Friday, November 30, 2007

Proportional representation and (un)Fair Vote Canada

Lawrence Solomon began his ‘Postcolumn today:

Canada needs electoral reform to bring in proportional representation. It is unconscionable that in a modern democracy such as ours, vast swathes of the
electorate should be effectively disenfranchised ...
Aarrggh! Lawrence Solomon is now on the stinking PR bandwagon? Say it ain’t so!

However, reading on we discover that by ‘proportional representation’ he means straightforward rep-by-pop which is currently out of whack with BC, Alberta and Ontario badly under-represented. Mr. Solomon’s problem is with Bill C-22 which brings BC and Alberta up to snuff after the 2011 census but will leave Ontario 11 seats short. He is also unhappy with organizations such as Fair Vote Canada who have been silent on the issue:

The unfairness, affecting almost 12.7 million Ontarians, could not be plainer. Yet rather than take on this dismissal of the principle of one person-one vote – surely a prerequisite for any voting system that pretends to democratic fair play – Fair Vote Canada has other priorities.

The Fair Vote lobbies, its fair to say, are not about fair voting at all. They are not even about proportional representation, the term they have appropriated to describe their electoral preferences. The Fair Vote lobbies are about delivering power to the parties, rather than power to the people.

Right on, Larry! What a relief! The guy who brings such good sense to the global warming debate and who previously denounced Ontario’s MMP proposal just couldn’t have climbed into bed with the Fair Vote PR flacks.


Anonymous said...

Leftists are sick of the idea that conservatives could ever hold power in this country at any level. They want one of the 'team' to win every election if not the entire 50 political parties on the lunatic left if we were to have proportional representation rammed down our throats.
(real conservative)

Wayne Smith said...

To the editors of the National Post;

Lawrence Solomon confuses two definitions of "proportional representation" (Tories deny Ontario democracy – Post, Nov. 30). The term is usually used to mean that a political party elects members of parliament in proportion to the votes they receive—a party that gets 42% of the votes wins 42% of the seats, and not 60%. This would seem an obvious and common sense condition for a fair voting system, but it is far, far from the way our current voting system operates, much to the delight of Dalton McGuinty.

But Solomon uses the term to mean the equal weighting of votes from riding to riding, more properly referred to as "representation by population". As he points out, Fair Vote Canada, of which I am a national director, has no position on rep by pop, for a couple of good reasons.

First of all, although not without significance, the problem is relatively trivial compared to the need for a fair voting system. Is the PEI tail wagging the Canadian dog? Under the current system, most of us (and by "most" I mean more than half) vote for losing candidates, so our votes have absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election. If the effective weight of your vote is zero and you are not meaningfully represented at all, what does it matter how large your riding is?

But in any case, the rep by pop problem is itself caused by our current voting system, and the simple and immediate solution is to adopt a proportional voting system. If every vote counts equally, then the size of your riding doesn't matter much. In fact, a proportional voting system would give us much greater flexibility in varying the size of ridings to ensure effective and practical representation for rural and remote voters and smaller provinces. We could have smaller northern ridings, and more of them, without compromising the value of urban votes.

Oh, and the notion that Fair Vote Canada wants to give more power to political parties is just silly. Political parties already hold all the power, and have held it for a hundred years. The point of a proportional voting system is to give voters the power to hold political parties accountable.

JR said...

Anon, Exactly!


(1) Mr. Solomon certainly had me going, at first, with his use of 'PR'. But he also obviously knows full well what you PR enthisiasts mean by the term (and doesn't like it) - so, ultimately, there's no "confusion", just debate.

(2) There are many good reasons
not to like the 'Fair Vote' PR agenda.

There's nothing broken in the basic electoral system - so let's not ruin it by trying to 'fix' it.