Last Thursday night, Liberal MP Frank Valeriote hosted a discussion on voting reform in Guelph with MP Stéphane Dion, former leader of the Liberal Party, and Professor Brian Tanguay, of Laurier University. While all participants agreed about the benefits of proportional representation (PR), there is still considerable debate as to which specific voting system Canada should adopt.
Professor Tanguay argued for Mixed Member Proportional (MMP), a system used by Germany, Scotland, and a number of other countries around the world. The MMP system is also preferred by the Official Opposition, the NDP. While there are slightly different variants of the MMP system, it generally consists of a constituency vote where voters directly elect an MP, not dissimilar to what we have now, along with a second vote, where voters vote for the party of their choice. On the second vote, MPs are elected from a party list of candidates, with the amount of MPs each party elects being proportional to what they received from voters on the second ballot.
M. Dion prefers the Proportional-Preferential-Personalized (P3), where voters would first rank which parties they preferred, and then voters would chose a candidate from a party list. Thus, if one party received 30% of the vote on the party ballot, then they would get 30% of the seats. The 30% of seats are filled by the candidates who have the most votes on the second party list would be the ones who get elected to Parliament.
There are other forms of PR that weren't brought up in the discussion, including the Single Transferable Vote (STV), Direct Party and Representative Voting (DPR), as well as many others. While no system is perfect, most agree that any type of voting reform would be better than our first-past-the-post system (FPTP) which distorts election results, and doesn't represent the democratic will of the Canadian electorate.
Is there a system here which is superior than others? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below. To read more about the event with Professor Tanguay and M. Dion, check out the Guelph Mercury article here. To help bring proportional representation to Canada, don't forget to join Unlock Democracy.
Let’s consider, for a moment, what true democracy entails. In a true democracy, if a public ever came to believe that all of the major parties’ were incurably corrupt, that public would be able to get rid of them. That is, political parties would have no power except for what was given to them with each new election. All the power would be held in the hands of the people. Since implementing a truly fair electoral system would require the party implementing it to surrender some of its own power, it is very unlikely to happen. That’s why, when we hear politicians talking about electoral reform, they never suggest systems that would deliver true democracy.
There are lots of great systems out there, but the only ones that the politicians ever give us the option to consider are those that will maintain party power. Both MMP and Dion’s “P3” fail to deliver democracy. (Oh, but they’re simple to explain to the uneducated masses. Thanks for thinking of us there guys.)
How difficult is STV to explain, really?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSUKMa1cYHk
Or better yet, MMP with the addition of preference voting on the party side of the ballot!?
And if we really wanted to design a government so that it was understandable to the lowest common denominator, we would have to do away with parliament and just have a single elected seat for the supreme ruler. There are a whole lot of people in Canada who don’t understand many important features of government. That doesn’t mean we should toss those features away. We don’t deny the internal combustion engine to only those drivers who have an engineering degree. Similarly here, we must design a system that works. People who want to fully understand it can easily watch an educational Youtube video.
I also like the Australian system, with the House being a single-rep regional vote, and the Senate being a proportional system. For the proportional Senate, I would prefer STV over P3, since P3 makes it virtually impossible for independents to win over party candidates.
I also have issues with Instant Run-off for the House, as it can sometimes produce results that are equally as unrepresentative of the electorate as FPTP. The best system would be a Condorcet method, which compares each candidate one-on-one and selects the winner that wins every possible run-off vote. Although mathematically complex, it’s the fairest method of selection. The Condorcet method can also be altered for proportional representation.
More information on Condorcet methods:
Also, here are two varieties of the Condorcet method, both of which would produce the same results:
This might be a solution that might be the most likely to prevail against the status quo. Now, if we can get 2/3 or 3/4 of the national parties to agree on it . . . because the other hitch is that getting voters to ditch FPTP in favor of “proportional system to be decided later” is not likely to succeed.
This is an important campaign – but it comes down to getting the ndp + libs or libs + cons to agree on a replacement first. Thats the realpolitic.