Sunday, October 30, 2022

Canada’s Charter Challenge for Fair Voting and the Urgent Climate Clock

Even though I believe that Canada’s grassroots supported Charter Challenge for Fair Voting will not be able to improve our democracy fast enough to prevent Canada from inflicting a high degree of climate devastation I still strongly believe that it’s still necessary for the long term.

Regardless of whether or not there is a livable, or partially livable, climate future to look forward to, we still have to prepare for the possibility of there being a livable, or partially livable, future.

Let’s face it: There’s a strong possibility that it’s likely to be a badly damaged future with much suffering, many dead, and much sorrow. But even if we can’t save everything, we need to save as much as we can.

The New Normal: A Changed Eaarth

In 2010, Bill McKibben wrote a book entitled, Eaarth, Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. He points out that we have already set in motion the physical process that will change our “Earth” into “Eaarth,” a planet that is qualitatively different than the one we know now. The subtitle implies that we must make the best of life, given these circumstances. The back cover of the book reads as follows: “…our hope depends on building the kinds of societies and economies that can hunker down, concentrate on the essentials, and create the type of community that will allow us to weather trouble on a planet suddenly and violently out of balance.”

Here’s an excerpt from his last paragraph (p 212): “The momentum of the heating, and the momentum of the economy that powers it, can’t be turned off quickly enough to prevent hideous damage. But we will keep fighting, in the hope that we can limit that damage. And in the process, with many others fighting similar battles, we’ll help build the architecture for the world that comes next…”

Canada’s grassroots supported Charter Challenge for Fair Voting is an essential part of trying to build that “architecture”:

I believe that a better democracy will result in better climate policy. That’s why I’m involved in Canada’s grassroots supported Charter Challenge for Fair Voting.

Nevertheless, our court date of Sept 25, 2023 is not soon enough to change our undemocratic electoral system by the 2025 federal election.

If the First Past The Post electoral system is declared unconstitutional then a new electoral system could be in place in time for an election in 2027 – not 2025. This 2027 date is possible even if it takes four years to put a new system into law and into place logistically.

How does that legal time frame fit with the urgent climate clock? 2027 is only three years away from the IPCC deadline for having to reduce emissions by 45% to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Regardless of how bad the physical effects of climate change that are set into unstoppable motion by 2027, we must nevertheless also set into motion the legal proceedings that lead to a relatively better democracy that can improve or ameliorate the situation that that future brings.

Foresight and Hindsight: The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago:

Here’s an analogy: In Manitoba, a Red River Floodway, meant to divert excessive spring floodwaters around the city of Winnipeg, was started in 1962 and completed in 1968. Building it took years and was very expensive, but the demand for it finally became absolutely necessary when a flood of unprecedented proportions happened in 1997. It was three decades later that everyone was glad that it had been built.

Analogies are never perfect, but the story of the foresight and preparatory work of the Red River Floodway speaks to the story of the foresight and preparatory work of the Charter Challenge for Fair Voting:

It will take time to establish an improved democracy, but it’s likely that an increased demand for that improved democracy will likely become apparent by the physical effects of climate change in the next 5 years. It’s likely that an improved democracy in 2027 will then speed up a government response to the suddenly increased demand for action on climate that is expected in the coming 5 yrs, including in 2027.

Making  a Silent Majority into an Effective Majority

When I mention a “sped up” government response, I’m referring to this:

A critical mass of people who recognize the dangers of climate change is already forming today in 2022. But translating that critical mass of the public into government action is difficult with our current disproportional electoral system. That critical mass is not being proportionately represented in our governments. In other words, our disproportional electoral system continually transforms a majority voice for the environment into a silenced majority voice for the environment.

The dangers of such an electoral system are magnified by the urgency of the climate crisis.

With the future proportional representation of the people, then it’s likely that the govt’s habit of disproportionately listening to oil lobbyists will be improved, relatively speaking, from what it is now.

