The NDP not serious about proportional representation - #3

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Caissa

The first is correct in so far as how would one allocate seats in a PR system without political parties?

The second part is my observation based  on 40 years as a NBer. I'll stand by the statement that NBers have  are "pretty attached to their local member." With 55 members in such a small province, this attachment is inevitable.

Do you want to offer a contrary view of NB political culture?

remind remind's picture

This thread and the starting OP represents the incredible misrepresentation of the NDP that is currently going on here, by some, who quite obviously have a political agenda that they are representing, covertly.

It seems they wrongly believe nothing should be coming out of the NDP's mouths except yelling for PR, as apparently the NDP's stated position on their website, which is there ALL THE TIME, is NOT enough proof of how committed the NDP are to PR.

As follows:

Quote:
5.2 Renewing Canadian Democracy

New Democrats believe in:

  1. Reforming Canada's electoral system through mixed member proportional representation
  2. Ensuring electoral reform is based on a transparent process with wide citizen involvement
  3. Assisting under-represented and marginalized groups to participate fully in the political process
  4. Protecting the right to vote by ensuring that regulations on voter identity do not unduly restrict a citizen from casting a ballot; and
  5. Investing in public education addressing democracy and politics, primarily for young people.

JKR

Caissa wrote:

The first is correct in so far as how would one allocate seats in a PR system without political parties?

STV is a PR system that does not require political parties.

 

 

Caissa wrote:

The second part is my observation based  on 40 years as a NBer. I'll stand by the statement that NBers have  are "pretty attached to their local member." With 55 members in such a small province, this attachment is inevitable.

Do you want to offer a contrary view of NB political culture?

I think keeping single-member plurality (SMP) in NB isn't really about maintaining political culture. It has a lot more to do with giving Conservatives and Liberals an unfair advantage. Adding a dozen or so regional top-up seats to the NB Legislature would not harm NB's political culture. NB would still have their local members. They would still not have to vote for parties. But such a change would insure greater representation in the NB Legislature of smaller parties. Maintaining an unfair political advantage has a lot more to do with keeping SMP the does maintaining political culture.

The Conservatives in NB will never even accept the Alternative Vote (AV) as they love it that vote splitting between the NDP, Liberals, and Greens gives them fake SMP majorities. How would AV change NB's political culture?

The Liberals and especially the Conservatives try to hind behind "political culture" to save a system that gives them an unfair advantage. Hopefully Canadians will wise up to this and get electoral reform.

It will be interesting to see what happens if the UK adopts AV and Canada becomes the only multi-party democracy in the developed world with SMP.

 

hsfreethinkers hsfreethinkers's picture

remind wrote:

This thread and the starting OP represents the incredible misrepresentation of the NDP that is currently going on here, by some, who quite obviously have a political agenda that they are representing, covertly.

The starting OP was mine. Which part of it didn't you like?

hsfreethinkers wrote:

There's a New Democrats for Fair Voting group (thought I'd mention), but I wonder whether the New Democratic Party is that keen on proportional representation given the fact that PR will particularly benefit the Green Party. The passage from this article got me thinking about this question. If none of the major parties really care for PR, are we stuck with FPTP for the foreseeable future?:

Quote:
"...the experience in continental Europe is that in electoral systems with PR, the rise of the Greens has placed the social democratic parties on a path to seemingly inexorable decline, with an ageing support base, deep internal divisions and a political positioning that swings haplessly between the moderate and extreme Left."

psmith

remind wrote:

It seems they wrongly believe nothing should be coming out of the NDP's mouths except yelling for PR, as apparently the NDP's stated position on their website, which is there ALL THE TIME, is NOT enough proof of how committed the NDP are to PR.

 

The Liberals have something on their website about instituting National Childcare too. And apparently, the Conservatives are all about reforming the Senate. Hey, those guys must be really serious.

A policy on a website means nothing unless a party actually pushes for it too.

Again, no-one is asking that "nothing should be coming out of the NDP's mouths except yelling for PR"; this is an unreasonable misrepresentation of what is being asked for. Just give a speech about it for 10 minutes in a House of Commons debate, introduce a bill, or bringing it up prominently once in an election campaign would be nice. Some token to show the party is serious. Because people are noticing.

One has to wonder why so may party establisment people are getting so defensive about this. Maybe its because the truth hurts.

KenS

There arent any party establishment people around here.

Fair game to say people get defensive.

Other people spend all their time on the offensive, and dont want to talk about anything else.

Maybe its because they have nothing else to say.

siamdave

JKR wrote:

(snip-snip) - STV is a PR system that does not require political parties.

 

- maybe I am missing something, but I do not see how STV qualifies as PR. Just as a graphic example, let us imagine 3 parties, and in most ridings parties A and B get ~45% of the vote apiece, and part C gets the other ~10% - in every riding, part C's votes will get divided up either to A or B, and the 10% of people who voted for party C will wind up with no seats - which is what PR is NOT all about. Is there some form of STV that first says that in the big picture party C must get 10% of the seats somehow, or do the votes indeed get allocated as I suggest, making STV not at all PR?

Fidel

Why would party affiliation be considered an unnecessary piece of piece of information on the ballot? Is STV that good?

JKR

siamdave wrote:

JKR wrote:

(snip-snip) - STV is a PR system that does not require political parties.

 

- maybe I am missing something, but I do not see how STV qualifies as PR. Just as a graphic example, let us imagine 3 parties, and in most ridings parties A and B get ~45% of the vote apiece, and part C gets the other ~10% - in every riding, part C's votes will get divided up either to A or B, and the 10% of people who voted for party C will wind up with no seats - which is what PR is NOT all about. Is there some form of STV that first says that in the big picture party C must get 10% of the seats somehow, or do the votes indeed get allocated as I suggest, making STV not at all PR?

I think you're talking about the Alternative Vote (AV), not the single-transferable vote STV.

STV can be very proportional. STV's proportionality depends on its district magnitudes - how many seats there are per STV riding. The greater the "district magnitude", the more proportional STV is. Roughly speaking, a party that has the support of 10% of the voters would likely elect one member in STV ridings that have 6 members. (A district magnitude of 6).

