Liberals are committed to change.

There are lots of changes being bandied about in this coming election. Only the Conservatives want to stay the course but as that appears to be straight downhill, it is not too popular a route. All this talk of change has made looking for differences between the Liberals and New Democrats something of a game. That is why we were pleased to see that Justin Trudeau and the Liberals are offering a national discussion process before proposing a specific change to how Canadians vote.

The NDP has already picked Mixed Member Proportional voting as their change if the party is elected to a majority. That would allow smaller parties such as the NDP to appoint members to parliament to match their popular vote. These non-elected appointees to parliament would have no responsibility to an electoral district and would represent their party not voters.

Alternatively, the Liberals have promised that a wide range of reform measures will be considered by an all-party parliamentary committee. The committee would examine proposals such as ranked ballots and proportional representation as well as measures such as mandatory voting and on-line voting. Having both appeared before parliamentary committees and written committee findings, we can point out that one of those steps does not necessarily follow the other.

The one thing you can be assured of is that no parliamentary committee is ever allowed enough time to do the job. To have a solid understanding of parliamentary voting systems around the world is not something you can absorb from crib notes. It requires an appreciation for democracy, an understanding of societal pressures, a concern for the individual and the imagination necessary to understand what can go wrong.

While it sometimes looks that way, voters do not really take a leap of faith. Voters accept change in the way society accepts change in most things. They take a bold step forward with one foot—while the other remains firmly planted in the past.

And if you really think you know everything you need to know about voting systems, you are invited to read some of the Democracy Papers that are archived on this web site. Considerable time was spent researching and writing those papers for the ‘No’ side in the Ontario referendum on voting method in 2007. The ‘No’ side won by about two to one.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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