The Spectre of Electoral Reform

As of 2017 the spectre of electoral reform hangs over Canada. Articles are pouring out of newspapers and sites debating why Trudeau has backpedaled from his promise of reform; I even have customers at the bar talking of reform. Trudeau has explained that there was no agreement among the parties at how to reform elections and that he was unwilling to have a divisive national referendum on the issue.

Federal politics aside, the BC Greens and NDP have also been clamoring for reform, specifically proportional representation (PR). There is likely to be a provincial referendum on the issue… again. This will be the third… or fourth, I’ve lost count, attempt. This is because previous governments wanted more than a majority, they wanted a decisive majority, above 60%. I’ll be intrigued to see how the NDP-Green government approaches a referendum, one that they desperately want to see in their favour.  If there is reform it is likely to be one of PR, simply because it is so simple.

It sounds great a party wins a certain percentage and they receive a certain percentage of seats in the legislature. This is favoured because it is seen as more democratic. There has been fear mongering that fringe parties then can take over government, but this is often able to be combated by having a minimum percentage to get seats, often 5%. In BC that would mean over 230,000 votes, no mean feat for a fringe. I used to believe that this was a better system but have changed my mind when I realised what FPTP accomplishes.

Canada and BC are massive land masses, with various regions and diverse needs. FPTP, because of its breakdown by geographic location allows for regional representation. A MP is responsible to a specific constituency and there needs, and can represent them in Ottawa or Victoria. PR does away with this responsible government by making an MP nothing more than a seat and number, responsible to no one but the party, they represent the party line and not the people of Canada. To me PR seems to isolate politicians from the public obscuring government.

I recognize the desire to have parliament more representative of voters intention, but doing away with geographic seats destroys another form of representation. And this is where I think Germany has done something amazing, they have the geographic seats, but also grant seats to parties to make the proportion of seats fit with the election results. This allows for the strength of both to shine through.

Unfortunately, I have heard no one talk about this type of electoral reform. Until they do I will stand against true PR because I think that the geographic seats of FPTP creates a more healthy system of politics.

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