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The Simplest Argument for Electoral Reform

March 15, 2010

Take a look at this simple and clear article on Democractic Reform from Fair Vote Canada.

This is what Canadians need, a clear argument why our democracy is broken. There are some great basic arguments here that anyone interested in fixing our democracy should be repeating over and over to everyone they talk to about politics:

Traditionalists claim the Senate provides strong regional representation and sober second thought.  The appointed upper house does neither. Regional representation is badly skewed and sober thoughts, when they occur, lack democratic legitimacy.

You can see this clearly with the arguments used by the Conservatives against ‘meddling’ by the previously Liberal dominated senate.  Now that the Conservatives have the majority in the Senate I expect we’ll hear how essential the sober second thought of the senate is to the functioning of parliament. If Senators were elected then their legitimacy would be real. But that would be a much bigger change than simply removing the Senate altogether since they only override the House in extraordinary circumstances.

Today’s voting system suppresses the variety of voices in every region. Twenty-seven of Alberta’s 28 seats are occupied by Conservative MPs, even though more than a third of Alberta voters voted for other parties. Meanwhile more than a half-million people in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver voted Conservative, yet not a single MP from those cities sits in the governing party’s caucus. Two-thirds of Quebec voters voted for federalist parties, yet two-thirds of the Quebec’s seats are held by Bloc MPs.

This should be burned into the consciousness of the nation. (I challenge someone to express this concisely as a tweet or with images that could be put on a bumper sticker. I’ll work on it when I get time. There should be a way to do it with party logo’s, provincial flags, + and = signs and numbers. The entire argument for electoral reform in pictogram form. Hmmm. I’ll be thinking about this all day now.) This small set of facts covers at least half of what is wrong with our current system.  Sure, there’s even more, from the under-representation of women and minorities to the inability of nonregional parties to get any traction. I would add the following line as well:

“Considered nationally, the regionally focussed Bloc receive around 10% of the national vote yielding around 50 seats in the House while the regionally dispersed Green party receives roughly the same level of support and has never elected an MP to parliament in its entire history.”

Finally, have you ever had a conversation about reform shutdown with the ‘we can’t change the constitution’ argument? Well…

Best of all the introduction of a new voting system for the House does not require a constitutional amendment. It just requires our political leaders to amend the Canada Elections Act to reflect a widely shared democratic value: equal votes for all.

Anyways, read the article. As always, comments, improvements on my proposal are welcome, as are wholesale (but polite) denouncements of my naivete.  But if I’m wrong, then have you a better answer?

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