First past the post, toast and/or the Advil

I am actually quite supportive of attempts at electoral reform that would end up with parties that get lots of votes but not enough in a single riding to still be represented in the legislature.

But the more I look at this, the more I realize that there would have to be a fundamental change in the way politics is done in this country. We would have to re-engineer 140 years.

Take the current Federal government as an example. I heard last night that the opposition parties have passed only one of the government’s bills – the budget. The rest have been voted down or stalled and the upcoming ones are already being threatened to be voted down. It’s clear to me that if the Liberals had a leader we would probably be having another election right now.

If you had a PR system, based on the current way politicians approach things, it would be total madness. The government would cease to function because you couldn’t get anything done.

Let’s face it. The system and mindset of the majority of politicians is that either the Libs or the Tories get a majority and rule without any real opposition until they get booted out and the other guys get in. That’s the way it’s been done forever and I have my doubts that the Libs or the Tories will ever want that to change.

The Tories are governing right now to ‘get to a majority’. What ever happened to the ambitious agenda for change?

I don’t necessarily blame them, however; because anything they do will be defeated in the house. Harper doesn’t want to be seen as bringing down the house as the voters will be none to happy to go the polls for the third time in three years.

They need to find a way to have a working minority parliament for at least 3 years but I don’t think they will.

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8 Responses to First past the post, toast and/or the Advil

  1. Anonymous says:

    That is EXACTLY the reason why electoral reform is being fought for. Again, check out http://www.fairvote.ca You don’t NOT fight for something because the powers that be ‘don’t want it’, that is, in fact, all the more reason to fight aggressively for it.

    You are absolutely right, the party in power DOESN”T want it (sort of), and that is the problem. While the NDP were thought to be different because they could never get into power (and so were always championing it) they turned out no different. Bob Rae had a golden opportunity, but once again didn’t bother. Chretien said he’d bring in PR without a referendum as soon as he was PM-that was in 1984!

    Canada is the LEAST representative country in the world. It is our electoral system that creates most of the disparities. Conservatives are NOT a ‘western party’, it is just that they manage to win seats in highly unfair elections.

    ‘Powers that be’ have ALWAYS protected their own self interests. That is NOT an excuse to say ‘well whaddya gonna do??’ As for a minority government, virtually every government in every democratic country functions with a minority government, this doesn’t make them worse-its makes them BETTER. They don’t have the highly partisan do nothing government, they actually legislate.

    They do it partly because there is no way to ‘force an election’. With that one caveat parties are forced to work together.

    But don’t blow it out of proportion, go to http://www.howdtheyvote.ca and you’ll find exactly the opposite, that in fact the liberals and conservatives typically vote together as a voting bloc against the bloc and the NDP. The reality is FAR different than the picture you paint, after all, the legislature has not been sitting long.

    When things are *&^%ed up thats exactly why you have to fight. Again, as I’ve stated many times, the ‘powers that be’ which run both New Brunswick parties are quite happy, Irvings and McCains and the foreign investors, who are a tiny majority gets gifts thrown at them with abandon.

    Does that reality make you want to stop blogging and say ‘well, I don’t think they are ever going to change their policies’. Not at all, that’s exactly why you blog, and why I advocate more active lobbying for the cause. Ironically, just about every person in NB KNOWS ‘its the economy’ but there’s nothing they can do. In other words, it takes a POLITICAL change to effect the economy. Which is why I tell people, especially those who research, to look into how politics is done all over the world, not just at how economic decisions are made.

    But these things don’t happen because people have blogs or write letters to the editor. People have been demanding Senate change since the first year of confederation and although we ‘might’ see some nominal change, even Mulroneys edict of ‘provinces elect a senator and I’ll nominate them’ seems a long way off, when in reality that’s all that needs to be done.

    You are putting the cart before the horse, you are expecting a political change in parliament which would then create the ‘better conditions’. There is legislative change because people demand it. In New Brunswick its a similar case, in fact its getting worse, as New Brunswick gets closer to PEI’s two party system it is clear most people will simply say ‘why bother?’ In fact, if you go to Fairvote you will note that New Brunswick is the WORST province in the country for distorting the people’s will. So, hey, there’s a number one for ya!

    But keep in mind the reality that politicians face. Without a loud unified voice from the people, they are governing blind, which means they listen to who is loudest-unions and more accurately big business. Many politicians would like to see change, however, there are huge obstacles to overcome, and if you talk change too much, you’ll get tossed out on your can. That’s especially true in NB, where big business owns all the media which can literally toss out ruling parties.

    A good lesson can be gained from the south. When the people in the states wanted elected Senators (theirs used to be appointed as well, believe me, their government is no fan of democracy either), they organized elections, then told the feds that they nominated their elected candidate or they’d run the nominated fella out of town on a rail. Enough states did that that eventually there was enough protest that the feds legislated it.

