The NDP supports electoral reform; and the Bloc votes for it too!

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Wilf Day
The NDP supports electoral reform; and the Bloc votes for it too!

A great discussion on the NDP's March 3 House of Commons motion was underway, until people starting rehashing BC-STV for the 117th time. (Continuing the last thread: Still believe the NDP doesn't support electoral reform?)

So let's continue. On March 3 the House of Commons debated the NDP motion on proportional representation (and Senate abolition), and the Bloc voted for it.

The motion called for the House to appoint a Special Committee for Democratic Improvement, whose mandate is to engage with Canadians, and make recommendations to the House, on how best to achieve a House of Commons that more accurately reflects the votes of Canadians by combining direct election by electoral district and proportional representation. (It also, unfortunately, called for a referendum on abolishing the Senate, an issue worth debating, but giving the Liberals an easy reason to vote against the motion.) The NDP's call for a mixed member system has been party policy since 2003.

The 13 NDP MPs' statements on proportional representation are worth reading, but not surprising, except to those who thought only Jack Layton was keen on PR.  

More surprising is what the Bloc and the Liberals said.

 

 

Issues Pages: 
JKR

If the Bloc support electoral reform, it could tip the balance in favour of reform.

Wilf Day

For those wanting an explicit commitment from the NDP: here it is.

Quote:
7.3 Making your Vote Count

• We will propose electoral reform to ensure Parliament reflects the political preferences of Canadians. To this end we will propose a new, more democratic voting system that preserves the connection between MPs and their constituents, while ensuring parties are represented in Parliament in better proportion to how Canadians voted. Your vote will always count.

This reflects the existing NDP policy for a mixed member proportional system. However, BC-STV fans will be pleased to see that this wording actually leaves the door open for any proportional system "that preserves the connection between MPs and their constituents" which, as any STV fan will show you, includes STV.

Of course it does not suggest a closed-list system. It likely means, in practice, that the 1/3 or more "top-up" MPs are elected by the open list system called "flexible list" recommended by the Law Commission of Canada. (Summary here.) But it can satisfy fans of the "best runners-up" model used in Baden-Wurttemberg, with no lists at all (the top-up MPs are the local candidates in the province or region who got the highest percent but didn't win a local seat).

 

Soulforger

We really do need reform.

islandcynic

Can anyone explain to me why Elizabeth May cannot join the NDP?  

She is only splitting the progressive vote and ensuring another Con win.

David Young

islandcynic wrote:

Can anyone explain to me why Elizabeth May cannot join the NDP?  

She is only splitting the progressive vote and ensuring another Con win.

Easily!

She's an egotistical opportunist.  Either she leads a party, or she'll wreck havoc on the closest one to her ideology just to spite them.

Elizabeth May?

W H A T

A

S A D

J O K E ! !

 

absentia

There is room for a range of ideologies and programs. The more coalescing there is, the closer we get to the US system of two parties that move, in unison, toward the extreme views of the more aggressive one - which is invariably the right wing - until there is no choice at all.

More parties would be better, if we could accept the concept of issue-by-issue co-operation.

Wilf Day

absentia wrote:
More parties would be better, if we could accept the concept of issue-by-issue co-operation.

Issue number one is full representation of Canada's political diversity; that is, proportional representation. After that, co-operation is natural and inevitable.

Soulforger

I am still pissed that we don't have an elected Senate.  Who was against that?

 

Proportional representation only scares those who want absolute power. In Canada a majority Government has more power than the President of the USA. So people who want to control everything AKA Harper, Martin and Chretien before him all knew this. That is why Harper must be stopped from gaining a majority.

Wilf Day

Brian Topp has a specific plan for PR. (All the other leadership candidates also support the party position.)

Download the policy paper 

Quote:
I propose that our party ask for a mandate in the next election to introduce a mixed proportional electoral system. Under this system, the current geographic representation would be maintained, and a new tier of MPs would be elected proportionately. This is similar in principle to the system long in place in the lower chamber in Germany.

The concurrent abolition of the Senate would ensure few additional permanent costs are accrued, and no net additional Parliamentarians are created.

Note that adding 105 MPs in place of 105 Senators is only one of his options. He is not suggesting this is the only model.

However, he's not the first to suggest that idea. Therefore, I have analysed it here. Could Canada have 105 proportional MPs and scrap the Senate?

http://wilfday.blogspot.com/2012/01/could-canada-have-105-proportional-m...

