A unicameral PR House of Commons: How would it 1) be achieved and 2) function well?

93 posts / 0 new
Last post
chamberred

in response to post #21:

mark_alfred wrote:
(the NDP's) long advocated implementing PR in the Commons and abolishing the Senate, but thus far has been unable to...each time more people vote NDP. So, hopefully in the future it will be an NDP gov't. If not, I'm guessing the NDP will continue to advocate it.

Both Senate abolition and a PR Commons seem to be battles in which gains are made by inches. And there doesn't seem to be some exponential jump waiting to happen, especially for the latter. But who knows. The current scandals are certainly a boost for Senate abolition, but popular sentiment, while it cannot be ignored, by itself is insufficient to change the institutions of Parliament. And rightly so, I must add. It's prudent to retain a measure of Burkean small 'c' conservativism in matters of such import. This Senate stinks as it is, but still the bar should be a bit high in order to change the structure of the federal government.

mark_alfred wrote:
I imagine a renewed interest in MMP if PV is tried and fails to more accurately mirror votes cast with seats won (which is what I would hope for, though unfortunately trying the inane idea of PV might discourage the population from attempting any other electoral reform -- so best to do it right the first time).

Thanks, this is the discussion I'm curious about [as expressed in the first part of the thread title: How would it 1) be achieved]. Getting a critical mass of Canadians to even begin caring about what PR is about is an uphill struggle, never mind the terminology and the possible permutations of PR systems, and the task of convincing Canadians that a particular system is more suitable for the whole country over all others.

mark_alfred wrote:
Minority gov'ts need to be more cooperative.  So, things should ultimately work better.

You'll have to whitewash the period 2004-2011 from public memory. But fewer and fewer people were paying attention anyways -- four elections in seven years might have something to do with that. 

mark_alfred wrote:
From what I understand, the NDP has some policies on limiting the ability of the PMO to play games, such as requiring nominations to federal agencies to be submitted to Parliament to ensure greater transparency.  So, if the NDP is successful in creating a unicameral PR House, I imagine that they would also implement some reforms to the PMO to lessen the likelihood of the game-playing culture that Chretien and subsequently Harper brought to it.  This way, even in the scenario you describe (a Con-Lib coalition), there'd be less of these types of issues.  And with PR and minorities, there's a greater need to be cooperative and not alienate potential allies.  Just look at Cameron's loss on the Syria vote in the UK.
 

A political cartoon sticks in my head that illustrates the type of hardball that Harper is, quite frankly, good at playing: Then-Opposition leader Stephane Dion is walking on a big calendar, the days alternately marked "damned if I do" and "damned if I don't", showing how he had the choice of either not bringing the House down and voting in favor of Conservative bills, or bringing the House down and being blamed for triggering an election that the electorate was in no mood to have. Another babbler somewhere aptly called this "feeding Dion turd sandwiches" or something to that effect. Harper has proven the mechanism of a new election as a check on power to be inadequate. In 2011 he turned contempt of parliament by his minority government into a majority. I think an electorate fed-up with biannual federal elections was a factor. 

mark_alfred wrote:
Depends how people vote.  Wildrose is a provincial party, so they'd not be a consideration in a federal contest.  Until last election the BQ were seriously over-represented while the Green Party was severely under-represented.  PR would help fix this.  So, regional parties geting a disproportionate amount of seats would be less likely to happen, since the allotment of seats would strive to better reflection the proportion of votes cast, rather than the localized cluster of votes that now sometimes gives parties like the BQ far more seats than a party like the Greens who received similar numbers of votes but more spread out.  MMP would allow for seats allotted to more accurately reflect votes cast.

I was thinking about a hypothetical federal branch of Wildrose, or similar party. In any case, yes MMP should help give a more thinly spread vote a voice. But there is no guarantee that MMP would not help a regional based party - depends on how people vote.

socialdemocrati...

If a party with a platform based on PR gets into power, they only have to pass a law. If parties that don't support PR continue to govern with false majorities, and gradually ruin the country, they'll only make the case for PR. (And if Canada is being governed well, then why do we need reform of any kind?)

Senate abolition is trickier. But it makes its own case for abolition regularly. Let alone if it were to do something like block PR, or throw up procedural hurdles to its own abolition. I suspect it's so toxic that even a provincial government that tries to defend it will eventually find itself guilty by association.

 

Wilf Day

nakedApe42 wrote:
There's no face in front of the movement Canadians can connect with.

I heard Bob Rae joined their "National Advisory Board" (whatever that means.) Now he's definitely a leader who could take the movement somewhere.  (Of course, why do that and break the losing steak?) 

[img]http://www.fairvote.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Bob-Rae_democracy-week_FB-741x1024.jpg[/img]

Rae is, since 2007, a long-time supporter of proportional representation. He was one of the "Liberals for MMP" in 2007. As Interim Liberal Leader, he stayed somewhat quiet, but when asked, said that he still supported it, and said so publicly at least twice (the media, of course, missed it.)

