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What do you want to see?

Proportional Commons & Elected Senate
Proportional Commons & Appointed Senate
Constituency based Commons & Elected Senate
Constituency based Commons & Appointed Senate
Proportional Commons, Elected Senate & Elected Governor General
Constituency based Commons, Elected Senate, and Elected Governor General
Something Else
Proportional Commons & no Senate
Constituency based Commons & no Senate

Author Topic: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)  (Read 316724 times)

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Offline MissMolsonIndy

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #50 on: December 18, 2004, 06:01:21 »
Canada could definitely stand to undergo further democratic reform, and implement some of the proposals made: a Triple-E Senate, A form of Proportional Representation in terms of the Electoral Regime or the Single-Transferable Vote System, as well applying a more controlled and fixed system, like in the United States, for the calling of elections (as of present, the Prime Minister with the approval of the Governor General can call an election at any given time during his/her period of office).

As mentioned, the method in which the American people choose their head of state is more democratic than that of Canada: the American populace is able to, at the grass-roots, choose who will head their part of choice, instead of having the political party choose for them.

Offline JayJay

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #51 on: December 19, 2004, 01:17:17 »
  Okay, so there is a stability issue with PR, but, SMP is expensive, and isn't truely representative of the population.  Sure under PR there would be less in the lines of constituencies, but, because of the formation of coalition governments, those who believe that some of the fringe parties (which some have excellent platforms by the way) are given at least 1 seat in the house.  And, on top of that, SMP is a two party system, and is outdated in Canada by a longshot....we just have too many parties and too many people pissed off with what we have....maybe a senate reform would work, I'm not so sure.
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Offline Thucydides

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #52 on: December 19, 2004, 01:52:58 »
We are circling around an issue which is the real killer of democracy here in Canada, and in many other nations as well: Career Politicians.

No matter what arrangements we propose, as long as people are motivated by greed, fear, lust for power and all the other factors we remember from Maslows hierarchy of needs, they will "work the system" for their benefit, not ours. Gold plated pensions and 20% pay hikes are the most obvious symptoms, but really, any sort of innovation which would crack open the door and allow some other group to gain some control is vigorously resisted.

The Greeks of the Classical period used a system of random drawings from the eligible population to create their assembly, jurors, civil service posts and often "Generals" (alternatively, Generals could be elected by the assembly. Each Polis was different). Since the drawing of lots was done on a yearly basis, there was a built in term limit; after a year, the odds were someone else would be selected for the higher level posts. One year was enough to do a job, but not really enough to learn how to manipulate the system. Only skilled orators and demagogues could consistently sway the assembly and be elected to posts like General, but even then, their actions were always under fairly close scrutiny.

While having a lottery might not be the best way to get MP's and Senators in todays world, the idea of strict term limits and accountability would certainly go a long way to curbing abuses. As an example, City Council in Phoenix Arizona is constrained to a two term limit, and taxes apparently have not risen in the last 11 years! Having a constant stream of "fresh blood" and ideas coming through the ranks of Government would probably crack open many of the mental log jams which hinder Canada (you can pick which log jam to break).

My suggestion; each elective office can only be held for two terms. This would give people enough time to take on fairly large projects and see them through, and a person who was interested in a "long term" career in politics would have to win their Commons seat twice, then run for senate and win that seat twice.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline RCA

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #53 on: December 19, 2004, 13:14:38 »
The problem with term limits is that you wash away the good with the bad. The are many MPs plugging along doing the work they were elected for and doing a good job for their constitants.

Set term limits on Cabinet postions would be more effective. That is were the power corrupts thing happens.

Electors vote for their local MP (or MLA, Mayor., whatever). Thats the term limit. Don't like his policies or direction, out he goes. Move away from party loyalty. Its the electorate who need to become more involved not setting artificial limits
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Offline Thucydides

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #54 on: December 19, 2004, 20:16:00 »
There is no ideal system, true, but consider our disfunctional Medicare system is still being debated in terms framed in the 1960's, and US Social Security is based on assumptions current in the 1930's, so a little new blood is needed. As well, "the good" will be valuable in any other career path they choose, so having a time out for a term in office will not hurt them.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Zip

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #55 on: December 20, 2004, 12:19:45 »
A couple of ideas, just off the top of my head.