Quote:
Conclusion: MMP-lite can get close to proportional results, and is certainly a vast improvement over our undemocratic winner-take-all system. However, it sometimes does not make every vote count equally.

Fidel

As long as there are no more cushy job slots for friends of government and typically those who voters rejected in democratic elections before being catapulted into the senate for life. MMP-lite looks good to me. Thanks, Wilf.

Wilf Day

(Double post, sorry)

Wilf Day

(Double post, sorry)

pebbles

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the federal NDP position on electoral reform would be a lot easier to swallow, if even one NDP provincial government had ever instituted, and kept, some kind of electoral system other than FPTP.

R.E.Wood

Nathan Cullen supports mixed-member proportional representation, and would make it a top priority as Prime Minister:

http://en.nathancullen.ca/improving_our_democracy

 

DSloth

R.E.Wood wrote:

Nathan Cullen supports mixed-member proportional representation, and would make it a top priority as Prime Minister:

http://en.nathancullen.ca/improving_our_democracy

 

A national referendum?! I was really starting to like Cullen specifically because of this issue before I clicked that link.  If their is any model worse tha FPTP it's governance by plebiscite.  We don't expect voters to parse through any other complicated subjects (and then reduce them to a binary yes/no question) that way lies the State of California.

Historical electoral reforms in our system have been passed by a simple majority vote in Parliament, I'd think it also prudent to include a Supreme Court reference in the post-Charter era, but I'm quite disapointed in anyone who says it requires the opening of the Constitution or any kind of referendum.  Conceding those points is conceding the moral imperative of a fair voting system.

Interested Observer Interested Observer's picture

DSloth wrote:

R.E.Wood wrote:

Nathan Cullen supports mixed-member proportional representation, and would make it a top priority as Prime Minister:

http://en.nathancullen.ca/improving_our_democracy

 

A national referendum?! I was really starting to like Cullen specifically because of this issue before I clicked that link.  If their is any model worse tha FPTP it's governance by plebiscite.  We don't expect voters to parse through any other complicated subjects (and then reduce them to a binary yes/no question) that way lies the State of California.

Historical electoral reforms in our system have been passed by a simple majority vote in Parliament, I'd think it also prudent to include a Supreme Court reference in the post-Charter era, but I'm quite disapointed in anyone who says it requires the opening of the Constitution or any kind of referendum.  Conceding those points is conceding the moral imperative of a fair voting system.

Pretty sure he said in the Halifax debate that it would be the first thing he'd do. Sounds like he's in favour of a two part referendum question, which is more likely to affect change. As for his reference to the constitution, I think it has more to do with his idea on the monarchy and the senate.

DSloth

Interested Observer wrote:

 Pretty sure he said in the Halifax debate that it would be the first thing he'd do. Sounds like he's in favour of a two part referendum question, which is more likely to affect change. As for his reference to the constitution, I think it has more to do with his idea on the monarchy and the senate.

 

I was quite impressed with what he said in the debate, unfortunately he didn't elaborate that the first thing he'd actually do was not to reform the electoral process but to hold a silly referendum on the subject.  When (not if) he lost the vote on that referendum electoral reform will be dead for another generation as it is in England after the LibDems tried a similar tact. 

We didn't need a referendum to create first past the post voting, to extend the franchise to women and First Nations or to enshrine the Constitution.  Plebiscites are just a perverse band-aid over the inadquecies of the FPTP system. If we run a national campaign promising to reform the electoral process that's all the mandate we need to replace an unfair voting system with a fair one, I'd feel confident the SCC would back me up on that in a reference case.  The notion that electoral reform requires a referendum is not based on any historical precedent. 

JKR

 

DSloth wrote:

A national referendum?! I was really starting to like Cullen specifically because of this issue before I clicked that link.  If their is any model worse tha FPTP it's governance by plebiscite.  We don't expect voters to parse through any other complicated subjects (and then reduce them to a binary yes/no question) that way lies the State of California.

Historical electoral reforms in our system have been passed by a simple majority vote in Parliament, I'd think it also prudent to include a Supreme Court reference in the post-Charter era, but I'm quite disapointed in anyone who says it requires the opening of the Constitution or any kind of referendum.  Conceding those points is conceding the moral imperative of a fair voting system.

 

DSloth wrote:

I was quite impressed with what he said in the debate, unfortunately he didn't elaborate that the first thing he'd actually do was not to reform the electoral process but to hold a silly referendum on the subject.  When (not if) he lost the vote on that referendum electoral reform will be dead for another generation as it is in England after the LibDems tried a similar tact.

