Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Electoral reform in the Canadian Parliamentary Review

The Canadian Parliamentary Review is a quarterly journal published by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and its focus is the Canadian Parliament in all its glory and controversy. The current issue, available online in both English and French, contains useful information for anyone interested in electoral reform. In particular, this particular idealistic pragmatist recommends the following:

This article by Conservative MP Scott Reid, a no-nonsense look at many of the issues involved in the debate on electoral reform and the major obstacles to any real change. His arguments for why electoral reform needs a citizen-driven process (something I strongly support) are very much worth a look. I don't agree with Reid about a lot of things, most notably his previous arguments against official bilingualism in Canada, but he's clearly a smart man with a lot of interesting ideas.

This article by UBC political science graduate student Hilary Pearce, which argues that our steadfast desire to maintain geographic representation compromises other kinds of representation. Again, I don't agree with Pearce about everything--I would personally maintain that the geographic component is an essential part of representation in a country with strong regional identities such as Canada--but this paper nonetheless provides thought-provoking arguments that our assumptions may be standing in our way.

This review by Trent University's Dennis Pilon, which is a critical dissection of a book called Elections by John Courtney. Courtney's book argues in favour of maintaining the first-past-the-post electoral system in Canada, and Pilon takes him on point by point. One section even makes the point I was attempting to make back in this discussion, but more clearly and with a lot more finesse:

Courtney claims that PR leads to instability, party fragmentation, and a lack of accountability between voters and government. But as evidence he cites Israel, Italy and the Netherlands – hardly a representative sample. Effective comparison requires an assessment of an appropriately broad universe of cases and ones that share roughly similar political circumstances to the country in question (the politics of Israel and Italy are hardly comparable to Canadian conditions). And given the considerable literature that exists today on voting system effects, Courtney’s sweeping generalizations about PR systems require more support than a fleeting aside.
Anyway, this quarter's issue is worth a look for all wannabe electoral reform scholars, as well as any Canadians just trying to inform themselves about the issue. And best of all, it's free.


Chriswab said...

Hi I´m Chris. Greatings from Germany Bottrop !!

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Hallo Chris! Bottrop kenn' ich zwar nicht (naja, von der Landkarte schon), dafür aber Essen. :-)