Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Dear 2/3 of the Conservative MPs talking about this issue, and 1/3 of the pundits,

While it would be extremely exciting (although also extremely weird) if the federal Conservatives really had put forward a bill that was designed to grant "full proportional representation" to B.C. and Alberta, I'm afraid that's not what they did. And those of you who are talking about those provinces enjoying "the same level of proportional representation enjoyed by Québec," while that may be true, it's kind of a puzzlingly irrelevant thing to bring up in a discussion of Bill C-22.



JG said...

It is simply inconceivable that this issue could be at all confusing.

Anonymous said...

I assume they are using that term thinking representation proportional to population. The terminology works both ways. One sometimes sees groups or sites promoting "proportional representation", putting this together with phrases, such as "one person, one vote" or "fair vote". On the other hand, many of those are not actually standing up for either of these in this particular case when there will be new legislation which undercuts both of those principles.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


I assume they are using that term thinking representation proportional to population.

I assume that, too. Unfortunately, in doing that, they end up saying something completely different from what they meant to say.

The terminology works both ways.

Actually, no, it doesn't. The correct term is 'representation by population.' 'Proportional representation' can only mean one thing: the concept of vote percentages equalling seat percentages in a governing body. And while I don't blame you for not knowing that, political reporters and government ministers should really know better.

One sometimes sees groups or sites promoting "proportional representation", putting this together with phrases, such as "one person, one vote" or "fair vote".

One does see that. But those people are actually talking about proportional representation, not representation by population. And it is the latter, not the former, that is relevant with the bill in question.

Anonymous said...

Argh. I can't believe they did that.

Oh wait. Yes, I can.

Are you writing a letter as well as a blog post?

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


If I started writing letters about this one, I'd be writing letters to every Canadian news organization, local and national, and most of the politicians who have talked about Bill C-22. There simply aren't enough hours in the day!

CT said...

*clap, clap*

Anonymous said...

[grin] I meant to be more tongue in cheek, but I forgot to put in an emoticon.

D'oh! I fail at being an smart-ass. Must be the roofing tar fumes permeating my cube.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if they will get their language straight, but there is at least some chance they will change this proposed legislation, now that Charest and Doer have joined McGuinty and Dion, in opposing it and asking Harper to work with the provinces in developing a new formula.

"I think we should take our time and get [the legislation] right in terms of the principles for this country," Mr. Doer told reporters. "Otherwise, it could be perceived as a cynical exercise."

Justin Socie said...

Wow. A princess Bride reference and a great point, all in one post.

Good work.

Ben (The Tiger in Exile) said...

This issue bothers me -- I don't understand why the country can't just have riding boundaries re-drawn after every census with rep-by-pop observed.


Anonymous said...

Silliness, yes, but Van Loan is now saying he expects the NDP to support the new legislation so it will pass. Since this is an NDP blog, perhaps someone can explain why this would be a good idea.

Greg said...

Catherine, the report I read said Van Loan is hoping for NDP support, but he doesn't know yet where they stand. All I can say is if the NDP wants any seats in Ontario, they had better oppose this bill.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Ben, Catherine, Greg,

This post isn't about the bill, you know, right? It's about politicians and journalists frustrating me by using an incorrect term to talk about the bill.

Just saying.


This is not an NDP blog. If you want a quality NDP blog with a fair, level-headed author, you really want to be spending time over here.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean anything by "NDP blog", except that it is listed under Blogging Dippers and appears to attract posts by NDP supporters, but your point is taken about the topic at hand. Just that very few Blogging Dipper sites are discussing Bill C-22, including the one you link to (unless I missed it).

Greg said...

Sorry IP. Didn't mean to hijack your comments. Just wanted to set the record straight as I saw it.

Anonymous said...

I tend to assume that everyone who grew up in English Canada (or at least Ontario) had Mr. Lawson or his equivalent for Grade 7 history, and learned all about Rep by Pop. Along with the Family Compact, William Lyon Mackenzie, Louis Riel, and the words glebe and oligarchy.

Ian King said...

Soory to show up a coupla weeks later, but just to make you groan further, here's an actual quote from Vancouver Sun national affairs typist Barbara Yaffe's Friday column:

The Harper government has tabled Bill C-22 which, by 2011, would ensure proportional representation for every province in Canada with the exception of Ontario.

Arrrgh! Memo to Yaffe: You're saying we'd have some other electoral system in nine of the provinces while Ontario would be stuck with FPTP. That's not what you intended to write. Raise your game... pretty please?

@Ben: There's a good case for redrawing boundaries after every census rather than every other, especially with the way some areas grow. Wouldn't address the constitutional cruft that prevents rep-by-pop across all provinces.