Friday, August 26, 2016

Liberal caucus site Saguenay the textbook case for electoral reform

The Liberal caucus retreat continues today in Saguenay, Que. One of the topics bound to be discussed is electoral reform.

Those discussions could not happen in a more appropriate place.

The government has pledged that the 2015 federal election will be the last election decided by the first-past-the-post electoral system. A parliamentary committee has been tasked with coming up with some recommendations on what could replace FPTP.

Maryam Monsef, minister of democratic institutions, told that committee in July that FPTP "is an antiquated system, designed to meet the realities of 19th century Canada, and not designed to operate within our multi-party democracy."

That is particularly apparent in Saguenay, a perfect example of how Canada's modern multi-party democracy, combined with FPTP, can yield some unusual results.

You can read the rest of this article here.

The Pollcast: Conservatives open to electoral reform, but only with referendum

On the electoral reform debate, the Conservatives have spoken with one voice: they want a referendum on whatever changes are proposed. But if the government agrees to hold a referendum, would the Conservatives campaign for the status quo?

Not necessarily, say two Conservative MPs who sit on the special committee for electoral reform.

"If we need a change, then we are not closed to that," says Gérard Deltell, MP for Louis-Saint-Laurent and one of the Conservatives sitting on the electoral reform committee. "We are open to having a discussion on that issue. But what we deeply stand for is to call a referendum."

Deltell joined fellow committee member and Conservative MP for Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston Scott Reid on this week's episode of the Pollcast podcast. 

You can listen to the podcast here and subscribe to the podcast here.

Hillary Clinton's edge over Donald Trump gets less comfortable

While Hillary Clinton remains the heavy favourite in the U.S. presidential election, recent polls suggest her victory isn't looking as assured as it once did.

Recently, the CBC's Presidential Poll Tracker was projecting that enough states were considered "safe" for the Democratic nominee to secure victory even if she lost all of the remaining swing states to Donald Trump. If an election had been held last week, a Clinton win would have been projected with more than 95 per cent confidence. 

That's no longer the case because Clinton's electoral college vote tally among safe Democratic states has dropped from 273 — just above the 270 needed to take the White House — to 253. Her lead over Trump in the national polls has slipped from a high of 6.4 points among decided voters in early August to 5.1 points today.

This movement in the electoral college has largely been driven by Clinton's narrowing lead in the national polls, though some surveys at the state level also point to a few tightening races. Still, one poll shows that a linchpin state in Donald Trump's electoral map may be moving out of his reach.

You can read the rest of this article here.


  1. Éric,

    Rodham Clinton's numbers, IMHO, will always be in flux and inherently unreliable because pollsters can't account for the levels of sexism and misogyny among potential male voters. That factor, in and of itself, may be enough to deny her the presidency even if the confidence level in Trump is also fluid and falling.

    My best guess is that a significant vote against X or Y will ultimately decide the presidency. Two wrongs don't make a right but they may very well elect a president.

    1. There's actually polling data to support what you say, Ronald. A majority of people who say they're voting for Clinton say they're doing so primarily to stop Trump, and a majority of people voting for Trump say they're doing it primarily to stop Clinton.

      No one is going to win this election. Someone will lose it.

  2. Why do you say the Saguenay results are "unusual"? That's exactly how FPTP is supposed to work.

    And with more competitive parties like that, it actually lowers the bar for new parties with new ides. It encourages a more dynamic political landscape.

    With those vote totals, AV would do the opposite - ensconcing the established parties in power and shutting out newbies.

    And PR and MMR produce a bunch of MPs who don't represent anyone in particular, making the parties more powerful than the representatives.

    I'm not sure what problem electoral reform is trying to solve. And I'm not sure why anyone thinks it's a problem.

    I would like to see the government explain what they think the point of parliamentary elections is, and then work from that to identify the best available system to achieve that goal. Because then maybe we can find fault with their objectives rather than bickering about process.

    1. I'll quote from the article for what I'd consider unusual (at least, from a common sense POV): "more Quebecers are represented by MPs who won less than a third of the vote than by MPs who received a majority of ballots cast."

    2. The more competitive parties in the riding, the smaller the needed plurality to win. This is a common and expected feature of FPTP.

      It's unusual to have 4 competitive parties, perhaps, but that's the circumstances that are unusual, not the result.

      You're implicitly supporting the narrative that small pluralities are bad.

    3. Ira,

      "You're implicitly supporting the narrative that small pluralities are bad."

      No, he is not. He is merely stating a fact, that many constituents did not vote for their MPs. Neither proponents nor opponents of electoral reform deny this; it is simply true. He is merely attempting to explain why Saguenay is a good example of the proponents' arguments.

    4. I think the word unusual carries more negative connotations than a more neutral term such as atypical.

      I also have to ask whether it matters that many constituents did not vote for their MPs. I'd like to see the proponents of electoral reform actually make that argument rather than just assuming it's true.

    5. I think with our system whether FPTP or AR or any other you've hit the real problem. Not enough coming out and voting.
      Now mandatory voting isn't the answer but maybe a small credit on the Income Tax for voting might be ?

    6. Why do we want to incentivize voting? Isn't there some value is having people only vote if they care enough about the election to make an effort?

      Is higher voter turnout good? Why?

    7. You obviously don't. really. really understand do you??

      We need the maximum number of people voting possible. That's the only way we can get a real consensus of opinion and govern accordingly !!

    8. We don't have a consensus of opinion. We, individually, disagree about what sort of government we want.

      Majority tyranny is still tyranny.