We didn't need a referendum to create first past the post voting, to extend the franchise to women and First Nations or to enshrine the Constitution.  Plebiscites are just a perverse band-aid over the inadquecies of the FPTP system. If we run a national campaign promising to reform the electoral process that's all the mandate we need to replace an unfair voting system with a fair one, I'd feel confident the SCC would back me up on that in a reference case.  The notion that electoral reform requires a referendum is not based on any historical precedent.

Exactly!

A referendum on electoral reform is insane. The anti-electoral reform side [the Conservatives] would just confuse voters with baseless arguments that voters with little understanding or interest in electoral reform would likely fall for.

Fidel

I would like to word the question for referendum something like this:

Do you think Canada's electoral system should work to:

1. Make it possible to elect government with 24% of eligible voter support giving them 54% of seats in Parliament and awarding them 100% of political power and tantamount to electoral fraud , or 

2. A party that earns 50% of the vote should receive 50% of the seats in Canada's Parliament and likewise for all other levels of support. 

Select number two, and choose wisely, Canada.

Interested Observer Interested Observer's picture

Yeah, I agree it's a bit of a letdown. Someone should ask him for clarification.

Idealistic Prag... Idealistic Pragmatist's picture

Fidel wrote:

I would like to word the question for referendum something like this:

Do you think Canada's electoral system should work to:

1. Make it possible to elect government with 24% of eligible voter support giving them 54% of seats in Parliament and awarding them 100% of political power and tantamount to electoral fraud , or 

2. A party that earns 50% of the vote should receive 50% of the seats in Canada's Parliament and likewise for all other levels of support. 

Select number two, and choose wisely, Canada.

This is kind of awesome. Laughing

philwalkerp

The NDP might support electoral reform right now, but it doesn't look like all the NDP leadership candidates do. Given the NDP provincial track record, I suspect we are going to see the party back-burner electoral reform once an NDP government is elected, or even before depending on who is elected leader.

Few issues could be more important. Over the course of the campaign we've heard committments from Nathan Cullen, Peggy Nash, and Paul Dewar that they will make fixing our broken voting system a priority. But supposed front-runner Thomas Mulcair has been strangely quiet about it. Has anyone heard him make a committment?

I won't vote for anyone who doesn't make electoral reform a priority. I strongly suspect that Thomas Mulcair is planning to dump electoral reform as a priority. Anyone ask his campaign about his position on it?

Wilf Day

philwalkerp wrote:
Thomas Mulcair has been strangely quiet about it. Has anyone heard him make a committment?

I won't vote for anyone who doesn't make electoral reform a priority. I strongly suspect that Thomas Mulcair is planning to dump electoral reform as a priority. Anyone ask his campaign about his position on it?

Yes, I have. He says "Jack's policy is my policy." See Post #1 in this thread:

http://rabble.ca/babble/canadian-politics/ndp-leadership-75

As to his priorities, I'm uncertain, but I expect that will become clear by the end of the month when the candidates answer Fair Vote Canada's questions.

JKR

Wilf Day wrote:
... I expect that will become clear by the end of the month when the candidates answer Fair Vote Canada's questions.

Maybe Fair Vote Canada will be able to determine whether any of the candidates support using a self-defeating referendum on electoral reform?

philwalkerp

Wilf Day wrote:

Yes, I have. He says "Jack's policy is my policy." See Post #1 in this thread:

That's just not good enough. Jack had a lot of policies, and one would be silly to think any leadership canadidate will run on exactly the same platform. They have to strike out on their own and make a name for themselves. What will they leave in and what will they leave out?

I want to see electoral reform explicitly mentioned in the platform of anyone I'm going to vote for. People need to hear it from the candidate's mouths.

DSloth

philwalkerp wrote:

I want to see electoral reform explicitly mentioned in the platform of anyone I'm going to vote for. People need to hear it from the candidate's mouths.

Then maybe you should so some research before suspisciously casting aspersions against a single candidate. Cullen is the only candidate with a specific plan for enacting electoral reform, unfortunately much like his joint nomination plan I have no doubt his heart is in the right place but there is a glaring flaw with the proposal he's set forth (see above discussion).  Topp makes some considerably vaguer noises about electoral reform in one of his papers, he also lost points with me on this issue by his cycnical moves to move our own internal Party electoral reforms backwards at the start of the campaign.  Paul Dewar is on the board at Fair Vote and I heard him speak for the Party's continued committment to electoral reform in the Fair Vote protest organized last summer, but I haven't heard him say anything this campaign. 