The Alternative Vote is STV with district magnitudes of 1. All the ridings in AV are represented by one member, just like our system in Canada. The only difference is that AV requires the winning candidate to have the support of at least 50% of the voters. This makes it more democratic then our current system.

 

In your example where party A and B has the support of 45% and party C has the support of 10%, the results of an STV election might look something like this:

NDP - 45% support
Liberals - 45% support
Conservatives - 10% support

6-member STV riding

Elected:
Tommy Douglas
Pierre Trudeau
Ed Broadbent
Lester Pearson
Jack Layton
Brian Mulroney

(STV does not require any mention of political party affiliation.)

 

If the election was held in a five-member STV district, the party with 10% support would likely not elect anyone.

The results would look something like this:

Elected:
Tommy Douglas
Pierre Trudeau
Ed Broadbent
Lester Pearson
Jack Layton

Thus it can be seen that a 5-member STV riding is less proportional then a 6-member STV riding.

 

If the election had been held in a 7-member STV riding, proportionality would have been even better then in a 6-seat riding. The results would likely look like this:

Tommy Douglas
Pierre Trudeau
Ed Broadbent
Lester Pearson
Jack Layton
Brian Mulroney
Jean Chretien

Roughly speaking, 7-seat STV ridings would likely elect representatives from parties that have the support of at least 6% or so of the voters.

Single transferable vote - Wikipedia

JKR

Fidel wrote:

Why would party affiliation be considered an unnecessary piece of piece of information on the ballot? Is STV that good?

Some people don't like party politics, so they like the idea of electoral systems that don't mention party affiliation. Ballots in Canada used to not mention party affiliation.

Just like our single-member plurality (SMP) system, STV does not require the mention of party affiliation. But in practice, party affiliation is included on STV ballots just as they are now included on SMP ballots in Canada.

Fidel

I think it would be fun to hide all candidates' party affiliations from the public until after local debates are finished and even until election night when votes are counted. There would be a lot of people saying to themselves, I voted for that party?

siamdave

JKR wrote:

I think you're talking about the Alternative Vote (AV), not the single-transferable vote STV.

STV can be very proportional. STV's proportionality depends on its district magnitudes - how many seats there are per STV riding. The greater the "district magnitude", the more proportional STV is. Roughly speaking, a party that has the support of 10% of the voters would likely elect one member in STV ridings that have 6 members. (A district magnitude of 6).

[... snipsnip ...]

- thanks for that explanation - I see now how the system works in the single riding (approve of your MP choices too!). But - how would you do something like that in a country like Canada with 300+ ridings? I cannot imagine *ever* people agreeing to a 2100 seat parliament - or alternatively dividing the country down into ~45 very large 7-member ridings - ??

JKR

siamdave wrote:

- thanks for that explanation - I see now how the system works in the single riding (approve of your MP choices too!). But - how would you do something like that in a country like Canada with 300+ ridings? I cannot imagine *ever* people agreeing to a 2100 seat parliament - or alternatively dividing the country down into ~45 very large 7-member ridings - ??

This is why STV is not favoured by most fair voting supporters for use at the federal level. If STV was established at the federal level, it would have a lot of 1, 2, and, 3 seaters in most parts of the country and 5, 6 and 7 seaters in populated urban areas. Because it would have a lot of 1, 2, and, 3 seaters, it wouldn't be as proportional as some other PR systems but it would be a vast improvement over what we're stuck with now. Ireland has an STV system that has mostly 3-seaters and they're happy with it.

Most people who support fair voting in Canada support open-list MMP  and, to a lesser extent, nearest winners, no list MMP.

Germany is the birth place of MMP and they are the experts on it. Open list MMP  is found in Bavaria while "no list" MMP is found in Baden-Wurttemberg. With these systems, people don't have to vote for parties, they can vote for individual candidates.

Personally I prefer no list MMP using AV instead of SMP.  A Commission in the UK supported such a variant of MMP and it's called "AV plus" or "AV+". The Commission was called the Jenkins Commission.

psmith

remind wrote:

This thread and the starting OP represents the incredible misrepresentation of the NDP that is currently going on here, by some, who quite obviously have a political agenda that they are representing, covertly.

 

I've been quite open about my political agenda: proportional representation is important to me, I want a party to believe in, and I'm hoping that will be the NDP again. I want to believe. But that takes more than just keeping an old dusty policy on the books. The fact that there seems to be lots of support for PR and people arguing here that the NDP should get its act together on PR shows that I and others haven't quite given up on the party yet, even if NDP performance on this issue is pushing them in that direction.

This should be taken as constructive criticism to correct problems, not dismissed as "slapping the party around." It's actually a lucky thing for that party that so many are still willing to argue that New Democrats must take action, because I know lots of people that gave up on other parties completely long ago - in no small part because of lip service on democratic reform.

What people are asking for is not unreasonable at all. Just a little movement on the issue from a party that has been silent lately. It won't cost the world, and it won't cost any votes. Is that so much to ask for something that is official party policy anyways?

siamdave

JKR wrote:

siamdave wrote:

- thanks for that explanation - I see now how the system works in the single riding (approve of your MP choices too!). But - how would you do something like that in a country like Canada with 300+ ridings? I cannot imagine *ever* people agreeing to a 2100 seat parliament - or alternatively dividing the country down into ~45 very large 7-member ridings - ??

This is why STV is not favoured by most fair voting supporters for use at the federal level. If STV was established at the federal level, it would have a lot of 1, 2, and, 3 seaters in most parts of the country and 5, 6 and 7 seaters in populated urban areas. Because it would have a lot of 1, 2, and, 3 seaters, it wouldn't be as proportional as some other PR systems but it would be a vast improvement over what we're stuck with now. Ireland has an STV system that has mostly 3-seaters and they're happy with it.

Most people who support fair voting in Canada support open-list MMP  and, to a lesser extent, nearest winners, no list MMP.

Germany is the birth place of MMP and they are the experts on it. Open list MMP  is found in Bavaria while "no list" MMP is found in Baden-Wurttemberg. With these systems, people don't have to vote for parties, they can vote for individual candidates.

Personally I prefer no list MMP using AV instead of SMP.  A Commission in the UK supported such a variant of MMP and it's called "AV plus" or "AV+". The Commission was called the Jenkins Commission.