Of course we need a change in the Lobby Act, and many other necessary ingredients. But proportional representation is at least one of those necessary ingredients.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Timeline scenarios for Charter Challenge

A grassroots supported CharterChallenge for Fair Voting has finally won its day in court: Sep 25, 2023.

However, this doesn’t leave enough time for a new electoral system to be implemented by the next federal election, which is only 2 years away: Oct 20, 2025 (1)

Here’s one possible timeline scenario showing the various blocks of time required for each step:

First: Time between Hearing and Judgement = 5 mos? (2)

Second: Time for the government to act on a declaration that First Past the Post is unconstitutional = One year to 18 months (3)

Third: Appeals and Stay (3) = ?

Fourth: Electoral Officer’s required time for logistics and voters to learn new system before voting = 2 years (4)

When you add up these blocks of time, here’s what you get:

If there is no appeal, then here’s a rough calculation of a one possible timeline:

6 mos for court to rule

+ 18 mos for govt to make new law

 + 24 mos for Electoral Officer to set up the logistics of a new electoral system

Total =  48 mos (4 years)

If there is an appeal, then the total time is even longer.

Therefore we will almost certainly not have a new electoral system in place for the 2025 federal election.

Nevertheless, if the 2025 election produces a minority government instead of a majority, then, according to past experience, there will likely be another early election in only two years (2027)  instead of a full term of four years (2029).

If the First Past The Post system is declared unconstitutional then a new electoral system could be in place in time for an election in 2027 even if it takes four years to put a new system into law and into place logistically.

The wild card is this: What if an appeal takes place, and how long would that take?

But here’s a card that’s not so wild: Such a precedent set at the federal level will almost certainly affect the future of all provincial electoral systems.

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Footnotes:

Footnote 1: Fixed election date

Quote: “the maximum duration of a parliament by ensuring that it ends no later than October of the fourth calendar year after its commencement, while leaving the possibility of an earlier end unaffected.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixed_election_dates_in_Canada#Federal

Date of Oct 20, 2025: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixed_election_dates_in_Canada#Next_elections

Footnote 2: Time between Hearing and Judgement

Past record shows:

2 months in case of same-sex marriage:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reference_Re_Same-Sex_Marriage  

4 months in R v Morgentaler

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R_v_Morgentaler  

5 months in Vriend v Alberta

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vriend_v_Alberta

Footnote 3: Time for the government to act on a declaration that First Past the Post is unconstitutional: One year to 18 months:

See video ” Voices from the Movement, featuring Jesse Hitchcock, Nicolas Rouleau & Antony Hodgson” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jdi5gMBw-os

See 57:59: “What we’ve asked for in the challenge is a declaration that First Past The Post is unconstitutional. A declaration is a court order …so it means the government is back to the drawing board and would have to come up with a law that wouldn’t be unconstitutional.

See 59:59 “Within a year we’d have a new law.”

See 1:03:16: Question from Dave Meslin: “How long does a government usually have to update their legislation?”

Quote from constitutional lawyer Nicolas Rouleau:

“The [previous case of] ‘Medical Assistance In Dying’ went past the deadline. I think they got two extensions…For big laws like this that are struck down the government gets a year. I forget whether we asked for a year or 18 months of suspension in our notice of application but basically within a year or 18 months you’d have a new law in place unless there was an appeal in which case there’d probably be a stay pending the appeal.”

Footnote 4:

Star article from July 8, 2016: Chief electoral officer warns time running out on overhauling system: Paul Wells.

Quote from article: ““We need at least two years,” Mayrand said”

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/07/08/chief-electoral-officer-warns-time-running-out-on-overhauling-system-paul-wells.html

 

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

A Shared Commitment to Fairness: Fair Vote Canada and Charter Challenge for Fair Voting

The first sentence of the Fair Vote Canada Statement of Purpose, adopted by its members on August 21, 2009, speaks of “the right of each citizen to equal treatment under election laws and equal representation in legislatures.” (1)

“Equal treatment,” being guaranteed in the Canadian Charter under Section 15, is also one of the two main pillars of the Charter Challenge for Fair Voting, which had its beginnings in 2017.

