Tag Archives: Toronto Star

The Stupid Electoral System That Won’t Die

…at least not in Canada. Once again BC voters rejected a referendum on proportional representation during this election. What this means is that electoral reform has failed now twice in BC and once in Ontario. Scott observes that electoral reform advocates might want to go for something like instant-runoff voting (IRV) as it might be easier to follow. Meanwhile Paul Wells suggests, among other things, that continued referendums aren’t exactly going to bolster support for electoral reform.

I think that these are really the two big takeaways from this vote. First past the post (FPTP) distorts voter intent and wastes all kinds of votes. It’s a great system for disengaging voters and creating apathy. But those of us who advocate for electoral reform need to figure what it will take to get apathetic voters to, well, cure their own apathy. It’s patently not enough to blog about insipid Toronto Star editorials or talk among other wonkish types about this stuff. If we want electoral reform we need to identify ways to make it relevant non-bloggers, non-nerds, non-poli-sci majors.

I guess the question now is how we go about building up some genuine grassroots feeling about this topic. How you get people to care about something as abstract as electoral reform in the midst of a deepening recession though is beyond me. Back to the drawing board. In the meantime electoral reformers, enjoy Kraftwerk perfoming Autobahn live (Germany has PR, right?):

Edit: Danielle on the merits of IRV.

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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.

Journalism at its best

You can’t get quality reporting like this on blogs:

The gesture, sometimes called “flipping the bird” or simply “the bird,” is rated the equivalent of an animal humping someone’s leg, according to the manual’s section on assessing the psychological impact of mainstream films.

Deja Vu

Take a look at James Travers today. It’s a decent article, but you read that David Peterson comparison here first.

Why an election?

Harper was quoted in the Star today as saying it was down to “fundamental differences” with the opposition. Other reasons that were considered as election pretexts appear to be bears shitting in the woods and the Pope being a Catholic.

Bernier the Bumbling Imperialist

According to an article in The Toronto Star, the Afghans were going to can the governor of Kandahar until Maxime Bernier opened his big mouth. Aside from our general maltreatment of First Nations, Canada has never really chosen to act as an imperial power. If we can’t handle this sort of delicate manipulation of the local scene, that’s one more reason we shouldn’t be wasting blood and treasure in Afghanistan.