Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Monday, May 02, 2005

In the news: no to spring election, yes to proportional representation

A spring election grows less likely all the time. Chuck Cadman is now saying he'll probably vote with the government on a no-confidence vote, and if that doesn't work, Martin may try wielding the Sword of Senate Appointments:

Sunday on Question Period [the television show, not the parliamentary procedure], independent MP Chuck Cadman indicated he will likely vote with the Liberals and the NDP on a non-confidence issue. If two other independents -- both former Liberals -- also stick with the government, it's unlikely that a Conservative-Bloc Quebecois motion could pass. And there might be other moves in the works to deplete the opposition's strength. CTV's Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife reported Sunday that Liberals have been talking to four Conservative MPs about accepting Senate seats in the coming weeks.
And the Globe and Mail is indicating that even some Conservatives are starting to doubt the need to unseat the current government, and even their deputy leader Peter MacKay seems more chastened than anything:
Tory deputy leader Peter MacKay struck a similarly ambiguous tone . "I wouldn't call it inevitable," he said yesterday. "I think that the leader will still want to hear from caucus and get a cross-section of feedback from right across the country." Mr. MacKay noted that, given the balance of forces in Parliament and several cases of ill health among MPs on both sides, the Tories may not be capable of toppling the Martin government.
As if that weren't enough, there's been a flurry of interest in proportional representation over the past few days. Be still, my MMP-loving heart. Last night on CPAC there was a documentary called "A Fair Race" (including Ed Broadbent declaring that we'll probably have MMP here in Canada within two elections). The Globe and Mail is also doing a huge spread on it this week, and to kick things off, we've got an editorial arguing "if it's broken, fix it":
Critics say all this talk about voting reform is a waste of time. The voting system works fine as is. If it ain't broke, why fix it? In fact, our current first-past-the-post system has grave failings. It is time to change it. [...] Federal elections regularly produce wildly disproportionate results. In the 1979 Pepin-Robarts report, the Task Force on Canadian Unity observed that in every federal election since 1896, the winning party had ridden to power with more seats than its portion of the national vote would have suggested. Slight shifts in voting could translate into massive seat accumulations, as in 1935, when the Liberals nearly doubled their seats from 91 to 173 even though their vote shrank by half a percentage point.
In the same paper, Geoff Read argues that the alliances we're seeing among federal parties lately are how things *should* work, and are in fact actually what the public wants:
Despite the predictable outcry from Canadian conservatives, the present alliance between the NDP and the Liberals is, in fact, the logical expression of the electorate's will. Were the Canadian electoral system more truly democratic, utilizing a form of proportional representation, the seats held by the Martin Liberals would have been significantly reduced and the NDP's increased. The Liberals would then have faced a choice between forming either a coalition government of the centre-right, incorporating the Conservatives, or the centre-left, in co-operation with the NDP.
Voters in British Columbia are in the middle of an election that includes, alongside the main aim of electing a new provincial government, a referendum on whether to stick with first-past-the-post or opt for a form of proportional representation. Polls have shown that the yes votes are in the majority among people who know about the referendum, but since an astonishingly low number of people do know about it, it's seemed doomed to failure. Here's hoping this sort of thing serves to educate a few more people.

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