Saturday, January 28, 2006

More PR in the local press

Editorial in Northumberland Today (Cobourg and Port Hope):

Majority rules? Not in Canada - pity

"In Canada, under our present electoral system, each citizen does not have an equal say in federal and provincial elections.

The web site for Fair Vote Canada offers food for thought: "In the (2004) federal election, more than a half-million Green Party voters across the country elected no one. Meanwhile, fewer than a half-million Liberal voters in Atlantic Canada alone elected 22 MPs. Saskatchewan voters elected 13 Conservative MPs and Quebec elected none, even though almost twice as many voted Conservative in Quebec.

“In the Prairie Provinces, Liberals cast half as many votes as Conservatives, but elected only one-seventh as many MPs."

This proves that every party suffers from the skewing effect of the "first past the post" system we now have.

Canada is one of only three leading democratic nations that still uses this antiquated means of electing "representatives." The others are the U.S. and Britain.

Proportional representation is not representation by population. In a country where huge sections largely because of their inhospitable weather patterns are sparsely inhabited, that would not work, since even more power would be vested in large cities at the expense of those who live in rural or remote parts of the country.

It’s not clear at this time just how the politics of proportional representation would work at the constituency level, but it would be wonderful if our newly elected federal government would set up a committee to study this system so that Canadians could feel that every vote counts and that the government they elect truly reflects the opinions and priorities of the electorate.


column in the Sherwood Park News (Alberta)

Between the Lines - Dave S. Clark
Was the Christmas election really that bad?


Wednesday January 25, 2006

Sherwood Park News — If you have been paying attention to the election this year, you have probably heard a lot about proportional representation, as both the Green Party and the NDP have made numerous mentions of it.

But with all the talk of it, I haven’t seen or heard too many explanations of how the system actually works.

When we elect one candidate from each riding all the votes for every other candidates are basically useless. They don’t count towards anything. Popular votes are used as statistics by the media as a gauge for how much support each party has gained or lost, but that’s about it.

Under a proportional representation system, a voter chooses the party rather than a candidate. There are several different versions of this system, but one also has the voter select candidates from a list in priority of who they would like to see in office.

[Every proportional system proposed for Canada allows voters to vote for individual local candidates. - Wayne]

The number of seats each party receives is based directly on the number of votes the entire public gives them.

For example, in Alberta, we are now represented completely by Conservative MPs. There were many people in the province that voted Liberal, NDP and Green, yet those parties were awarded no seats.

Under PR, each of those parties would have a number of MPs elected from Alberta.

A possible downside is fringe parties may be able to sneak in a seat or two with enough support. It may not be a bad thing, but who knows what parties would come out of the woodwork if they knew there was a chance at winning a seat or two.

Many European democratic countries already have a system like this in place.

If you want more information on how it all works, visit www.fairvotecanada.org and read up on it.


letter to the editor of the Brockville Recorder & Times

Dear Editor:

Elections, at all three levels, frustrate me to no end, and Monday’s federal election was no different. Your editorial, "Canada Needs a Conservative government", R&T Jan.20/06 didn’t help much to make me feel any better about voting on election day. Your main reason for supporting the Conservatives is "Our democracy needs renewal" or "change is needed in Ottawa". At the same time, you state, "Patronage and pork-barreling are messy, but they will always be part of political life". Does this mean that the Conservatives will be no different than the Liberals in the future? You give credit to Steve Armstrong, and David Lee for having "run spirited campaigns" and "running for a party that has no chance of winning". Does this mean that the 7,945 NDP voters and 3,008 Green voters in Leeds and Grenville supported losers and might as well have stayed home?

All parties, during the campaign, had platforms on democratic reform, which includes electoral reform, which was rarely mentioned by the two main parties. Why would they? The current system works for the large parties, but it doesn’t work for most voters. Gordon Gibson writes "We need a system that encourages people to vote for the candidates they love, instead of against the candidates they hate. But the current system tends to produce majorities, and winning politicians love that because majorities deliver absolute power." G&M Jan.24/06.

Our present system, first-past-the-post, worked for Canada in the past, but we are an entirely different country today, made up of many different regions, highly educated, a very diverse people, etc., who would like to have their ideas debated in Parliament. Is this asking too much? Is it too much to ask to have my vote count? With some sort of proportional representation in this last election, the Conservatives would have had 113 seats, not 124, the Liberals 93 seats, not 103, the NDP 59 seats, not 29, the Bloc 31, not 51, and the Greens 12, not 0. Most countries use systems that have a degree of proportionality, so why not Canada? Harper and the Conservatives have 36.3% of the popular vote, and that does not give them a mandate to forge ahead with their program. It’s high time that Canada as a country moves towards electoral reforms. I just hope that our MP, Gord Brown, who is also a member of Fair Vote Canada like yours truly, will promote democratic reform in parliament.

Bill Borger
Charleston Lake


article from the Clinton News-Record (Ontario)

"Wow. Pretty close."
Liberal candidate is re-elected in a squeaker


Mark Nonkes, Cheryl Heath, Susan Hundertmark
Wednesday January 25, 2006

Saying the NDP were victims of a “reverse strategic vote” because “a lot of people wanted to teach the Liberals a lesson,” Huron-Bruce NDP candidate Grant Robertson urged party faithful to build membership for the next federal election.

“We increased our raw vote and we increased our percentage vote. There are a lot of people -- thousands in Huron-Bruce -- who want us to speak for them,” he said.

While a close race between the Liberals and Conservatives flip-flopped the lead back and forth until past midnight in Huron-Bruce, Robertson trailed but he saw a four per cent increase in riding support.

