Saturday, December 05, 2015

On consensus-building

John Ivison is a bit melodramatic on behalf of the Cons in assessing the impact of possible electoral reform. But to the extent the Cons actually accept his argument, it might well lead them toward the best possible outcome in the form of a proportional electoral system.

After all, by highlighting electoral reform in their throne speech as a promise to be addressed in short order, the Libs have left themselves little room to stick with the status quo.

Nor will they have much incentive to do so. If the other parties go off in different directions, with the Cons trying desperately and alone to cling to first-past-the-post, the Libs will figure to use their majority to push through the system which benefits them the most. And that would mean a ranked ballot system which favours the Libs at everybody else's expense.

But if the Cons are willing to think through their options in supporting an alternative system (however grudgingly), their choice could be both positive and decisive.

As Ivison notes, the Cons in their current form would lose out significantly from a ranked-ballot system. And if first-past-the-post isn't an option, that leaves the possibility of supporting proportional representation - as at least some of the Cons' base has long done.

If the Cons were to join the NDP and the Greens in backing PR, the Libs would have a much more difficult time imposing a ranked-ballot system. Instead of being able to push their preferred choice on a divided opposition, they'd have to choose between facing criticism from all sides for rejecting a consensus alternative option, or being able to claim all-party support in delivering on a major promise (with a system which itself would be far from a clear loss for a party likely to be included in most potential coalition governments).

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the Cons are willing to accept that they're no longer in a position to dictate terms. And indeed the most likely outcome is probably that they'll try (and fail) to block any electoral reform whatsoever. But if they're willing to move past Harper's my-way-or-the-highway approach in shaping our electoral system, the result may be one that all parties can count as a win in the long run.


  1. Of course now that the Libs have indicated (by JT expressing his opinion) that they prefer the ranked ballot and now that it is absolutely true that the Ranked Ballot produces 'false majorities' and now that it is obvious that if the Libs enact Ranked Ballots they will be guilty of gaming the system now is the time to expose that fact and start to make the decision to move to PR the only "Fair" alternative.

    1. That's definitely a message worth sending - and one being echoed by Fair Vote Canada:

      But it will only go so far if it runs into multiple conflicting definitions of fairness.

  2. Agree with Ben: PR is the only "fair" alternative.