Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Another case for proportional representation

A Globe and Mail editorial published today makes a case today for a tweaked version of MMP, or mixed-member proportional representation. This is similar to the system I brought to people's attention last year as "the German system." I'd still prefer the actual German system, but it's great to get some of these ideas out there. The editorialists outline the findings of the Pepin-Robarts commision in 1979 to add 60 seats to the House of Commons to introduce a degree of proportional representation while preserving the direct links between voter and representative at the heart of a single-member constituency system. The purpose? Resolving regional underrepresentation and alienation, which "corrodes national unity." The Globe then explains that in 2004, the Law Commission of Canada proposed a system in which two-thirds of the seats in the House of Commons would be allocated as they are now (with elections within ridings and the winner taking the seat), and one-third would be selected proportionally.

As the Globe goes on to say:

Essentially, such a mixed electoral system is the approach this newspaper endorses. Canada would benefit from an injection of proportionality into its single-member constituency system. While such a blended system introduces its own challenges (not all members of Parliament are equal; some have constituents and some don't), it is probably the least of the many potential evils out there. The presence of some MPs without constituency business should help raise the quality of committee work, an important check on the power of the executive. Moreover, these "proportional" MPs would also have to face the voting public, albeit by region rather than by riding. And by introducing regional representatives directly into the House of Commons, the mixed system produces a recipe for Senate abolition (though that abolition would require reopening the Constitution). [...]

Many proponents of electoral reform are looking not just for greater proportionality but for cultural change. They prefer minority governments, believing they will promote coalitions and consensus-building and thereby introduce more representativeness and civility into legislatures. While civility would be a welcome development, we prefer a system that, while more proportional, still allows for strong governments led by coherent parties. Last week's budget shenanigans in Ottawa should be warning enough of the perils of letting small parties gain disproportionate leverage over large ones. Making this the rule rather than the exception would be bad reform. [...]

The advantages of a mixed electoral system are many. Voters would still know their local representative and could petition him or her on issues of concern. Election results would more closely approximate overall intentions without rendering majority governments an endangered species. New parties would have a better chance of gaining entry to Parliament, but, with a threshold of 5 per cent in any region to qualify, the bar would be high enough to discourage extremely narrow parties. Accountability would be preserved.

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