I agree, some MMP sounds best - and would be a vast improvement on what we have.

- back to the topic of the list - Ed Broadbent seems to still be speaking in favor of PR - http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/rude-and-crude-eschewed/art... -  too bad the NDP didn't agree with his points enough to pay more than lip service in policy docs. Without some organised leadership over a longterm basis, it's not likely to happen in the near future.

KenS

Do we need to keep going around this- thats your notion that its because the NDP "doesnt agree" with Ed's points. I think you couldnt be more wrong. So we dont agree, and apparently neither can provide convincing back-up to our opinions.

So why keep saying essentialist moralist points that cannot be refuted or backed up like "the NDP doesnt [really] agree" ?

All we know is what comes out the end of the pipe. Unless people can provide good reason it is going to help and lead somewhere, then why make statements like that?

Statements like that have just about nil likelihood to be substantiated or refuted in an agreed manner. Which does not in itself mean that they should never be made. But if you want a discussion to have a chance of getting anywhere, then maybe one should only go down that road if you can say what the point is.

I think the relevant point is that the NDP pays only lip service. I think thats a bit strong, but that small objection falls in the range of chalk it up to my prejudice... I dont dispute the point that the NDP does no more than talk and issue policy statements.

The question is what to do about that.

Instead people trod the well worn and lazy path of asserting why the NDP is such a laggard. Leave aside even questions of whether the 'whys' seen are correct- assume they are. What was achieved?

I'll tell you what was achieved. Talking about how bad the NDP is gave people the impression that they are working towards a solution of the problem.

Maybe thats the biggest problem with the NDP: gives people an easy whipping boy.

siamdave

I didn't say the NDP didn't agree with Ed - I said the NDP didn't agree **enough to pay more than lip service* - there's a considerable difference, so you're beating up on something that was never said. YOu seem to continually try to rewrite things that have been said - the idea here or related threads has not been to beat up on the NDP, the idea has, at least from my perspective, trying to figure out why the NDP has done so badly the last 30 years, and talk about possible things to do about this poor record. That necessarily involves some critique, but you don't need to get all defensive behind the ramparts - the overall goal is positive, if enough people care enough to pursue it.

Fidel

psmith wrote:
This should be taken as constructive criticism to correct problems, not dismissed as "slapping the party around." It's actually a lucky thing for that party that so many are still willing to argue that New Democrats must take action, because I know lots of people that gave up on other parties completely long ago - in no small part because of lip service on democratic reform.

What people are asking for is not unreasonable at all. Just a little movement on the issue from a party that has been silent lately. It won't cost the world, and it won't cost any votes. Is that so much to ask for something that is official party policy anyways?

1) It's not unreasonable to expect the NDP to introduce a motion to restart the federal study on ER before Parliament. The NDP did this in May of 2007. Is there a Parliamentary rule concerning reintroduction of,  or a time limit which might have to elapse before the NDP can re-introduce the same motion in Parliament? And what are the chances that the LPC or Tories would support it? Or are we just looking for a token effort from the NDP for the sake of politicizing the NDP's perceived lack of effort on the matter? Realistically, would it be a waste of time based on Parliament's reaction to the NDP motion in May 2007?

2) What is the Green Party doing to promote electoral reform? We know they spent millions on the last FPTP election campaign in competing against the federal NDP. And in the last days of the campaign, Elizabeth May recommended people vote Liberal in one particular riding. Electoral reformers should note that the LPC is a party that was probably least supportive of electoral reform at the time.

KenS

Because it may be useful- here's what I said about the situation, and where that leads. Same question that I am asking of other people.

1.] The NDP's problem is that it doesnt know how to give PR legs. Its certainly arguable that if they dont, then not getting it together to figure it out is a problematic lack of will. And I would not argue with that. But no one says that. Everyone here disagrees with me that not knowing what to do and that giving the issue legs is categorically different than simply talking it up more; and that it is crucial to address that the depth of professed support for PR is only skin deep. We don't agree. Fine. I go from my analysis of the problem, to what I would do about it:

2.] I wouldnt wait for the NDP. Even if I didnt like the NDP, I cant see we'll ever get PR, without them at least joining the bandwagon. But you cant wait for that either. Since I think the biggest stumbling block for the NDP, and for the larger movement, is knowing how to deepen the skin depth 'liking' of the idea of PR that heretofore does not stand up in public discussion. And for me that would mean doing a small scale project where you involve people- not the democratic reform activists, and not the too narrow band of highly self-selecting people who would come to something like a town hall. A collection of "anyones".

So I have a whole set of places my analysis of the problem leads to- on a variety of levels of generality/specificity.... starting with "dont wait for the NDP."  The point isnt whether those are good or bad ideas. The point is that I have both an anlysis of the situation, and where it leads to.

We know the equivalnt of my 1.] - the analysis that the NDP just isnt serious about PR. Like I said, my analysis that the problem is not knowing how to give the issue legs is not as any argument any better at 'independent supportability'. So lets assume we've gone beyond the snarling about whether or not the NDP is serious. We've arrived at the NDP is not serious.

What is your equivalent of my 2.] ... where does the NDP isnt serious lead?

Somehow beating, shaming, the NDP into submission?

Thats just the only thing that comes to mind. Because I've asked, and no one has offered anything.

KenS

siamdave wrote:

I didn't say the NDP didn't agree with Ed - I said the NDP didn't agree **enough to pay more than lip service* - there's a considerable difference, so you're beating up on something that was never said. YOu seem to continually try to rewrite things that have been said - the idea here or related threads has not been to beat up on the NDP, the idea has, at least from my perspective, trying to figure out why the NDP has done so badly the last 30 years, and talk about possible things to do about this poor record. That necessarily involves some critique, but you don't need to get all defensive behind the ramparts - the overall goal is positive, if enough people care enough to pursue it.

"Agree" or "agree enough" makes no difference in the context of the discussion. I've said many many times its nothing to do with 'agreeing' 'caring' whatever, its about doing. I dont expect agreement on that. I do expect people to respect what the difference is rather than make one up.

"trying to figure out why the NDP has done so badly the last 30 years" sounds good, but I dont see any of that.

