Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Prop Rep vote in the House tomorrow

[post updated below]
Here's what the last federal election results would have looked like under Prop Rep 
as compared to what we got with First Past the Post :

Although the Cons increased their vote percentage by less than two points, this was enough to give them 24 more seats than in 2008, when they were already over-represented anyway.

From Fair Vote Canada via email :

Fair Vote Canada has just learned that NDP Democratic Reform Critic Craig Scott will introduce the following motion for PR to the House of Commons tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday December 3).
That, in the opinion of the House:
 (a) the next federal election should be the last conducted under the current first-past-the-post electoral system which has repeatedly delivered a majority of seats to parties supported by a minority of voters, or under any other winner-take-all electoral system; and 
(b) a form of mixed-member proportional representation would be the best electoral system for Canada."

There will be a two-hour debate 3:15 to 5:30 EST. The vote will occur at 6:45 PM EST

We need you to contact your MP now! Find your MP's phone number and email here.  

The NDP has committed to implementing Mixed Member Proportional Representation if elected in 2015, with an all-party and citizen task force to create the best design. MMP with open, regional lists (meaning, all MPs are elected by voters and all MPs are local) is the model recommended in 2004 by the Law Commission of Canada. Eight provincial commissions have also recommended MMP.

The Green Party also supports implementing proportional representation before 2019. 

The Liberal Party of Canada is calling for an all-party process involving citizens and experts to look at all electoral reform options - including other winner-take-all systems and proportional systems - in the first 12 months following the 2015 election. 

There are two major families of voting systems in the world: Proportional, and Winner-take-all ("majoritarian/plurality"). All evidence indicates that to replace one winner-take-all voting system with another is simply to replicate almost every problem we face now with first-past-the-post. 10 commissions, 14 years of polls, and decades of research says Canada needs a more proportional solution.

Proportional representation is based on a couple of key principles: 
a) Voter equality - your vote should count towards electing a representative you want, and
b) if a party earns 30% of the popular vote, they should earn roughly 30% of the seats.

There are a variety of ways proportional representation could be designed for Canada. Fair Vote Canada does not endorse only one proportional system.

Regardless of whether your MP supports Mixed Member Proportional in particular, please urge them to vote YES to this motion if they support the premise that every vote should count. Amendments to motions are possible and a yes vote to this motion will open the door for a process to design the best electoral system for Canada, consistent with Fair Vote Canada's 2015 campaign. Achieving PR will require parties working together in an all party process.

This motion is a reflection of the momentum that is building across the country for votes that count. We need as many MPs to speak in favour of proportional representation as possible to move this issue forward now.
Please take a moment to let your MP know that you want him or her to be a strong voice for proportional representation. 
Thank you for helping us Make 2015 the Last Unfair Election!

Fair Vote Canada

{end of email}

Maybe if we didn't have a system that coerces us into tactical or strategic voting, we could vote for who we really wanted, and knowing that our votes actually counted for something might get more than 61% of us to show up to vote. 

Wednesday Update : Motion defeated 166 to 109

Yeas - All NDP plus Greens Elizabeth May and Bruce Hyer, Bloc Claude Patry and Louis Plamondon, and Independents Brent Rathgeber, Maria Mourani, and Manon Perreault. 

Nays - All Cons, plus Independents Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti 

16 Libs voted Yea - Mauril Bélanger, Carolyn Bennett, Scott Brison, Rodger Cuzner, Stephane Dion, Kirsty Duncan, Wayne Easter, Mark Eyking, Hedy Fry, Ted Hsu, John McCallum, David McGuinty, John McKay, Joyce Murray, Frank Valeriote, Adam Vaughan

15 Libs voted Nay : Justin Trudeau, Gerry Byrne, Emmanuel Dubourg, Judy Foote, Chrystia Freeland, Marc Garneau, Ralph Goodale, Yvonne Jones, Kevin Lamoureux, Dominic LeBlanc, Lawrence MacAuley, Geoff Regan, Francis Scarpaleggia, Judy Sgro, Scott Simms

Half the Libs - aka the Nays - would prefer a preferential ballot system, an alternative but slightly more democratic winner-take-all system similar to first past the post. And here's why ...

On Power and Politics tonight, Eric Grenier of 308dotcom laid out what seat count the three different systems would deliver, according to his current polling. 

Note these figures above are only based on polls.

[Edited to correct omission of Manon Perreault]


Unknown said...

Problem is the perps with perps hold the majority there is not a snow flakes chance in hell of this motion going forward. Firsst we have to rid our selves of the cons who are the perps with perps and then we may be able to move forward. How did this not unseat Harper?


