Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Movement on the electoral reform issue

Admittedly, there's very little that I haven't already said about electoral reform somewhere in this blog at some point. But this week is still special: all the Green Party supporters who have been after the NDP to make this an issue in the current minority Parliament are finally getting their wish. In early December, NDP MP Catherine Bell put forward a motion, M-262, detailing how she wanted to move forward on the issue. That motion is to be debated on Monday, and Bell has been talking with MPs from all parties in support of it.

The motion is carefully unambitious. I say "carefully" because despite the fact that electoral reformers have been ready for reform for ages, the reality is that if we want a motion that can actually pass, it has to be something that paves the way for reform rather than calling for immediate changes overnight. This motion does that by containing provisions for both multiparty parliamentary involvement and real citizen consultation. It moves:

That a special committee of the House be created to continue the work on electoral reform as outlined in the 43rd Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs from the 38th Parliament and to make further recommendations on strengthening and modernizing the democratic and electoral systems;

That the membership of the special committee be established by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the membership report of the special committee be presented to the House within five sitting days after the adoption if this motion;

That substitutions to the membership of the special committee be allowed, if required, in the manner provided by Standing Order 114(2); that the special committee have all of the powers granted to standing committees by Standing Order 108;

That there be a maximum length for speeches by members of the special committee of 10 minutes on any single item; that the special committee be authorized to hold hearings across Canada;

That the special committee be allowed to look into creating a citizens’ consultation group and issue an interim report to the House on this matter within six weeks of the special committee being struck;

And that the special committee table its final report in the House of Commons no later than March 1, 2008.
It's the provision for hearings across Canada that really makes this motion. Parliamentarians from all parties can and will talk a good game on voting reform, but if it requires them to choose between something that's good for all Canadians and something that's good for their own interests, they'll run with their own interests every time. Getting the issue out in front of the people, though, actually has potential to make a real difference. More and more Canadians are getting informed about the issue every day, and with cross-country hearings, that's only likely to improve. And the media attention would be great, as well--because in order to write about electoral reform, journalists need to educate themselves about it, and that can only be a good thing.

Remember, this is happening on Monday. And all supporters of voting reform--whether they're NDP supporters, Greens, Liberals, or Conservatives--should be paying close attention. Oh, and sign Bell's petition!


The JF said...

This reminds me, Friday in one of my classes we had a guest speaker, none other than the Honourable Dominic Leblanc, MP for Beauséjour. The thing is, instead of taking the time to explain to us poli. sci. students the workings of government, he decided to make it into a policy brainstorm for the Liberal Party. This is actually the SECOND time Liberals have done this to me, the first I was part of a small group to meet Dion (this was before he declared his running for leadership) where he wanted to get ideas for policy purposes, but I had been informed this would simply be to meet and talk on various subjects, not a partisan function.

Anyhow, I naturally have tons of policy ideas, but I wasn't about to give it to Mr. Leblanc so that the Liberals could keep pretending to be progressive while getting all these disenchanted Conservatives over to their side. If they really want them, they can go read my blog, I suppose. But to get to the point, after his talking about taking Canada in a progressive direction, on how to move forward and not be stuck with the same old ideas, I asked him if there is growing support for MMPR in the Liberal Party.

To which he replied, "I hope not!" and then went on to say that list candidates would be filled with people close to the party establishment. I suggested an open list, which would go by the percentage of votes candidates get to determine the position on the list. He said that was interesting, but then talked about the typical excuse of "you get more minority governments", which I didn't feel like spending the short time we had debating with him and he mentioned having coalition governments that would "force people to work together for four years" (which is you know, basically what a party is, well, politics is, if you think about it, but somehow to him, parties are unanimous while coalitions aren't) but he did bring up one interesting point in his defence of first-past-the-post which I was thinking of asking you about:
What do you do with the fact that you create two classes of politicians, one that is directly elected in a riding, so is beholden to the people of that region, and one who is a list candidate, who isn't so linked to the people that elected him?

janfromthebruce said...

To the poster above: we already have a system where the elected MP, for example, is not beholden to the constituents. That's first past the post. As we have seen with Emerson, and others who have changed parties, they walk across the floor and change party strips. They are not accountable until election day. We have Harper bring Fortin in Quebec who wasn't elected as head of public works. He is unaccountable. Didn't Dion originally come into the liberal party the same way? We have political party's who see riding seats as a chess board (Jason C. comment from his blogg), moving potential MPs to ridings that they don't live in so they can get elected. Essentially its about the party brand and loyality rather than the quaint idea of representing constituents. PR just moves it to an open playing field where you actually get to choose your party preference rather than the powerful making you choose by default.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

The JF,

It's so annoying to hear about an MP spreading that kind of misinformation, in large part because you don't know whether he's deliberately lying, or just misinformed. I'd bet it's the latter, though. Too many people know far too little about this stuff.

- Leopold said...

Great news, thanks. I signed the petition.

Candace said...

At the risk of being treated as a troll (which I'm not trying to be, really), but the difference between this motion and this existing government plan are...?

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


The link didn't seem to go through--try again?

(If I don't respond immediately, it's not that I'm ignoring you--I'm just going out of town for a few days. But maybe someone else can answer your question in my absence.)