May 2017: A new opportunity to get PR back on the table

 

This site has not been updated for some time. To recap: On February 1, the government sent the new Minister of Democratic Institutions, Karina Gould, to deliver the message to Canadians that the government is breaking its promise on electoral reform. Apparently, many MPs found out hours before.

 

The official lines - repeated over and over in government communications and MP letters -  is that "there was no consensus" and "the broad support for a change of this magnitude does not exist." This is simply not true: Read here.

 

Justin Trudeau also stated that PR would "augment extremist voices", that "all PR is bad for Canada" and reiterated that he wanted Alternative Vote (winner-take-all ranked ballot) but now "won't go near it" because people (understandably) see it as a partisan fix.

 

Many Canadians are disillusioned, disgusted, angry and not ready to give up on electoral reform: See here

 

In March, NDP Democratic Reform Critic Nathan Cullen presented the biggest e-petition to Parliament ever - with 130,000 signers - same government response. Although a few MPs have expressed "disappointment", so far, all except one MP (Nathaniel Erskine-Smith) are parroting and backing up the government's position. 

 

The Vote on the ERRE report at the end of May

 

At the end of May (tentatively May 31) Nathan Cullen will be calling a vote on the recommendations of the Electoral Reform Committee. It will be a free vote. All the other parties are expected to vote yes, therefore, to pass, the votes of about 20 Liberal MPs are needed. Cullen has been on a cross-Canada "Keep Your Promise" tour.

Fair Vote Canada has recently commissioned polling of 13,000 Canadians with a sample in 20 Liberal ridings, showing that among Canadians with an opinion, a strong majority support PR and want their MP to act to ensure the promise to make every vote count in 2019 is fulfilled. You can help get the word out to Liberal MPs that constituents want them to vote yes. Here's how. 

 

 

December 1: The ERRE Committee Delivers Its Report 

 

In case you don't have time to read 348 pages, here is a quick summary:

Majority Report

 

They heard that most people who want change, want PR. The majority report recommended that as the government develops a new electoral system, they should aim for a design that scores 5 or less on the Gallagher Index (AKA it has good proportionality). Party List PR is out. They recommend a referendum before a new system is implemented in 2019 and first-past-the-post will be on the ballot against a PR system.

 

NDP and Green Supplemental Report:

 

They would prefer to move forward with the promise without a referendum (most experts and participants did not support a referendum). They recommend MMP or Rural-Urban PR (of which STV+ is one design).

 

If the government chooses MMP they suggest the government might want to start off with a token amount of proportionality that leave boundaries intact - add 35-40 more seats to the House (regional top up seats) at every election for the next 3-4 elections (in 15-18 years we'll hit moderately proportional).

If it's Rural-Urban PR, they suggest the version that adds 50 seats, meaning a strongly proportional system in 2019 which leaves the boundaries of single member rural ridings alone and makes redistribution easier by simply combining urban ridings into multi-member districts. 

If there is a 
referendum they want a ranked ballot with both MMP and RU-PR on the ballot. 

 

 

The Liberal Supplemental Report: 

 

The Liberals don't think a referendum is the way to go (most experts and participants did not support a referendum). They also don't think the Gallagher Index is a good tool to make a decision with.  They see PR as "radical" and the decision "rushed." They don't think the enough Canadians are sufficiently "engaged" in this issue and therefore they recommend the government break is its election promise and we have no new system for 2019.

 

 

The gist and the road ahead

Since the committee was in camera and there is no record of who voted for what, all of this is just a guess.

The NDP and Greens agreed to a referendum they don't want to get a majority report from the committee for PR -  PR being a reflection of what 88% of the experts and public told them - rather than five dissenting reports which might have killed any hope of change. They probably knocked themselves out trying to get the Liberals to agree to ANY kind of proportionality for 2019, and resorted to suggesting a referendum to go along with the Conservatives when all else failed.

The Liberals on the committee don't agree to a referendum or to any proportional change. As in 1923 - the first time they made a promise, set up a committee then proceeded to walk away - it's not even clear where they stand on the principle of PR. 

The NDP and Greens are suggesting one system design for 2019 that is barely an improvement (MMP ultra lite which very easily result in another false majority) and a second design that is fully proportional (Rural-Urban PR, which includes STV+),with the commonality being that neither system disrupts the riding boundaries of incumbent MPs and both minimize redistribution.

 

 

Minister Monsef is now sending postcards to 13 million homes asking people to complete a survey online. Will the participation rate meet the undefined new-since-the-election goalpost of engagement by ordinary Canadians on electoral reform? Will it ask clear and useful questions? 
 

 

Bottom Line
 

The evidence from ERRE backs up the Liberal, NDP and Green promise to make every vote count for 2019. Regardless of the consensus (or lack of) between the MPs on the committee or how many people act on a postcard in December, 63% of Canadians voted for parties which made a clear promise. Fulfilling that promise rests with the government. 
 

