Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Yesterday's electoral reform debate

Over at Accidental Deliberations, the Jurist points out that the Hansard transcript of the debate of Monday's electoral reform motion is now online. The motion was introduced by NDP MP Catherine Bell, and the following MPs spoke in favour of electoral reform during the debate:

Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre, NDP)
Brian Murphy (Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, Liberal)
Stephen Owen (Vancouver Quadra, Liberal)

If one of these members is your MP, you may want to consider writing him a letter to thank him for his support for this important issue. This is especially important with the Liberals, as electoral reform is not currently a part of their platform.

Disappointingly, Scott Reid (Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, Conservative), a longtime electoral reform advocate, spoke against the motion. He seems to feel that his government is already doing enough toward reform by proposing that Senators be elected by proportional representation, which is a marked shift from his position when he was in opposition. If we are going to start electing Senators, we should definitely use a sensible voting system to do so, but that doesn't change the fact that the House of Commons is where the government is, and it is the way we elect our government that is so desperately in need of reform.

Reid does make one justified criticism of the NDP's position on this issue, though: that the NDP so strongly favours one particular electoral system (Mixed-Member Proportional) that they aren't willing to entertain any others. That sort of preconceived plan all too often leads to attitudes that amount to: "either we go with my favourite system, or it's no change at all!" and the issue dies before getting anywhere. All electoral reform geeks have their own pet system, but there are many options that would drastically improve things in Canada, and we need to consider all of them with open minds.


Greg said...

I have you to thank for helping me keep an open mind toward alternatives to MMP. I learned to stop worrying and love STV. Thanks IP!

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


You know, hearing that makes all this blogging stuff feel worth it. Sometimes I feel like I'm shouting into a void--and it's wonderful to know that my words have managed to change at least one mind. Thank you!

I still like MMP best, though. Not because STV is bad, but because MMP just seems so perfect for Canada's unique problems, at least on the federal level.

Robert McClelland said...

There's a better copy of the transcript here.

Anonymous said...

IP, Reid's disagreement with the NDP's advocacy for MMP has nothing to do with Bell's motion. Bell's motion doesn't recommend or presuppose what kind of electoral system we will adopt. It's only trying to get the House moving forward on electoral reform. I think at this point we should try to build support for Bell's motion - that is, get enough people to agree that FPTP has to go. Once the motion has been adopted and the special committee has put a citizens assembly together, we can discuss the merits of different electoral systems.

Anonymous said...

IP - on Jan 23 at DemocraticSPACE you took me to task we I claimed that my MP, Scott Reid, doesn't support PR. In light of Reid's opposition to the NDP motion, are you still defending him? As I said, he supports a ranked ballot, which would, if the only component of the system result in more distorted results than today.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


I actually didn't mean to connect the two, but I can see how it would look like that. There seemed to be a lot of debate about electoral reform in general that didn't have to do with the motion at hand.

I definitely think the motion is a good one, and deserves everyone's support.


I'm honestly not sure what to make of Reid's position at this point. My impression was that he preferred STV, which as I'm sure you know, is in fact a ranked ballot, but the results are proportional. So either he's a rabid STV fan who won't entertain any other options, or he's changed his mind and doesn't want any sort of PR in the House of Commons.

I certainly don't mean to "defend him"--just to figure out what he really thinks. How did you find out what his position was? Did he explicitly say that the ranked ballot he preferred shouldn't result in proportional results (a la STV)? It seems extremely odd that he'd be involved with Fair Vote Canada if that's really his preference. Has his position been stated in writing anywhere?

JG said...

I hope you've Olaf's recent post, IP. I think you'll approve. ;)

Anonymous said...

May I recommend reading Hansard on the progress regarding electoral reform in the province of Ontario. The politicians' debates took place on February 13, 2007 (M020). Deputations were made prior to that--February 5, 2007, exactly--and are available online (M019).

Rather than the 50% + 1 rule, it looks like the threshhold for electoral reform will be set at 60% of the votes.

I am eager to see how things will turn out on October 10, 2007.

JG said...

Oops, that should be "read Olaf's post".

kenlister1 said...

the conservatives are not proposing that Senators be elected by proportional representation.
I believe they are proposing electing senators in some fashion, and then prime minister appoints who he or she chooses. Considering who Harper has appointed to the judicial advisory committee and many other patronage appointments, dont assume he will appoint the senator who receives the most votes.
an aside, considering how electoral reform is so important to the ndp for the most part, it is quite surprising to hear a deafening silence from ndp MPs advocating the inclusion of the greens into the leaders debate.

Anonymous said...

MMP is the best alternative to and most pragmatic of all the systems that answers all of the criticizms. MMP is far more easy for regular people to understand.