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NDP committed to proportional representation

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by Tom Mulcair

portrait of Thomas MulcairThomas Mulcair is the leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada as well as the Leader of the Official Opposition in Canada.

thomasmulcair.ndp.ca

thomas.mulcair@parl.gc.ca

 

In 2015, Canadians will have a choice. Not only will they have the opportunity to elect a new government, but they will also have the opportunity to elect a government that is committed to proportional representation.

We’re very clear on this – an NDP government would introduce proportional representation by the next election. Early in December 2014, we introduced a motion to the House of Commons to reform the system before then, but were disappointed that Justin Trudeau voted with Stephen Harper and the Conservatives to defeat the motion. However, the fact that our motion attracted the support of Greens, independent MPs and several members of the Liberal Party who voted contrary to their leader shows we are making progress in our campaign to change Canada’s unfair electoral system.

In the last election, Conservatives formed a majority government with only 39% of the vote. In our current first-past-the-post system, they govern as if they have the support of all Canadians, but the fact is 61% of voters wanted someone else in government.

Around the world, advanced democracies have recognized the flaws of this winner-take-all system and have adopted a better model that works.

Democracies such as Germany and New Zealand have embraced proportional representation and realized improvements since moving away from first-past-the-post. In a study that looked at 36 countries with proportional representation, countries that reformed their systems saw increased voter turnout, more women and minorities elected and an overall higher satisfaction with democracy.

Furthermore, countries with proportional representation also score higher on indicators of health, education and standards of living. They are more likely to enjoy fiscal surpluses and have healthier environmental policies, economic growth and decreased income inequality.

It may seem shocking that a change in electoral system can fuel such dramatic changes, but when you empower people, it’s incredible what can be achieved.

By responding to and reflecting a broader pool of interests and people, proportional elections lead to governments that are not based on one single partisan worldview or a narrow segment of society. Proportional governments represent a broader cross-section of society; as a result, the policies they pass tend to be more credible, stable and based on the common good.

For years, governing parties in Canada have talked about electoral reform, but have failed to make it a priority. More often than not, those in government are afforded a majority without a plurality of the votes so there is little incentive to change.

That is one of the ways a New Democrat government will be different. Had the 2011 election used proportional representation, despite the NDP’s electoral gains, New Democrats would have actually had fewer seats in Parliament. Even still, we believe that democratic reform is critical to improving the health of Canada’s democracy. For New Democrats, it’s a matter of principle. Proportional representation would better represent Canadians across the country.

Liberals would have seen better representation in the Prairies and even the Conservatives would have been better represented in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. The NDP would have done better in Saskatchewan and the Green Party would have made gains in many places, electing more than just one Member of Parliament.

While Liberals and Conservatives defeated the NDP’s motion to bring forward a proportional system this time, the fight is not over. An election is coming. Now it’s up to Canadians to get involved, voice their support for better, fairer representation and ultimately exercise their right to vote.

Now it’s up to Canadians to make the next election the last unfair election.

Complete text of NDP Motion on Proportional Representation:

“That, in the opinion of the House: (a) the next federal election should be the last conducted under the current first-past-the-post electoral system which has repeatedly delivered a majority of seats to parties supported by a minority of voters, or under any other winner-take-all electoral system; and (b) a form of mixed-member proportional representation would be the best electoral system for Canada.”

Information about how each leader and party voted can be found at: http://www.parl.gc.ca/HouseChamberBusiness/ChamberVoteDetail.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=41&Ses=2&FltrParl=41&FltrSes=2&Vote=291

20 comments

  1. Evan H /

    While I agree with your opinion that the current First Past The Post system is untenable in Canada. I fundamentally disagree with Mixed Member Proportional representation as it encourages party line voting.

    All Members of Parliament should be beholden to a certain number of Canadians more directly than the remainder, hence the creation of ridings. This allows for regional influence in the policing of MP’s.

    A better system for Canada is the Australian system of Alternative Voting which although not proportional, would allow for a greater likelihood of an “acceptable” party to come to power.

    Unfortunately any party pushing for Mixed Member Proportional government, unless the proposed “party list” used to generate the non-riding based seats is somehow legally beholden to a group of Canadians rather than the party itself, will be campaigned against by myself in the coming federal election.

