Posts Tagged ‘First past the post’

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.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

Minister Monsef ‘s measure.

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

How would you like to have a job based on proving your boss is right? It seems the same as Canada’s Fraser Institute that is always commissioning studies designed to prove the Institute’s right-wing theories. Now we have a cabinet minister trying to implement her leader’s campaign promise that Canadians will never again use first-past-the-post voting to elect a federal government. It was a rash promise and neophyte Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef might not measure up to the task of implementing it.

It is hardly her fault. Psephology (the study of elections and voting) is not a common topic at dinner tables in this country. Nor do civics classes delve deeply into the subject. And judging by what we read from published political science post-graduates, real expertise is rare.

But that does not preclude lots of opinions that people are quite willing to share. For all we know, Minister Monsef might be more knowledgeable than her leader. She might even be wondering how the government would explain a change in voting to Canadians.

While Prime Minister Trudeau leans towards preferential voting systems, Ms. Monsef has probably already figured out that that would be a really hard sell. Quite a number of amateur experts have already figured out that in the election just past, the Liberals would have even more seats if a form of preferential voting was in place. There were lots of Canadians who preferred the Liberals, New Democrats and Greens while the Conservative support was sliding. Best guess, the Liberals would have won about 30 more seats if being elected required a 50 per cent or more preference.

Conversely, a run-off vote in those electoral districts where nobody won a majority would likely have produced more victories for the Greens and NDP. It would be a clear indication that preferential voting is not the same as a run-off election. Since run-off elections can be much less costly when using Internet voting, that is something that needs to be considered.

And proportional voting is far more complex a question. There are many variables in proportional voting. And there are more things it does not do than it accomplishes. It does not ensure more women and minorities are selected. It does not often produce majority governments. It does not improve the transparency of government. And since proportional voting was designed for voters who are mostly illiterate, why would we need it in Canada?

Minister Monsef is an unusual choice to address such a complex question for the government. She might be very willing and adroit in the task but she is coming from a serious lack of experience in government. She is going to have to prove to be a very, very quick study.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

Welcome to FPTP-Central.

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

It was never of our choosing. First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) voting was just something we were used to. We never thought we would be an advocate for it. It was more of a coincidence that travelling in Europe over the years, we were interested in how people voted and why they used different systems of voting. And who would have expected that fist-fights in the Japanese Diet would prove fascinating. What we have found is that it is very difficult to find a good discussion of the relative merits of various voting systems.

But Prime Minister-Elect Justin Trudeau has ordained that he no longer wants to use FPTP to choose Canada’s Members of Parliament. Since he would obviously object to using Ouija Board selection, he is expected to want something like proportional or preferential voting. And there are many different versions of those voting systems to choose from around the world. There are also some voting systems from ancient societies that could be quite helpful to modern thinking.

No doubt some aspiring PhD candidates have written lengthy theses on the subject but none seem to survive exposure to direct sunlight. When asked to head up the “No” organization for central Ontario in the 2007 referendum on voting systems in Ontario, we found our only strong supporter was a rather hide-bound conservative. We can hardly complain though when we handily won the referendum by two to one.

What really annoys us are the silly lies spread by the advocates of preferential or proportional voting. It would seem from their web sites that a revised voting system can also solve the problem of halitosis. The only thing that proportional voting can usually solve is to preclude the possibility of a majority government. While we are not adverse to horse trading among the political parties, a true democracy requires that this trading be done in public.

But what these other systems mostly do is take the choice of who will be members of the national legislature away from the public and put them entirely in the hands of the political parties. While Stephen Harper tried very hard to be a party of one, he also showed us what was wrong with it. Sending drones to parliament to support one person’s ideology is not only a waste of money but it is demagoguery.

We do not particularly mind helping protect our democracy but we sure do hope we can get some help. It is your democracy that is being threatened.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me