Thus, “equal treatment” is a common goal for both Fair Vote Canada and the Charter Challenge for Fair Voting. This common foundation speaks to their shared commitment to fairness, and their shared “statement of purpose” which guides them both.

In 2012, some in Fair Vote Canada were hesitant to launch a Charter Challenge

In April 2012, five years before today’s Charter Challenge was officially born, I was at a Fair Vote Canada AGM in Toronto when someone asked, “Why don’t we start a Charter challenge?” One person’s answer was that we feared that a negative judgement in the courts would create a permanent barrier to reaching our goal through political processes.

But with further investigation, those fears were calmed substantially for me – especially later in 2019, when Nicolas Rouleau, the appellate and constitutional lawyer now working on the Charter Challenge for Fair Voting, indicated that the “worst case scenario” would most likely not be what we had feared, but instead a “partial victory” which would likely still substantially help to advance a future case. Rouleau described a partial victory as being further guidance from the courts as to what evidence the judge was seeking (2).

2017: How We in the Fair Vote Movement Came to Weigh Our Options Anew

As history would have it, the act of comparing “worst case scenarios” encountered a twist in the plot when, in 2017, Trudeau abandoned his promise to end the First Past The Post electoral system. At that point, all of us in the fair vote movement had to do a rethink and weigh our options anew. History shows us that since Trudeau was not the first person to abandon such a promise, he will likely not be the last. In 1926, MacKenzie King also abandoned his original interest in the issue.(3)

Trudeau's abandoned promise made it clear that we needed to use more than just political attempts to get to our goal of fair voting: We needed to also include an additional strategy that involved the independence of the courts – to detour around the inherent tendencies of politicians.(3)

It was in that 2017 context that the Charter Challenge project came together.(4)

It’s important to note that Fair Voting BC initiated the Charter Challenge with RĂ©al Lavergne, the former President of Fair Vote Canada, on the advisory board during initial stages of the project. (5)

The Ongoing Complimentary efforts of Fair Vote Canada and the Charter Challenge

Nowadays, if I mention the Charter Challenge case to some people, and they seem uneducated about the topic of proportional representation in general, I then give them both of our links: one link to our Fair Vote Canada site, and one to our Charter Challenge site.

I give them both links because Fair Vote Canada has always done a stellar job at educating people who are at any level of knowledge of fair voting; and this educational expertise and experience can be very helpful for those who want to learn about any and all avenues to “the right of each citizen to equal treatment under election laws and equal representation in legislatures.”

Those Complimentary Efforts would continue to be needed after a "Best Case Scenario" Win by the Charter Challenge:

If the Charter Challenge for Fair Voting wins more than just a partial victory and gets the court to make a declaration that First Past the Post is unconstitutional, then at that point there would again be a need for the Charter Challenge to continue to work in tandem with Fair Vote Canada’s capacity to educate the public. Here’s why:

If the courts order the government to change our electoral system, the government would, in the words of Nicolas Rouleau, “craft a system based on public response (...and hopefully [after our arguments]…it's in a straight jacket and can't justify any system beyond proportional representation…).”(6)

When “public response” is again involved, this is where Fair Vote Canada’s proven expertise and capacity to educate the public will again play a huge role in getting the best outcome possible.

Those Complimentary Efforts would continue to be needed after a "Partial Win" by the Charter Challenge:

One type of “partial victory” is where we get a ruling that says, “There has been a breach of the Charter, but the government now has an opportunity to justify the breach.” (7)

At that point the burden of proof is on the government to show why they are justified in the breach.

After that we have to show that the government rationale for justification is insufficient.

It’s important to note that the government arguments will be subject to public scrutiny. This will put added pressure on the government to have strong arguments.

It would make the government look bad from a public perspective or a “public narrative” if they said, “We don’t care if this individual voter’s rights have been infringed upon.” (8) 

Public scrutiny is more powerful if the public is better educated on electoral systems in general. That is where Fair Vote Canada can play an vital role with its proven capacity to educate the public.