    • Your wish has been granted. The Law Commission of Canada recommended that your second vote should let you choose either a party or one of the regional candidates nominated by parties. This is commonly called “open list” rather than “closed list.” The parties’ regional votes are then counted to give the level of support for each party in the region. The result is that all MPs have faced the voters, and no one is guaranteed a seat. This is the model Mulcair is describing.
      http://wilfday.blogspot.ca/2013/11/the-law-commission-of-canadas.html

      It is a multi-partisan solution. By contrast, the Australian ballot is a partisan solution, proposed by those who belive their party will be everyone’s second choice.

  2. Andy anderson /

    How would this actually work

    • You can simply learn how the system works in New Zealand and Germany and you will have a great idea on how it works.

  3. William Nichols /

    The methods shown end up with a lot of minority governments. We do not need that . We need 2 things in our government system. 1. get rid of the supreme power of the prime ministers office and MAKE the elected reps take back their power and represent the people not the party.2. All seats should have to have a majority vote , if it does not have a run of the top 2 running, 2 weeks later after the general election. So all members would have been elected by a majority.

    • William Nichols /

      correction —-if a seat does not have a majority after the general election have a run of, of the top 2 , 2 weeks after the general election.

    • Either a run-off or a preferential ballot would not change the local outcome 95% of the time. For example, it would be no help to Alberta Liberal voters, nor Montreal Conservative voters. To give the PM’s power back to MPs, the first step is to stop 39% of the vote giving one party and its leader 100% of the power.

    • Danny Handelman /

      Wouldn’t one expect that the PMO would have less influence if the governing caucus were more diverse (as a result of proportional representation)? Run-off elections would increase the influence of “special interests” due to the higher cost of campaigning, and generally lower voter turnout in by-elections compared to general elections.

    • There is nothing wrong with a minority govt. As a matter of fact you simply need to see what they do int NZ and Germany. Most of the time there are some coalitions which is great to see parties work together.

  4. Jason Keays /

    Good government never depends upon laws, but upon the personal qualities of those who govern. The machinery of government is always subordinate to the
    will of those who administer that machinery. The most important element of
    government, therefore, is the method of choosing leaders.
    — Frank Herbert

  5. AJ Plourde /

    DIRECT DEMOCRACY. Our political system is by no means democratic so any improvement is surely needed. I would personally like to see an end to all party politics and have a more direct democracy. Where the people hire someone to represent them. The person doing the representing would have to put forward a resume,providing their qualifications and the things they hope to achieve and the method that this would be acomplished. This person would be require to keep the people informed and keep an ongoing referendum on issues and then represent the majority.
    If the representative lies or doesn’t perform as according their resume then they would be let go and a new representative would be hired. But if they are truthful then it could be a lifetime carreer if they so choose.
    In other words the people decide and the representative is just an employee of the people.

    • Annastacia /

      This system would put the civil rights of the minority at the behest of the majority. This is not an equitable situation for our citizens.

  6. Stefan Wesche /

    Proportional representation is a must. While I personally favour the more independent-friendly Single Transferable Vote (put to a referendum in BC) over Mixed-Member Proportional, either one of them is a vast improvement over the current First-Past-the-Post system. The system proposed by Justin Trudeau, known as “Preferential Vote” or “Alternative Vote” (in single-member ridings) would not change the FPTP results in 95% or more of ridings. We already have a system where the majority of voters are represented by their second, third, or fourth choice. Let’s get proportional representation so we can ensure that all legislation has the backing of representatives of at least a majority of Canadians.

    • Martin Showell /

      To my knowledge the LPC has not announced or chosen a replacement for FPTP. Policy resolution #31 adopted at the 2014 convention clearly leaves the door open for proportional, preferential and/or a combination. The LPC plan is to open a national dialogue on the issue. It is important that the options be explained to Canadians and that we are allowed to decide what we think is best – not to cram one solution down our throats as the NDP wish to do, without any education or discussion. If you are interested in one of the approaches being looked at by the LPC, please read Stéphane Dion’s proposal for “P3”: http://stephanedion.liberal.ca/en/articles-en/p3-voting-system-canada/

  7. Martin Showell /

    It is one thing for Tom Mulcair to go out of his way to attack Justin Trudeau and the LPC, it is quite another for him to lie about it.

