Tag Archives: proportional representation

Our Electoral System Does Not Keep Extremists At Bay

One of the reasons that is being advanced for preserving first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting in BC’s election tomorrow is that it supposedly keeps the extremists at bay. This argument suggests that countries with proportional representation like Israel are subject to the whims of radicals like Avigdor Lieberman. The drama played out in Israel in the wake of the last election saw different parties trying to find a way to please Lieberman so that he might enter into a coalition with several more mainstream parties.

That sort of thing never happens in Canada, right? Actually it does. FPTP rewards parties with lots of regional support so we reward not so much ideological radicals as we do regional ones. In the past couple of years we have seen the Liberals, the NDP, and the Conservatives all prepared to enter into coalitions or understandings or what-have-you with the Bloc. So yeah, if some horse-trading is needed here, our system is just as likely to produce radicals who might hold the balance of power.

But FPTP produces more majority governments where mainstream parties don’t have to do deals with fringe players, right? Well, um, not exactly – it still happens but it’s actually more insidious. Take Brian Mulroney’s grand coalition: he won a huge majority but at the expense of giving Lucien Bouchard the platform from which he could launch his separatist ambitions. How many PC voters in 1984 knew that they were voting for a coalition with separatists? Right now the Ontario PC Party is accommodating itself to the radical fringe that is most embodied in MPP and leadership candidate Randy Hillier. Hillier is unlikely to win the leadership but he may well play king-maker and at any rate he’s likely to get a cabinet position if the PCs win an election any time soon.

What this means is that we have extremist views inside the large brokerage parties, however these views are given the venerable stamps of the big parties. Randy Hillier does not have to run as the leader of his crazy Lanark Landowners group, no, he gets the more respectable Progressive Conservative tag – again, the same tag that got Lucien Bouchard a national spotlight. Right now our extremists smuggle themselves in under the banners of mainstream parties, under a proportional system, we could at least name them and publicly understand what they wanted in exchange for membership in a coalition government.

I hope BC voters will consider this when they head to the polls tomorrow.


BC Voters, Say Yes to STV!

Paulitics has a great post on the matter today. I feel like this is the best shot that Canada has at introducing PR anywhere in the next few years. Once PR is introduced in one jurisdiction, and, contra the Star editorial page, the world does not end, I suspect it will break out across the country.

Proportional Representation Coming to BC

According to where the polls are at right now, there is substantial support for BC’s shift to proportional representation in the provincial legislature. Should these numbers hold, I suspect that there will be a cascade effect through the provinces – that’s one of the reasons why the ardent PR opponents at the Toronto Star insisted that referendums on democratic reform never be held in Ontario again. After mixed-member PR failed in Ontario in 2007, I referred to them as “sore winners” and said:

“Those against electoral reform might feel vindicated in their victory, but I think deep down they know that some sort of proportional representation will come up for a vote in jurisdictions again and again – and once it passes in one place in Canada the floodgates will open. The supporters of first-past-the-post know this, so instead of saying “bring it on, we’ll beat you again,” they try desperately to make the idea go away for ever.”

I suspect that the anti-PR fear-mongers at the Toronto Star are going to be publishing a flurry of furious condemnations of PR. As it becomes increasingly clear that Canada is on the cusp of doing away with an antiquated system of elections, I also imagine that these condemnations will become increasingly shrill.

More Confusion on PR from the Star

The editors of the Toronto Star hate proportional representation with a strange sort of passion that drives them to eagerly cling to any evidence they can use to purport to show that PR is a bad thing. Today we have yet another sorry example:

“Canadian advocates of electoral reform should take a long hard look at the results of this week’s election in Israel.

No fewer than 12 parties won seats in the Knesset. They range from mainstream parties like Kadima, Likud and Labour to fringe groups with various ethnic or religious orientations, like Hadash, Balad, Jewish Home and United Torah Judaism.”

So what? We have a “fringe group” with a regional orientation dedicated to the break-up of this country.

“Israel has an electoral system known as ‘proportional representation,’ under which parties are allocated seats according to their percentage of the popular vote. Advocates say it is fairer than our system, known as “first past the post,” where the winner is the candidate with a plurality in each riding. Electoral reformers say this leads to ‘wasted’ votes, whereas with proportional representation ‘every vote counts.'”

That’s because the votes are wasted in FPTP systems. If you don’t vote for the winning party in your area, your vote means nothing.

“Unfortunately, however, proportional representation also acts as an incentive to parties to form along narrow lines, sometimes religious or ethnic, as we can see in Israel.”

Again, the same thing in Canada, but just with regional biases.

“Electoral reformers cry foul over any comparison to Israel, where the threshold for getting a seat in the Knesset is only 2 per cent. But all 12 parties that won seats in this week’s election actually received at least 3 per cent of the popular vote.

What was the threshold chosen by the citizens assembly in Ontario that recommended a form of proportional representation for this province in 2007? The same 3 per cent.”

This essentially begs the question by assuming that it is a terrible tragedy to have 12 parties in a parliament.

“Now comes the next stage in Israeli politics – the backroom horse-trading as the larger parties try to attract support from the smaller ones in order to form a government. Typically, that support is offered in exchange for adoption of a key plank in the smaller party’s platform.

For Canadians who were shocked by the backroom deal late last year that led to the formation of a “coalition” to supplant the Conservatives in office, this kind of horse-trading is another reason to think twice about bringing proportional representation here.”

Heh. This part is funny. You see, now the election is over and the public is very much aware of the trade-offs going on between these parties. The same trade-offs happen in the big brokerage parties (i.e.: the Conservatives and the Liberals) in Canada as well. Take the Cons, they have to balance big business, social conservatives, libertarians and others in creating a platform. It is no different from the deal making that happens in Israel – it’s just that everyone can see who has compromised what.

Bonus: nice of the Star – an ostensibly liberal and Liberal paper – to adopt the Harper attitude that the coalition was some how unseemly or illegitimate.

Update: Queer-Liberal has more.

Voting Day -1

Some random thoughts:

It’s all over tomorrow. From what the polls are saying, this looks like it may be a parliament nearly identical to the one that preceded it. One thing I would like to see is that the Conservatives make no more inroads in Ontario. It is still unconscionable to me that Flaherty would badmouth this province as the “last place” to invest because he was unsatisfied with our corporate tax rates. Whatever you feel about tax rates the sheer stupidity of a federal ministry deriding one province as no place to do business because it frustrated his goal of creating a low-tax “brand” for Canada is mind-boggling. By the way Jim, the fact that equalization screws over Ontario may also have something to do with our tax rates.

I really hope that Harper does not get a majority, I like my iPod.

Does anyone know what Harper would do with a majority? His government put up the censorship provisions in bill C10 (something they surely did not run on) and then dropped them in the new platform. Remember income trusts? The greatest threat from Harper is that it is simply impossible to predict what policies he will implement. He might extend the Afghan mission indefinitely, or break up the CBC or, well, who knows?

This could be three minority parliaments in row. Has the sky fallen? Proportional representation will seem less scary the more we see minority governments operate just fine.