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.