Tell me where 'not agreeing enough' fits in? Even if the intention is not to simply slam the NDP, where can that line of analysis go? In the first place, its the farthest we could possibly be from something that can be either supported or refuted with more than opinions. And where does it lead anyway- how the NDP decides what it internally agrees on?

 

I think we could all agree that the goal is to decide where you are and what you need to do to get further. In principle, what you can identify of inadequacies in how you got there, is part of figuring out what to do next. But this discussion is like a lot of others:

People go from at least somewhat agreed points of where we are ["the NDP has accomplished little on PR"] to assertions about whay that is.

From a reasonably neutral point those assertions are as substantiated as my assertions they are wrong. But thats just a reflection that we arent talking about emprical evidence that anyone can examine on their own.

But worse than that, assertions like the NDP doesnt want to / wont do any more than pay lip service about PR, even if they are taken as true or tue enough.... where does it lead?

 

Fidel

 The NDP can not force democracy on our two oldest political parties. They have to want it, too. And right now they don't. Simple as that. And I think that if Green Party supporters were to admit to the reality of their own FPP chances, then they would vote strategically for the NDP.

It's simple, more NDPers in Ottawa would help to make the LPC realize that the phony majority machine isn't working for them anymore. We need at least two of the four parties with seats in Parliament supporting reform if it's to have any momentum. We need a united front on the left if we're going to put the ReformaTories out of business.

Pants-of-dog

How did New Zealand get PR?

 

EDIT: Found the answer. Apparently, an organisation agitating for a referendum on PR managed to get enough people involved that it became an election issue twice.

Just get fairvote to call for a referendum every election year.

Fidel

Pants-of-dog wrote:

How did New Zealand get PR?

It started with a Royal Commission to study and report on the election system in 1985. Labour was governing at the time.

Its">http://www.elections.org.nz/voting/mmp/history-mmp.html]Its report, completed in December 1986, was surprisingly radical. It recommended New Zealand adopt the German-style MMP system, in which each elector would get two votes, one for an electorate MP and one for a party. The size of Parliament would increase to 120 MPs: half would be elected in single-member constituencies (as before); the other half would be selected from party lists so that in general each party's share of all 120 seats corresponded to its share of the overall vote.

Apparently neither Labour nor National parties really wanted to switch to MMP. Both parties tried to make the other out to be undemocratic, and it resulted in one-upmanship leading to a national referendum.

Polunatic2

Since this debate is still raging....

Quote:
Every vote has the right to be cast.

Yes, that's the definition of democracy in North America. You get to vote and if you're vote is thrown in the garbage like mine is every election, that's just too damned bad. Move somewhere that you can vote for a winner I guess? Casting a vote is not good enough. 

Quote:
 Look at what the NDP could be doing in real terms- and I'm sorry but good websites and good information are just a necessary adjunct. So, look at what the NDP could be doing, and break it into bits. What does that mean? Hell if I know. But this isnt one of my big issues.

I won't bother any further because whatever suggestions i propose are immediately written off as untenable or of no practical value. "We can do something, just not that." Sounds a lot like, "we support PR, just not that model". 

Quote:
Our electoral system, single-member plurality (SMP), is illegitimate for elections that involve more then two popular candidates. 

I've grown to understand this is a myth. To quote myself from previous threads. Let's say there are 2 parties and 100 seats. If Party A gets 51% of the vote in every riding, they win 100% of the seats. The other 49% have no representation at all. 

Quote:
this is an unreasonable misrepresentation of what is being asked for

Quote:
how to deepen the skin depth 'liking' of the idea of PR that heretofore does not stand up in public discussion

I would dispute the "skin deep" characterization. We're past that now. Let's build on it. A couple of million voters have already marked an "X" for PR in 3 different provinces (and with the NDP campaigning AGAINST PR in the BC referendum.) PR received more than twice the popular vote of the ONDP in the 2007 referendum/election.

And just to correct Fidel's misrepresentation of the Ontario referendum rules and his version of history, political parties were not allowed to raise money to advertise in the referendum. There was nothing prohibiting them from talking about the issue and their support of it. Some did. Some didn't. There were also a number of NDP candidates who wanted the referendum to succeed and whose campaigns piggybacked their literature with the Vote 4 MMP literature. Some Greens did that as well. 

George Smitherman even had a "Vote for MMP" logo on his literature and no one said boo about that. The rules certainly didn't stop Hampton from stating from the outset that the referendum was doomed to fail. Horwath has acknowledged that this was a strategic mistake and apologized for it at a union meeting I attended last year. Imagine if NDP campaigners told their supporters that a riding level campaign was "doomed to fail" (even if it was - you just don't spout that kind of shit before the race even begins). 

The ONDP leadership didn't want to discuss the referendum during the '07 election and conveniently had a leader in the Vote MMP campaign "ask" them not to talk about it. We can only speculate as to why some in the ONDP would betray the base and undermine their own long term interests? Could it be that some in the ONDP leadership didn't want the referendum to succeed because it would have been credited to the Liberals? Or that others didn't want to give the Greens a foot in the door? Or that it would have meant probably sharing power with the Libs and/or Greens in the future. We don't know because those kinds of calculations are done behind closed doors. 

Fidel

So why did both B.C.'s phony-majority Liberal government and Ontario's phonier majority Liberal government insist that no political parties campaign for or against PR as conditions for referenda on electoral reform?

Howard Hampton praised the CA's choice for MMP but publicly chastised the McGuinty government for imposing a supermajority threshold barrier to ER in Ontario.

jrootham

Prolunatic, that post is an inaccurate recounting of history.

Hampton did not make his statement at the outset.  He made it far enough into the campaign (about the middle) that it was clear that the referendum WAS doomed.  He also made it clear in those remarks that he thought it was a bad thing.  You can make a case that it was a strategic error to make the remarks, but it is distorting his meaning to say that it illustrates his lack of support for PR.

The last paragraph is just flat out wrong.  I am a member of Fair Vote Canada and I was at a meeting where the strategy was laid out.  There was considerable concern about making sure that the effort was not seen as a partisan one.  a major focus was to get multiparty support.  My crack was "Where am I going to find a Tory in Trinity Spadina?"  