 

 

Update October 8, 2016

The deadline to submit briefs and complete the online questionnaire has passed. The ERRE committee will be hearing the last witnesses in Ottawa the last two weeks of October. A few MPs are still holding town halls. You can still help in the following ways:
 

 

Update July 6, 2016 (important committee information below)

PR- STV is the first PR model listed on the Electoral Systems Fact Sheet on the  government's new Electoral Reform website.


https://www.canada.ca/en/campaign/electoral-reform.html
 

Check out Fair Vote Canada's new 3 minute video on STV: 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Recent Committee Developments and the Goverment's Plan

 

The all-party committee on electoral reform was officially formed by a motion in the House on June 7, 2016. They will consult with Canadians, hear from experts, and issue their report on December 1, 2016, with a recommendation for a new voting system.

The Liberal Party has suggested it would like any proposal to have the support of at least one other party (which would ideally mean MPs representing a majority of Canadians).
Important: Read the committee's five guiding principles here. The first principle is "reducing distortions."

 

An historic first, the Electoral Reform committee is proportional to the popular vote, so the Liberals do not have a majority on the committee. You can find the committee members here.
 
  • The committee is currently hearing expert witnesses. When the committee is sitting, Canadians can send in questions on Twitter to #ERRE Q

 

 

 

  • Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef and her Parliamentary Secretary Mark Holland will be travelling Canada, attending community consultations and reaching out to groups that have a lower level of participation in our electoral system
     

  • All MPs are encouraged to hold town halls in their ridings between now and October 14 and many are doing so (unfortunately, it appears the Conservative MPs have declined). If you have signed Fair Vote Canada's Declaration of Voters' Rights they will make sure you know when a town hall or other PR event is happening in your riding - not all events are making it onto the government website in time
     

  • Citizens are invited to make their own submissions to the committee. They cannot exceed 3000 words. Email your submission to erre@parl.gc.ca
     

  • Citizens may request to appear before the committee. Those selected will be contacted by October 7, 2016. Email your request to erre@parl.gc.ca.

     

  • Citizens are invited to host their own electoral reform "dialogues" in their communities - as small as a gathering of friends over coffee or large as a town hall. Sample questions are provided here. You can list your event on the government's website.

 

 

 

 

 

Background: The Big Opportunity Ahead

 

In the last federal election, three parties - the NDP, Greens and Liberals - all ran on a promise that 2015 would be the last election using first-past-the-post. All used the campaign slogan, "Make Every Vote Count." The Bloc also supports PR. Together they represent 68% of voters.

 

Unlike the other parties, the Liberal Party of Canada is not committed to the principle of proportional representation implied by the slogan "Make Every Vote Count." Their platform stated:

 

"We will make every vote count. We will convene an all-party Parliamentary committee to review a wide variety of reforms, such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting.”

 

An all-party committee is being formed now and public consultations are set to get underway soon to ask Canadians about what values are most important to them in a new electoral system. Legislation for electoral reform will be introduced in May, 2017.

 

Liberal Party Background

 

In 2012, the Liberal Party of Canada passed a resolution on electoral reform. While the preamble to the resolution was clearly describing winner-take-all run-off voting (Alternative Vote), the actual "be it resolved" stated:

 

BE IT RESOLVED that the Liberal Party of Canada implement a preferential ballot for all future national elections.

 

In 2014, the Liberal Party of Canada passed a new resolution on electoral reform,  called Restoring Trust in Canada's Democracy, which stated:

 

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT immediately after the next election,
an all-Party process be instituted, involving expert assistance and citizen
participation, to report to Parliament within 12 months with recommendations for
electoral reforms including, without limitation, a preferential ballot and/or a form
of proportional representation, to represent Canadians more fairly and serve
Canada better.

 

Both resolutions remain in effect.

 

Public Support for Proportional Representation

 

Since 2000, regardless of the party in power, numerous public

opinion polls have all shown 60-76% of Canadians support the

principle of proportional representation. 

 

In January 2016, at the height of the Trudeau honeymoon,  

EKOS research showed that there is still strong support for

electoral reform, with proportional representation being the

most popular option.

 

Conclusion


The Liberal Party previously passed a policy for a

"preferential ballot" but is now open to proportional

representation, which would likely garner support from the

NDP, Greens and Bloc - giving a more proportional system

a strong mandate.

 

 

Single Transferable Vote is one way that a preferential ballot and proportional representation can work together. 

 

STV is a flexible PR model in other ways - it can be adapted for urban and rural ridings by adjusting the number of MPs in each multi-member district, and by using STV+. 

While the NDP prefers Mixed Member Proportional Representation - their policy position for many years - they would likely be receptive to other proportional options. The Green Party and Bloc do not have a preferred PR system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Support for the status quo—first-past-the-post—is not high. In fact, there is a strong mandate to implement something that more closely resembles the democratic ideal that all votes have equal influence in shaping electoral outcomes.

In approaching electoral reform, it is clear that voters place the highest priority on the idea of equality of voter impact."

 

- Frank Graves, President and CEO of EKOS Research, Jan 2016