Pushing the Liberals towards PR

For those who have been advocating for voting reform in Canada for many years, it's exciting to see Liberal Leader publicly saying that he wants to get rid of our existing "First Past the Post" system.

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But there is a growing movement within the Liberal Party, of members who are strongly pushing the Liberal Party to go even further.  I agree with them. 

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Should Canadian voters have the power to recall politicians?

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Drug, alcohol, and sex allegations continue to rock Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, with mounting calls for him to resign, and Toronto City Council going so far as to hold a vote, overwhelmingly asking Mr. Ford to step down.  Yet unlike cities in the United States, Ontario city councils and municipal voters do not have the power to ask politicians to resign - the Toronto City Council vote was purely symbolic.  In fact, the only way Rob Ford or any other mayor can be removed from office is if he is charged and arrested, breaks conflict-of-interest rules or the provincial government steps in and removes him.  This leads to a rather interesting question about our democracy: Should Canadians be able to recall their politicians between elections?

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Don't walk away from your vote Russell Brand

 ...Make politicians earn it.

“Disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent” that’s Russell Brand in his interview with Jeremy Paxman that went viral last week. He’s describing a population grappling with a global and national political structure that he describes as destroying the planet, creating massive economic disparity and ignoring the needs of the people.

We won’t argue with Russell Brand’s diagnosis. We agree that “genuine changes and genuine alternatives” are needed.

But then we come to his call for a ballot boycott on the road to revolution, and that’s when we start feeling he’s doing more harm than good...Encouraging people not to vote sticks in our craw in the worst way.

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What makes a good democracy? A visit to the UK gets us thinking

In which we mull over how a Scottish project might translate to Canada

Recently, two of us found ourselves in the country that brought us First Past the Post (the UK for those that weren’t sure ;) and figured we should meet our counterparts who are working hard to replace that archaic voting system there.

In other words, we met with the lovely folks at the Electoral Reform Society. Our discussions covered political party culture, voter cynicism, youth engagement, whither the Upper House, campaign finance, spending scandals and of course, voting systems. 

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Mixed Member Proportional or Proportional-Preferential-Personalized?

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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.

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Proportional government proposed in Guelph Mercury

Ralph C MartinIn today's Guelph Mercury, Professor Ralph C. Martin proposes a "mixed member proportional" model for our national government.  He walks through the mechanics and the merits of the system.

His model is similar to the system proposed by the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, although he's added an improvement, with regional representation guaranteed through localised party lists.

"Canadians are known internationally as compromisers, and the time has come to exercise this capacity at home and rise above the winner-takes-all approach."

Read the full article here.

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Former Japanese PM recalls electoral reform

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Naoto Kan was Prime Minister of Japan from June 2010 to September 2011. Though his time in the top job was just over a year, he has spent much of his adult life in the political arena, both in government, and as an activist.

In a recent interview with the Japan Times, the former PM reflects on his long career, including his anti-nuclear stance, and the way the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown was handled. But readers of this blog will likely be most interested to learn of his recollections of his years as an electoral reformer.

Japan’s electoral system is not the same as Canada’s (the article explains key aspects of the system.) In 1993, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had been in power for several decades, and Naoto Kan was an elected member of an opposition party, the Socialist Democratic Federation. When members of the LDP left to join opposition members in forming a coalition, they were able to implement a new system combining single member constituencies and proportional representation.

The historic change in the electoral system is something that Kan still feels proud of, even though the coalition was short lived.

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Canadians should be discussing proportional representation: Marc Mayrand, Head of Elections Canada

marc-mayrand-220.jpgAccording to the CBC, Canada's Chief Electoral Officer is encouraging a national discussion about possible voting reforms including proportional representation and a lower voting age.

On PR:

"We've seen turnout decline. We've seen political strategies targeting certain groups of voters. And maybe if they had to reach out to all voters equally, that may change the nature of campaign"

"One of the problems we have is that there are so many variance on proportional representation, that's it's very difficult to establish consensus around it. But again, that's a matter that Canadians should be discussing"

On a lower voting age:

"The argument would be that young people at 16 are mature enough and they're still at home, so they're easier to reach, and probably easier to engage in the democratic process"

Read the full article here.

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Germany uses Mixed-Member Proportional in general elections - how does it compare to Canada?

Last weekend, Germany held a general election using Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) representation.  Chancellor Angela Merkel won a historic third term in office, but although she won almost 42% of the popular vote, she needs to find a coalition partner to form government.  Whoa! – hold on a second.  Even though Merkel has almost 42% of the vote, she still needs to find a coalition partner?

Critics use Israel and Italy as punching bags to demonstrate how proportional representation leads to unstable governments.  Yet they will often ignore the fact that many countries using proportional representation produce strong, stable governments – even an economic powerhouse like Germany. 

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MP Bruce Hyer: "Electoral reform must be acted upon before Canada descends into despotism"

A strong proponent of government accountability and electoral reform, NDP MP Bruce Hyer has come out strongly in favour of proportional representation in the lead up to Democracy Week.

“Canadians live with an albatross around their necks. It’s our electoral system, one which hands 100% of the power to political parties earning only 39% of the vote,” complained Hyer “Our first-past-the-post system of electing MPs over-represents the biggest party every election, and it takes away seats from smaller parties to do it. It spits the country into misrepresentative regional power-blocs. It discriminates against women and minorities. It has unnecessarily limited voter choice and disenfranchised Canadians for too long…and it’s a big reason voter turnout is declining. Canada desperately needs to undertake reforms that will make the election results proportional to the popular vote; if a party gets 39% of the vote, they should get 39% of the seats. That’s fair, and that’s democratic. If we wait too long, the PM’s vested interests could become so entrenched in Ottawa that real reform may be impossible.”

See his full statement here.

Hyer's call to action has come at an important time and you can be part of the solution. To help bring proportional representation to Canada, please join Unlock Democracy. If you find yourself in Winnipeg this Thursday, September 19, you can hear more from Hyer as he will be speaking at a panel on government transparency.

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