Jeff Green | Feb 02, 2006
Feature Article - February 2, 2006
Feature ArticleFebruary 2, 2006
Fair Vote Canada comes to Eastern Ontario
by Jeff Green
“Once again, what we said was not what we got. The voting system very much distorted the results.”
That’s how Larry Gordon, the Chief Executive Officer of Fair Vote Canada, described the results of the recent federal election. Fair Vote Canada says that the latest election illustrates how the so-called first past the post system is unfair to many voters.
Among the victims of the latest election, according to a Fair Vote Canada press release, were western Liberals, where, for example, 500,000 Liberal voters in Alberta elected no MP’s.
Urban Conservatives also lost out. Over 400,000 Conservative voters in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver also elected 0 MP’s.
Eighteen percent of the voters supported the NDP, but less than 10% of the MPs elected throughout the country are from the NDP.
The Green Party received 650,000 votes from across the country and did not elect a single MP. Under a simple proportional representation system, where votes translate directly into seats, the Green Party would have 12 seats in the new Parliament.
“The majority of voters actually voted Liberal-NDP-Green,” Larry Gordon said, “Together they received 53% of the vote.”
Gordon delivered the keynote address at the founding meeting of a Fair Vote chapter for Kingston and the surrounding area this Tuesday, and earlier in the day, he talked to the News about electoral reform.
One of the main knocks against electoral systems other than the first past the post system is that they are believed to produce unstable, minority governments that have difficulty forming and passing a coherent agenda.
Larry Gordon says that this is not really the case.
“When coalitions are formed it does not mean that all of the policies of all coalition members are active. Coalition governments actually do a better job of passing legislation that is supported by a majority of voters.”
There are a variety of voting systems in place throughout the world, and Fair Vote Canada does not advocate for any particular system.
“We don’t promote a particular proportional system in the abstract. Systems where everybody’s vote has an equal impact are what we are after. The goal is to make every voter equal.”
Last week, Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington MP Scott Reid told the News that he would have been more optimistic about prospects for democratic reform had the election outcome been slightly different. If the NDP had attained enough support to hold the balance of power with the Conservatives, Reid believes democratic reform would be higher on the national agenda.
Scott Reid served as Conservative critic for democratic reform until the election was called.
Larry Gordon said that he would be happy if MP Scott Reid is named as Minister for Democratic Reform in the new Conservative government, because he has been an advocate for meaningful reform.
This past September, Scott Reid launched an attack on the Liberal government for failing to act on electoral reform after an all-party committee had proposed a parliamentary process earlier in the summer. “Electoral reform has once again been put on the back burner,” Reid stated at the time.
Larry Gordon is not convinced that the Conservative Party is committed to the kind of reform Fair Vote Canada advocates, however. “The Conservative Party’s position is a bit wishy-washy on this,” he said. “It does not commit to any core principles and in that way is short of what we would like to see.”
The Conservative policy document contains two paragraphs on electoral reform. The first paragraph reads: “A Conservative Government will consider changes to electoral systems, including proportional representation, the single transferable ballot, fixed election dates, and the use of referendums.”
What is lacking in this position, according to Larry Gordon, is a commitment to replacing the first past the post system with one where all votes translate into a proportion of political power, where each vote counts.
The second paragraph of the Conservative policy on democratic reform says the party precludes any changes that will increase the size of ridings, will weaken the link between MP’s and their constituents, or will strengthen the control parties have over MP’s. It also calls for a national referendum on any electoral reform proposal.
Larry Gordon points out that the platform on which the Conservatives ran in the election did not mention electoral reform whatsoever.
Gordon thinks it is unlikely, although possible, that the issue will surface in the upcoming parliament. He holds out hope that one or more of the provinces will institute a more representative electoral system within the next couple of years.
A citizens’ assembly proposed a system in BC, which was supported by 58% of voters in a referendum, receiving majority support in all but one riding in the province. “If it weren’t for the fact that the BC government set the bar at 60%, there would be a new system in BC for the next provincial election,” Gordon said.
It is expected that an initiative will be announced in Ontario in the coming weeks, and other provinces are moving on the issue as well.