Footnotes:

Footnote 1: At the Fair Vote Canada site, hover over “About Us” and choose “Statement of Purpose” (PDF) 

Footnote 2: See 39:00 in video entitled, “Charter Challenge for Fair Voting Webinar - December 16 2019” found at this link. Especially see 42:15

Footnote 3: See Lawrence LeDuc’s affidavit in the Charter Challenge case at this link. (PDF)
 
LeDuc argues that there is an inherent conflict of interest which causes politicians to abandon this interest after gaining office. “Opposition parties often express support for reforms while they are in opposition, then lose interest in the same ideas when they are in government. Furthermore, the political success of parties in power tends to be closely tied to the electoral system that enabled it.” (page 25, point 50)

Footnote 4:
On February 1, 2017, the newly appointed Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould announced that the government was no longer pursuing electoral reform (despite having promised it in the 2015 election).  See link.  In less than a month a trial balloon email was sent out as a request for pledges to initiate a Charter Challenge. It was a success.

Footnote 5  See Charter Challenge Team / Advisory board at this link.  

Footnote 6:
See 59:16 in the Voices from the Movement video (May 2022) at this link.

Footnote 7: See Charter Challenge for Fair Voting Webinar - December 16 2019 at this link. See 39:00. Especially see 43:21

Footnote 8:  See Charter Challenge for Fair Voting Webinar - December 16 2019 at this link. See 42:15
 



Saturday, May 28, 2022

How the Charter Challenge for Fair Voting case differs from the 2012 Gibb vs Quebec case

 

In the months leading up to the Judgement of April 26, 2012, a case called Gibb vs Quebec challenged our electoral system using the Charter of Rights section 3 and 15, the same sections we are using for the "Charter Challenge for Fair Voting" case. The links to that 2012 case are here and here

How is our court challenge different?

Nicolas Rouleau (an appellate and constitutional lawyer) answers that question in the following selected excerpts from a video entitled, “Charter Challenge for Fair Voting Webinar - December 16 2019” found at this link.

First: We are looking to provide more evidence: There's much more of a realisation today than there was even 10 or 15 years ago about the problems particularly with respect to minorities not getting a voice under First-Past-The-Post system than under other systems.


Second: The previous case was focused a lot more on parties rather than voters. The Supreme Court tells us you're expected to have some kind of representation that comes out of your vote. What we’re saying is -- at the individual level-- a voter who votes for a candidate who doesn't get elected, effectively doesn't really get much representation. And there's empirical evidence to that effect.


Third: on the section 15 argument [equal treatment]: The argument in the previous case was that [our electoral system] discriminated against people on the basis of territorial representation. [However] what we’re arguing is [that because of our electoral system] the discrimination is based on race, or ethnicity, on sex, on political opinion and belief. And these are all things that courts in the past have stated are protected by the Charter. 


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The above are only selected excerpts, but the below is the….
Full Youtube transcript (after I cleaned it up a bit):
For verification:
Press “Show More” to see a table of contents with links that you can jump to at certain points in the video. Our excerpt is from 34:15.
To see the Youtube transcript, press the three dots at the bottom right of the video and choose “show transcript.”


How is our court challenge different from previous cases like this?


Nicolas Rouleau answers with the following quotes:

 
Good question. Obviously there are lots of intricacies… lots of different legal arguments…but I think the differences can really be summed up in three ways:


…Just as a background: Often the first cases on an issue are not devoid of evidence but are sort of lacking in evidence because the courts haven't yet spoken about what evidence is relevant to these types of cases.  So the first lawyers who take on these cases are sort of in a bit of a vacuum as far as what evidence to present to the court to convince them that there's a breach.


Section 3, in particular, hasn't really been argued very often in court: There's probably (and don't quote me on this) but there are probably about 10 to 12 cases or so that have really been argued on this topic [ever]. So it's a pretty infrequently argued provision. Compare that to section 7 of the Charter (the right to life liberty and security of person) where there might be 12 cases a month in Canada on that issue.


So we're really not looking at a case where there were lots of precedents to look at.