The rest have all pretty much made assurances and those in the House these last few years have happily voted for the Party's usual doomed Bills demanding action on the issue.

I'll wait Fair Vote's Q&A, but I fully expect this to come down to a question of how not if they support electoral reform. 

Wilf Day

philwalkerp wrote:
I want to see electoral reform explicitly mentioned in the platform of anyone I'm going to vote for. People need to hear it from the candidate's mouths.

Agreed (except that parties have platforms, leadership candidates have policy statements.)

Since all NDP leadership candidates say they support party policy for a mixed member proportional system, the only measurable difference so far is which ones mention it on their websites.

Brian Topp has a policy statement:

“Electoral reform:

Our first-past-the-post electoral system is another antiquated inheritance in need of reform. It is a fundamental principle of democracy that people's votes count — that the amount of support that political parties receive in an election should determine the amount of influence they yield in Parliament. But that, of course, is not how our electoral system works today.

Consider just a few examples from the record: Slightly over 1.3 million Bloc Quebecois voters sent 49 MPs to Parliament in the 2008 election, while 2.5 million New Democrat voters elected only 37 MPs, and 937,613 Green party voters weren't able to elect a single MP. In 2011, over 30% of the people of Saskatchewan voted for the NDP, but didn't elect a single MP. To point to the grossest distortion in recent electoral history, in 1993 2.2 million Canadians voted for the Progressive Conservatives, electing only two MPs – while 1.8 million voted for the Bloc Quebecois, sending 54 MPs to Parliament and becoming the official opposition.

Many citizens have worked to try to correct the outrageous and perverse distortions of our current electoral system, leading to several provincial referenda which, unfortunately, have all failed.

Canadians, I submit, are open to ideas about how to modernize our electoral system, but are concerned about the implications of a pure proportional system. A more incremental approach seems more likely to succeed.

I propose that our party ask for a mandate in the next election to introduce a mixed proportional electoral system. Under this system, the current geographic representation would be maintained, and a new tier of MPs would be elected proportionately. This is similar in principle to the system long in place in the lower chamber in Germany.

The concurrent abolition of the Senate would ensure few additional permanent costs are accrued, and no net additional Parliamentarians are created.”

Nathan Cullen has a policy statement:

“As Prime Minister, Nathan Cullen would:

Work to improve how our democracy reflects the will of voters, by making voting reform a priority. Proportional representation is already used in more than 75 democracies around the world, putting Canada in the minority.

Hold a national referendum on voting reform, asking Canadians if they a) want to change the voting system; and b) which new model they prefer. Nathan supports mixed-member proportional representation based on the German, Scottish and New Zealand models, which:

Ensures every riding has a local MP, elected as they currently are, while ensuring the total composition of the House reflects each party’s share of the national vote.

Avoids instability and fragmentation by requiring parties receive broad support—five per cent—before being awarded proportional seats.”

(At the Halifax debate he went further: “He won the only outbreak of clapping and cheering (in a crowd asked to restrain applause) when he claimed his first act as prime minister would be to introduce a proportional voting system.” Or did he mean a referendum?)

Paul Dewar’s site says:

“An NDP government led by Paul Dewar will move to a fairer voting system based on proportional representation, which will increase the proportion of women and visible minorities in elected office."

Thomas Mulcair, Peggy Nash, Niki Ashton, Romeo Saganash and Martin Singh do not yet include it in any policy statements, nor anywhere else on their sites.

The NDP Policy Book said (at least until the 2011 convention):

Quote:
Governing in an Inclusive and Fair Canada

Democracy in Canada is in urgent need of repair.

New Democrats believe it’s vital that trust and confidence in our practices and institutions be restored.

That means making sure Canada’s electoral system truly represents the expressions of voters, ensuring Parliament reflects real party support across Canada. It means cleaning up the appointments process, abolishing the unelected and unnecessary Senate, and eliminating obstacles to the right to cast a ballot.

There are many ways of being a Canadian. By strengthening political democracy and strengthening Canadian federalism, a New Democrat government will strengthen the bonds that pull our diverse populace and unique communities together into one truly democratic federation, a model that would serve as an inspiration and a worthy example around the globe.

5.2 Renewing Canadian Democracy

New Democrats believe in:

a. Reforming Canada’s electoral system through mixed member proportional representation

b. Ensuring electoral reform is based on a transparent process with wide citizen involvement.

