Saturday, January 21, 2006

Where do the parties stand?

What do the platforms of the political parties say on electoral reform?

Liberal Party of Canada

Democratic reform and renewal - A Liberal government will continue to explore the underpinnings of democratic renewal, following an initial series of successful Parliamentary reforms that began in February, 2004 with the Democratic Reform Action Plan. The Martin government subsequently established a series of Regional Roundtables with key stakeholders, academics and other groups to probe underlying issues and questions that call for democratic reforms. Parallel to this, the government commissioned academic research in select fields. In the coming year, a Liberal government will engage in dialogue with Canadians to define the values and principles they wish to see reflected in their democratic institutions. (p. 77)

So, Salvation Through Focus Groups will get us a fair voting system exactly when?

New Democratic Party of Canada

Introduce an Every Vote Counts Act to change Canada's federal electoral system to a mixed electoral system that combines constituency-based MPs with proportional representation. Ninety percent of the world's democracies - including Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland and Germany - have abandoned or significantly modified their electoral systems to address exactly the same kinds of problems of regional, ethnic, gender and political balance that Canada now faces. As the Canadian Law Commission recommended, fairness requires a mixed electoral system that combines individual constituency-based MPs with proportional representation.

The Liberal government, on the other hand, has stonewalled. On a motion presented by Ed Broadbent, a Standing Committee called for a citizens' consultative process to work in parallel with a parliamentary initiative on electoral reform, beginning in the fall of 2005. Nothing has happened. So much for Paul Martin's concern about the "democratic deficit." It may be in the interests of the Liberal Party of Canada to block progress towards electoral reform. It is not in the interests of Canadians. Our changes will make sure each Canadian's vote counts. (p. 26)

Beauty! But will proportional representation be a necessary condition for supporting a minority government? And will we get a credible process of public education and consultation leading to a referendum so Canadians can choose a fair voting system, or do we have to rely on political tinkering?

Conservative Party of Canada

A better democracy

Canada is a democracy, yet our democratic system has not kept pace with the needs of a changing society. Paul Martin used to talk about a democratic deficit, but his actions as Prime Minister have deepened it. A new Conservative government will be committed to significant democratic reform of our Parliamentary and electoral institutions.

The plan

A Conservative government will:

. Begin reform of the Senate by creating a national process for choosing elected Senators from each province and territory.
. Propose further reforms to make the Senate an effective, independent, and democratically elected body that equitably represents all regions.
. Restore representation by population for Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta in the House of Commons while protecting the seat counts of smaller provinces.
. Introduce legislation modeled on the BC and Ontario laws requiring fixed election dates every four years, except when a government loses the confidence of the House (in which case an election would be held immediately, and the subsequent election would follow four years later).
. Make all votes in Parliament, except the budget and main estimates, "free votes" for ordinary Members of Parliament.
. Increase the power of Parliament and parliamentary committees to review the spending estimates of departments and hold ministers to account.

Yes, yes, that's all lovely, but what about a fair voting system?

The Conservatives supported the all-party report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs Subcommittee on Electoral Reform, but added their own supplementary report calling for a national Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform similar to the BC process. Does Mr. Harper support this policy?

Bloc Québécois

There is no discernable mention of proportional representation in the BQ platform.

In the second English language debate, Steve Paikin asked Gilles Duceppe: "In the last election your party won less than 50% of the vote in Quebec but it took more than 70% of the seats. Do you think this is fair?"

Duceppe answered
"There is certainly a problem, but we're not the ones who invented that system." I guess that's his platform.

The Bloc supported the all-party report of the Subcommittee on Electoral Reform, but added their own supplementary report expressing reservations about the vagueness of the citizen consultation process, saying, "Quebeckers and Canadians have an important role to play, and the Bloc Québécois is afraid that giving the federal government carte blanche to decide how they are to be involved will defeat the whole purpose."

Tu penses?

Green Party of Canada

Green Party MPs will work to:

Create a broad-based, result-driven public consultation process to determine the form of proportional representation that best serves Canadians for the next federal election.

Support the legislative changes required to introduce the proportional representation electoral system recommended by the public consultation.

Introduce fixed election dates permitting political stability and fair elections.

Require a mandatory series of open leaders' debates during an election organized by an independent agency such as Elections Canada.

Move from the current partial ban on corporate and union donations to political parties to a full ban on such donations, modeled on Québec and Manitoba provincial legislation.

Reduce the mandatory $1,000 candidate deposit to encourage more Canadians to participate in the democratic system.

Lower the voting age to seventeen.

Great! How many seats did you say you had?


Blogger Wayne Smith said...

Would I be saying what everyone knows anyway but no one has said? That PR would hurt the Bloc the most and so they are most definitely against it?

Their vote concentration in conjunction with our current voting system has worked to their benefit all along. Of course Duceppe skirted around the question.

Charlene Sutherland

9:14 p.m.  
Blogger Wayne Smith said...

My reply is that eventually PR could save the Bloc -- at its justifiable level -- when the system eventually settles down.

People tend to forget that when Martin was taking over from Chretien, people thought he was the fair-haired saviour of Canada and Quebec and the Bloc was so low in the polls that people thought it would be wiped out. It could easily happen again if the Conservatives (Harper in Ottawa, Charest in Quebec) team up in a happy tandem.

So we can always tell the Bloc that electoral reform could be their saviour if they want to stay in Ottawa at a reasonable and not a
monopolistic level.

John Trent

9:16 p.m.  
Blogger Wayne Smith said...

Exactly. PR would establish a ceiling for the Bloc seat-count, but also a floor.

Julian West

9:18 p.m.  
Blogger Wayne Smith said...

Another comeback: many sovereigntists support PR on the provincial level, as evidenced by the progress toward PR there.

Surely they wouldn't be so crass as to support it only when it benefits them personally?

Jennifer Dailey-O'Cain

9:19 p.m.  

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