Wilf Day

nakedApe42 wrote:
Winner-take-all means the leading candidate wins: i.e., plurality. 

Not so. Any number of political scientists can be quoted. Here's one from the old Russow test case site, from Prof. Alan Cairns:

Quote:
In summary, an examination of the historical results of federal elections reveals that the SMP system persists in favouring supporters of regionally concentrated parties and discriminates against supporters of national parties with diffuse support that do not win the election. This discrimination inheres in two major effects of the voting system.
First, the rule of winner-take-all denies parity of voting power to everyone who votes for candidates who do not win a plurality in a specific, geographical riding. In addition, voters who support parties that do not elect many candidates in particular regions of the country are denied effective representation in the parliamentary caucuses of the parties they support. This denial is particularly troublesome when a province or region is denied a presence in the executive branch of government that is proportionate to its electoral support. The salience offered to sectional cleavages by the singlemember constituency system has led several authors to query its appropriateness for national integration in special circumstances. It has been suggested that countries possessed of strong underlying tendencies to sectionalism may be better served by proportional representation which breaks up the monolithic nature of sectional representation stimulated by single-member constituency systems. The United States is often cited as a country where the SMP system has heightened cleavages and tensions between north and south. Whatever its other merits, the SMP system lacks the singular capacity of proportional representation to encourage all parties to search for votes in all sections of the country. Minorities within different provinces and regions of the country are not frozen out, as they tend to be under the existing system. Consequently sectional differences in party representation are minimized or, more accurately, given proportionate rather than exaggerated representation -- a factor that encourages the parties to develop a national orientation. 

Sounds just like . . . um . . Stephane Dion, eh?

 

JKR

nakedApe42 wrote:
Winner-take-all means the leading candidate wins: i.e., plurality.

I think you're over-stating the case for PV. I think most people think that "winner take-all" simply means only one candidate wins membership to parliament while all the other candidates in the race are also-rans. That's how the term "winner take -all" is commonly used when describing contests where only one person wins the whole pot and everyone else is left empty-handed.

Here is the wikipedia definition of a single-winner voting system:

Quote:
A single-member district or single-member constituency is an electoral district that returns one officeholder to a body with multiple members such as a legislature. This is also sometimes called single-winner voting.

Elections for single-member districts are held under a number of voting systems, including plurality (first past the post), runoffs, instant-runoff voting (IRV), approval voting, range voting, Borda count, and Condorcet methods (such as the Minimax Condorcet, Schulze method, and Ranked Pairs). Of these, plurality and runoff voting are the most common.

I hope that everyone agrees that both FPTP and PV are single-winner voting systems?

The only significant difference I see between FPTP and PV is that PV eliminates the problems caused by vote-splitting. That's why I think PV would be an improvement from FPTP but is still inferior to PR.

 

nakedApe42 wrote:

JKR wrote:

Under both FPTP and PV a party can win every single seat in a legislature even when it is favoured by only a minority of the voters.

That is neither true of FPP or PV. Perhaps you are confusing a minority party winning over 50% of the seats and 100% of the power (a common occurance under FPP.) 

Here are two examples of how a party can win every single seat in a legilature even when it is preferred by only a minority of the voters:

Example #1: FPTP

Hypothetical riding:

Conservative candidate: 30%
NDP candidate:  25
Liberal candidate: 25
Green candidate: 15
Independent candidate: 5

Repeat that result in all 338 ridings and the Conservatives win every seat in the House of Commons even though they are favoured by just 30% of the vote.

Example #2: PV

Hypothetical riding:

First Round
Conservative candidate: 30%
NDP candidate:  25
Liberal candidate: 25
Green candidate: 15
Independent candidate: 5

Final Round
Liberal candidate: 51%
NDP candidate: 49

Repeat that result in all 338 ridings and the Liberals win every seat in the House of Commons even though they are preferred by just 25% of the voters and are supported by a slight majority on the final round.  The result of the PV election result is fairer than the result of the FPTP election because majority opinion has a connection with the election result but both results are perverse. PR is the only system that guarantees fair non-perverse results.

JKR

Wilf Day wrote:

nakedApe42 wrote:
Winner-take-all means the leading candidate wins: i.e., plurality. 

Not so. Any number of political scientists can be quoted....

Likely any number of math teachers at the university level and below could also be quoted.

chamberred

Wynne warns of fall election if opposition won’t agree to pass some legislation

Quote:
“The practical reality is if the House cannot function, and if we can’t see a way forward, then the Opposition will have to explain to people why they think an election is the better option.”Wynne insisted she doesn’t want a fall election, but warned she doesn’t want another session like last spring where the only bill that passed was the provincial budget.

How do you get a minority-led unicameral assembly to work together, apart from calling new elections?

 

Caissa

I think PR should be applied on a province by province basis. Regions need to be represented.

socialdemocrati...

