Saturday, February 4, 2017

Response to Trudeau dropping electoral reform on Feb 1, 2017

Trudeau said, There’s “no consensus.”

Of course there’s no consensus whether or not to go ahead with an electoral reform that would lead to Proportional Representation (PR): If you're one of those people who looks at national averages, the parties that will lose power are mostly against PR, and the parties that will gain power mostly support PR. But that lack of consensus doesn’t mean that we should be forever satisfied with more false majorities.

In a society with slaves, there’s always going to be no consensus about whether to stop slavery: Strangely enough, the slaves are always going to be the ones against it and the slave owners will always be the ones supporting it. But that "lack of consensus" is not a reason to keep slavery.

If the status quo is unfair you change it – that’s a no-brainer that requires no referendum…unless of course you want to have a no-brainer question on a referendum like the following:

Proposed Referendum Question Based on the Golden Rule: “In a federal election, would you feel “treated fairly” if you were in a party that got results like the NDP and Greens have consistently had for fifty years? (For those results shown in one simple graph, see this link) Yes or no? (If the answer is “no” then we change our system to proportional representation.)”

If such a referendum, based on the Golden Rule, were to take place, would there really be an “augmentation of extreme voices” that Trudeau fears? Is it extreme to want basic fairness? What’s wrong with a loud power struggle if that struggle is for basic justice?

(Above graph sourced from "Is Canada Fair?" at this link. Click  photo to enlarge.)
(Also, it should be noted that the above graph shows national results only. But when you look at regions, election results from all parties are distorted with First Past the Post, as we see in footnote 3 below)

Trudeau said it’s “wrong for Canadians” to  keep the all promises he made in his “electoral platform”

Is it wrong to keep his promise of “making every vote count?”

Trudeau said, There’s “no clear path forward”

How’s this for clarity:  39% of votes should make 39% of seats.

Where’s the lack of clarity?

How’s this for clarity: You promised to “Make Every Vote Count,” people voted for you, so now you should “make every vote count.”

Where’s the lack of clarity?

Canada wouldn’t exactly be entering uncharted territory if we got proportional representation: 85% of OECD countries already have it.

On June 7, 2016, you already used the popular vote percentage (instead of the House of Commons seat percentage) to compose the members of the all party Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform, so why not implement an electoral system that would do the same thing to all of Parliament?

Liberal MPs Kang and Vaughan said: “We have more important things to do.” 

But what if everything you do will simply be undone by the next government in the next policy swing? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have a policy trajectory that is stabilized by the future coalition governments that would be formed under proportional representation? Trump, after getting into power with a minority of votes, is undoing every policy that the previous government put in place. Where does that leave your “more important things to do?”

What could be more important than protecting the policy trajectory that you are working so hard to create?


1. The above quotes were drawn from Canada Electoral Reform: Liberal MPs React to Trudeau Abandoning Promise  Huffington Post, Feb 2, 2017 (Updated Feb 3) Author: Althia Raj

2. Precedent for Parliamentary Committees party composition based on popular vote share in a general election rather than seats in House of Commons:

See this link:  (at “mandate” press Expand) Look for this quote from the Committee mandate (dated June 7, 2016): “…that the Committee be composed of twelve (12) members of which five (5) shall be government members, three (3) shall be from the Official Opposition, two (2) shall be from the New Democratic Party, one (1) member shall be from the Bloc Québécois, and the Member for Saanich—Gulf Islands;…”
End Quote

3. Actually, when you look at regions, election results from all parties are distorted with First Past the Post. Here is a more nuanced analysis (written by Wilfred Day):

Myth: PR helps only the NDP and Greens.
Fact: In the 2015 election, in the GTA 396,000 NDP votes were ineffective, disregarded, wasted, and thrown in the garbage can by our skewed winner-take-all system.
But 944,000 Conservative votes in the GTA were ineffective.
And so were 993,000 Liberal votes in Western Canada.
While 235,000 Atlantic NDP voters elected no one, so did 249,000 Atlantic Conservative voters and 384,000 Alberta Liberals.
Across Canada, 8,921,682 votes were ineffective. That’s 50.7% of all votes cast.
But the majority of those disregarded votes were for Liberals and Conservatives: 30% for Conservatives and 26% for Liberals, while 29% were for NDP candidates, 7% for the Bloc Quebecois, and 6% for the Greens.

