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A short rant on electoral reform

Isn't the fun with Bill Casey the real problem we need to fix in our democracy? Is it not undemocratic for a party leader to be able to overrule the requests of a riding association to continue to support an MP? Why do proponents of reform want to standardise this practice by not attaching MPs to a constituency, but only to the party?

If we want real reform that will actually change the cynicism about our elected officials, we have to make it clear to all MPs and MPPs that their order of priority is their riding, their country/province, followed only then by their party. Anyone who puts the party first is against the fundamental core of democracy: rule by the people.

Our problem is not with our electoral system, it is with the institutions we call political parties. Real reform will come from weakening these institutions. Party discipline is antithetical to democracy. Whipped votes are not in the interests of the voters. Party leaders, who themselves should be elected by their caucuses once in the house, and serve at their pleasure, even those at the head of a majority government, should have to convince all members of the house - including, even especially, their own party colleagues - to support all motions, including confidence motions.

Real reform is not in eliminating the Bill Caseys of this world, it is in the elimination of the knife at the throat of our democracy: party discipline.

Our system was designed around independent representation, not party representation. Parties evolved as a means of grouping together like minded individuals, but they should never have been allowed to exceed the power of those like minded individuals. Parties may well have a role as the loose alliance of people with common values, but parties operate on the principle that independent thought outside of a policy convention is unacceptable. There is nothing democratic about that. Our representatives must represent the people, not the parties, first.

The only electoral reform I will accept is the move from an SMP ballot to a preferential ballot, eliminating the only problem that exists in our voting system: the strategic vote. Instant Run-Off Voting is a aystem that produces compromise representatives in all ridings and is the simplest of all systems. Coupled with real democratic reform, namely the elimination of party discipline, this would be a step forward.

All forms of proportional representation make the fundamental assumption that the collective will of a party is more important than the individual will of its members, and that I cannot accept. Our government must be a government of the people, not a government of the parties.

Posted at 12:08 on October 16, 2007

This entry has been archived. Comments can no longer be posted.

Ontario LinuxFest makes an auspicious debut | elections | More assorted thoughts on the future of our democracy


Scott Tribe writes at Tue Oct 16 14:39:02 2007...

Tsk tsk.. is this a response to the Hill Times poll that shows a plurality would accept both a referendum on electoral reform AND accept a form of PR to change the electoral voting system? It appears electoral reform isn't dead after all.

69% of Canadians in 2000 believed that parties were an absolute essential thing to a functioning democracy... only 23% thought we'd be better off getting rid of them. That's even worse then what MMP got.

I'll accept Preferential ballot in an STV system like BC is proposing again... not as a stand-alone reform in the current electoral format.


Saskboy writes at Tue Oct 16 15:56:04 2007...

In a PR system, Casey would find a party quickly to represent him, or would win more easily as an independent.


cdlu writes at Tue Oct 16 16:33:43 2007...

Scott,

That people cannot imagine life without party hacks is not a sign that it is a good thing.

Saskboy, not likely.


Matt writes at Tue Oct 16 17:41:42 2007...

Preferential balloting wouldn't necessarily solve the problem of our current system's tendency to hand the second place party a victory, indeed a majority government. Although it might cut down on that disturbing tendency.

Most people vote for leaders, parties, not for individual local candidates. Only for a tiny minority do local candidates determine how they vote. This is common knowledge. Your stubborn adherence to a flawed system simply masks your desire to keep absolute power in the hands of one party's backrooms, which is the ultimate result of first past the post.

Parliamentary renewal and giving members more power might make the flaws of first past the post less damaging. But our country's political culture has evolved in such a way to make real parliamentary renewal impossible. So you're dreaming in technicolour again.

If parliamentary renewal is impossible, your thesis collapses.


Mike writes at Tue Oct 16 17:56:19 2007...

I see by the "NO MMP" logo that you were against this voting system for Ontario. How about a look at STV for British Columbia in the 2009 referendum?


cdlu writes at Wed Oct 17 09:09:29 2007...

Matt,

If parliamentary reform is impossible, our democracy collapses.

Mike,

I've looked at BC-STV and addressed it here before. It's vastly better than MMP, but still not something I can support.


Sheila writes at Fri Oct 19 11:32:58 2007...

Bravo, cdlu. Let us reform that which needs reforming. Why should we fiddle with symptoms when we should be looking at the overall disease? Parliamentary reform must come before any electoral reform is even worth debating. Only when we focus on making our parliament work will we see how to develop the best voting system to support it. Things clearly arenít running properly when Stephen Harper can announce that he will hijack procedures and will declare any bill he wishes to be a confidence vote. Members of parliament must be able to vote on the merits of legislation, and that means voting against as well as for, in the interests of their constituents and their country. Letís stop fighting old wars and lay out the strategy for the future battles.


Joseph Angolano writes at Sat Oct 20 20:12:14 EDT 2007...

Independents can't win seats in a PR system. PR systems are party-first, not individual candidates first. MMP could allow it, but it is extremely rare. Independents have won seats federally in Canada three out of the last four times. Bill Casey may continue the trend.

Political parties are necessary evils, as de Tocqueville famously wrote. We will have them, the question is whether we give them total control or limit their control severely. Can democracies function with a weak party system? Have a look south of the border. While the UK has a much stronger party system than the U.S., British MPs can - imagine - vote against the party leadership without fear of repercussions. All in an FPTP system, I might add.


Chris writes at Sun Oct 21 00:50:17 EDT 2007...

My problem with this--

we'd get Blue Dog Democrats, as in the United States right now.

A party that was elected on a name brand, but is paralyzed to do any work that they were elected to do.

I'd rather have a Westminster style democracy of whipped votes, with several parties, and maybe more referendums. BC has referendums and recalls, provincially.

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