 

Fidel

With Liberals calling the shots on the referendum campaign funding and rules for the campaign, it was doomed. McGuinty was silent on the issue, and I think Tory actually opposed it. But between the two Bay Street party leaders, they thought to volley separate school funding legacy issues in order to anesthetize four million Ontarians into not voting.

JKR

Fidel wrote:

 The NDP can not force democracy on our two oldest political parties. They have to want it, too. And right now they don't. Simple as that.

If the Conservatives don't get a majority in the next election, the Liberals and NDP will likely enter into negotiations with each other to establish an alternate government.  In their negotiations with the Liberals, the NDP would be wise to put electoral reform onto their list of requirements. This is what the Liberal Democrats did recently in the UK.

It should be remembered that the NDP was able to get movement towards electoral reform during Paul Martin's minority government.

JKR

Polunatic2 wrote:

Quote:
Our electoral system, single-member plurality (SMP), is illegitimate for elections that involve more then two popular candidates. 

I've grown to understand this is a myth. To quote myself from previous threads. Let's say there are 2 parties and 100 seats. If Party A gets 51% of the vote in every riding, they win 100% of the seats. The other 49% have no representation at all. 

That's why I stated "two popular candidates" and not "two popular parties." In elections where there are just two candidates, SMP is fair. So, for example, SMP is valid for presidential elections between just two candidates. But once you have more then two candidates, SMP becomes illegitimate. Al Gore and many Americans found this out the hard way in 2000. (The Alternative Vote is the legitimate choice for elections involving more then 2 candidates in one constituency)

You're right, SMP is illegitimate in parliamentary elections even when there are only two candidates in each riding. But it can be also said that SMP works worse and worse as more popular parties enter the political scene. The Achilles heel of SMP is multi-party politics. SMP breaks down more and more as the number of parties increase.

The corollary of this is that SMP puts pressure on parties to merge. That's why there is so much talk lately of the NDP, Greens, and Liberals merging in some combination with each other.  If electoral reform fails, some kind of political merger on the centre left will eventually happen. The Greens and NDP merging might have to happen if electoral reform becomes implausible and Green popularity stays above 7%.

The politicians understand this. My hunch is that after the next election the Conservatives will not win a majority and the NDP and Liberals will negotiate over electoral reform.  The NDP will fight for MMP and the Liberals will prefer AV.  This will be a replay over what just happened in the UK when the Liberal Democrats were negotiating with Labour and the Conservatives.

 

 

jrootham

Alright, I will be upfront with my biases here.  Layton and the NDP are more competent than the Lib-Dems, and the Liberals are less competent than the UK Tories.

I expect the result to be better.

Also, we have been through more public process than Britain, some of this will rub off.

 

KenS

JKR wrote:

The corollary of this is that SMP puts pressure on parties to merge. That's why there is so much talk lately of the NDP, Greens, and Liberals merging in some combination with each other.  If electoral reform fails, some kind of political merger on the centre left will eventually happen. The Greens and NDP merging might have to happen if electoral reform becomes implausible and Green popularity stays above 7%.

The politicians understand this.

The argument that pressure exists is sound, but its not true that most politicians see it this way- even most of any of the parties. a small minority I would say.

My take is that it will be pressure on the Liberals to reconsider PR, not merger. [And that we are already on the cusp of that.] And without PR the Greens will just wither rather than merge. Opinion here notwithstanding, the NDP doesnt need that kind of pressure.

KenS

JKR wrote:

If the Conservatives don't get a majority in the next election, the Liberals and NDP will likely enter into negotiations with each other to establish an alternate government.  In their negotiations with the Liberals, the NDP would be wise to put electoral reform onto their list of requirements. This is what the Liberal Democrats did recently in the UK.

As encouraging was the UK example, you have to keep in mind that the UK Conservatives are not like the Liberal Party of Canada- they have not been a "natural governing party" for a generations back.

It looks the reality of not being an NGP is also being forced on the Liberals. But its too soon to say whether its true, and light years too soon to say its percolating into the conciousness of the LPC. And even when it percolates more, the internal over my dead bloc wont have to be close to a majority to stand in the way.

If we had an election right now, and there is no majority, my guess is pretty strong on the side that a PR demand from the NDP would be a deal breaker. [And while its unlikely the Liberals qould have a plurality, or even close to the Cons in seat count, they'll tell the NDP to pound sand on any demands, let alone PR.]

By the time we have an election, if the Liberals go through yet more turmoil and come out wounded, then who knows what is possible. But that cuts in every direction, including not even serously interested in trying to have a monority government.

Summary: even the idea of a demand from the NDP about PR has been and still would be a deal breaker. Later? Even as little time as an election next year, we'll see.

My guess is that its going to have to be the 'Goldilocks point' for the Liberals to consider a demand for PR. Liberals too strong: no way. Liberals too weak: too inclined to shy from governing anyway.

And what will the Bloc say? Even not being formal partners, might they want to spike it?

Fidel

JKR wrote:

Fidel wrote:

 The NDP can not force democracy on our two oldest political parties. They have to want it, too. And right now they don't. Simple as that.

If the Conservatives don't get a majority in the next election, the Liberals and NDP will likely enter into negotiations with each other to establish an alternate government.  In their negotiations with the Liberals, the NDP would be wise to put electoral reform onto their list of requirements. This is what the Liberal Democrats did recently in the UK.

It should be remembered that the NDP was able to get movement towards electoral reform during Paul Martin's minority government.

But the UK is still stuck with one of the most distorted election results they've ever had.

I think there also has to be public pressure from third parties for reform as was the case in NZ. And third parties means those parties which tend to be shut-out of Parliament for the most part even though they have significant voter support enough to warrant having democratic voices in Parliament. The NDP needs some backup on ER and more than what exists now. All I'm hearing in this thread is how the NDP is standing in the way of electoral reform, and that's just not true. Jack was a strong voice for the 62% majority leading up to Harper's perogy fest. And Jack's door is still open to the Liberals and Bloc. That's as democratic as it gets when FPP is the way.