It's called a coalition system. Most countries out there with reformed political systems have it. The "minority" governments have to engage in real power sharing to ensure stability, including cabinet appointments and a seat at all budget discussions. The only reason why minority governments in Canada can afford to be so uncooperative is because they know that if they reach 38% they have a shot at a majority, and at 40% they pretty much guarantee it.

mark_alfred

Wynne is just sabre rattling.  Horwath actually does speak of working together, and did so last session, getting more progressive taxation, an increase in social assistance (rather than the freeze the gov't initially was going for), controls on insurance companies w/ a 15% reduction in Ontario's currently over-inflated auto insurance rates, and the upcoming creation of a parliamentary watchdog position similar to the federal parliamentary budget officer.  Great stuff. 

Certainly having a provincial senate would lead to having a bunch of unelected lapdog elites suckling at the teat of provincial money.  If provincial senators even bothered to show up for work they would probably vote along partisan lines to block progressive legislation as the clowns in the federal senate do.  It would be a collosal waste of time and money to have a bicameral parliament in Ontario.  Thus, unicameralism is best for the province, and is best for the country too.

chamberred

Liberals, Conservatives close to deal on Ontario political gridlock

This article seems to describe a horse-trading system; brokerage politics. How does that differ from a coalition system?

socialdemocrati...

It's different in that a coalition is more stable. Typically, parties running in a PR-coalition system give strong signals as to who they would prefer as a prime minister (or at least, campaign against who they don't want as prime minister). There's not as much jockeying and posturing that "I will be prime minister", especially among the smaller parties who round out a coalition. So the Liberal party would have to give strong signal as to whether they'd cooperate from the left or the right, and offer cabinet positions and key items on the agenda to the parties in their coalition. And if they renegged, they'd be vulnerable to a new election both from the actual voters, and from a non-confidence vote by their (former) coalition partners.

 

janfromthebruce

It's funny, where we have today in the MSM that former Liberal staffers say that NDP strategy of rolling up the red carpet is wrong, and are just offering great advice from a former communication and strategic adivsor to former Liberal PM Paul Martin, you know who are having the right effect. 

NDP political strategy ‘completely failing,’ party needs to wage two-front war

Oh yes, helpful suggestions from both Liberals and conservatives to not get rid of the leader just yet, but perhaps those strategists because these key players were, cough, so wonderful for their, cough, former bosses. Those people who worked for Paul Martin because he was so successful. But I digress to add some debate of getting rid of the senate.

Our politicians watch as Irish Senate faces extinction: Tim Harper There may be not be enough Irish ayes to save its Upper House in a referendum, killing yet another Senate.

It’s derided as a toothless, bloated debating society, an anachronism in 2013, a den of patronage and a political body that delivers nothing for its price tag.

And this week, the Senate could be killed.

Not here, of course, but in Ireland where voters can pronounce on the future of their Upper House in a Friday referendum.

The one-time home of William Butler Yeats is not expected to survive, continuing a trend worldwide of discredited upper houses being loudly retired.

snip

This Senate, teetering on the brink of extinction, is largely based on the Canadian model, established in the 1920s, then weakened but enshrined in the 1937 Irish constitution.

snip - They even have their own Mike Duffy

The Irish even have their own Mike Duffy, a former elected member named Ivor Callely, snared in a scandal regarding his primary residence and his penchant for charging overnight expenses in Dublin while maintaining a home there.

snip

He would also be following the Nordic countries, all of whom have abolished their Senates, and he has cited New Zealand as a country that abolished its upper house but instituted proper checks and balances in a single legislative body.

snip

The arguments being made during this low-key campaign are ones that dominate similar Canadian discussions, but it is becoming quite clear that fewer and fewer countries are opting for an appointed Upper House.

Des O’Malley, a former Irish cabinet minister, pointed out in one published piece that very few of the small democracies in central and Eastern Europe that emerged after the fall of communism chose to establish a second house.

An elected senate with power equal to the elected lower house leads to paralysis.

snip

An elected senate with power equal to the elected lower house leads to paralysis.

More and more governments, when faced with the alternatives of a fully appointed chamber or one with equal standing, are taking the abolition route.

The list of those who have rid themselves of an upper house is long and varied, and goes from Croatia to Venezuela, Estonia to India.

Here at home, the NDP has vowed to abolish the Senate, Harper has stated that if it cannot be reformed, it should be abolished.

snip

But there is another wild card at play leading to Friday’s vote.

Although the polls show abolitionists winning, the debate is hardly firing Irish passions and a low turnout could actually lead to a vote to maintain the chamber.

That is something else to be closely studied by Canadian politicians.

jerrym

Some have proposed reforming the Canadian Senate by having its members chosen by elites or expert groups of various types. An example of this is the Irish Senate (Seanad Éireann), which has its Senators selected by a variety of methods, none involving direct election. 