So the first point where we're different [from previous cases] is we've been able to put forward a lot more evidence -- or we're looking to put forward lots more evidence.

 
Part of the reason for that is we've got more courts who have spoken about this, including the court on the Gibbs case, and it's given us paths or directions that we can take to provide more evidence so we think we're going to have much more evidence.


Also the field has evolved since then, and I think there's much more of a realisation today than there was even 10 or 15 years ago about the problems particularly with respect to minorities not getting a voice under First-Past-The-Post system than under other systems as we've seen more countries in the world adopt these various modes of electoral representation rather than First-Past-The-Post.


So the first issue would be much more evidence in our case.


The second issue would be that the previous case was focused a lot more on parties rather than voters.

 
[The previous case used] parties as proxies for voters but [it really argued that] the unfairness was really with respect to parties: [For example, a given] party got X percentage of the vote but didn't get X percent of candidates.  


[However, in our case] we’re focused a lot more on the individual -- ie. the individual voter-- in terms of their experience going through this. So as a voter you expect you vote for someone, and the Supreme Court tells us you're expected to have some kind of representation that comes out of your vote. What we’re saying is -- at the individual level-- a voter who votes for a candidate who doesn't get elected, effectively doesn't really get much representation. And there's empirical evidence to that effect.


So, again, the focus is really a lot more on voters than on parties.


The third point is on the section 15 argument [equal treatment]:

 
It's really a completely different argument [than the previous case]. The argument in the previous case was that [our electoral system] discriminated against people on the basis of territorial representation:  [It argued that] the voters in Greater Montreal were treated differently than other voters. Part of the issue there was that the Charter doesn’t protect against discrimination on the grounds of territory of residence.


[However] what we’re arguing is [that because of our electoral system] the discrimination is based on race, or ethnicity, on sex, on political opinion and belief. And these are all things that courts in the past have stated are protected by the Charter. So it's a bit of an easier argument in that sense.


End quote from Nicolas Rouleau

Friday, May 13, 2022

How to join the "Charter Challenge for Fair Voting – Supporting Community – Ontario Chapter"

To visit the website of Charter Challenge for Fair Voting see this link

To join the Ontario Chapter of this nation-wide movement to support the Charter Challenge for Fair Voting, simply email makevotesequal at gmail.com

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Wasted Votes – an informal, but important, phrase

In an attempt to express the shortcomings of the First Past The Post electoral system, people often use the informal phrase “wasted votes.”

The use of this informal phrase is critiqued by Christopher Kam in his blog post/comment entitled, “Logic Please.”

In this excerpt, Kam begins by quoting the phrase he then critiques:

“Under FPTP, many people’s votes don’t count / are wasted”. 

“…I can only infer from such claims that the speaker thinks that every vote cast under their preferred system will go toward electing a candidate, ergo, no votes will be cast for losers.  But here’s the thing:  Logically, we could only achieve this if we guaranteed ex ante that every candidate who ran would win.”

My analysis:

Of course there is no electoral system where “every” vote cast goes toward electing a candidate. But there are some systems that, relatively speaking, have a better record than other systems in that measure of representation.

If we use “effective representation” as a measurement then changing to an electoral system which has relatively less “wasted votes” is an improvement.

For example, the Single Transferable Vote electoral system (ranked ballot in multi-member ridings)  provides more proportionality by transferring votes to minimize “wasted” votes. Notice I used the word, “minimize,” not “eliminate.”

Of course there are more precise ways of discussing what many informally call, “wasted votes”:

On a closely related topic, a much broader analysis and exploration of using “effective representation” as a measurement of electoral systems is done by Antony Hodgson in the affidavit that he is presenting on behalf of Fair Voting BC in a Charter Challenge for Fair Voting. That affidavit entitled, “Fair Voting BC Affadavit” can be found at this link (click on “Fair Voting BC”) (PDF). 