Apparently Ignatieff wants nothing to do with the 62% majority. He believes that the phony majority machine will work its magic for the LPC as before. It's either that or there exists some sort of unwritten pledge of allegiance between Canada's two oldest political parties who have vowed never to let democracy fall into the hands of the real majority in Canada. For now all we can do is wait and endure these FPP-style political maneuverings between now and next election. They want to disabuse Canadians of any and all thoughts of empowering voters. Remember, democracy is the right's most hated institution. They will fight tooth and nail to prevent it from happening. We're talking about the much coveted ring of democracy here. Democracy is power in the hands of the people, and that's dangerous as far as powerful elitists are concerned.

KenS

Polunatic2 wrote:

I would dispute the "skin deep" characterization. We're past that now. Let's build on it. A couple of million voters have already marked an "X" for PR in 3 different provinces (and with the NDP campaigning AGAINST PR in the BC referendum.) PR received more than twice the popular vote of the ONDP in the 2007 referendum/election.

This has been said before, that PR getting more votes than the NDP means nothing at all about the depth of support. And it MUST get at least 50% to succeed. Nothing else counts.

That said, I've seen no one testing the depth, so we have only our observations. And I cant speak to Ontario or BC. So you may be right that we've gone somehere on the continuum away from very shallow support there. Presumably at least some significant movement.

The 'depth factor' comes in around how much it means the national polls that have asked people if they want PR. If you can find one after the BC and Ontario referendums it would be interesting to see the regional breakdowns. If support in the Atlantic region is just as high, that says something. Because its just not on the radar here.

when I have time I'll speak to the NDP here and that.

Fidel

PR was more popular than Campbell's Liberal government before they realized that FPP was working in their favour.

In Ontario it's hard to tell what people think of PR as many of Ontarians were unaware of what PR is even about at the time of the referendum . Democracy is about well informed people making democratic decisions, and I don't think that's what happened in Ontario. Newspapers said McGuinty won by "a landslide" with 42% of "the vote" while MMP suffered "resounding defeat" with only 37% in favour. Apparently the difference between landslide victory and resounding defeat in Ontario is a whopping 5%. Even our newspaper journalists aren't very good at describing numerical results.

Michael Moriarity Michael Moriarity's picture

I think many political journalists are opposed to PR because it would remove a great deal of the drama from the events they are reporting. After all, when a swing of 5% or 10% in the popular vote can result in a swing of 50% or more in the number of seats, the horse race narrative is much more compelling.

psmith

Michael Moriarity wrote:

I think many political journalists are opposed to PR because it would remove a great deal of the drama from the events they are reporting. After all, when a swing of 5% or 10% in the popular vote can result in a swing of 50% or more in the number of seats, the horse race narrative is much more compelling.

Agreed. Also, most political journalists can't be said to be impartial: they almost all seem to have a horse in the race. The evidence should be obvious to anyone that follows political reporting and journalism (just one example - how Don Newman gives short shrift to the Greens & NDP). Because virtually all journalists tend to be supporters of one of the two larger parties (those that are politically astute and a social democrat or green tend to go into activism rather than journalism), most have an entrenched bias against things that would change the Canadian political dynamic that they have taken years to get to know, like PR. Remember the misinformation reported during the BC and Ontario referendums?

There are starting to be more journalists that have had epiphanies, however: realising the system itself really is at the heart of a lot of our problems. Coyne, Hebert, Ibbitson, and many others.

Although not a reporter, Ed Broadbent has realised this for many years, and he won't give the issue up like the current NDP leadership has done. siamdave's post about Ed Broadbent's latest editorial in the Globe & Mail (from yesterday) is worth repeating, and I hope Layton & his advisors changes their direction on electoral reform soon.

 

RUDE, CRUDE AND ESCHEWED - Ed Broadbent - Globe & Mail

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/rude-and-crude-eschewed/art...

How can Parliament be relevant when the electoral system disenfranchises millions of Canadians? The path to civility, relevance and stable government lies through proportional representation.

KenS

Following up on post#84 and Polunatic's objection to the notion of skin deep support for PR....

On the subject of PR and the NDP in Nova Scotia.  

But first: a comment was made here about "NDP insiders like KenS and Stockholm".  

We're talking about the federal NDP, and there are no insiders posting here, with the very occasional exception of Brian Topp who has never weighed in on any thing controversial around here. Not that I think there are any insiders of provincial sections either.  

There is a small handfull of people posting- including us 2 named- who could reasonably give the impression of being insiders. But we're just people with a good understanding of the thinking of people on the inside- whoever they may be at the moment. But we dont have inside information. The ones living in Toronto and Ottawa may rub shoulders and hear things, but that doesnt amount to much. All of us are the same as anyone else- making educated guesses. The "education" being the only difference.  

We're only more likely to accurately reflect thinking on the inside.  

Not to mention that only occassionaly are any of us speaking about what we suppose is the thinking on the inside. Sometimes we're just speaking our own opinion on a matter. In other words, unless someone explicitly says they are addressing the thinking inside the NDP, dont go figuring that what they say even might be reflecting that.  

At any rate, I was a NSNDP insider. So I can actually speak to the thinking on PR both there and at the grassroots- the latter always having been my primary connection, the only one I had before I was what could be called an insider, and the only one I [barely] have now.  

To my mind, an insider is someone who pretty much knows everything going on within the 'black box'. Either knows already, or can find out by asking one person. Being an insider does not at all mean you agree with the general direction being taken.  

Thats a really long preface, but I'd be unwilling to say a thing without clarifying what I mean by insider.  

Preface out of the way, up until 5 years ago I can speak to discussions on PR at the grassroots or 'inside the box' of the NSNDP.  

And there isnt much to say.  

I sort of remember a Convention resolution on PR. There may even have been a workshop. Whether the resolution, if there was one, made it to the floor, and even passed, there certainly was no lasting anything.  

It wasnt until about 2004 that we really started to be seen- inside or outside the party- as a government in waiting. I was part of a LOT of discussions about what it was going to take to become government, beginning after the 1999 severe drubbing we took. All those discussions were about programatic, message, and organizational needs. PR never came up for or against.  

No one ever thought in terms of majority government. I can remember thinking to myself, wondering how even if we got to govern, how would we survive as a minority government. Different than the PCs or Libs doing that. But I didnt even talk about that with like minded people. More speculative than the discussions we would have, I guess. Let alone did I/we consider what our fate would have been under PR.  