“We were all expecting a little bit better tonight. The results are no where reflective of the campaign,” he said.

Robertson said he thought electoral reform to proportional representation would “see a lot more people who can vote for the NDP securely.”

“The main vote was a vote for change and to express disapproval for the Liberals. I saw a great deal of anger in the farm community,” he said.

With a minority Conservative government elected, Robertson predicted an election “sooner than later.”

Read the whole article


column in DurhamRegion.com

Current electoral system isn't fair
Proportional representation would have every vote count

by Danielle Milley
Jan 26, 2006

An election was called, candidates ran, Canadians voted, but did all the votes count?

With every election comes the inevitable discussion about proportional representation (PR). And for good reason too - our current first-past-the-post system simply isn't fair. Parties receive majorities without the majority of the popular vote and the Green Party gets four per cent of the vote and receives no seats.

Based on the popular vote cast Monday, the Conservatives should have 112 seats (not 124) and the Liberals 93 (not 102). These results don't really scream unfair, but those of the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP do.

The Bloc now has 51 seats, when its 10.5 per cent of the popular vote would equal 32 seats. It's worse for the NDP, which has just 29 seats despite 17.5 per cent of the vote working out to 54 members.

The problem with changing to some form of PR nationally is that it would actually hurt the two parties that have formed governments (the Conservatives and Liberals), so neither party is likely to make it part of its mandate. This is why the people of Pickering, Durham and Canada need to get involved and lobby their elected officials to make this an important issue.

Some provinces, including Ontario, are starting to look at electoral reform, including proportional representation.

Under proportional representation (and there are different kinds) our elected bodies would more accurately represent the will of Canadians. Many other western nations have recently changed to some form of PR, including Scotland and New Zealand.

Proponents of PR also argue it could help increase the number of women and minorities elected, which can only benefit our democracy. It might also help to increase voter turnout.

In looking over election statistics leading up to the big day, the province where the national results seemed the most skewed was Saskatchewan. After Monday's vote the Conservatives now have 12 seats and the Liberals two. However the Conservatives received only 48.9 per cent of the popular vote and the Liberals received 22.4 per cent. The 24 per cent for the NDP garnered no seats.

Before Canadians head to the polls again, there needs to be a serious discussion about electoral reform in this country. It seems the only fair thing to do.

Danielle Milley's column appears every third Friday. E-mail dmilley@durhamregion.com


article from Community Press Online (Ontario)

Belleville - Joseph Sahadat announces project following through

Joseph Sahadat, The Green Party of Canada candidate in the Prince Edward-Hastings Riding, celebrated the election results at The Boathouse Restaurant in Belleville.

-----

Monday night, January 23, as Canadians’ decisions unfolded, Joseph announced that the Green Party for the Prince Edward-Hastings riding will continue to promote, and even pressure our MP, Daryl Kramp, to follow through with policies announced during the election that the Green Party supports. Ideas and programs in the Green Party platform that were virtually ignored by the other parties will be continuously presented, and hopefully, discussed.

"We want to announce our 'in between election platform'; Following Through.

-----

To the winner specifically, Joseph said, "We will continue to pursue proportional representation, so expect to hear from us on that issue as well."

Read the whole article


column in the Georgia Straight (Vancouver)

Pro rep coming?
By Matthew Burrows
Publish Date: 26-Jan-2006

Electoral-reform advocate Julian West says he believes “there is an appetite for changing the system”.

“This is the first time since 1988 that a Conservative government has been elected,” West, a member of the national council of Fair Vote Canada, told the Straight. “There’s a lot at stake for them. To stabilize that [minority government], they’re going to want to do something both the Conservatives and the NDP can agree on. Electoral reform is the most obvious thing. They can’t attempt to agree on anything to do with the financial side of things. So, basically, democratic reform of some description is on the table now, because it’s a way for the Conservatives to extend an olive branch to the NDP.”

According to a January 24 news release, Fair Vote Canada highlights several “victims” of the latest federal election. The Conservative party swept Alberta, yet 500,000 Albertans cast their votes elsewhere and “elected no one”, according to Fair Vote president Wayne Smith. In Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, no Conservative MPs were elected despite 400,000 voters voting for them in those centres.

A resurgent NDP attracted one million more votes than the Bloc Québécois, but the voting system gave the Bloc 51 seats and the NDP 29, even though almost 18 percent of Canadians voted NDP. In another anomaly, more than 650,000 Green party voters across the country elected no one, whereas 475,000 Liberal voters in Atlantic Canada elected 20 MPs.

Kennedy Stewart, an SFU political-science instructor and a former NDP candidate, told the Straight that “the current electoral system highlights and enhances separatism” and left many voters who contributed to the popular vote of smaller parties “unrewarded”.

“There is a Balkanization of Parliament,” Stewart said.

He added that the Greens should have 12 seats but have none and are shut out as they were in June 2004. They get $1.75 per vote through Canada’s publicly financed electoral-funding system, but Stewart said “that doesn’t mean much with no voice in Parliament.”

Reelected Vancouver Quadra Liberal MP Stephen Owen told the Straight he finds the current electoral system “bizarre”.

“I’m an advocate of electoral reform,” Owen said. “The parliamentary committee was ready to consider it, but then we had this unnecessary election. But I will be in a position to advocate strongly for this, especially given the fact there are seven jurisdictions in Canada now considering some kind of electoral reform.”

Both West and Stewart believe a federal system could be implemented by a simple act of Parliament, as long as the number of seats each province is allocated is not altered.

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