If it happened at my house...
Well you know I'd be in trouble talk about a double standard, what is good for the goose is not good for the gander???

Anonymous said...

Mogs, believe it or not, political dialogue in the House of Commons and the rest of the country does not revolve entirely around Stephen Harper and his teenage children.
One day soon Harper will be gone.
There are still grownup discussions to be had about how to fix the system that installed him in the first place and electoral reform, along with breaking up media concentration, is one of those discussions.

Steve said...

It makes too much sense. Chretien should have done it but he like all pols enjoyed majority too much. Now its to easy for the Cons to spin this beyond the reason of mortal Canadians.

Anonymous said...

"The Liberal Party of Canada is calling for an all-party process involving citizens and experts to look at all electoral reform options - including other winner-take-all systems and proportional systems - in the first 12 months following the 2015 election."

Hasn't this already been done?

West End Bob said...

How's the vote goin' Alison ? ? ? ?

Alison said...

Hi guys - see update in post

Boris said...

You know, I really, really, despise the party system. It's tribalism at its core, which makes it corrupt because the only imperitive becomes one of protecting ones tribe and favouring anything that furthers its welfare. There's a few folks that put democracy or the whole of the country first, but the rest of them are really just reinvented feudal nobles.

The Mound of Sound said...

As a now devout Green, I like any alternative to FPTP. The other parties - Libs and NDP included - know that pro-rep would aid the Greens more than anyone. They lose a lot of support from voters who feel that backing the Greens would just undermine a Lib or NDP's odds of defeating a Con candidate. Pro-rep would greatly reduce that "wasted vote" stigma that plagues the Greens.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that the Liberal MPs were almost evenly split.

Alison said...

Boris : or reinvented feudal serfs dressed as nobles.

Granted : that the party system exists for the benefit of politicians not citizens, that parties stand for getting re-elected more than for any loose set of organizing principles, and that media concentration in Canada tends to exacerbate both of the above as parties now campaign primarily through promedia.
Given all that - people are tribal and are going to coalesce and organize in groups in order to more efficiently push for their own collective interests and I'd rather see them organize around any old set of loose national ideological interests than on industry or regional interests - which is surely what would arise from abolishing political parties in general.

The problem as I see it is not so much the parties themselves but the abominable extent of their centralized control over whipped votes, candidate nominations, money allocation, and - the biggie - a way way way too inflated emphasis on who the current party leader is.

Hence my support for MMPR, which would significantly knock back the influence of all of the above.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that the NDP continue to push for MMP even though recent polls suggest they would do better under a preferential ballot system.

scotty on denman said...

Pro-rep proponents often put whipped votes near the top of the list of reasons to support this electoral system---which is, uh, ...how to put this nicely...uh, which kinda reveals some, uh...incomplete understanding of how the Westminster parliamentary system works...

I'll be brief: proportional representation actually leads to more whipped votes, not less...

...so, if you want to be more persuasive in plugging pro-rep, maybe you should leave whipped votes of the list.

Pro-rep allows small parties into the contest, which makes minority governments likely, which makes every money bill a confidence matter, which makes vote whipping more necessary---for a bunch of good reasons, not the least of which is the reluctance of any party, but especially small ones, to precipitate elections too close together for financial reasons. That's a preoccupation at odds with certain ideas about representation.

Boris: there is no "party system"; parties aren't even mentioned in the Constitution. There's something dishonest about a candidate agreeing to tow the party line in return for having his or her successful election bid bankrolled by a party---and then breaking that agreement by casting a parliamentary vote contrary to the bankrolling party's directive. It might be forgivable---or even allowable, depending on the party---to abstain or vote contrarily on non-money bills, but no party, especially ruling parties, can accept renegade Members on confidence votes. Anyway, it's really up to the Member's conscience and ethical fibre because the party, which is not a creature of the parliament or Constitution, cannot do much about it except to kick the offending Member out of caucus; it's the riding electorate that authorizes the Member's seat, not the party, so an excommunicated MP retains the seat, perhaps joining another party or sitting as an Independent...such Independents rarely win incumbency.

...speaking of which: there are Independents listed on nearly every riding ballot, often more than one. If you want a free-voting representative, cast your vote for one of those. Hmmm...I wonder how pro-rep would affect Independents; with ballots loaded up with little, special interest parties, and only so many votes to go around, perhaps it would extirpate Independents altogether.

