Vote reform is not everyone’s cup of tea.

The Canadian government’s special parliamentary committee on electoral reform has now had a number of hearings. You can see some of them on computer at the cpac.ca website. While these hearings are engrossing for the Members of Parliament on the committee, the rest of the country can continue to enjoy the summer months.

What is particularly amusing about the hearings to-date is the preponderance of academics the committee has chosen to hear. MPs might choose to listen to academics but they would never be so foolish as to have one of them run their re-election campaign. It would be akin to appointing someone general of an army because they had read the books on war by Sun Tzu and Carl von Clausewitz.

One particularly amusing hearing was two academics from Dublin on Skype extolling the virtue of single transferable voting. This is the form of proportional voting proposed to British Columbia voters several years ago. In the first referendum, B.C. voters approved the idea but did not reach the 60 per cent threshold. It was close, so the government gave the voters another chance to vote. This time a renewed effort was made to make sure voters understood it better. They obviously listened closely, had a better understanding of the proposal and then made sure it was turned down.

Referenda in both B.C. and Ontario were to pass judgement on solutions by citizens’ assemblies. Some consider the citizens’ assembly akin to a jury because of the similarities in choosing the members by lottery. Whether right or wrong, guilty or innocent, it is not a process calling for creativity. In Ontario, the assembly members believed they were there to try to pick a different system. And that was what they did. Ontario voters rejected it.

That is a cautionary tale for the federal government’s special committee. The committee is clearly split along ideological lines and creativity or problem solving might not be their strong suit. They are going out to listen to the general population in September and October while their report is being written back in Ottawa.

If the Liberal, New Democratic and Green MPs get together they will come up with some form of bastardized proportional voting. Such a solution could be easily passed by the Commons but would crash in the Conservative-dominated Senate. And it would probably never be accepted by the voters in a national referendum.

Canadians might predominantly vote for a political party but they want the attachment they have to their own MP. We might not have many really good MPs but at least we want to keep as many of the good ones as we can.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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