    9. Again you've got it wrong. People vote for parties with specific plans. That's the big consensus.

    10. Really? What specific plans did the federal Liberals have in the last election? What was their specific electoral reform proposal?

  3. Ira,

    This is a gimme, gimme society with very few obligations in return. That's why I favour mandatory voting. It should be a basic civic responsibility.

    1. By making all those people vote when they clearly don't have a strong opinion , all you're doing is introducing noise into the signal. You're muddying up the election result.

  4. Getting rid of FPTP solves the following problems of FPTP:

    1- the winner of seats is determined by arbitrary lines dividing up the populace into meaningless districts
    2- it has by far the greatest potential for being manipulated by self-interested politicians, either by directly redrawing riding boundaries (U.S.) or by accepting/rejecting/ delaying nonpartisan redistricting (Canada)
    3- it completely ignores the reality that has existed for the entire history of Canada, which is that more than 99% of MPs are elected on a party ticket and that those MPs always vote the way that their party leader wants them to, no matter what district they are elected from, making the idea of district representation completely artificial and illusory
    4- As a result of 1 through 3, FPTP allows for the most undemocratic of possible outcomes: a party which loses the popular vote can end up controlling a majority in the house.

    1. Is that undemocratic outcome bad? What are we trying to do when we hold elections? What is the objective?

    2. From my Political Science 211 course, elections serve a legitimization function. Citizens accept to be ruled by the government because they see that they have the support of the greatest number of citizens. This allows for peaceful transitions of power and less civil conflict.

      Undemocratic election outcomes undermine that legitimization function that elections are supposed to result in.

    3. Legitimization has a downside, though, in that it grants the government extra power. A government perceived as illegitimate cannot do as much without inspiring anger in people.

    4. Legitimacy doesn't confer power; it constrains it. The least legitimate totalitarian governments exercise the most power. Legitimacy is the recognition by the people that those holding authority do so by virtue of having obeyed the rules that govern the obtaining and exercising of authority.

      It is a similar concept to the rule of law: law is obeyed most of the time not due the ruthlessness by which it is enforced, but due to the recognition of the people that the laws are (more or less) duly adopted, fairly applicable and for the general good.

    5. Goaltender Interference,

      Your assumptions about First Past The Post are just that.

      In fact constituency boundaries in Canada are not arbitrary but drawn to reflect neighbourhoods and communities. In Canada riding boundaries can not be manipulated by polit5icians as the drawing of boundaries is done by third party independent election commissions usually chaired by anon-partisan retired jurist. While the final say is still reserved for the Legislative Assembly and changes do occur albeit rarely the tendency has been for the Legislature or Parliament to approve the recommendations of the commission writ large. W@hen changes have happened it is often to incorporate a community within a single riding instead of dividing a community based upon arbitrary lines.

      This "reality" you write about-do you have any proof of its existence? People vote for a candidate for many reasons undoubtedly some do so along party lines but to write "99% since the foundation of Canada" is overly hyperbolic and demonstrably not true as the large number of independent M.P.s inside the House of Commons in the 19th century proves as does the election of notable independents such as the late Chuck Cadman, Bill Casey and others. Indeed, by parliamentary standards 11 independent M.P.s were elected to the House last election, 10 Bloc Quebecois and Ms. May.

      Point number four is often cited as undemocratic-but, if the purpose of PR or electoral reform in general is to try and make "every vote count" then undoubtedly the election of the BCNDP in 1996 or the PQ twice with fewer votes than the PLQ produce outcomes when every vote does count and is important. It gives people a good reason to vote, if they need one. The flip side of this undemocratic twist is that turn-over of M.P.s is a regular event. The people can "kick the bums out"! Change, turnover, reform (of political parties at least) become regular events. This is not the case in countries that use other systems where outright change and the death and emergence of parties happens at a more glacial speed. In any case if the argument in favour of electoral reform is that minority groups should be better represented then these very occasional outcomes should be welcomed not denigrated.

      All AV, PR and electoral reform will do is dilute Canadians' vote. Whereas before a riding like Saguenay was a four party race-where every vote does count- becomes combined with other ridings thereby increasing the number of voters or as in Eire ridings become multi-member and people get more than one vote. In either case your vote is diluted and a voter's ability to influence the outcome reduced. That is why certain politicians propose electoral reform: it strengthens politicians' power while reducing that of the citizenry.

      PR STV work in homogenous societies Canada is far too diverse both geographically, linguistically, ethnically and economically for it to work well. It would promote cleavages and division. It almost guarantees Quebec separation will never ever go away and it may promote new radical groups since, their probability of election greatly increases.

      If electoral reform is such a good idea why have the Liberals stubbornly refused to subject it to a referenda- that in Canada are merely consultative? The answer is simple: it is a poorly thought out and dangerous idea that goes outside the bounds of our Constitution. The London, Quebec and Charlottetown conference took place over many months and years. Negotiations spanned from 1864-1867

  5. I have not read/heard much discussion on the joint system, which involves elements of both PR and AV. It seems to me that the Saguenay example provides a rather stronger argument for joint PR/MMP and AV/STV, than for either pure PR/MMP or pure AV/STV on their own, and that this property characterizes the uniqueness of the example to the electoral reform discussion.


COMMENT MODERATION POLICY - Please be respectful when commenting. If choosing to remain anonymous, please sign your comment with some sort of pseudonym to avoid confusion. Please do not use any derogatory terms for fellow commenters, parties, or politicians. Inflammatory and overly partisan comments will not be posted. PLEASE KEEP DISCUSSION ON TOPIC.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.