Quote:
 Seanad Éireann (Irish pronunciation: [ˈʃan̪ˠəd̪ˠ ˈeːɾʲən̪ˠ]; English: Senate of Ireland) is the upper house of the Oireachtas (the Irish parliament), which also comprises the President of Ireland and Dáil Éireann(the lower house). It is commonly called the Seanad or Senate and its members senators (seanadóirí in Irish, singular: seanadóir). Unlike Dáil Éireann, it is not directly elected but consists of a mixture of members chosen by various methods. Its powers are much weaker than those of the Dáil and it can only delay laws with which it disagrees, rather than veto them outright. It has been located, since its establishment, in Leinster House. ...

Seanad Éireann consists of sixty senators:

  • Eleven appointed by the Taoiseach (prime minister).
  • Six elected by the graduates of certain Irish universities:
  • 43 elected from five special panels of nominees (known as Vocational Panels) by an electorate consisting of TDs (member of Dáil Éireann), senators and local councillors. Nomination is restrictive for the panel seats with only Oireachtas members and designated 'nominating bodies' entitled to nominate. Each of the five panels consists, in theory, of individuals possessing special knowledge of, or experience in, one of five specific fields. In practice the nominees are party members, often, though not always, failed or aspiring Dáil candidates:

IMO, a reformed Canadian Senate selected along supposedly non-partisan elite and/or expertise lines would likely degenerate into a partisan, self-selection club. At best, even if "non-partisan", they would be representative of the narrow interests of their own sector of society. That is why, over time, more and more of such bodies have been jetisoned in many countries and why the Irish Senate almost suffered the same fate, despite the unpopularity of the government proposing it and the other problems described above. An elected Senate would only lead to the political stalemate now seen in the US and make the passage of legislation favouring an active government role in society more difficult. 

mark_alfred

I agree with jerrym's comment above.  Also, I feel it's too bad that the referendum to abolish Ireland's senate didn't succeed.

jerrym

The referendum to abolish the Irish Senate (Seanad in Gaelic) suffered a narrow defeat yesterday.

Quote:
 Irish voters rejected the abolition of Senate in a referendum on Friday by a narrow margin, final results showed on Saturday.

With final results from all the 43 constituencies on Saturday afternoon, some 51.7 percent of the electorate has rejected the proposition to scrap the upper house with 48.3 percent voting in favor.

Of the 1,226,374 valid votes cast, 591,937 were in favor and 634,437 votes were against the proposal, a margin of 42,500 votes. A total of 14,355 invalid votes were counted. Turnout is 39.2 percent.

A final result on Friday's other referendum to establish a new Court of Civil Appeal has yet to be announced.

The Irish national parliament consists of the president and an upper and a lower house.

Most major Irish parties favor abolishing the Senate. Opposition party Fianna Fail objects to it, arguing that the coalition government of Prime Minister Enda Kenny wants to centralize its power.

Kenny's government says that eliminating the Senate would save 20 million euros (about 27 million U.S. dollars) a year, which, in this time of crisis, is a necessity.

Observers say defeat in the referendum marks a major blow for Kenny and his embattled government, which is preparing for another cost-cutting austerity budget on Oct. 15, two months early this year to meet a European Commission requirement.

http://english.cri.cn/6966/2013/10/06/189s790705.htm

The results of the Irish referendum have some implications for a similar vote in Canada. As noted above, the government proposing abolition is increasingly embattled over its austerity program and some of those who voted against it may have been voting more against the government than in favour of the Senate. 

Quote:
 Recent opinion polls suggest over 60 percent of Irish people support scrapping the Senate.

http://www.euronews.com/2013/10/04/ireland-votes-in-referendum-to-scrap-...

With a turnout of 39.2%, the side who is most motivated to vote has a significant advantage and this may explain part of the disparity between the polls and actual results. Of course, the growing questionable accuracy of polls everywhere is another important factor. The opposition's argument "that the government of Prime Minister Enda Kenny wants to centralise its power" may have also played a significant role with an unpopular government.

There are also concerns that the referendum question was not clear, leading some voters to vote against their intention.

Quote:

Commentators have criticised the wording of the referendum as early tallies in working class Dublin suggest support for a No vote.

Former Fianna Fail Minister Mary O’Rourke said: “There are questions to be answered about the wording of the Senate referendum.

“It was too confusing according to many voters I have spoken to and that has to be looked at. At one stage I heard a voter say ‘vote No for no Seanad’.”

Fine Gael chairman Charlie Flanagan told The Irish Times: “Voters were unsure what a Yes or a No vote meant.”

The paper says there were also reports of some voters not accepting the ballot paper for the second referendum.

http://www.irishcentral.com/news/No-vote-exceeds-expectations-as-governm...

If the NDP is to go ahead with a vote on the referendum, it needs to make sure the question is clear, communicate effectively and extensively why it wants to abolish the Senate, have an excellent turn-out-the-vote campaign, and hold the vote at a time when it is reasonably popular. The fact that the Irish government gave as part of the reason for abolishing the Senate the saving of money during an unpopular austerity program, probably caused some voters to send a message about their dislike of austerity in general and resulted in others not voting at all.

