Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Fat Is In The Fire

In a superb piece for the Globe and Mail, Ed Broadbent, Alex Himelfarb and Hugh Segal argue that Canada needs true proportional representation. Nothing else will do:

The central problem with our winner-take-all system is that the composition of our elected parliament does not reflect how we actually voted. A candidate who receives a plurality of the votes wins, even if a majority of the voters chose others. The majority of the votes in such a case have no impact on the outcome of the election.

That means a party that receives only a minority of votes, say less than 40 per cent, can form a majority government, taking full control of the policy agenda. In fact, this is the norm in Canada. But this cannot continue. In a representative democracy, representativeness surely should matter.

The Liberals claim that the new system will be guided by eight principles. The authors write:

 We note, nonetheless, that only a proportional system can meet the government’s first principle: To ensure that votes are fairly translated into elected results.

No more staying at home because our preferred candidate cannot win. No more so-called strategic voting in which we vote to stop a party we like the least rather than choose the candidate or party that best reflects our views.

Not surprisingly, countries with some form of proportional representation – and that is the majority of advanced democracies and 85 per cent of OECD countries – elect more women, more members of minority communities and more diverse legislatures.

Proportional Representation is not a vague theory: 

Given that most democracies have opted for greater proportionality, there’s a good deal of evidence on how it’s working. And it is working.

Voter participation and trust in government are higher. There has been some increase but no proliferation of parties. It does become harder – though not impossible – for single parties to get a majority so these countries are often governed by coalitions. But coalitions in fact provide good, stable government. Elections are no more frequent and politics tend to be less polarized because parties know they may have to work together.

They warn that preferential ballots won't bring about these changes. Only a genuinely proportional system will do that.

The fat is in the fire.



Rural said...

I agree ....in theory! However the methods of obtain said Proportionality are many and varied with such things as accountability, number of additional MPs and the cast of same and complexity of the ballot to be considered. That all said its going to take much more than a change of voting system to make our "representatives" work together for the good of the country rather than along partisan and self promoting lines!

Owen Gray said...

As long as our representatives confuse self interest with the public interest, Rural, we'll have a hampered democracy.

Anonymous said...

How would that even be implemented? The guy with the most votes loses?
Not trying to be a smart ass but just how would it work? Too many parties able to run here creating a fractured ballot at best but eliminating the other parties isn't even remotely like democratic process either. One hell of a conundrum.

The Mound of Sound said...

When the NDP starts pimping pro-rep, take it with a grain of salt. To hear them talk it's the only system, there is no other. It's the miracle cure.

There are other systems that work about as well and without some of the pro-rep drawbacks. Systems that elected Sadiq Khan as mayor of London. That was a preferential ballot and it enabled Mr. Khan to claim a staggering 57% of the vote. Every one of those votes was for him, either as first or second choice.

Pro-rep is less democratic. It installs party appointments to seats that are supposed to be for elected officials. You wind up governed, in part, by people who have never stood for election. Now the NDP likes that because, and they'll never say this, pro-rep increases their numbers while preferential ballots are less advantageous to their party. And so they shovel shit down everyone's throat about the miraculous curative qualities of proportional representation. That's one thing about the NDP. They're not one iota more trustworthy than any other party no matter how fiercely they claim to be.

Owen Gray said...

Then do you think that a ranked ballot is the way to go, Mound?

Owen Gray said...

Several other countries have systems where the percentage of seats a party receives reflects its percentage of the popular vote, Anon. In the end, you would have a form of coalition government -- something that is not unknown in parliamentary democracies.

The Mound of Sound said...

I believe it's better, Owen. If I vote for someone and he comes in last, say of five candidates, and my second vote places fourth, I'm not democratically deprived if the second place candidate wins the riding on a ranked ballot. Not in the slightest.

The pro-rep reminds me of sports day at pre-schools where everyone gets a blue ribbon. The dippers favour pro-rep because they assume, with their bland platform, that the ranked ballot will favour the Liberals. If it favoured them, oh mein Gott, they would be all for preferential voting.

I say this as a Green. I don't want anyone sitting in Parliament voting on my future who hasn't run for office, stood for election in a riding, and prevailed. That's democracy.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Mound. No one should sit in a seat because they've been appointed to it -- except, come to think of it, I've just described the Senate.

Anonymous said...

I also agree mound. The recent Harper's PMO is, to me, a classic description of appointees. They were telling not only MPs but Senators (who are supposed to be independent of parliament) as well, what talking points they were to use and the latter to get in line with Party policy.

If I look at the party policies of the candidates I can at least feel that most of the things I prefer will be implemented.

The NDP likes Prop Rep because they think they will become the king makers in a series of minority governments via the back door.

Rural said...

I am with Mound on this one! I am also concerned that in the public's mind the term 'Proportional voting' has become synonymous with the term 'electoral reform' before the process to examine the options has even started.