    The Liberal Party of Canada is committed to electoral reform. It was part of Justin Trudeau’s leadership campaign and the LPC confirmed it in a policy resolution at the 2014 convention in Montreal where resolution #31 was adopted which clearly states:

    “AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT immediately after the next election, an all-Party process be instituted, involving expert assistance and citizen participation, to report to Parliament within 12 months with recommendations for electoral reforms including, without limitation, a preferential ballot and/or a form of proportional representation, to represent Canadians more fairly and serve Canada better.”

    So, in his quest for power Mulcair tells us TWO LIES in this piece:

    1. Mulcair suggests that the vote on the NDP motion has slowed down the process to achieve electoral reform. NOT TRUE. The NDP motion would have had zero effect on the 2015 election. The motion clearly stated “…the next federal election should be the last conducted under the current first-past-the-post electoral system…” meaning that the NDP has no plan or power to change the election rules until the election following 2015. This is also the Liberal plan.

    2. The LPC and Justin Trudeau DID NOT vote against electoral reform or proportional representation. They voted against prematurely adopting one possible solution. The NDP are proposing a form of “mixed-member” proportional representation – this is very specific formula to replace first-past-the-post and only one of several possible answers. The vast majority of Canadians do not even understand what that “mixed-member” proportional means. On the contrary, the LPC approach is to discuss with Canadians the best approach to replacing first-past-the-post, allow time for a national dialogue and then allow Canada to decide what it is best and what they want instead of forcing a predetermined solution on us.

    This is a shameful and inaccurate attack on Justin Trudeau and the LPC. It purposely misrepresents facts for partisan political gain.

    If Tom Mulcair thinks lying to Canadians is going to help him win the election, he is sorely mistaken. Rather, if he had taken the approach of working with the LPC to formulate a plan of action that the 60% + of the population he speaks of, could agree on … we might together beat our common adversary, Harper. Instead Mulcair has again shown himself as more concerned with winning elections than with responding to the wishes of Canadians and more concerned with politics than the truth.

    • moomoo /

      Where did Mulcair lie???? – Trudeau voted against the NDP motion for MMP, 16 LPC members voter in favor and JT was one of the 15 who voted against. That is not a lie, it’s the truth and here is the proof: http://bit.ly/PRvotecount

  8. Brendan Denovan /

    I think the claims that a ranked or preferential ballot would not change results in 95% of ridings is inaccurate. I’m happy to be corrected with links to sources that confirm this in the Canadian context, but clearly it shifts campaign tactics away from pandering to voter segments and toward attracting the largest general acknowledgment of the candidates qualifications and the broadest acceptability of party platforms. There are going to be 55 or so ridings at risk of vote splitting in the next election and I would suggest that this is a closer approximation to the impact preferential ballots could have in Canada, roughly 15%

  9. Ann Remnant /

    I am pleased to see that the NDP are talking about implementing a proportional electoral system, however, it reeks of a hollow, unrealistic election promise.

    It does not encourage cooperation between the parties, there is no room for discussion about the best system for Canadians and it is contingent upon an NDP win, also highly unlikely.

    70% of Canadians agree that we need a proportional electoral system. If ever there was a time for the NDP, the Liberals and the Greens to get off their partisan bandwagons and work together, it is now.

    We will be able to thank the arrogance of the Liberals and the NDP, if we end up with another Conservative majority.

    • Real Lavergne /

      I don’t think the above comment is fair to the NDP. Like the Green Party, the federal NDP has had the political courage to take a strong stand on proportional representation. This helps to move the agenda forward. Kudos to them for that.

      As for the specifics of their proposal (MMP with open lists), the model proposed is in line with what numerous commissions have proposed in the past, in particular the Law Commission of Canada in its 2004 report on electoral reform. The NDP did not just make this up!

      I can understand if the Liberals wants to call for public consultations before deciding on a specific model. The NDP is also calling for public consultations before moving forward.

      However, the value of the NDP proposal is that it explicitly calls for proportional representation. As voters, that is what we need to hear. Anything else reeks of manipulation to continue depriving the electorate of the right for every vote to count.

      It is time for other parties to follow the NDP’s lead. Let us hear them say: “We believe in proportional representation and will hold consultations if we are elected to determine the best system of proportional representation for Canada. We will work to implement that system once the details have been worked out.” Any party that refuses to say that much does not deserve my vote.

  10. well written piece until we got to the end only to find out that this blog actually does not say WHAT is wrong with pro-rep, only that someone does not like it….did we miss something? what does the writer suggest as a better option?

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