Beyond not on the radar.... PR just wasnt anywhere.   We sure as hell couldnt have been called resistant to the idea. What I know now, applied to what we were looking at in 2001.... I have to think the utilitarian side of PR would look good for us. But thats a very hypothetical thought project.  

I am anticipating this is going to lead some people to say "see- there is the problem with the NDP not even educating its membership."   But the federal NDP is a disembodied entity for most of the membership. I'm among those who for a decade has advocated that the federal party builds an independent substantive relationship with members and riding associations.  

Literally, there is no organization through which the federal NDP would educate the membership, about anything. The provincial parties can do that, not the federal NDP. I'd LOVE that there was a national party organization  that could do that.  

I think myself, and NS NDP members in general, are a pretty good indicator of how much knowedge or inclination there is about PR out there in the hinterlands. We'd be among the people who if we were called by a polling firm would support PR- "good idea"... but have little idea what it means beyond what most of the public knows. 'Sounds more fair. And better for the NDP."  

Until the Ontario and BC referendums I doubt I knew there were different kinds of PR, and that the details were pretty tricky. Etc.

Wilf Day

psmith wrote:
Because virtually all journalists tend to be supporters of one of the two larger parties (those that are politically astute and a social democrat or green tend to go into activism rather than journalism), most have an entrenched bias against things that would change the Canadian political dynamic that they have taken years to get to know, like PR.

Not so. You mean national columnists like Jeff Simpson. But most working journalists I know are either NDP supporters or non-partisan with progressive leanings.

psmith wrote:
Remember the misinformation reported during the BC and Ontario referendums?

The Kingston Whig-Standard gave it excellent coverage, and it passed in Kingston where John Gerretsen supported it. The Whig was part of the Osprey chain, whose Queen's Park Bureau chief James Wallace wrote consistently accurate stories on the Citizens' Assembly and the MMP recommendation, the only Queen's Park Bureau Chief to do so. The senior political journalists in the Toronto media including the CBC (especially the Toronto Star) turned up their noses from day one. Some of them even declined to go watch the Citizens' Assembly at work because it was meeting "way out at York University," a new high in Toronto downtown elite arrogance.

psmith wrote:
There are starting to be more journalists that have had epiphanies, however: realising the system itself really is at the heart of a lot of our problems. Coyne, Hebert, Ibbitson, and many others.

Coyne, Hebert, and Ibbitson, yes. More, please.

psmith

KenS wrote:

Beyond not on the radar.... PR just wasnt anywhere [in the Nova Scotia NDP].  We sure as hell couldnt have been called resistant to the idea. What I know now, applied to what we were looking at in 2001.... I have to think the utilitarian side of PR would look good for us.

 

I have to agree here... I think that, except for maybe the BCNDP and ONDP (who both have the experience of referendums), proportional representation just hasn't been on the conceptual radar for most provincial parties until now. So the fact that they haven't pushed it isn't deliberate. It takes time to consider a new concept (well, relatively new to most provincial NDP parties - there was PR in some provinces before the CCF started), for the idea to grow and be accepted, embraced, and then (the key part) for the party to really run with the ball.

That can't be said for the federal NDP, or for the BC or Ontario parties, however. They've been exposed to it for long enough that if any become government (eg. BC) and don't move on electoral reform, they are revealing their true stripes: they like the winner-take-all status quo just fine. In fact, one good thing the BC, Ontario, and PEI referendums have done is raise the profile of proportional representation in the country significantly. So every year that goes by it gets harder to say that it "just isn't on the radar", as KenS says was the case for the NSNDP in the early 2000s. The provincial parties are all being exposed to it now.

Interesting that the NB Conservatives promised to move on proportional representation (MMP) last election in 2006, but lost the election to the Graham Liberals - who got fewer votes than they did - and Graham swiftly put an end to any talk of electoral reform. If there's any example of a wrong-winner election in Canada (and there are many) that really illustrates the problem with vested interests smothering electoral reform, this is a good one.

Imagine how many seats the NB NDP would win if this year's election were the first one to be held under MMP, instead of getting shut out as they usually are.

KenS

The federal NDP likes the winner take all status quo just fine? You say that based on what now?

But who cares? Does the answer matter?

I've as much as said:

- just cut across all that crap about whether or not the federal NDP really wants PR,

- I would argue that what you see in terms of what is out there, is pretty much what you are going to get for the forseeable future.

So what is the point of even going into whether or not they are trying? [or whatever you want to call it]

I will say that the federal NDP might change that in the near future even if there are no signs of it. There is also the possibility that even if they dont change their approach, the profile can go up because the environment is changing. Sometimes that happens with the incrementalist approach to issues: an issue you've been talking 'just goes', even though you were doing nothing that anyone would call driving an issue.

But thats just saying that things could change of their own accord. More often they dont.

So if what you see on PR from the federal NDP is what we'll probably be seeing for the indefinite future, what is next?

Or, if "what is next" is too challenging, even to answer in the most general terms... what does it mean?

[But not so utterly unchallenging as "it means what a dissapointment / fuck-up copouts the NDP is / are".]

 

psmith

So why doesn't the Manitoba NDP government try implementing PR? Or the NS government? (with majorities, they wouldn't even need a referendum). If you answer "there's insufficient call for it", that could be disputed ...but also there was no public outcry in Ontario before they were on their way to a referendum. So some initiatives can be driven by the top-down.

An NDP provincial government instituting PR could be a colossal step to moving the whole country to PR. People across the country would see how it actually works in practice, and that it isn't so bizarre or fractous at all. The NDP would benefit Canada-wide over the long term as the idea took on real credibility and momentum. Taking the unlikely flip side - that PR was somehow a disaster - and that would be progress too, because it would mean we could all forget it and move on to other solutions to what ails us.

 

But all this would take an NDP government willing to actually commit to taking action on PR... probably just as hard as getting a Conservative or Liberal government to commit.

 

KenS

I dont really know anything about the Manitoba government. But you can bet your booties you wont be getting it out of the NS government now.

And whats you point?

The NDP is bad? Or even just that the NDP is no better than anyone else?

Where does that lead us?