    It would be a happy day to see that referendum in New Brunswick. You are always talking about ‘foreign press’ taking notice, well, keep in mind that international press take a lot of interest in referenda. There was some big heavy metal rocker that got national press by telling PEI’ers to vote for PR. Again, in PEI the NDP is non existent,so it was bizarre they even had an election. In NB, they are ALMOST non existent, however, under the current conditions the NDP would still hold the balance because the other two parties are so close.

    So again, national and provincial groups will be stepping up the lobby on the liberals to hold that referendum. They SHOULD hold it, as Lord can now attest. Yet the lobbyists and big business DON”T like people involved in politics, and the unfair electoral system serves them just fine, in fact its never been better for them.

    So check out fairvote.ca and do some reading on proportional represntation. Keep in mind ONLY canada and the US still use FPTP and SMP, that’s NOT a good thing. And there are hundreds of variations of PR, all the more reason for people to get talking about it. However, its a tough sell, you won’t hear about it on CBC or from IRving, that leaves bloggers, who of course have other issues. However, this would go a long way to addressing many of the complaints various groups have about government.

  2. scott says:

    Even majority governments sometimes realize that they aren’t representative of the entire country.

    Ed Brodbent introduced a bill in 1979 in the House of Commons on proportional representation. It was a very ambitious bill for its time and had contained some very good measures, unfortunately for Canadians, it was struck down by a majority of parliamentarians and, in turn, the proposals of the Pepin-Roberts Commission on electoral reform were stopped dead in their tracks.

    So why was that so important to Canadians?

    Well, the insuing year, a motion of none confidence was introduced by the oppostion against the Clark government. Bob Rae made the confidence motion on Dec. 13 which resulted in Clark’s defeat. An election was immedaitely called which ultimately led to a Majority Trudeau government.

    So did Trudeau sit back and enjoy the power that he had as a majority PM?

    Absolutely not. A few weeks after the election dust settled, he approached the NDP leader with an offer to form a coalition government. Why would a Prime Minister be willing to compromise some of his power when in a majority? Simple, Trudeau was going to propose two controversial pieces of legislation, the National Energy Program and the repatriation of the constitution. In both cases, the legislation could turn out to be so regionally-divisive that he needed to solidify his cabinet with western support from the NDP.

    What motivated Trudeau to propose such a desparate measure??

    This was due to the fact that Trudeau and the Liberals were very weak in western Canada where they only had two seats in Manitoba and none west of that province. This was an unfortunate symptom of the first-past-the-post system as they had received almost 25 per cent of the votes of western Canadians, but it equalled little support.

    Thus, we had a government that suffered from disproportionality of representation, in that, it was very regional and unrepresentative in nature. This not only proved to be a major problem for national unity in Canada, but it limited what legislation could be accomplished nationally under si\uch a disproportional situation.

    Well, I won’t go into detail what those two pieces of legislation did to the fabric of our nation, but one thing is clear, it would have been much easier for our country and our PM if our country has of implemented an electoral system which was more representative, esprcially given that Quebec and Western Canada had no voice in matters of national unity.

    However, since the recommendations of the Pepin-Roberts Commission to adopt a more proportional system were struck down in ’79, we were left with a with a centralized government which had to make tough decisions despite its lack of representation in key areas of the country. A recipe, IMHO, that turned out to be disastrous to the overall fabric of our nation.

    So you can see why I am in favour of reforming the system.

  3. David Campbell says:

    You guys are historians extraordinaire! At my limited, pedestrian level my thoughts are that the main political parties in Canada are not geared up to working in Minority settings (which would be the norm in PR) and not good at forming working coalitions in a Minority setting. Even in a Minority, parliament should still run. Bills should get passed. Stuff should happen. If you enacted some form of PR wouldn’t it just spell chaos?

  4. Cooker Boy says:

    You want to get things done, run the federal and provincial goverments like the municipalities. No party affiliation!

    My problem with PR is that MPs would still tow party lines regardless if they are elected from Ontario or appointed from Western Canada.

    In our current system there always has to be a loser but I don’t see how PR will change that. And to set the record, the current motions are stalled because of the unelected, Liberal controlled Senate… Another esthablishment which is long in the tooth.

    Dubai for cocktails anyone?

  5. Anonymous says:

    First, government always continues. The idea that legislation means governing is ludicrous. If that were true, why doesn’t anybody raise a voice about the liberals ‘not governing’ the province til February?

    IF it were true, why wouldn’t we be designing a representative system where we have legislation being done all year? Half of the year ALL government decisions are made by orders in council.

    So bang goes that theory. The sky is not going to fall. As for chaos, try watching Question Period sometime, I don’t know exactly what is meant by chaos, but typically watching ten minutes of these people make me ashamed of being canadian. Peter MacKay mouths off at an ex girlfriend, and he’s the guy who represents us as a nation.

    As for legislation, the reality is that any kind of crazy assed notion can be put in as a private member bill. That they are frequently shot down can be both a blessing and a curse.

    As for other bills, it simply depends what it is. The conservatives have a very specific idea of what counts as ‘important’, so its no surprise that those ideas get shot down whereever possible.

