Thursday, December 29, 2016

Proportional Voting...No Thank You!

Years ago I sat as a guest with a very politically savvy Jean Charest  in the opposition members gallery overlooking proceedings in the House of Commons. We had just had lunch in the Parliamentary Dining room where I was a bit surprised at how chummy members of opposite parties were.
At any rate Jean displayed  a razor-sharp mind and a flawless memory.
He was giving me a civics lesson in Parliamentary procedure and as each MP got up and spoke, offered a incisive and  pretty amazing critique using his prodigious memory and encyclopedic  knowledge of the issues.
I was duly impressed at the brain power, but came away asking myself "So what?"

Politicians ensconced in Ottawa for any period of time become lost in a world of politics for politics sake, and issues that mean absolutely nothing to average Canadians are debated, promoted, rejected and fought over as if it really mattered.

Such is the debate over proportional representation, an issue which the vast majority of Canadians have no interest in.
It occurred to me that the expensive undertaking by the government in asking Canadians for input on the issue is as useful as asking a vegetarian for a steakhouse recommendation.
I'd hazard a guess that 95% of Canadians could not tell you how many seats there are in the House of Commons and the Senate, plus the name of three Premiers of any of the provinces outside their own, or three cabinet Ministers.
Can you?
The reality is that the issue of proportional representation and what it entails is one for the politicians not the people, because most of us don't know what it is and don't care at all.

The idea of proportional representation is that seats in Parliament are accorded to some degree in direct relation with the total amount of votes received by each party.
Today we elect MPs and governments based on the 'first past the post' system, where whomever gets the most votes in a riding is elected to Parliament with the party with the most MPs forming the government.

Proportional representation seems much fairer, but as Trudeau and the Liberals found out, the devil is in the details.
Let's look at the 2011 election which Stephen Harper and the Conservatives won.
Here is a table of the actual seats won, the popular vote and the potential results if all the seats were allocated in proportion to the popular vote and in the last column, a hybrid system which combines both systems in a 50/50 split.

As you can see, when Justin Trudeau proposed a new electoral system in the last election campaign based on proportional voting, it seemed like a good idea for the Liberals, which would have seen their seat numbers go up.
But looking at the results of the last election, the Liberal would actually be impacted quite negatively by application of any proportional voting system.

Now you can understand why Trudeau is walking back on his pledge to implement a new voting system.

At any rate you easily see who are the winners in this new system, the fringe parties namely the Greens, NDP and the Bloc Quebecois, so you can understand where support for the idea comes from.

On top of that, we know that many voters who support the Greens, the NDP or the Bloc don't vote for them because their votes are largely wasted in ridings where they clearly cannot win. Under the new system fringe parties could see their support increase substantially as voters see their vote counting.

More importantly we could see the rise of new parties emboldened by the thought of winning seats in Parliament with fractional support, leading to minority government and the dreaded coalition governments of Israel and Italy, even though we are promised it cannot happen.

Now one other point to be considered is the rise of one issue parties. Here in Quebec, federalists have voted for the Quebec Liberal party for decades based on one issue and one issue alone, sovereignty.  Neither corruption, incompetence or scandal can shake voters off the Liberals and as the joke goes... better the Mafia running Quebec than the separatists.

Supporters of proportional voting tell us that fringe parties won't be rewarded because they will need to pass a certain threshold (perhaps 5%) to win Parliamentary representation, an unlikely situation in their opinion.
But single issue parties can easily pass the required threshold, we already have the proof. 
Quebec separatists have been voting for the Bloc Quebecois for years, based on that single issue of sovereignty.

So which issue can actually have such an effect on Canadian voters, an issue so dear to certain people that it would dictate them moving over to a fringe party?
Can you guess?.........


While two-thirds of Canadians support a women's right to choose, fully one-third of Canadians consider themselves Right-to-Lifers.
For most of them, a new party staunchly opposing abortion would be a natural fit and trust me, pro-life people are motivated.
Do a Google search with the words "Right to Life Canada" and you'll be shocked at the number of organizations in place across Canada, in every province and every major city. Organizations full of willing and motivated campaigners who could become a formidable force in any federal election.

I wonder how ultra-Liberals in favour of proportional voting would react to having 50 pro-lifers sitting in Parliament and while pro-lifers may not  be able to overturn abortion, they can and will militate against late-term abortions and will seek to protect the so-called rights of the unborn.
Are they ready for that?

Now as voters go, Canadians have always been pretty lazy and not overly interested in the political process. We like to vote, have a majority government and get on with our lives. The idea of political intrigue on an ongoing basis makes most of us shudder.
Remember the nonsense of our last minority government where the Liberals and NDP were willing to make common cause with the separatists of the Bloc?
We hated it.

Proportional voting is likely the fairest way to do things but in my view not the best for us.
Voting systems have to work for the voting public and Canada's system works fine as it is.

Attention politicians......If it ain't broke, don't fix it.


  1. Every person with a conscience should be militating against abortion, especially late term abortion.

    1. so when is the last time you militated against abortion? (writing a comment on an obscure blog doesn't count).