Posts Tagged ‘electoral reform’

Waiting for Minister Monsef.

Sunday, March 13th, 2016

Canadians have heard from the Conservatives and more recently the New Democrats about electoral reform. Voters are getting the impression that the Conservatives are vigorously opposed and the New Democrats very much in favour. Yet we seem to be hearing more from Liberal House Leader Dominic LeBlanc about this government initiative than the minister responsible. The problem is that Elections Canada cannot handle any changes for the next election unless they are passed into law before May 2017. That is very little time to explore possible changes, frame a new law and have it passed by House and Senate.

Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef has said she will announce the committee of the House this month. If that committee expects to hear from Canadians about possible reforms, time is short.

And this is because of Justin Trudeau’s reckless promise during the last election that it will be the last one under First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) rules. With no real consideration of alternative systems of voting, Trudeau was sticking his head in a noose.

The Liberal Leader was obviously enamoured with the idea of preferential voting. That is a form of voting that gives a thin veneer of credibility to the concept of majority choice. It allows the voter to list candidate choices as 1, 2 or 3 etcetera until they have stated their preference in order for all. To count the vote you eliminate enough losers so that the first candidate with the most second, third or fourth choice selections to reach a majority of the votes is the winner.

What is disquieting for the opposition parties in parliament is this preferential system would have likely produced more than 250 seats in the 338-seat parliament for the ruling Liberals in the 2015 election. As it is, they won a 184-seat majority with 40 per cent of the vote under FPTP.

The New Democrats and other small parties have their hopes set on proportional representation whereby they would get roughly the same number of seats as their percentage of the popular vote. Under proportional representation, the New Democrats would have had the right to about 65 seats and have had the balance of power between the Liberals 130 or so seats and the Conservatives with about 95 seats. (These figures are approximate due to rounding and an unknown cut-off point for parties with a small number of votes.)

The New Democrats are so eager to see proportional representation in place that they are proposing an elitist citizens’ group—including “representation from historically under-represented groups”—to work along with the parliamentary committee. That would probably end up with the same mixed member proportional system proposed by the lottery winners who looked at voting systems in Ontario. The Ontario referendum defeated that proposal by about two to one. That would also be the likely opinion across Canada if anyone cares to check.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Honourable Members All!

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

A reader brought up what he considers a serious weakness in first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting yesterday. It is the assumption that we elect “honourable members’ to our legislatures and the House of Commons and select the same for our Senate. The member we elect with at least a plurality is assumed capable of representing all voters in the electoral district despite their political leanings. The reader points out that Stephen Harper drove a stake through the heart of that idealistic concept over the past nine years.

The reader explains that the unfettered partisanship of the Harper regime robbed Canadians of the primary checks and balances needed in our parliamentary system. Political assistants and Members of Parliament going to jail over carrying this partisanship too far is hardly the answer.

What voters seem to be failing in is the ability to assess our political candidates in anything beyond which party leader they support. Our political parties, in turn, are failing badly in demanding high standards among the party’s candidates. They seem to prefer fealty to intelligence. They also fail in building their party membership, facilitating policy development, promoting the party’s philosophy and developing new election workers. And our MPs and MPPs fail us as they act like rude undisciplined children in our legislatures and parliament while all initiatives come from the Premier or Prime Minister’s Office.

On today’s Internet, we are seeing the emerging centralized party structures of the future built around a charismatic ‘Big Brother.’ The party is told how to think, how to tithe to the central fundraising that gives no accounting of its receipts and expenditures to the citizens, contributors or Elections Canada.

For lack of answers to these problems, Justin Trudeau’s brain trust told us that the answer is to change how we vote. What that has to do with the quality of party candidates has not been made clear. Maybe it is like the elitist committee to recommend elite candidates for Senate appointments. It will make no difference at all but it will give the politicians someone to blame when we get a bad apple.

Stephen Harper has no one else to blame than himself for Senator Mike Duffy. Mind you, Justin Trudeau will have no one else to blame but himself when he finds how difficult it is to get his government’s legislation through his ‘elite’ Senate.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to

Justin: On electoral versus constitutional reform.

Saturday, January 30th, 2016

In a sit-down conversation with Justin Trudeau about six years ago, it was immediately obvious that he is an emotional person and as easy to read as an open book. Other than being eager to get him into a poker game, it was interesting to test his reaction to some basic political propositions. While he is fervent on electoral reform, his eyes cloud over when you mention changing the constitution. He does not see dealing with Canada’s constitution as anything other than a lose-lose proposition.

Despite still being a teenager at the time, Justin obviously absorbed more of his late father’s attitudes about the Meech Lake machinations and the failed Charlottetown Accord than he admits. As a Quebec MP, Justin has obviously tried to leave these issues behind while emulating the more modern Québécois. His approach seemed to be working on election day as Quebec contributed handsomely to the Liberal majority.

Trudeau’s stance on electoral reform is also more emotional than considered. His stated preference for the ‘instant run-off” of a preferential vote would have likely provided his party with more than 30 additional seats in parliament in the October election. As he won a majority anyway, he did not need those potential second votes.

And cooler heads in the Liberal Party will warn him against giving in to the smaller parties’ desire for a proportional voting system. Majority governments are rare with proportional voting systems.

But Justin’s basic problem remains that there is too much real change needed that requires constitutional rather than electoral reform. The silly elitist solution he has come up with for Senate reform is going to come back and bite him. If he really does appoint non-political independent elites to the Senate, they will act that way and his government will have just as hard a time passing legislation as he would have without making any appointments to the Senate.

He did not disagree when we delved into a list of problems that Canada’s constitution had built up in the more than 140 years our country had existed at the time.

In our conversation those six years ago, we suggested changing the role of the Governor General. He liked the idea but ruled it out when we suggested turning all Canada’s constitutional problems over to an elected constitutional congress. Mind you, he looked thoughtful when we mentioned dumping the monarchy and looking at a presidential system of government.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to