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Conservative Party Does Not Believe in Equality of Voters

November 2, 2013

This fascinating and scary post just showed up on the FairVote Canada Facebook page:

FairVote Facebook

The Conservative version of equality. Bigger picture below.

A couple of things to notice here and I’ll just leave it at that.

They’re Worried

The Conservative party is worried about what the NDP and Green Party have to say about reforming our democracy. They are scared of PR and Elizabeth May and the NDP. They are scared that Canadians will finally say yes to staring to improve our unfair system.

Ridings, Not Voters

“Our country was founded on the equality of riding first and foremost.”

Gee, I thought it was the voters who were equal. Why do we care about ridings being equal? If every single person in the country has the same power to affect the process of governance in Ottawa, surely that is what we want. Apparently not.

Equality = Majority

Somebody should make buttons with Stephen Harper saying this. Notice the “Equality = Majority” and “Say yes to future strong, stable majority conservative governments”. This shows that the Conservative Party has made a calculation that the only way they can hold on to majority rule is to maintain the current system. The current system weights riding equally, that is true. But it does not weight voters equally. 39% of voters supported the Conservatives last election and they were rewarded with complete, untrammeled power. The weight that a voter has in determining what happens in Ottawa is not only due to population and rules about smaller provinces having more seats. The weight of a voters in a non-competitive riding where they are in the minority is effectively zero.  When a riding is split more than two ways all the votes for smaller parties are wasted. There is nothing about proportional representation which would cause one riding or region to have more votes than another. What PR would do is remove the current inequality between voters who have different impact depending on the largest voice in their riding.

Conservative Voting Rules

Let’s see that poster more closely shall we? This is a flyer being distributed at the current Conservative convention. Care of FairVote Canada. Click to zoom in.

With a fair, more proportional system every voter would have a chance to have a voice even if they  were surrounded by a majority against them. This goes for Conservatives in Quebec just as much as it does for NDP and Liberals in Alberta or Greens in most ridings.

What matters is that every voter has a voice, that every vote matters. The ridings are only important if you are counting your pieces of the pie and worrying that it might be split more evenly in the future. The only one who worries about that is the one who knows he is getting too much pie. And right now, the only one in that situation is the Conservative Party.



Following discussion in the comments I whipped up this image for the counterargument I think people need to make against this approach by the Conservatives. Feel free to use this image as you wish. (Click on the image for the png file. Click here for a pdf : votingfairness.pdf)

Equality of Voters = FAIRNESS

Equality of Voters = FAIRNESS

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2013 6:51 am

    The Liberals don’t favor PR either. All they have contributed to the cause is 4 designed-to-fail referendums.

    The corporate media is fiercely against PR (including the “leftist” Toronto Star.) They represent the business community. It likes a virtual 2 party system with “strong” governments. Much easier to influence than democratic governments.

    I think the most practical approach is to fix our existing system with ranked ballot voting first. If we had PV ranked ballot in 2011, Harper would be gone and the NDP would’ve formed the government. It’s clearly a huge improvement over primitive FPP.

    No sense gambling everything on PR and losing it all. (Which is certain to happen given PR was rejected in ON, BC and PEI by over 60%.) With the rise of the social media, PR will have a fighting chance to build momentum which it never got under the old, corrupt media.

    Democratic Voting Canada: Toronto Star: fiercely against voting reform

    • November 2, 2013 11:52 am

      Thanks for the comment Ron. Honestly I have no interest in debating the merits of one particular voting system reform over another.

      Most Canadians know there is something wrong with the way we vote but they do not spend time poring over all the possible solutions. I think when those of us who support electoral reform argue over the details of our favourite system we all lose.

      What is clear from this news is that Conservatives are thinking very hard about how to frame any debate about electoral reform in a way that benefits them. They are not simply saying our voting system is fine the way it is, they are saying the number of votes per riding is the important part. That’s a subtle point it means they are really taking this seriously and strategically. The good thing abut this is that electoral reform will be part of the debate next election. The bad part could be if all the opposition parties fight about the details of any reform and the Conservatives win the argument by essentially saying “Look how complicated all that is.”

      I think all the opposition parties need to be united in a commitment to the process of reforming our voting system to make it fair for all voters. To use the Conservative messaging “equality of voters = fairness”.

      I agree with you on one point, the Liberals are the ones dragging their feet on this. There are many people inside the Liberal party, former leaders and leadership candidates, who support robust reform. What is needed is for the leadership to take this on and not simply hope it will go away. However, completely disagree with your conspiracy theory about what the media wants from the parties, they don’t have that much of an agenda, they are just trying to keep readers. If you think believing that makes be naive then so be it.

    • November 12, 2013 6:32 pm

      PR wasn’t defeated in BC by 60% at least at the provincial level.
      It was approved by 58 % of voters if I remember correctly, having been in BC at that time.
      However, to pass or become considered for legislation it needed to meet a 60% threshold.
      At least as I remember it.

      • November 12, 2013 10:01 pm

        tm you are right about the first referendum. Unfortunately they had a second referendum which only garnered somewhere around 40% of the vote. This time there was a huge amount of negative campaigning against, which had equal funding from the government. I’ve become wary of the entire process of using referenda on simple yes/no questions which oversimplify a complex choice. If we ever have another referendum I think the question should be something like “Do you agree that our current electoral system is unfair and should be changed.” then followup questions for a list of possible systems to consider. Of course, just because people have voted against it doesn’t mean we should stop trying to convince people. Democracy means the majority has the right to decide, it doesn’t mean they are always right, sometimes they need convincing.

  2. November 3, 2013 10:09 am

    “However, completely disagree with your conspiracy theory about what the media wants from the parties, they don’t have that much of an agenda, they are just trying to keep readers.”

    During the Ontario PR referendum in 2007, the Star published 6 anti-PR op-ed pieces. Clearly this is not a case of the paper giving the people what they want. They had an agenda.

    It’s no coincidence their agenda was the same as the business community’s. It’s much easier for businessmen to lobby a single-party dictatorship than a coalition.

    This is not a conspiracy theory. It’s simply a matter of businessmen acting in their own self-interest (which is, after all, their life philosophy…)

    “I think when those of us who support electoral reform argue over the details of our favourite system we all lose.”

    There’s a world of difference between ranked ballot voting and PR. The ranked ballot fixes our existing system by simply changing the ballot from single-choice to ranked, making MPs earn their seats with a majority.

    Canadians have already rejected PR. No sense walking into another PR referendum buzz saw unless the goal is to kill electoral reform for good.

    The many Canadians who rejected PR as too extreme will be open to the more moderate option of ranked ballot voting. This is the system the Trudeau Liberals propose.

    If anything, PR is confusing because there are so many different forms with different rules: MMP, STV, party list, P3 (Stephane Dion’s version,) Direct Party and Representative Voting, etc.

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