Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Toronto Star letter goof

I've mentioned before (as have a couple of other bloggers) that the Toronto Star has been in a bit of a crusade against proportional representation now that the Ontario Citizens' Assembly process has begun. The latest installment is the publication of a letter to the editor by Schon Golgerth of Toronto:

So Australian Prime Minister John Howard is counselling Stephen Harper on how to run a country? Howard is the soul of American outreach and its spokesman. He has abandoned Australia to American influence and to American interests. With the Australian voting system of proportional representation, he will stay in power and Australia will irretrievably become a U.S. satellite doing the big brother's bidding.
Sounds pretty scary, eh? I mean, by now we all know how annoying Howard is, what with his cozying up to the Bush administration and all. If this proportional representation thing is going to keep him in power, then it must be bad, bad, bad. There's one problem with Ms. Golgerth's reasoning, though: in Australian House of Representatives elections, they actually don't use proportional representation. They do use a form of preferential voting, but it's no more proportional than the Canadian "first past the post" system.

Now, my quibble here isn't really with Ms. Golgerth. After all, it's hardly fair to expect that everybody who knocks off a letter to the editor will know the ins and outs of various countries' electoral systems. And it's probably also too much to ask that the Toronto Star stop pushing their pet agenda. It isn't too much to ask, though, that any serious newspaper check to make sure that their hand-picked letters to the editor actually reflect, you know, reality.


K-Dough said...

No word of a lie, that chick massaged me once. She is a traditional Chinese medicine naturopathic masseuse in Toronto.

My rotator cuff is still for shit though. Don't know about her politics...

Cheers, K

Anonymous said...

I have a friend in New Zealnd and they have had proportional representation for a while..They don't like it..this country (Canada) is too big. It needs something to with it as Martin had in mind..PPR mixed. The only ones that like PPR are the fringe parties who get in as well and really no one has a say to make a difference.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


You seem to be confused about a couple of things.

1. The polls I've seen have suggested that the majority in New Zealand actually prefer the new PR system, despite the inevitable growing pains that come from switching systems. If you know of other polls, I'd love to hear about them.

2. The size of a country doesn't determine whether a proportional voting system would work or not. Most of the countries of the world have proportional voting systems, and many of them have populations larger than Canada's. And if you're talking geographical area, that's even less relevant.

3. Paul Martin never suggested any sort of electoral reform, and even if he had, it wouldn't have been called "PPR mixed," which doesn't exist. If what you're talking about is Mixed Member Proportional (or MMP), where they use a combination of the first-past-the-post system (for riding elections) and a list system, then that is in fact the system that Germany has (and which New Zealand adopted).

4. There's no one in the electoral reform movement who's suggesting a pure proportional representation system with no thresholds for Canada, which is the only kind of system in which the "fringe parties get in as well and no one has a say to make a difference."

If you're interested to hear more detail, I've got a proportional representation FAQ that outlines the most common issues involved in electoral reform, and addresses some of the misconceptions you have here. (If you have any other questions that I don't address there, let me know, and I'll add them, along with the answers.)