Eliminate the Party System.
Directly elect our PM who's job it would be to create a coalition from the other elected MP's to form his cabinet.
This means that we would have to rethink our current confidence measures in the House of Commons in essence making every vote except perhaps the budget a free vote. This would allow MP's to vote with their constituents instead of some party line.

Retain the Senate but institute Alberta's Triple E resolution. In order to save on cost and to represent the provinces, have the election of Senators done on a PR system that is tied directly to the results of the federal election. The Proportional Senators "elected" through the PR system are then selected from a list compiled by the Provincial Legislature.

I know many here have a problem with the PR system but I think it is a better way to go, it is certainly more democratic. Under STV constituancies still exist, just on a larger scale. The complaints that individuals would loose touch with their MP's in my opinion is not well founded and I think having a multi member constituancy could help that connection. For example let's just say that you are a Libertarian but none of your guys were elected. You would have the freedom to approach any of the 2,3 or 4 MP's elected in your riding on any issue. You could approach a Conservative candidate about governmental interferance in business and a Liberal MP on questions of the legalization of Pot.

As far as stability goes The Republic of Ireland has had a fully functioning STV system since the 1920's and their parliaments have been stable. Malta also has a PR system and they have a 2 party state so the balkanization of political views does not necessarily have to happen and will only happen if the people want those choices available.
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Offline Infanteer

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #56 on: December 20, 2004, 13:34:49 »
I don't get it.

Eliminate the Party System.
Directly elect our PM who's job it would be to create a coalition from the other elected MP's to form his cabinet.
This means that we would have to rethink our current confidence measures in the House of Commons in essence making every vote except perhaps the budget a free vote. This would allow MP's to vote with their constituents instead of some party line.

Quote
For example let's just say that you are a Libertarian but none of your guys were elected. You would have the freedom to approach any of the 2,3 or 4 MP's elected in your riding on any issue. You could approach a Conservative candidate about governmental interferance in business and a Liberal MP on questions of the legalization of Pot.

You say eliminate the political party system and then you advocate STV on the basis that more party participation would strengthen democracy.

The reason I oppose most PR variations is that they only serve to strengthen the role of parties.  I am not really a fan of the parties as they only weaken representative democracy and encourage group-think.
"Overall it appears that much of the apparent complexity of modern war stems in practice from the self-imposed complexity of modern HQs" LCol J.P. Storr

Offline Zip

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #57 on: December 20, 2004, 22:21:40 »
Infanteer, I guess I wasn't clear I wasn't talking about the Libertarian Party, Liberal Party or Conservative Party but of ideological points of view which people may hold.

While a pure PR List system may strengthen the party system because the party itself decides how candidates appear on the list the STV does not as it is the individual voter who decides which candidate they feel will represent them the best.

BTW, the elimination of the party system will never happen, they are too ingrained into the psyche of the populous and they are too powerfull as institutions. It might be possible when forming a democracy but not once one has been in existence since 1867

I personally believe that what some see as a drawback of the STV system (the proliferation of parties) is actually a bonus. To have more points of view in our house of commons representing the varied and diverse points of view of the people of Canada is a good thing not a bad one. Also for the people a minority or coalition is a good thing as well, no four year dictatorships, no Cretien style vanguard party to impose a my way or the highway brand of non-leadership.
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Offline Thucydides

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #58 on: December 21, 2004, 10:03:44 »
I don't see how you could eliminate the party system. In terms of the Constitution, parties are not mentioned at all. In a practical sense, parties represent the gathering of people with common interests. Liberals, for example, are interested in getting and controllong your tax dollars for their purposes  :rage:.