Fidel

The NDP only wants PR on a national level, as in nation-wide. But that's only at the federal level not municipal, which is where the real power is at City Hall. The local clique wags the dog in Ottawa for sure.

And that's all.

Okay, and maybe in Canada's largest province.

But no more than that - nation-wide and in Canada's most populated province.

And all of the rest of the NDP hold-out provinces(2) can do whatever they like after that.

KenS

I hate to say this, because I dont want to deflect away from that simple question which I've asked a few times and for which I would dearly love to hear even a hint of an answer:

What is the point with the "NDP bad" narrative? Where does it lead?

But no one ever takes a kick at it, so what the hell....

Maybe this question gets at a piece of that, easier to bite off:

Why keep bringing up the provincial sections / governments of the NDP- now including the NS NDP [even before it became government]- who can fare quite well under FPTP. At best, they are going to be conflicted about even wanting PR. And being conflicted clearly does not work.

So why not stick to the federal NDP? As cynical as you may feel about them, at least there is some potential.

jrootham

Well, because pressuring the provincial governments might be useful.

Ken, I agree with you about the tone of a lot of the commentary here.  However, pressuring provincial sections is a good thing.  Note, political pressure and political support are really close together when talking about policy.

So, what would effective pressure on an NDP section look like?  And what would you expect to get out of it?

I would guess media asking pointed questions about support for the idea would be the most effective reasonable pressure mechanism.  Fair Vote Canada could likely bring that about.  

I would expect, as a start, a resolution passed at a convention about PR.  Well, that might be a bit past a start, but it sure isn't the end game.

This is a long haul project, it would be nice to get NDP governments out of the way.  Which is possible precisely because we pretend to be better.

 

 

Fidel

It's like blaming provincial NDP governments for the neoliberal ideology emanating from Ottawa.

We have to go to the root of the problem. Abate the problem at the source.

Manitobans are very conservative minded as they are in Saskatchewan. They love the NDP because the NDP are fiscally responsible and all that CCF stuff. Not all Canadians vote NDP both provincially and federally though. In Manitoba you're likely to have a rift between what the NDP wants for the province and what the federal Tories and Liberals support, which is not ER-PR.

Got to go to the source of the problem, which is not to play provincial politics. Gotta go for the brass ring when it comes to democracy. We need a federally funded public information campaign and referendum nation wide.

On top of that we need the two federal parties in phony minority government and phony opposition to support advanced democracy.

That would be democracy when everyone is on the same channel. Anything less is just NDP bashing. If it's just the NDP talking about ER-PR, then you still have some phony-majority of voters who will never go for it because the federal parties are not supporting ER-PR in kind. Very many Canadians take their cues from the federal parties, or the provincial counterparts. And how many federal Tory and Liberal parties support ER-PR besides none? I can count federal parties in Parliament supporting ER-PR on one finger.

siamdave

KenS wrote:

,

- I would argue that what you see in terms of what is out there, is pretty much what you are going to get for the forseeable future.

So what is the point of even going into whether or not they are trying? [or whatever you want to call it]

 

- and then you can just imagine where we'd be today in terms of, oh, say, medicare, if a certain Sask pol named Tommy Douglas had of had an attitude like this .... guys like he and David Lewis must be flipping in their graves reading stuff like this from the party that is supposed to be fighting for the rights of the little guy .... if you start with the idea that something cannot be done and therefore there is no point in trying - well, that's what you're going to get.

Fidel

siamdave wrote:

KenS wrote:

,

- I would argue that what you see in terms of what is out there, is pretty much what you are going to get for the forseeable future.

So what is the point of even going into whether or not they are trying? [or whatever you want to call it]

 

- and then you can just imagine where we'd be today in terms of, oh, say, medicare, if a certain Sask pol named Tommy Douglas had of had an attitude like this .... guys like he and David Lewis must be flipping in their graves reading stuff like this from the party that is supposed to be fighting for the rights of the little guy .... if you start with the idea that something cannot be done and therefore there is no point in trying - well, that's what you're going to get.

Provincial Liberals and Tories would like nothing better than for their provincial NDP counterparts to spend a large percentage of their election campaign budgets promoting ER-PR. Because the other two parties will sit back and spend nothing on promoting ER-PR, and their voters will not support electoral reform. The end result would be to sabotage ER-PR without all-party support for ER-PR.

We've already had a referendum on ER-PR in a province where NDP support is the greatest, and Campbell's Liberals sabotaged that second referendum by not supporting STV. I believe a greater percentage of NDP voters voted for STV there and MMP in Ontario than either Liberal or Tory supporters.

So what chance will ER-PR possibly have in the prairie provinces where Conservative and Liberal Party support at the federal level is even stronger? Nova Scotians are simply in shock as to why they don't have an old line party robbing them blind in government for the first time in 160 years. They're not ready for ER either.

 So what's left? The big tamale? A national referendum with federal financing for a public information campaign nation-wide? Or should the responsibility for informing the public fall on the NDP's shoulders there, too? Come on get real!

6079_Smith_W

@ fidel

my gut feeling is the opposite, if only because I don't see any federal governmetn getting behind it, and I think the regional divisions in Canada would just overshadow the process. If one region was heavily for it and another not it would certainly get nutty.

If - and it is a big and unlikely if - PR ever happened federally it would make sense to use the Senate, since it was originally designed to even our representation among the provinces.. I am just speculating though, as I doubt anything will ever come to pass with the Senate in the near future.

And as for peoples' initiatives, most are not binding, and tehr are endless ways for governments to drag their heels. Look at the HST thing in BC.

At least if one of the provincial governments decides to go for it  it would be in a smaller, more contained political culture, and there wouldn't be all the regional tensions and misunderstandings thrown into the mix along with the already big question of PR.

(edit)

The only reason I can think of (besides not wanting to change things) for the Mantioba NDP not to go for it would be that it might revive the provincial liberal party from the dead.

There would be more reason here in Saskatchewan since although the Liberals are only on life support here, the Conservative Party is still lying in the morgue. In fact, I believe they just nominated a candidate in a byelection that is coming up. It will be interesting to see what that does to the Sask Party vote.

(edit)

I just checked and saw there are in fact two liberals in tne MB Legislature. I can't believe it.

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