Why Are We Still Squabbling About Electoral Reform?

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Why are we still squabbling about electoral reform when a majority of Canadians already want it?

Political parties often have several ballots to come up with a leader who has more than 50% support from members/delegates/whoever.

The BC Liberal party just went through a leadership race where party members voted for at least two candidates in preferred order. Their votes were weighted so each of 85 ridings had identical influence.

Next month the BC NDP will have a preferential ballot leadership vote as well.

Then both parties will fight a first-past-the-post provincial election some time in the next 2 years or so.


A plurality of support for a party leader is insufficient. But it is ok for general elections?

This simply has to stop.

Last month the federal NDP introduced a motion to create a House of Commons committee 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” because we have “a House of Commons that does not accurately reflect the political preferences of Canadians.”

The first-past-the-post stopped being really useful around the end of the 19th century once more than two parties starting fielding candidates.

Those who blame non-FPTP systems as being inherently unstable need to see that the earth hasn’t stopped spinning for the almost 7 years that Canada has been without a majority government. While some don’t like the lack of ease of legislation, I like how parliamentary committees mean something now and that debate and votes suddenly matter like never before in recent memory.

But then again, people wonder if the time isn’t yet right for Canada’s political culture to accept a change in our electoral system. If only a majority were already interested in a change. If only 62% of Canadians and almost 70% of decided Canadians supported a system of proportional representation. Maybe then I’d really have an argument here. It turns out that 62% of Canadians already support a PR system. Harper’s two proroguements helped cement that support. And CuriosityCat has already done the heavy lifting on the poll numbers to show a reasonably likely scenario of how this could play out in the next election.

Democracy is a muscle. We’ve been exercising it for most of this last decade and we’re starting to get good at it. I think we need more practice. And I think parties need to start entrenching progressive, democratic and truly representative electoral systems so our whole democracy gets a boost of efficacy.

Our declining voter turnout certainly indicates the need.

It’s time for leaders to act.

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist. at Politics, Re-Spun
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, professor, speaker, consultant, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website, dgiVista.org.

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7 thoughts on “Why Are We Still Squabbling About Electoral Reform?”

  1. Totally agreed! Watching the Irish election last week really hit home (they have STV) as we tracked online where the transfers went from each additional count in each constituency- vote transfers that in our system would have been lost in the purgatory of ‘you voted for a loser- too bad’. It made me so frustrated for us, and in no small measure jealous.

  2. While it’s nice that the NDP supports having a study on electoral reform, the party needs to be stronger advocates for proportional representation before I am convinced that the NDP truly wants reforms.

  3. The rulers always make their subjects beg, grovel or revolt before offering a loosening of the democratic strings. And this increased shift toward democracy always comes with a price.

    For example, women wanted a vote? OK, fine. But it means women are now going to have to enter the workforce, become overtaxed, and allow the family unit to suffer in her absence. That’s the price paid by all to the rulers for women to invoke their fundamental ‘right’ to vote.

    So each time I read about those voting for, let alone championing, a political Party — a top-down organization that forces its employees, your representatives, to comply; an organization that serves the capitalist paradigm and its superstars long before the people — I know nothing is going to change without a cost.

    We are headed in the wrong direction. Varying our course a few degrees or changing our speed is not going to solve the systemic political problems we face. We need to fundamentally change our understanding of government.

    Unfortunately, the collective is always unable to reach accept the inevitable conclusion until it has drifted so far beyond the threshold of finding a peaceful resolution, that revolution (ultimately ending in violence and death) will be the end game. History is littered with this exact example and we are not immune from it.

    As Emma Goldman said a century or so ago, “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal”.

    Cynical, yes, but all too true nonetheless. We either set up a truly peoples democratic government based on the rule of law decided by the people, or we endure what has been imposed on us.

    So far we are enduring and, admittedly, it is far less than what most others endure. Nonetheless, this situation is shameful and a Canadian embarrassment, particularly when one comes to understand that we suffer less simply because others unseen suffer more.

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