PR systems, encourage small parties with limited constituencies, and have historically resulted in fragmented coalition governments which are not stable. First past the Post is designed for accountability, but as we see here in Canada, this is not a garunteed outcome. The American Electoral College system ensures candidates must reach to and appeal to a broad range of constituencies, in the 2000 election Al Gore gained most of the urban vote (and hence most of the popular vote as well), but because his message did not appeal to middle and rural America, he didn't win the electoral college votes in most of the American States, and so lost the election. A look at the map of "Red" vs "Blue" states shows a similar pattern repeated in 2004.

Perhaps rather than argue about how we elect our governments, we focus more on what we want our governments to do, and how they achieve these goals. Bloated government payrolls and officials who refuse to be held accountable are two huge problems which won't go away under any system, but can be attacked by voter action rather than voter apathy.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Zip

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #59 on: December 21, 2004, 11:44:28 »
PR systems, encourage small parties with limited constituencies, and have historically resulted in fragmented coalition governments which are not stable.

Stable is a relative term. Ireland has had stable governments under the STV since the 1920's each lasting 3 to 4 years. Malta also has a stable 2 party system under STV.

Quote
First past the Post is designed for accountability

I'd disagree with this statement, it is designed to give the party a clear cut mandate to rule in spite of the % of people who vote for it nationaly. SMP also penalizes small parties and overrepresents regionaly based parties. Obviously accountability is not something we have here in Canada, on that we can agree. Gun registry anyone?

Quote
Perhaps rather than argue about how we elect our governments, we focus more on what we want our governments to do, and how they achieve these goals. Bloated government payrolls and officials who refuse to be held accountable are two huge problems which won't go away under any system, but can be attacked by voter action rather than voter apathy.

Good point. Sounds like an interesting thread.
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Offline MCG

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #60 on: December 27, 2004, 02:00:57 »
Directly elect our PM who's job it would be to create a coalition from the other elected MP's to form his cabinet.
Interesting option (and I would suggest the deputy PM should probably be chosen the same way as the PM); however, potentially destabilising.  Being the only nationally elected seats in the House, the GG would not have the option to look to another party leader in the event of a non-confidence vote.  The country would automatically be sent to a vote.  Could it also lead to a majority opposition?  Would it work & has it been done anywhere else?

The reason I oppose most PR variations is that they only serve to strengthen the role of parties.
I think a PR system would strengthen the role of small parties at the expense of the current powerful parties.

I still think the best approach is to continue to elect MPs in the same fashion that we always have.  It ensures that every MP is accountable to a defined constituency (if we Canadian's have not been holding our specific MPs accountable that is another storey).  I like the idea of a PR (or even STV) Senate.  This chamber would see more parties, reflecting a broader cross-section of Canadian society, it would reduce the strength of the powerful parties in both houses, yet it would not have the option of a non-confidence vote against the government.  With the Senate as a buffer on the power of the powerful parties, there may be an increased tendency to vote independents as MPs (vice strategic voting for the MP supporting the desired PM) and thus increased accountability of all MPs to constituents.

. . . or maybe I'm blinded by some sort of utopian optimism.

Offline MCG

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #61 on: January 20, 2005, 00:54:34 »
It seems that PR systems are becoming more popular at the provincial level.
Quote
Partial proportional voting urged for N.B.
Province following on moves by Quebec, B.C., PEI and Ontario to consider changes
Wednesday, 19 Jan 2005
Canadian Press


Fredericton â ” The New Brunswick government says it will consider sweeping changes to the province's electoral system, including partial proportional representation.

New Brunswick's Commission on Legislative Democracy released its final report on Wednesday, recommending the Maritime province move to a mixed-member proportional representation system to try to revive flagging public interest in politics.

â Å“Voter turnout is dropping, youth participation in the electoral process is low, trust and confidence in our democratic institutions have declined and many citizens believe they have insufficient voice in the decision-making process especially when major issues are involved,â ? commission co-chairman Lorne McGuigan said.

New Brunswick joins British Columbia, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Ontario in moving toward major electoral reform.

The New Brunswick commission is recommending a referendum to find out whether New Brunswickers want to continue with the current, first-past-the-post system or to modify it by including an element of proportional representation.

