Electoral Reform I

I wrote this a couple of weeks back, then decided not to post it. Today I’m reconsidering. For Canadians I’m just retelling something they already know. But it occurs to me that not everyone has had a chance to join the conversation – and it is not limited to Canadians. So today a lesson in the workings of Canadian democracy. It’s not for the faint of heart.


The government wants to know what you think.

Just kidding. Of course they don’t.

You can though take a ten minute survey about electoral reform in Canada. If you aren’t a Canadian that’s okay, you can still answer the questions. Feel free also to take the survey as many times as you like. Scientific polling accuracy isn’t important since the government already knows what it wants. It just won’t tell vou.

In last year’s election campaign the third-place party in the polls, the Liberals, made electoral reform a policy plank. 2015 would be the last election under the “first past the post” system. It was an easy promise to make, until their popularity picked up.

On election night the Liberals won a majority government with about 40 per cent of the vote. Suddenly first past the post didn’t look that bad, but there was that election promise and the smaller parties (and their supporters) wanted a proportional representation system.

The Liberal mistake had been not to put up front what they thought the new system should be. It is no secret that they, as a centrist party, would favour a ranked ballot, figuring (probably correctly) that they are the second choice for voters on the left and right. Set up properly, a ranked ballot system could keep them in power with a majority government until sometime in the next millennium.

It seemed impolitic to say that out loud, so they constituted a special parliamentary committee to study the subject and make recommendations on electoral reform. That didn’t turn out the way they had hoped.

The government usually has a majority on parliamentary committees, and did when this one was first constituted. That brought a lot of criticism; it was suggested that proportional representation of the different parties in the House of Commons would be more appropriate, given the topic. The government backed down.

The committee has reported and the Liberals are not happy. The Minister of Democratic Reform denounced the committee it in the House, saying it had not done the job assigned to it.

Actually it did do the job; it just didn’t do what the Liberals wanted. It heard witnesses, it consulted, and it travelled the country. The conclusion? There should be a referendum (something the Liberals adamantly oppose) asking Canadians to choose between the status quo and proportional representation. No mention of a ranked ballot.

I’m not a big fan of proportional representation. I think it leads to spendthrift governments. I am though open to being convinced otherwise. I like the present system and think it works well. I’m not a fan of change for change’s sake, but I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to a new voting system if a good case could be made for it.

Now though there is this online survey with, given the methodology, zero validity. I’m not sure what the purpose is. Probably the government isn’t either. The survey, and the 15 million postcards mailed to households this month, are just a way of deflecting attention away from what Canadians have said they want (according to legitimate polling) and from what the Parliamentary committee recommended: a referendum on electoral reform.electoral-reform-postcard

This government won’t let that happen. Not unless they can figure out a way to control the results.

While they are figuring that out, feel free to take their online survey, which really isn’t about electoral reform, but should make you feel good about yourself. You don’t need to be a Canadian, or of voting age, and you can take the survey as many times as you like. Though why you would subject yourself to it more than once I don’t know. You can check it out at www.mydemocracy.ca


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