The NDP's Motion in the House of Commons March 3, 2011 said:

Quote:

That: (a) the House recognize the undemocratic nature of the current form of representation in the Parliament of Canada, specifically the unnecessary Senate and a House of Commons that does not accurately reflect the political preferences of Canadians;

(c) the House appoint a Special Committee for Democratic Improvement, whose mandate is to (i) engage with Canadians, and make recommendations to the House, on how best to achieve a House of Commons that more accurately reflects the votes of Canadians by combining direct election by electoral district and proportional representation . . .

(6) that the Committee shall report its recommendations to this House no later than one year from the passage of this motion.

The Vancouver Convention last June overwhelmingly supported a resolution “That the federal New Democratic Party make electoral reform and proportional representation a priority issue within the coming sessions of parliament and in communities across Canada.” I hope candidates say how they would do this.

Grandpa_Bill

pebbles wrote:

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the federal NDP position on electoral reform would be a lot easier to swallow, if even one NDP provincial government had ever instituted, and kept, some kind of electoral system other than FPTP.

No one took the bait this time, Pebbles, so I'm saying it a third time--and not just for you!

Wilf Day

pebbles wrote:
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the federal NDP position on electoral reform would be a lot easier to swallow, if even one NDP provincial government had ever instituted, and kept, some kind of electoral system other than FPTP.

That's why it's important for leadership candidates to spell out the extent of their intentions on PR.

(By the way, in fairness to the Saskatchewan Section, they debated PR extensively within the party for two years, and adopted the recommendation of their PR Task Force to include in the platform for the 2007 election a committment to convene a Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform and hold a referendum on its recommendation, which would almost certainly have been for PR. Unfortunately they lost power in 2007; their decision came too late. And then they seem to have shelved the idea in the 2011 campaign.)

Grandpa_Bill

We have made celebrities of our party leaders, with some odious consequences, not the least of which is they can go their own way on issues of great importance without regard to the desires of Bobbie and Barbie BackBencher.

We might think of recasting our party leaders in the role of House Leaders, making them accountable to their colleagues--which is to say, making them accountable to the sitting members from their party, those who got elected along with the leaders.

What do you suppose, Wilf, would have happened in Saskatchewan had the Premiere of the day been accountable to the sitting MPPs--would the decision to proceed with electoral reform come sooner.

Wilf Day

Grandpa_Bill wrote:
What do you suppose, Wilf, would have happened in Saskatchewan had the Premiere of the day been accountable to the sitting MPPs--would the decision to proceed with electoral reform come sooner.

I can't say about Saskatchewan, but in Quebec, Levesque was set to proceed with PR after 1980 when his caucus veto'd it. Trudeau's 1980 throne speech promised a parliamentay committee on electoral reform but his caucus veto'd it. More recently, Charest promised a draft bill for a PR system which then took about 12 months to get through his caucus, and his MNAs polluted the model to the extent that everyone else rejected it as a partisan poor version. So it's possible that the caucus are the problem, not the solution; they were elected from the party strongholds, and "if the party's voters in other regions got no representation, why should I do them any favours if it may hurt me?" (No one said that on the record, but dozens thought it.)

Grandpa_Bill

Wilf Day wrote:

Grandpa_Bill wrote:
What do you suppose, Wilf, would have happened in Saskatchewan had the Premiere of the day been accountable to the sitting MPPs--would the decision to proceed with electoral reform come sooner.

It's possible that the caucus are the problem, not the solution; they were elected from the party strongholds, and "if the party's voters in other regions got no representation, why should I do them any favours if it may hurt me?" (No one said that on the record, but dozens thought it.)

Fascinating stuff.  Perhaps, then, we need to go to work on riding candidates if we want to promote PR.  And doing so may be as important as discovering what the candidates for party leader think about PR.

Unionist

This YouTube just in (French):

[url=http://youtu.be/99VP-HB3fMo]February 15, 2012 - FPTP system on trial for betrayal of democracy[/url]

The trial will take place at Bar Île Noire, 1649, rue Saint-Denis (between Maisonneuve and Ontario), Montréal (métro Berri-UQAM). Presiding will be none other than Gérald Larose, ex-president of the Confederation of National Trade Unions. It's hosted by the Movement for a New Democracy (no, that's not the NDP). I will do my best to be there!

ETA: Whoops, damn damn, that's a Wednesday, I have a class that evening... What to do...