Under the model proposed by the commission, 36 single-member riding seats would continue to be elected using the first-past-the-post system.

Twenty other members of the legislature would be elected from a pool of candidates within four regional districts, based on the party vote.

Kelly Lamrock of the Opposition Liberals in New Brunswick, said the mixed system might be too complicated.

â Å“If voters can't understand how to get someone elected, I don't know how it will work,â ? Mr. Lamrock said.

Premier Bernard Lord said only that it is important to nurture and renew democracy. He said the report and its 89 recommendations will be considered.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20050119.wnewb0119/BNStory/National/

Offline Zip

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #62 on: January 20, 2005, 08:53:10 »
Hi all, this topic is sort of a response to the PR/Elected Senate topic. It is a fairly long essay but I thought it might be worthwhile to post it here as some people have bought the First-Past-The-Post myth hook line and sinker and it offers a different perspective.

Although I think this is unlikely, for reference purposes (and coppyright) the essay is mine so if you want to use any of the information in it formally please PM me for permission.

Enjoy

Straw Man Arguments:
 A Comparison of Electoral Systems in Ireland and the United Kingdom


   Supporters of the Single Member Plurality (SMP) systems are often prejudiced against the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system, or any other method of proportional representation for that matter, based on the perception that all such systems create a balkanization and proliferation of political parties.  Another point of criticism of STV, is that the systems proportionality causes governmental instability through the lack of clear majorities, which in turn results in continuous coalition governments.

   This essay will focus on the electoral systems of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. In it I will prove, through a most similar systems analysis that many of the prejudices against STV such as the balkanization and proliferation of minor parties and inherent instability of governments that use it are not valid arguments against the Irish STV system.

   In order to effectively compare the voting systems used by the subject nations they must first be explained.  The SMP system, also called First-Past-The-Post, is the most simple to calculate and understand of all electoral systems.  Under this system votes are cast for a single candidate in single member constituencies.  The candidate who receives the largest number of votes, regardless of the actual percentage of the total votes that number represents, is declared the winner.  The use of this system is equivalent to a nation running as many separate elections as there are constituencies within the country.  Some of its perceived strengths are seen as its ability to create single party governments, the creation of coherent parliamentary opposition and as being seen as benefiting broadly based political parties.
 
   The STV system is a system of Proportional Representation (PR) in which voters cast ballots in large multi-member constituencies by ranking candidates in order of preference.  The number of votes a candidate receives is compared against a set number, based upon the number of votes cast, called the quota.

   There are three main formulae for calculation of the quota: the Droop Quota , Hare Quota  and the Impreiali Quota .  Of these the most commonly used formula is the Droop Quota, which is used by the Republic of Ireland. 

   In the first round of counting under an STV system, Process A, the voter's first selection is counted.  Should any of the candidates receive a number of votes equal to or greater than the quota they are declared elected, once elected a candidate can not receive any more votes.  If a candidate is elected with a surplus of votes, those surplus votes are redistributed by using the second choice listed on the ballots.  The selection of which ballots are counted again can be done by selecting them at random or by counting each ballot fractionally.  This process is repeated until there are no more candidates that have votes in excess of the quota.  Any candidate who achieves the quota from votes redistributed in this manner is also declared elected.  In the next step, Process B, the candidate with the least amount of votes after the first round is eliminated and his or her votes are reallocated according to the second choice listed on the ballot.  Once a candidate has been eliminated he or she can not get any more votes.  Once the reallocation of votes is complete the procedure begins again with Process A and continues in this matter until all the seats in the riding have been filled .

   There are three main comparisons I have chosen to examine between the UK and Irish systems.  They are the questions of proliferation of minor parties, the representation of voter choice and the predisposition of STV toward coalition governments and their perceived instability.

Proliferation of Parties:

   The first point of comparison I examine is the depiction of STV as a fractious system, which causes the proliferation and balkanization of political parties when compared to the more restrictive electoral requirements of an SMP system.  Upon examining the two nations, with regard to this perception, the immediate and glaring incongruity is that in the United Kingdom, there are over 10 times as many registered political parties than in the Irish Republic.