Hodgson compares several different countries using three types of indexes (quoted from affidavit):

1. The Representation Metric (RM), which identifies the percentage of voters who are represented by an MP for whom they voted;

2. The Legislative Power Share (LPS) Score, which expresses the share of legislative voting power held by individual voters relative to a situation of parity; and

3. The Legislative Power Disparity Index (LPDI), which summarizes the integrated impact and effect of disparities in legislative power that are felt and measured at the individual voter level by the LPS score.

Translating and Assessing Christopher Kam’s blog post on The Representation-Accountability Trade-Off in Electoral Systems

Christopher Kam introduces his blog post by saying it’s “mainly just a review of some literature on representation, accountability, and electoral systems.”

I greatly appreciate Kam’s effort to educate us on these important topics.

His last sentence, however, could be interpreted to be a subtle value judgement. That sentence invites further scrutiny, which is what I do at the end of this blog post.

Nevertheless, I’ll begin by attempting to translate his educational efforts into lay language. In doing so, I hope to educate those of us (myself included) who haven’t had time to read all his sources.

“Representation” happens when voters choose a representative.

“Accountability” happens when voters hold those representatives accountable by either rewarding them by re-electing them again, or by punishing them by unelecting them.

A voter often “chooses a representative” presumably because the voter thinks that they will act in a desired way in the future.

But “holding the representative accountable” presumably means that voters respond to their behavior in the past.

According to Kam, accountability is a strong feature of plurality electoral systems, such as First Past the Post; but it’s not a strong feature of proportional representation systems. Here’s his explanation quoted:

[Under plurality electoral systems, such as First Past the Post,] “a small loss of votes can result in a significant loss of seats. Voters can thus inflict significant punishment on the incumbent merely by withdrawing a few percentage points of the vote….”

“…[Whereas under proportional representation electoral systems, the following happens] …Firstly, PR tends to produce coalition governments, and where several parties control government it is more difficult for citizens to apportion credit or blame for political outcomes (Powell and Whitten 1993; Duch and Stevenson 2008).  Secondly, the relationship between votes and seats under PR is neither as steep as under plurality rule nor so determinative of government status.  This is because a party’s ideological position may grant it legislative bargaining power in excess of its seats share.  Parties in this advantaged position are thus somewhat insulated from shifts in their vote shares.”

After more discussion, Kam eventually ends with these concluding paragraphs:

“The fundamental problem in evaluating [all] electoral systems in terms of these criteria is not necessarily that there exists an unyielding trade-off between representation and accountability.

It is that we cannot reliably distinguish representative from unrepresentative electoral outcomes, either because these outcomes are products of a voting cycle or because our measures of representation are ambiguous. 

The situation is no better with regard to accountability; even if we can state that the clarity of responsibility and the capacity to sanction incumbents is better under electoral system x than under electoral system y, there is no assurance that such conditions are sufficient to motivate or constrain office-holders.

It seems that we lack reliable means to connect electoral systems to two of the key guiding principles of representative government. 

While this is a pessimistic conclusion, it should encourage citizens to carefully scrutinize politicians’ claims that some electoral systems are inherently “fairer”, “more democratic, “representative” or “effective” than others."

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My own analysis:

I appreciate Kam’s effort to educate us on these important topics. But his last sentence could be interpreted to be a subtle value judgement.

In that sentence, Kam appears to be subtly implying the following logic:

Premise: No electoral system is perfect.

Conclusion: Therefore no system is better than any other

That conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises.

Kam has shown conclusively that no system is perfect, but he has not shown that no electoral systems are inherently “fairer”, “more democratic, “representative” or “effective” than others.”

A system does not have to be shown to be perfect in order to be shown to be “fairer”, “more democratic, “representative” or “effective” than others.”

Did Kam get the “accountability” assessment correct on Proportional Representation systems versus plurality systems such as First Past The Post?

According to Kam, “accountability” is a strong feature of plurality electoral systems, such as First Past the Post (FPTP); but it’s not a strong feature of Proportional Representation (PR) systems. 

