Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Would the real Jeffrey Simpson please stand up?

Some fresh air for those of us who are depressed today about the miserable defeat of the PEI electoral reform referendum: it seems that the Globe and Mail's Jeffrey Simpson may be coming around on just that topic. Now, granted, he's not exactly standing up and saying: "I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see," but there's certainly something different going on in that bespectacled little head of his. His latest column (behind the subscriber wall) predicts "major changes" for Canadian federal politics in the future, and includes the following fascinating paragraphs:

Minority government circuses, such as the one Canadians just witnessed, could continue with a series of similar parliamentary shows, but that's unlikely. This minority Parliament has been quite disgusting at a theatrical level. It has featured what minority governments usually exhibit: orgies of spending, short-term survival tactics, wheeling and dealing, and extensive bad manners. The way politicians and the political process are now perceived, combined with the winter weather, will make the voter turnout the lowest on record.

Another shapeless, shameless Parliament such as the one just ended will produce change. Here are some options.

A structured coalition government will emerge -- a Liberal/NDP coalition, for example -- that will bring somewhat greater stability than the issue-a-day manoeuvring of this Parliament.

Or, another shapeless, shameless Parliament will cause Canadians to admit that the day of national parties is largely over. As a result, more voices will demand that the electoral system be changed to make coalitions among parties the norm, as in all countries with proportional representation.

Can this really be the same Simpson who, just two months ago, wrote a whole column about how the crazy German and New Zealand election results could be blamed on That Evil Proportional Representation? The guy who threw two entirely different forms of government into the same pot by coining the nonsensical phrase "minority/coalition governments"? The guy who said that the inevitable results of proportional representation were regional and ideological parties, small parties lording massive amounts of power over parliament, and dogs and cats sleeping together? (Okay, maybe he didn't say that last part.)

Did the bloggers and letters-to-the-editor writers spank him hard enough that he finally got the message? Did he figure out on his own that his anti-reform stance was not only completely misinformed, but a little silly? Or is there a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Simpson thing going on here? Inquiring (albeit pleased) minds want to know.


Stithmeister said...

I'm not that familiar with Canadian politics. So please indulge me a bit here.

Could it be these are the only two alternatives he sees? Although it does seem odd he would advocate something he thought quite undesirable not that long ago.

Is it possible also that he thinks the Canadian Parliament could handle problems better than Germany and New Zealand?

I like the two vote system btw.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


I suppose it's possible that the Canadian parliament could handle problems better than Germany and New Zealand, though that wouldn't jive with everything else we know about Simpson. He doesn't tend to have much of a bright, optimistic side.

I think he's probably just not sure what he thinks about electoral reform yet. Maybe he's even figuring it out through his columns.

Stithmeister said...

Thanks for the response. I like your blog. I always like perspectives from outside our own ethnocentric sphere.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Careful! Look where that kind of thinking got me ... :-)

Stithmeister said...

Point taken. ;)