   In the United Kingdom there are nine major parties, in addition to these there are 114 minor parties registered, ranging from the traditional parties such as Labour and Conservative to nonsense parties such as the Church of the Militant Elvis Party .    As of the general election of 7 June 2001 only 9 of the 123 registered parties are represented in the UK House of Commons.   Ireland on the other hand has eight major political parties, seven of which are represented in the Dáil Éireann (Irish Parliament) since the general election of 17 May 2002.  There are no minor parties formally represented in the Dáil though there are fourteen members that sit as independents.

   This disparity in numbers contradicts the notion that STV creates numerous minor parties.  Upon closer inspection, it becomes obvious that the difference in numbers of registered parties in the two nations is due to the application of more or less stringent registration processes and not necessarily a result of the type of electoral system. 

   In the United Kingdom the regulations governing the registration of political parties is fairly simple and straight forward.  It requires only minimal rules and regulations be followed, such as the completion of an application form giving details of the party name and at least two party officers.  Where in the UK the party is to be registered and whether the party will have any accounting units.  Also required is a copy of the party's constitution, a financial scheme showing how the party will comply with the financial controls and a modest registration fee of  £150.00.

   Ireland on the other hand has much more stringent registration requirements which restrict the process to more serious and well formed political movements.  These regulations include provisions that a certain number of registered voters must be members of the party and the party must have a member of it elected to the Dáil.  Irish law also requires that annual meetings be held and the party must have an executive committee.  On the other hand, there is no fee to register a party and unregistered parties are entitled to fight elections, but the name of the party will not appear on the ballot. 

   Thus the stricter registration laws in force in the Republic of Ireland, combats the proliferation of political parties, which is one of the main arguments used by those that support SMP over STV.  The SMP system used in the UK on the other hand, achieves it's much touted governmental stability through the election process, specifically the non-proportional allocation of seats in a First-Past-The-Post electoral system.

Voter Choice

   Perhaps the most attractive element of the STV system, as an alternative to SMP, is the more complete representation of voter choice.  Under a First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system, only the candidate who wins the most votes in a riding is elected.  This means that should one candidate receive 48% of votes and another receive 47.9% of votes the candidate who received 48% would be elected.  The other candidate, although his percentage of the vote was almost identical, would loose, resulting in "wasted votesâ ?.  On the other hand, in a STV system with its multi member constituencies, both candidates would most likely be elected and more of the people of the constituency would have a voice in parliament.

   It must be noted that neither SMP nor STV requires a candidate to win a majority of votes cast in order to be elected.  But under STV a significant majority of the votes cast do count toward electing candidates, thus representing a majority of the votes cast, as well as a proportional representation of the people's vote within the multi-member constituency. 

   Ireland is divided into 3, 4 or 5 member constituencies ranging in population from 108,717 to 47,641 registered electors.   Taking one of these ridings as an example, and comparing it to a similar sized riding in the UK will demonstrate the more complete representation of the public vote achieved under STV.

   In the Irish riding of Cavan-Monaghan with an electorate of 87,595 and 61,847 valid ballots cast, the quota was set at 10,308 votes.  Multiplying the quota by the number of candidates for the riding (5) shows that of the 61,847 valid votes, 51,540 voters had a hand in electing the representatives for that riding.    This number represents 83.3% of the votes cast, meaning only 16.7% of valid votes were wasted and did not count toward the election of a member of the Dáil.

   In contrast to this, in the UK riding of Isle of Wight with 63,482 total votes cast, the winning candidate received 25,223 votes representing only 39.7% of votes.   For the other 60.3% of votes the voter's choice did not count toward the election of the representative and were wasted.

   Further comparison of the most recent general elections in Ireland and the United Kingdom reveals that on average, 71.4% of all votes cast in Ireland assisted in electing a representative.  Conversely, in the UK, the average representative was elected to the House of Commons based on an average of 51.3% of votes cast in each riding. 