My response to Wilfred Day: While all of this is true, the national averages, as opposed to regional data, shown in the graph above, speaks for itself. In the national average, it is the smaller parties who lose the most in ANY country that uses the "First Past The Post" voting system. In Canada's case, it's the NDP and Greens who lose most.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Our goal of proportional representation is more important than anger at Trudeau

Our long term goal of getting proportional representation (PR) is more important than a short term response of becoming legitimately angry at Trudeau for dropping PR  on Feb 2, 2017.

All of our messaging should reflect that priority, including in the short term.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not becoming soft on anyone who does not want PR. Instead, I’m just saying that we need to strategize for the long term goal, because that is much more valuable than the value of legitimate anger at this very big bump in the road.

That strategy probably means a long term coalition. Coalitions mean building bridges, not burning them. We can’t burn the bridges that took us years to build, just for the sake of responding emotionally to a very big bump in the road.

To strategize for the longer term, we need the following cool-headed logic:

First, to get critical mass behind our movement in the fastest way possible, we can’t wait for the NDP/Green/Bloc coalition to reach critical mass on their own.

Second, that means building alliances in some MPs within both of the larger parties.

So, what should our messaging be at this disappointing time?

The regressive actions of Trump over the next four years will be giving our PR movement a very strong argument for PR (see below). So for the next four years, we could use the anti-Trump sentiment in the Liberal party to get more and more support from the Liberals.

Perhaps that argument might even work in some of the Conservative circles, given the fact that even some of them were disgruntled at the centralized control that Harper had over the power of individual Conservative MPs.

Below is an example of messaging that will build our non-partisan inroads into the larger parties, instead of burning our bridges:

The rise of Trump makes it more urgent than ever to reform our electoral system. In our present system, a future “Trump in Canada” could win with as little as 35% of the vote. Proportional representation should now be quickly grasped onto as an urgently needed deterrent against that horrifying, but very real, possibility. Therefore we urge all MPs in all parties to return to a strong path towards proportional representation as soon as possible.

Possible slogan:

Without proportional representation, there’s more danger of a Trump in Canada

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Proportional Representation Referendum or Survey Question Based on the Golden Rule

Because of the Dec 1, 2016 recommendation for a referendum in the majority report of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform (recommendation #12), we are all now forced to discuss a compromise on our various positions on a referendum on proportional representation. In a previous blog posting (Oct 2, 2016), I argued that a referendum on proportional representation would be detrimental to voter equality. But here is a compromise position:

Any referendum, or survey question (including questions on the govt surveys like the one called “”) on Proportional Representation should be framed as a question on support for the Golden Rule. If not, then it shouldn’t be asked.

Why? Here’s the rationale and logic :

Rationale Step One (From my Oct 2, 2016 blog post):

A referendum on whether to change our Canadian electoral system to the proportional representation* of parties would be a partisan measure of how much people want to protect their parties’ present turf rather than a non-partisan measure of how much people want to provide equal protection to all voters, including those who vote for smaller parties.

If that type of referendum, with a partisan-skewed topic, were to be perceived as having a non-partisan topic (such as the referendum on the prohibition of alcohol in 1898), then it would erroneously** be perceived as “fair,” and would provide a false cover of legitimacy. This erroneous perception would do more damage to the cause of fair voting and voter equality than not having a referendum at all.

Rationale Step Two:

People who benefit from the status quo will always be satisfied with it, regardless of whether or not it is fair. But if, in referendum/survey/poll question, you help those people to empathize with those who suffer from the status quo, you may get a better result from that referendum/survey/poll.

For example, back when slavery was common in the US, if slave owners would have been asked, “Are you satisfied with the current state of democracy,” most would have said, “Yes.” Of course they would have said “yes” because they benefited from the status quo. But at that same time, the results of such a survey might have been different if the question was framed like this: “If you were a slave, would you want to keep the status quo?”

This is analogous to the current discussion on referendum, survey, or poll questions on Proportional Representation.

Possible Alternative Questions Based on the Golden Rule:

Compare these two questions on proportional representation:

1.    Are you satisfied with the status quo?
2.    In a federal election, would you feel “treated fairly” if you were in a party that got results like the NDP and Greens have consistently had for fifty years? (For those results shown in one simple graph, see this link) Yes or no? (If the answer is “no” then we change our system to proportional representation.)

Notice the difference between those two questions. Notice the different approaches they take. Notice that they come from two different standpoints.

I would still prefer no referendum, but if I was forced to compromise, then I would take the position that the referendum question should be based on the Golden Rule: ie “Treat others as you would want them to treat you.”  I would also demand that the wording of the question be decided by a multi-party group.