However, abolishing the Senate is not impossible. Afterall, all the provinces, as well as "Denmark, Sweden and New Zealand all did it." (http://www.euronews.com/2013/10/04/ireland-votes-in-referendum-to-scrap-...)

Examining how other jurisdictions succeeded and failed to abolish their Senates would help the NDP in its quest. Calling for the abolition and losing the vote, while not fatal to a government, would weaken the government's image and the chance of implementing the rest of its agenda. 

socialdemocrati...

In theory, the best idea for reform is the senate as an appointed body of "very smart people" from various groups. But in practice, it would just be suspect to the same corruption and preferential treatment. By far, the worst idea is to use the U.S. model of the senate, which doesn't just create a stalemate, but does it in a way that the Bloc Quebecois and the Wildrose party would be able to veto any and all legislation supported by everyone else.

The referendum on Ireland is telling. Not that Senate abolition is unpopular, but that people largely don't care: the turnout was just 39%, and even then, the voters were against abolishment by a 2% margin.

The point being: tell the truth about the senate. But don't assume that people care. Focus on more important issues.

janfromthebruce

I remember in NFL when they had a referendum on abolishing funding religous schools and they redid the referendum because it was ruled that the actual question was hard to understand and not clear. Perhaps this will be what happens here. Confusing question.

mark_alfred

Quote:

“It was too confusing according to many voters I have spoken to and that has to be looked at. At one stage I heard a voter say ‘vote No for no Seanad’.”

Mind you, after reading the above, I wonder what it would take for the question to be clear.  Perhaps:

Quote:
Circle ONE answer below:

  Senate GOOD

  Senate BAD

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

I suspect that the Canadian electorate cares just as little about Senate abolishment as the Irish.  Sure it might be a good idea but who cares?  Of course their Senators are not just political hacks appointed by various PM's so I can see why many would not want to risk a change that might increase the power of the President. 

janfromthebruce

well when trying to fund much needed programs the money wasted on the good old boys and girls club comes in handy.

Unionist

janfromthebruce wrote:

well when trying to fund much needed programs the money wasted on the good old boys and girls club comes in handy.

That's a very poor argument. In fact, it suggests that Harper isn't funding much-needed programs because he's short of money. That's actually his argument, I think.

The Senate costs about $100 million per year. It could be abolished tomorrow - 99.99% of Canadians wouldn't care.

The House of Commons costs about $425 million per year. It could also be abolished tomorrow. No one would miss it. In fact, it's not sitting right now. Canadians are not in the streets screaming about dictatorship.

Abolish the House - and simply give each party leader voting proxies for the number of (former) elected caucus members. They can then exercise their whipped votes as they do now. Question period? Aww, cry me a river. Committees? Very very important to Canadians. No loss. Pure gain. Almost 1/2 billion worth.

Oh, wait. While we're looking for money for "much-needed programs" - what about the military?

What exactly does the military do? I mean, what exactly do they do of value do Canadians? Take your time, don't rush.

Abolish the Canadian Forces. Annual savings: Almost $23 billion. That's right - it's the equivalent of 230 Senates!

The democratic "deficit" isn't in the Senate. It's in the voting system, the media, the influence of the wealthy through corruption and other means, the complete absence of control by people over their communities, their workplaces, their educational institutions...

Forget about the Senate. Abolish it, and no one will miss it. Nor will anyone's life improve by one iota.

 

socialdemocrati...

Everyone hates the government, and no one knows what it does -- so let's get rid of it! Think of how awesome Canada will be when we're paying zero taxes for zero benefits!

Grover Norquist, is that you?

janfromthebruce

What do senators do? Finding out proves difficult, if not impossible
Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/w5/what-do-senators-do-finding-out-proves-difficult-if-not-impossible-1.1482346#ixzz2gxhKN7Q0

For Canadian senators, transparency seems to have a long way to go. Television cameras are still not allowed in the Senate chamber.

And after months of headlines about them, 65 of your senators, almost two-thirds, chose to keep their activities for the month of September a secret.

Instead of wasting money on pork for patronage, whether Liberal or Conservative, it could fund important social programs. I'm sure the money would cover building new schools for First Nation communities in dire need. I see some just think if there was just better appointments all would be good. That is Trudeau Liberal stance, the manor born and breed because one shouldn't change liberal pork.

 

Unionist

socialdemocraticmiddle wrote:

Everyone hates the government, and no one knows what it does -- so let's get rid of it! Think of how awesome Canada will be when we're paying zero taxes for zero benefits!

Are you seriously incapable of telling the difference between the "government" and the "parliament"?

You know, executive council vs. legislative council?

You know, those who do stuff and those who don't?

Parliament is utterly useless. No work of value is done there. Explain to me, in simple words I can understand, why my voting proxy system for the House wouldn't be functionally equivalent to what goes on there right now (well, not right now, heh heh, but at those relatively similar moments when it is actually in session).

Government is hugely important. It just happens to be under the thumb of the extremely wealthy elite.

