Posts Tagged ‘voting reform’

“Well here’s another nice mess, Ollie!”

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are probably too young to remember the 1920s to 1950s Hollywood comedy team of Laurel and Hardy but they seem to have a comparable act. It was Monsef’s turn on Thursday to dismiss the work of her own committee on electoral reform. She had given the committee an impossible task to complete in an impossible time frame and then took the committee to task for not working hard enough.

Playing the Stan Laurel role in the duo, Justin Trudeau got the shtick rolling during the 2015 election by foolishly promising that 2015 would be the last time Canadians would use first-past-the-post voting. From when he first said that many people knew he was headed for trouble. Choosing the inexperienced Monsef as the cabinet member to implement the change was likely his second biggest mistake on the file.

For Monsef to insult the committee, on the record, in the House of Commons was a mistake that cannot be expunged. The Minister obviously spent some time in the parliamentary woodshed for her mistake.  Those Members of Parliament not only deserved the multiple apologies the next day but they deserved some real contrition from the Minister after their hard work over the summer.

And they did a good job within the time limits and the parameters that had been set. What nobody noticed is that some of the by-the-ways of the committee’s mandate were a more difficult task than the original task. Internet voting itself needed more than a summer with all the misconceptions people have on the subject.

It was the Liberals on the committee that acted the most responsibly in the final report. The Conservative, NDP, Green and Bloc majority on the committee recommended that the government proceed with a proportional system of voting after a referendum on the subject. They knew it was a specious argument. They knew that there would be lots of time to argue about any proportional system the Liberals might design.

But that is what the Liberals on the committee actually suggested. They very honestly considered the next election in 2019 would be far too soon to consider using a different electoral system. They want Canadians to be far more engaged in the subject of electoral reform before anything is proposed.

But ‘democracy be damned’ as far as ‘Oliver Hardy’ Monsef is concerned. The ball has been played to ‘Stan Laurel’ Trudeau’s side of the net and he has to decide if he should save his Minister of Democratic Institutions. Or not.

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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