The evidence is not as strong as Kam proposes: Here is a quote from the affidavit that John Carey submitted in the Charter Challenge for Fair Voting, found at this link. (Download PDF)

Quote from Carey's point 55 (pg 27): "A number of well-regarded studies that measure government performance with standard economic indicators and examine how the vote shares of governing parties correspond to those indicators suggest little difference between FPTP and PR in how voters are able to attribute responsibility (Blais and Bodet 2006, Golder and Stramski 2010, Powell 2011)." (The quote continues with more evidence too long to list here.)

Jesse Hitchcock, in her blog on the website of the Charter Challenge for Fair Voting, writes about Carey's assessment (see this link): "He also argues that “despite the intuitive appeal of theory connecting FPTP to government accountability, scholarly research does not show a clear advantage,” and says that “recent research affirms that FPTP and PR are equally capable of fostering a clear link for voters between parties and responsibility for government decisions, particularly when parties are grouped into distinct policy camps and when district magnitude in PR systems is kept in the low-to-moderate range,” so he finds no support for the claim that our current system leads to more accountability than the proportional alternatives."

Carey continues in point 56 (pg 28), "...individual electoral accountability may be compromised in a district that is not competitive between parties such that there is, effectively, no chance the dominant party's standard-bearer will lose."

Also consider this quote from Antony Hodgson (found at this link)

"it is a happy fact that most of the issues that reform opponents are ostensibly concerned about (such as accountability and stability) are in fact actually enhanced under properly representative voting systems.

For example, regarding accountability: with our current system, a significant majority of voters can oppose a local MP and still see that MP elected.  In contrast, under a voting system such as the Single Transferable Vote, in which each MP can only be elected if a seat’s worth of voters explicitly name them on their ballots, the MP must maintain the trust and support of those voters or else they could give their top preferences to other candidates (often from the same party) and so replace an underperforming MP without being forced to switch parties.  

On the flip side, a responsive and respected MP can be sure of being re-elected if they maintain the loyalty of those voters who initially elected them – voters who support other candidates or parties cannot take away from that MP’s core support."

End Quote

I, myself, would like to expand on Carey's last point:

I, myself, would reduce the “accountability” score that Kam gives to plurality systems such as FPTP:

Under FPTP, when parties strategize about how to maximize their seats in an election, it’s likely that they will strategically put much more of their energy and dialogue with prospective voters –and therefore more of their accompanying “accountability”-- into key target battleground ridings. “Battleground” means these are ridings that they either risk losing, or have a chance of taking from another party.  

Conversely they will put less energy and dialogue with prospective voters –and therefore less of their accompanying accountability-- into the ridings where they are very confident of a win, or where they know they can’t possibly win. In these non battleground ridings, there’s less accountability to voters.

If it can be shown that there are more of those non battleground ridings under a FPTP electoral system than under PR systems then, if we use that metric alone, that’s evidence that there is less accountability under FPTP than PR.

Under PR, all ridings are battlegrounds because the final election result will draw votes from every riding. However under FPTP, and other “winner take all” electoral systems, a party can often win a seat majority by strategically directing and focusing their energy on “less than all” of the ridings.

That difference shows that there are more non battleground ridings under FPTP than under PR. If we use that metric alone then this is evidence that there is less accountability under FPTP than under PR.

Admittedly it is not correct to use that metric alone. Nevertheless that metric is missing in Kam’s assessment of proportional systems versus plurality systems.

Because of the above, in terms of “accountability,” I would give a low grade to both proportional representation systems and plurality systems.

Even if plurality systems get a slightly better grade in “accountability” (due to the rationale provided by Kam) it’s not dramatically better than PR systems (due to the rationale I provided above.)

I attempt to express this using the below table -- for illustration purposes only.

I also use that same illustrative table to express the differences between PR and plurality systems when we measure their respective performances in “representation,” as opposed to “accountability.” Kam agrees that PR outperforms plurality systems when using the measure of “representation.”

The following table, although not based on any direct data collection, is an illustration of how to express all of my above analysis:

 

Proportional representation electoral system

Plurality electoral system

Representation

5

1

Accountability

1

2

Total score

6

3

 

Notice that the total score of a PR system is more than Plurality system.

This better total score is reason to favour one type of system over another.