Incredibly straw-person kind of argument, sdm. I make a serious comment about the uselessness of the phoney show in the House, and you attribute to me the view that government is too big and we shouldn't pay taxes?

Try your debating skills out on my proposal about the House. Abolish it. Let the party leaders meet at Timmy's (at their own expense) for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 12th reading of bills, and then vote their proxies. If it's a free vote, they can have a Facebook group where (unpaid) MPs can indicate their preferences.

Or wait - you think QP is worth $425 million per year? Committees? MPs getting up and posing for cameras?

If there's some actual useful function or work performed by the House that wouldn't be captured by my proposal, don't even hesitate to let me know what it might be.

 

socialdemocrati...

Oh shit, you seriously want to eliminate parliament? I thought it was another one of your sarcastic comments.

Unionist

socialdemocraticmiddle wrote:

Oh shit, you seriously want to eliminate parliament? I thought you were being sarcastic.

SDM - the House of Commons gives an illusion of debate that matters. We know it doesn't. A majority government adopts what it wants. A minority government needs to negotiate deals, but those talks aren't held in the House, as we know. There is no actual work done in the House. None. Exactly the same as the Senate.

So yes - this Parliament needs to be eliminated. Its "work" could be done on a Skype conference call or Google+ hangout by the party leaders.

But that's not what I "seriously want". I seriously want a lot of things. Like, no more parties with iron discipline and dictatorship of the leader. No more FPTP farcical voting system. An end to dictatorship by the financial elite (that's more long-term). A creative way, which I can't outline but I see seeds of it in mass movements, of balancing representative democracy with direct democracy. And yeah, within all that, some kind of Parliament which "works", where real discussion takes place, where people have a voice, where minds change, where whipping and other forms of corporal punishment are outlawed.

So, in conclusion, listen carefully please:

The campaign to abolish the Senate is disingenuous pap. It's an attempt (not a very politically astute one) to seize on some imagined massive indignation by Canadians at a few examples of crooked spending accounts. Notwithstanding some babblers' dreams of how the "saved" money could be spent, it's a campaign which means nothing to Canadians, just as its success would mean nothing.

And most importantly, every single attack on the uselessness of the Senate can be levelled at the House - except that House members are elected. The rest is identical. That's why I suggested keeping the elected member thing, and replacing the House by a Timmy's leaders' meeting and a Facebook group for unwhipped votes (actually, you could even use it for whipped votes!).

Question Period?? Twitter. The NDP has already pioneered it.

We could do a separate thread if you like, but the points I'm making are not intended to be sarcastic.

socialdemocrati...

If you're not trying to be sarcastic, then you're being really confusing.

That abolishing parliament is your non-sarcastic idea, but abolishing just the senate is "disingenuous pap".

That $425 million from parliament could be spent on social programs, but $100 million from the senate isn't worth an "iota", or any other letter of the Greek alphabet.

That we should abolish the parliament because it's useless. But you would only abolish Harper's parliament, and you propose a different parliament that works better. Like, the same building, but maybe with different people -- call it a new party. A new democratic party. And once they're in power, they should change the voting system. "Seriously".

I know you probably have a real point. But the hyperbole is getting in the way. So I'm just going to reject your "serious, but not really serious, but seriously, i'm not serious, seriously" desire to abolish parliament.

Unionist

socialdemocraticmiddle wrote:

If you're not trying to be sarcastic, then you're being really confusing.

That abolishing parliament is your non-sarcastic idea, but abolishing just the senate is "disingenuous pap".

That $425 million from parliament could be spent on social programs, but $100 million from the senate isn't worth an "iota", or any other letter of the Greek alphabet.

Geez sdm. I'm trying to make a point. The holier-than-thou campaign to "abolish the senate" pretends that the House is really important. That's what I mean by "disingenuous pap". My real point is that abolishing the senate is a stupid useless campaign to be running right now. It actually perpetuates illusions (and there aren't that many out where I hang, among workers) that the Commons is a hotbed of democracy.

I'm not really really saying we should start a campaign - today - to abolish both houses. Is that a little clearer?

Quote:
That we should abolish the parliament because it's useless. But you would only abolish Harper's parliament, and you propose a different parliament that works better. Like, the same building, but maybe with different people -- call it a new party. A new democratic party. And once they're in power, they should change the voting system. "Seriously".

Absolutely not. You don't get it. Whether Harper, or Trudeau, or Mulcair, or whoever has a majority (or minority), the House of Commons does nothing of value. Pointless discussion that changes no one's mind. Votes that can be done through proxies at Timmy's or Facebook. It doesn't matter who is in charge. The emperor has no clothes.

Did you see what I said about no more dictatorship by the leader? Whipped votes? Finding a balance between representative democracy and direct democracy? That's what I really really wanted to focus on. Those are the real reasons why both houses, as currently structured, are a waste of money, time, and breath.

Quote:
I know you probably have a real point. But the hyperbole is getting in the way. So I'm just going to reject your "serious, but not really serious, but seriously, i'm not serious, seriously" desire to abolish parliament.