    However, take a look at the hoopla about their ‘three strikes law’, there’s no need to get into specifics and bring up another debate, but liberal and bloc spokespeople have said that there are aspects of that bill they will support, and aspects that they won’t. That’s where the bargaining begins.

    If you want good info, just go to howdtheyvote.ca and then pick any bill at random and the site even has quotes from the parties saying what they like and dislike about the bills and why the support or don’t support them. Again, government is not NEARLY as partisan as you think except in very specific cases.

    This is a minority government, however, the ‘dance’ occurs because of the threat of an election. As for the ‘chaos’, keep in mind that media loves chaos, thats what sells papers, in fact you can do some reading and see that media is very much a good part of the problem. However, many other avenues are now open, so there is no reason to NEED to be misinformed by media.

    The reality is that legislators HAVE to find a way to work it out. If they don’t, people will remember it come election time.

    For the above comments, its pretty unrealistic to think that party politics is going anywhere, hell we can’t even adopt a system that every other country in the democratic world has long since adopted.

    However, I am thinking provincially more than federally, because the feds NEVER do anything that hasnt been done provincially first. Ontario may well have a referendum coming up, which should prove interesting.

    PR’s success depends on many factors. Towing a party line is very much in evidence today, so its not like that will get WORSE. When you get PR you tend to get more parties, this tends to get more people involved and make ‘following the leader’ far less likely. That’s where compromise comes in.

    The one valid complaint is that PR makes it harder for independants, but seeing as how there are virtually no independants around anyway, its hardly a problem. Independants can also form into an ‘independant party’, which would be an interesting idea. If the poster above wants to see ‘no party politics’ I think that would be the way to go. You’d simply have a party that is made up of individuals who claim no party allegiance.

    Some modifications would be necessary in how decisions are made, but it wouldn’t be tough. In fact, I think that’s an interesting idea, and of course is one of the reasons major parties don’t want them. It is the backers of major parties that are the problem. Graham may know that his power is tenuous, but the ‘liberal party’ knows that its only a matter of time before they get into power again.

    Finally, if you THINK there will be chaos then you have to assume there is something genetically chaotic about canadians, because every other country in the world manages to operate, and from my experience, most do a far better and certainly more representative job of it.

    People behave in a certain way because of the system they inhabit, change the system, and you change people’s behaviour. That’s obvious in just looking at minority and majority governments. Look at how pompous and condescending the liberals were during the nineties, and look at them under Martin during their minority, it was literally two different parties.

    And finally finally, check out http://www.fairvote.ca I’m a member and we need all the help we can get. If you were looking for a way to actually do something, this is a pretty damn good one. If you have questions, that website is the place to go.

    “the more you know…”

  6. Anonymous says:

    I just wanted to add that the represenational system is the KEY to what is wrong with politics in Canada. If you look at polls and talk to Canadians long enough you’ll see what ‘Cooker boy’ says, and thats that people are not nearly as partisan as you’d think.

    There is a very good reason why canadians themselves have been relegated to only getting to vote for somebody else to make their decisions, and thats that people have far different needs than what the party’s represent. Like I said, at the State and local level in the states , representatives may be democratic and republican, but they act like independants in most manners. That’s because the ‘leader’ they vote for is separate from their House representatives.

    So in Canada, if you want to make a difference or have a hope at getting reelected, you have to pucker up and smooch the party leaders ass. In fact its worse than that, you can do some reading and find out all the ‘perks’ that come from being a ‘good stooge’.

    In Switzerland, as I posted elsewhere, they even have representatives who serve both at the local and state level. This provides that link between levels of government that ours is sorely lacking.

  7. scott says:

    You guys are historians extraordinaire! At my limited, pedestrian level my thoughts are that the main political parties in Canada are not geared up to working in Minority settings (which would be the norm in PR) and not good at forming working coalitions in a Minority setting.

    Yes, but let’s quickly visit the other side of the arguement for a moment. Wouldn’t it be better to implement a proportional system that could possibly change the way chamber business is conducted as well as inject smaller parties or even a single issue party into the debate in the legislature or the House of Commons? (i.e. The NDP, The Greens and the It’s the Economy Stupid party)

    At least then, most of these issues would be addressed, in the legislature, by working MLAs who would be fighting on their behalf. Thus, IMHO, these particular issues would gain more public traction and, in turn, legitimize themselves with the MSM as well as with voters in general.

    Just a thought 😉

  8. Anonymous says:

    And of course that doesn’t even mention the basic aspect of fairness. Over half of New Brunswickers might as well have not bothered voting. Not only last time but most times.

    One thing rarely noted amidst the vitriol spewed at the NDP is the PERCEPTION they had no chance. People KNEW this election was close based on last election and the polls (just polls don’t usually convince people of anything). ANd we know that this election went liberal because the NDP vote swung to the liberals.

    In other words, many people realized that their vote ‘meant more’ by going to a different party. In NB, people are getting more polarized, and that’s not a good thing. It makes it hard to even have a political discussion because of the antagonism. Add to that the dropping voter turnout (meaning even older adults are starting to tune out) and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

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