Issue on the National, and I agree with her reading of the electorate on this.

Owen Gray said...

It's going to be interesting to see what happens in Quebec, Scotian.

Both Trudeau and Mulcair can claim to be native sons. At this point, it's hard to tell if that will make a difference in the election.

bcwaterboy said...

Scotian, we're on the same page, just articulated a bit differently, I think Mulcair is silly to keep harping on Trudeau, helping harper define him rather than skewering harper. He does a pretty good job in question period, but doesn't seem to roll that out to the masses. The only one talking to Canadians is harper and gosh if the others don't get with the program, they will be the Adrian Dix of federal politics.