Sorry. All I can suggest is that you re-read what I wrote, and I can try to clear up any ambiguities.

socialdemocrati...

Don't get me wrong. Parliament is flawed. I agree that party discipline basically turns half the MPs into proxy votes. Proxies don't earn their salaries. Parliament and all its appendages aren't worth $425 million and there's probably lots of efficiencies to be found. I'd love to see more direct democracy, including referendums and online forums. Parliament has a democratic deficit when you compare it to the level of responsiveness, openness, and inclusiveness people experience through twitter (albeit for matters that are far more trivial).

But your proposal to improve democracy by ditching parliament is like complaining that your clothes aren't keeping you warm, so you're going to strip. Good luck surviving the winter.

If you think Harper is bad with a majority government and a stacked senate, imagine if there was no opposition, no public debate, and no public officials at all. Just a Conservative Party with people meeting in private rooms. Imagine how much they could do when the feeble mechanisms of accountability are eliminated altogether.

If nothing else... If you believe in proportional representation, there's gonna have to be a place for those representatives to sit. And the idea of having a second chamber that's decidedly unproportional (let alone unelected) would completely defeat a proportional parliament. And $100 million isn't a trivial sum.

I can't believe I'm wasting this much energy dismissing such a terrible and dangerous idea. I sometimes wonder what I'm doing here on babble. I came here to find people committed to social justice who are working towards common ends. Instead, it's like progressive people here WANT to fight each other.

jerrym

socialdemocraticmiddle wrote:

 I sometimes wonder what I'm doing here on babble.

You're not the only one who wonders what he/she is doing here. 

chamberred

Unionist wrote:
I seriously want a lot of things. Like, no more parties with iron discipline and dictatorship of the leader. No more FPTP farcical voting system. An end to dictatorship by the financial elite (that's more long-term). A creative way, which I can't outline but I see seeds of it in mass movements, of balancing representative democracy with direct democracy. And yeah, within all that, some kind of Parliament which "works", where real discussion takes place, where people have a voice, where minds change, where whipping and other forms of corporal punishment are outlawed.

Ditto.

jerrym wrote:
New Zealand as a country that abolished its upper house but instituted proper checks and balances in a single legislative body.

So how would the proper checks and balances look in Canada's situation, in a single legislative body?

socialdemocrati...

Under PR? Since it would be hard for a political party to win more than 50% of the vote, it would look a lot like a coalition government, with a vote of non-confidence should any government get out of hand.

Wilf Day

socialdemocraticmiddle wrote:

Under PR? Since it would be hard for a political party to win more than 50% of the vote, it would look a lot like a coalition government, with a vote of non-confidence should any government get out of hand.

Indeed, and one further point: if a party is split, the minority would not have to submit to the leader, it could leave and set up a new party which would be able to win seats under PR. Winner-take-all leads to rule by the PMO; PR frees the MPs.

chamberred

double post

chamberred

socialdemocraticmiddle wrote:

Under PR? Since it would be hard for a political party to win more than 50% of the vote, it would look a lot like a coalition government, with a vote of non-confidence should any government get out of hand.

I don't think the Canadian electorate would entertain for long the idea of constant minority government and elections every two years. Don't get me wrong, I would like PR and coalition governments in the House of Commons. But I think a reformed and elected second chamber would come in handy in stabilizing Parliament as the House chooses a new PM and cabinet without a new election, unless the 4-year term is up and it's time for one.

janfromthebruce

chamberred wrote:

socialdemocraticmiddle wrote:

Under PR? Since it would be hard for a political party to win more than 50% of the vote, it would look a lot like a coalition government, with a vote of non-confidence should any government get out of hand.

I don't think the Canadian electorate would entertain for long the idea of constant minority government and elections every two years. Don't get me wrong, I would like PR and coalition governments in the House of Commons. But I think a reformed and elected second chamber would come in handy in stabilizing Parliament as the House chooses a new PM and cabinet without a new election, unless the 4-year term is up and it's time for one.

it wouldn't have to lead to elections every 2 yrs. And when I look at the USA system of 2 houses and how that has played out and paralized the state, no thank you. Considering that other democracies have rid themselves of their senate and managed quite well, I would not want to create this american look alike monster. As for elected, who would have the "bucks" and "name recognition" to run for a larger geo area? Right it sure won't be someone who represents everyday people. So we get those with "money and connections"  who run and win b/c of $$$.

Considering that the middle class con'ts to shrink and the majority are getting poorer the progressive side of the equation will not be able to run a moneyed campaign, and particularly at the same time as regular campaigns.

Take for example the recent money take for the 3 federal parties. The NDP is still in 3rd place b/c its backers are people who make a lot less money generally speaking.

socialdemocrati...

