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Proportional Representation the only credible option for 2019

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Press Release from Fair Vote Canada, December 1, 2016

Today, Canadians saw first-hand how proportional representation can work for all Citizens. The Special Committee on Electoral Reform – a multi-partisan group of MPs who were selected in proportion to the votes their parties received – submitted an evidence-based, majority report that called for a strong system of Proportional Representation.

 The all-party committee on electoral reform has stated that they heard overwhelming support from experts and Canadians on their cross Canada tour. This reinforces the findings from decades of research from around the world and of 13 previous electoral reform processes in Canada, including two thorough and impartial citizens assemblies.
However, in a shocking and profoundly disappointing move, the Liberal members of the ERRE held a secondary press conference where they essentially recommended that the government break its own election promise. Oddly, the Chair of the Committee suggested that the point of making election promises is not so much to actually fulfill them, but to ENGAGE people. This is a mind-bending and dangerous spin on what it means to make electoral promises.
What needs to be stressed is that there was a consensus on what the committee heard: that 88% of experts that expressed an opinion on electoral reform suggested proportional representation – not AV (ranked ballots in single-member ridings), not First-past-the-post.
While the ERRE did not recommend a particular proportional system in the majority report, the NDP and Greens put forth two made-in-Canada PR options based on the evidence they heard and they are willing to work with the government on a design. The base exists for satisfying the government’s electoral promise in good time for 2019.
 As Nathan Cullen declared: “rarely have such extensive consultations on a subject been carried out.” Unfortunately, the turnout and passion of Canadians did not impress MP Ruby Sahota who added that the Liberals needed to see a lot more engagement but would not commit to goals or outcomes.
We wonder what magic bar of engagement is necessary to fulfill their promise and how does that measures up against other election promises?
When the Government launched its electoral reform platform preceding the election, they announced they would end first-past-the-post voting and make every vote count. That means Proportional Representation. Trudeau and many in his party said they were changing the system based on feedback from Canadians that the system is unfair and does not accurately reflect what voters say at the polls.
The Government now has all the evidence it needs. Now is time for Liberals to show leadership, rise above partisan self interest and deliver on their promise, including introducing legislation within 18 months of the 2015 election to “Make Every Vote Count”, in time for the 2019 election.

Key indicators from ERRE hearings

88% of expert witnesses who expressed a preference called for proportional representation

4% supported the Alternative Vote (majoritarian ranked ballot systems tend to evolve towards a two-party system, often favour centrist parties and could further entrench the distortions brought about by our existing majoritarian system. )

67% thought a referendum was undesirable or unnecessary.

Detailed analysis can be found here in our Synthesis of witness statements and views.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 1, 2016 at 5:38 pm

One Response

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  1. Regarding the referendum, I have two almost contradictory concerns. If we do have a referendum, my concern is that engagement will be low and the ones most motivated to turn out will be an older population who is more interested in the status quo. Thus, a referendum already has cards stacked against it (perhaps exactly why the Conservatives are pushing for one).

    But, if we don’t have a referendum, it will be easy to paint the Liberals as autocratic, elitist, and not willing to listen to constituents. In the worst case, this could pave the way for a Trump style populist (I’m thinking of you Ms. Leitch) to gain control of the Conservative party.

    Well, it does seem like we are heading towards a referendum regardless and so the best I can do is help ensure it gets approved. But that’s harder since I am not currently living in Canada.

    Andrew Eisenberg

    December 2, 2016 at 1:22 pm


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