You and the Independents might curse those darn parties, but you'll have a hard time getting rid of them: the Charter guarantees freedom of association, and unless you're up for a Constitutional Amendment---or maybe an opting out...well, see what I mean?

There are many other reasons why parties will be with us for the foreseeable future.

Better take abolishing parties off the list, too.

Alison said...

Scotty : "Pro-rep proponents often put whipped votes near the top of the list of reasons to support this electoral system" ... because most of the 81 countries that have adopted proportional representation have also concurrently adopted some version of a three line whip system, which would certainly be an enormous improvement over the nearly 100% whip system Libs and Cons currently have, reading off their little bits of paper written for them by people who weren't elected at all.
I will grant you party discipline is a separate issue from electoral reform -

"Pro-rep allows small parties into the contest, which makes minority governments likely" ... to have to work together instead of electioneering full time on platforms not even of their own choosing. The three main parties are already coalitions of smaller interests, like Reform/Alliance/PC.
In my lifetime there has only been one genuine majority government, ie it received the majority of the votes.

"which makes every money bill a confidence matter" which they already are now under FPtP

I put it to you, Scotty, without prop rep we are heading for a two party system in Canada with nary a lick of difference between them.

Unknown said...

Your last sentence Alison: That was the dream of Tom Flanagan he wanted an "American style" government for Canada. Harper is delivering...

Flanagan is an American from Illinois.

Alison said...

Mogs : Harper has admired much about the US system, particularly the US president's ability to appoint non-elected experts to his cabinet.

However, in 1996/7, Harper and Flanagan wrote this paper together - Our Benign Dictatorship - endorsing electoral reform and coalitions. Excerpted :

"First-past-the-post voting encourages parties to engage in a war of attrition.

Reform and the PCs could cooperate if their supporters, seeing that the war of attrition does not work under Canada's particular conditions, push their leaders against the logic of the electoral system. The two parties could begin by agreeing to advocate electoral reform through the run off, preferential ballot, or mixed-member-proportional system, which would be in the interest of both parties.

Only in politics do we still entrust power to a single faction expected to prevail every time over the opposition by sheer force of numbers. Even more anachronistically, we persist in structuring the governing team like a military regiment under a single commander with almost total power to appoint, discipline and expel subordinates. Among major democracies, only Great Britain so ruthlessly concentrates power. In the United States, President Clinton cannot govern without making concessions to the Republicans in Congress. In Germany, Chancellor Kohl needs to keep the support not only of the CSU but of the Free Democrats. In France, the presidency and the national assembly are often controlled by different party coalitions. In most of the rest of Europe, proportional representation ensures that coalition governments routinely form cabinets. In Australia, the Liberal prime minister needs the National Party for a majority in the House of Representatives and, often, the support of additional parties to get legislation through the Senate. In New Zealand, which used to have a Canadian-style system of concentrated power, the voters rebelled against alternating Labour party and National party dictatorships: electoral reform now ensures coalition cabinets."

scotty on denman said...

You make an interesting point, Alison, that parties are already composed of smaller interests. This is a Single-Member-Plurality (SMP="FPtP") phenomenon that I believe achieves what pro-rep proponents claim only pro-rep can do: force narrower interests to compromise amongst each other in order to pass legislation. I would prefer that narrower interests make their compromises on their own accord, and on their own dime, rather than by ad hoc, parliamentary circumstance on the public dime.

SMP tends to reward the more compromising party in a given riding; let's say that party won the riding with 40% of the vote; the other two parties, say, which garnered 30% and 25% respectively, would have taken the riding if they'd been compromising enough with each other to amalgamate (giving them 55%.) Obviously neither of these parties was willing to compromise with the other on principle---otherwise they would have won instead; the more compromising party (which is, as you point out, often composed of a plurality of smaller, compromising interests) is rewarded.

Moreover, there's a better chance many of the policies of the 40% (winner) are ones that supporters of either other party could probably live with--- than there are policies of either of the 30% and 25% that supporters of the 40% party could live with. It has to be a pretty narrowly interested party to be diametrically opposed and completely uncompromising with every other party. Most parties share the majority of their policies, and SMP tends to reward those that recognize such an advantage.

