Sunday, January 10, 2016

On standards for reform

Others have duly criticized the Star's editorial on electoral reform. [Update: See e.g. Dr. Dawg's takedown of a few misleading pieces.] But I'll argue that it can be brought in line with reasonable expectations with one important change.

Simply put, it's not a problem to insist upon "broad consensus" on a new electoral system. The problem lies in defining that term - and it's here that the Star goes awry in interpreting it to require the support of all major parties.

That restriction would of course allow a single bad actor to thwart any effort to improve our electoral system. And the Bad Actor Party of Canada has thoroughly telegraphed its intention to do just that no matter how undemocratic the means - meaning that the Star's interpretation would indeed rule out any reform, no matter what the Libs have promised or could achieve. 

If, on the other hand, we instead see a "broad consensus" as meaning general agreement among a range of different parties - or even all parties who engage in parliamentary consultations in good faith - then a new system should be entirely achievable. And that's the standard the Libs should see as necessary to support the electoral reform they've promised.

4 comments:

  1. Also, the Liberal Star purposefully misrepresented PR in the article: "PR would encourage more smaller parties and we’d likely end up with governments formed by deal-making among the politicians after elections. Just as important, it breaks the link between MPs and voters in a particular riding. Trudeau cites that as the main reason he doesn’t support PR, and he has a good point." The Law Commission of Canada and Fair Vote Canada recommend a mixed member proportional system. Can't trust the media!

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    1. Very good point Jan - and that type of misinformation in turn is why the artificial demand for a referendum is so dangerous.

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  2. Anonymous3:34 PM

    Why is it misinformation? From what I have been told that is exactly the result in the senate elections in Australia. Australia is the one large nation that is used as an example of PR. So the Star seems to have it right this time. One can see the NDP split into, at least, a Worker's Party of the far left and the NDP; the Conservative Party split back into PCs and Reform; and the Liberals split into red and blue Liberals. Wonderful.

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    1. Even presuming you the Australia example should serve as the lone guide, the "breaks the link between MPs and voters" part is false since a geographic link is retained (as in any other system which seems likely to be pursued).

      As for the party dynamics, the issue there is how one characterizes the changes. Between the possible systems on offer, FPTP benefits parties which cater to the smallest possible plurality based largely on making other alternatives seem unacceptable, AV incentivizes "least-worst" options, and PR favours parties which assemble coherent coalitions based on values (while indeed making cross-party cooperation an expectation). I'd rather see more of the latter; obviously some parties and commentators have other preferences.

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