What Jan said. The funny thing is -- when coalition governments are the norm, and no one can ever expect to break 50%, there's really not much point in calling a new election every 2 years. The only reason people call for an election under a minority government in Canada is because the parties have gotten to a point where they think they can win a majority. Why call an election just to end up with another coalition? That's just not how it works in countries with a single PR assembly.

Ironically, the US has elections every two years under its two-chamber, first passed the post system.

DLivings

There's far too much to respond to here...  and that's partly because I'm a newby..  

On the Senate: political appointees by the PM, "serving" primarily a partisan purpose to help the government get re-elected... on the citizen's dime.  What's to like about this body?  What public purpose is served?  (Sorry for the rhetorical questions!).  And we've gotten along fine without a functional Upper House for more than a century without adverse affects.  By this I mean, as much as I don't support Harper (or Chretien, etc), they have effectively pursued their policy interests through the Commons while avoiding the gridlock of the US system.

On the House of Commons:  a relatively simple voting system (put your x here) that produces a minority or majority government that reflects popular interests to some extent.  Prop Rep is worthy of consideration, but the devil is in the details I expect.  And we do have members exit from their parties from time to time, and survive to tell the story.  This is in contrast to the American Congress and state legislatures where voters are never quite sure how their rep will vote on matters (even though they are Rep or Dem) so there is no notion of a mandate in the legislature (although the executive - Pres or Governor - can make that claim.)  Indeed, it's all about deal-making... if you'll support this bill, we'll ensure support for the Boeing plant (or $ for roads, etc) in your district.  And regarding "direct democracy" voters are faced with a large one or two (or more) page ballot casting multiple x's for slates of candidates, and on multiple issues including details of how state budgets worth billions of dollars might be balanced (as though most citizens have the time to become familiar with complex issues such as this more than what the most expensive 30 second ad might proclaim.)

The suggestion that the legislature be abolished?  Absurd.  We wouldn't even have a universal health care system in Canada without it initially coming through a legislature selected at the ballot box.  Unless we happen to have the right dictator selecting the right (or left!) members to sit on the governing council...  and that's a long shot.  Most of us don't like the idea of a dictator unless we get to be it!

While I agree with commentators that suggest the Senate is not the most burning issue, this is a case of "opportunity knocks."  That turns our discussion back to the topic thread, how would a unicameral PR House be achieved and work effectively.  The first step is to eliminate the Senate and, while this is complex, the political opportunity has presented itself.

Does it begin with a referendum on the Senate's existence?  Maybe.  Another approach might be through the purse strings.  As I understand it, money bills must pass the House of Commons.  The Senate can delay but not prevent passage.... so just don't fund it!  If it can't be neat constitutionally, this might be a way of effectively eliminating it's role until a fully constitutional solution can be achieved.

The PR part is even more challenging.  Setting out options for a system that is clean and simple, and doesn't give additional power to parties to select un-representative candidates may be the biggest challenge.

I'm curious about others' ideas about moving forward...  

socialdemocrati...

I'm kind of glad this thread got bumped.

A month ago, I'd have said that the Senate was a small time opportunity. It's a position the NDP has always had, and there's enough of a scandal that they can plug their long-time position, rally the rank-and-file, make some contrasts with the other two parties, and eventually pivot to more important issues. (And make the case for an important reform some years into the first NDP government)

Since then, I'd say the opportunity has become a lot bigger. It's almost as if the NDP knew the scandal would unravel further, with more and more ugly details. It's all the media has been talking about for weeks. (At least until Rob Ford's crack habit became news again.) The NDP is now positioned as the hero in the most notable scam of Harper's career. That's some Wayne Gretzky "playing where the puck is GOING to be" level strategy. And the NDP will still be able to pivot to more important issues, but with significantly more momentum behind them.

Actually abolishing the Senate is one of the most archaic and outdated parts of the constitution. And because it's so archaic and outdated, public opinion is already warming to the idea. Not only should the NDP try to persuade more voters to support the abolition cause... they should also pressure the leadership of other parties to stop defending it. The Senate is becoming so toxic that some MPs from other parties are murmuring about cutting it loose.

janfromthebruce

Interesting development today with a Senator on board to perhaps abolish - take no prisoners approach where all go down with the sinking ship.

SenPatrickBrazeau ‏@TheBrazman 9h

If Canadian justice, common sense and due process does not prevail in the #SenCa scandal, it should be abolished. #cdnpoli

Wilf Day

chamberred wrote:
I don't think the Canadian electorate would entertain for long the idea of constant minority government and elections every two years. Don't get me wrong, I would like PR and coalition governments in the House of Commons.

The Scottish Parliament uses the PR system which the Law Commission of Canada said inspired their recommendation for a PR system for Canada (but they modified it by recommending voters be allowed to vote for a candidate on the regional "top-up" list.)

The first two elections resulted in a stable coalition government which lasted two full terms. The third produced a minority government which lasted a full term. The fourth produced a one-party majority.

Throughout the world (including almost all of Europe, most of Latin America, South Africa, New Zealand, etc. etc.) PR generally produces stable coalition governments. 

Pages