To my mind, pro-rep would encourage smaller interests--- that have, under SMP, compromised on some of their policies in order to have a better chance of getting the remainder addressed by way of the larger party they join (phweeew!)---to hive off into smaller, narrower and more uncompromising parties in the name of better representation. If it's really true that hung parliaments so composed force parties to co-operate with each other to pass legislation, then the "better representation" promised by these smaller interests to their supporters obviously cannot be achieved---unless, of course, a party has promised its supporters to compromise on certain policies. Thing is: life deals out unpredictable events that have to be dealt with, frequently with some urgency, in a timely, expedient fashion, so there's no way for a party to articulate ahead of time upon which policies it may compromise, nor to what extent-- making a mockery of the "better representation" claim; heck, the term could hardly be defined thusly, except maybe by making it up along the way. Most people, and I dare say, most pro-rep supporters, would eschew such arbitrariness. Yet we demand governments be flexible enough to deal with any contingency, and to be always ready to do so---the true strength and advantage of the Westminster system.

The distinguishing feature of the Westminster system is timely passage of legislation (contrasted with the American Congressional system where legislation may languish longer than the circumstances requiring it exists.) Fuzzy ideas about the nature of representation aside, for the moment, the kind of parliaments elected under pro-rep (hung, with many smaller parties) has to be inferior in terms of timeliness to those elected by SMP: either parties compromise on their claimed representativeness or sacrifice timeliness during complex horse-trading and negotiation between uncompromising positions, in keeping with representativeness promises to respective supporters. The more representative smaller, special interest parties are, the less timely the legislative process. I prefer to use the Westminster system to its best and intended purpose.

Unknown said...

Yes Alison I read "Our Benign Dictatorship" long ago and I realized that Harper once with a majority went power drunk and took those words to fruition that he indeed is a dictator...

Anonymous said...

But I thought Andrews * Pacetti were out of the L caucus, so how come they got to vote?

Alison said...

Scotty : I thought this set of vids explaining FPtP, MMP, AV, and STV was pretty good. What do you think of them?

Mogs : Yes and it shows how little faith we have in democracy, how far we have yet to go to actually embrace it, that 24% of the population are/were comfortable with that.

Anon : Out of caucus, yes, but still representing the riding that elected them so still get to vote as Independents.
Ditto Rathgeber, Mourani, Perreault.

scotty on denman said...

Thanks for the links, Alison. They're pretty interesting and detailed explanations. I've actually already looked most of them over---started boning up during the STV Referenda when I developed a point-by-point set of refutations to that particular type of pro-rep---nonetheless, these and other pre-rep promotional materials are valuable sources for more general refutation of all types pro-rep, to the degree each might diverge from majoritarian electoral systems. I try to fill it out with cogent defences of SMP within Westminster parliaments, and with suggested improvements to that system that would, I think, bring out the best of its intended design.

I'm generally against pro-rep for sovereign legislatures, but I would support it in the Senate or, perhaps, pending detailed study, in one or more of Canada's municipal government types. I'm not hard-assed about it, but the purer the form of pro-rep, and the more sovereign the level of government, the more I'm opposed to pro-rep. I wouldn't throw myself off a cliff if we adopted it by some means or another, yet I would include it among the many creeping symptoms of effective disenfranchisement that inevitably (and purposely, IMHO) attends turning government into an administrative department of global corporatism, symptoms like fixed-election dates, lengthening terms of municipal mandates, declining access to the judicial system, compromised independence of regulatory commissions, and so forth. I'd be happier, for example, to have some mixed form of SMP and pro-rep imposed upon me than I would pure pro-rep---but I'd prefer instead to remedy the many small cuts our government, our Westminster parliament, and our SMP system have endured over the last three decades of neo-right, global corporatism. Improvements would include many parliamentary procedural reforms (especially at committee), improved access to jurisprudence, enshrinement of a number of bureaucratic principles (especially a Constitutional ban of online voting for elections to sovereign governments), and the like .

While I don't fear pro-rep, I consider us fortunate that pro-rep seems a remote possibility; I do worry, however, that stock pro-rep rhetoric might discourage the majority of voters who are plainly reluctant to vote: procrastination quickly adopts self-rationalizing premises, and the pitch that we simply can't have representative democracy without pro-rep will do for procrastinators as well as any other convenient excuse laziness; this common pro-rep pitch might also maintain misconceptions about governing that discourage voting. I know I'd sound like a nutty conspiracy theorist to suggest boosting pro-rep on that basis could very well be another vote-suppression tactic employed by the right, which fancies itself the beneficiary of low voter turnout. But I do know a little about human nature.

If I had to pick just one of the many weaknesses I perceive of pro-rep, it would probably be proponents' fuzzy vision, shifting positions and moving goalposts with regard the nature of representation---which every one of the systems you list presumes understood, but to which each applies a number of definitions and, frankly, fanciful expectations.

Thanks again for the links.

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