   These figures are based solely on the votes cast, not on the number of registered voters.  When the national voter turnout for these elections is taken into consideration the number of voters casting votes which assisted in electing representatives is significantly reduced.

   For the most recent general elections, only 59.38% of eligible voters in the UK voted compared to 62.57% of voters in Ireland.  Combining these figures with the percentage of votes that assisted in electing a representative reduces the percentage of voters actually assisting in electing a representative to 44.67% for Ireland and 30.46% for the UK.  While certainly not a triumph of democracy for either system, obviously the advantage should be granted to the STV system for it's more complete representation of votes and the voting public.

Coalitions and Weakness

   Another criticism of the single transferable vote system is that it leads to coalition governments, which results in governmental instability, when compared to first-past-the-post.  However, comparison of the two nations in question shows that these problems are inconsequential.

   From a purely historical point of view coalition governments are not the norm in Ireland, since 1923 there have only been 9 coalition governments formed out of the 26 general elections held.  Since 1989 there has been no single party which has enjoyed a majority in the Dáil, and coalitions do seem to be becoming the norm. 

   This political reality does not lead directly or inevitably to instability though.  Irish coalitions have displayed considerable longevity, remaining in power for an average of three and a half years which is longer than non-coalition Irish governments, which on average have lasted approximately 2.9 years.

   While historically the UK has not tended toward coalitions, it has had 3 coalition or "National Governmentsâ ? since 1918, each of which was in response to a national crisis, World War 1, the 1930's depression and World War 2.    The need to show solidarity in government during crises by forming coalitions of political parties seems to indicate that the reason behind it is to represent the people and political will of the nation better than is possible under normal circumstances.  This exception demonstrates the inclusive nature of coalitions and far from implying weakness or instability emphasizes their strength and utility.

   The inference that coalition governments are unstable is also given as a reason not to employ STV as an electoral system.  This perception too has been exaggerated in favor of SMP.  The United Kingdom and Ireland have conducted 16 general elections since 1945.   The shortest lived government among the two nations was the UK's minority Conservative government of Prime Minister Edward Heath in 1974.  After failing to form a coalition with the Liberal Party, PM Heath resigned, allowing the Queen to commission Labour leader Harold Wilson to form the government.  The minority Labour government of PM Wilson lasted 8 months, and was replaced by a slim Labour majority in October of the same year.

   This average of the lengths of terms enjoyed by the respective governments reveals that there is only a slight difference when the two nations are compared.  Since 1945, the United Kingdom has averaged a Parliamentary election every 3.5 years whereas the Irish have conducted elections for the Dáil Éireann every 3.37 years.  Calculated in days the UK on average elects a new parliament every 1277 days and Ireland every 1199 days a difference of only 78 days.   

   Going back farther to Ireland's independence, the Irish republic has conducted 26 general elections since 1923 and the UK has conducted 22 for an average length of 3.15 and 3.72 years respectively.

   The above averages can not be attributed to differing lengths of administrative terms as Irish law requires elections to be held every seven years.  However, statute has limited the length of terms in Ireland to five years, which is equal to the length of term enjoyed by the UK parliament.

   In conclusion, the exaggerated claims made against the Single Transferable Vote system in favor of Single Member Plurality appear to be nothing more than a straw man of personal preferences and prejudices.  With regards to the UK and Ireland, it appears that in the case of party proliferation that the problem is a product of national electoral laws and not the electoral system used.  As for inherent weakness and instability of STV due to its tendency to cause coalition governments, this has been proven insignificant.  The drawbacks of STV versus SMP with regard to these difficulties are counteracted by the ability and willingness of the elected members of the government to work with other political parties and thus persevere, in spite of political ideologies, for the sake of stable national government.

© Martin Gasser 20 Jan 2005

"I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man; nor ask another man to live for mine."
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Offline Thucydides

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #63 on: January 20, 2005, 10:04:17 »
Interesting essay and rather thought provoking. I do have some questions about the conclusions that are drawn here, however.

1. Ireland's SVT system does not produce unstable coalition governments, but virtually every other nation which uses some form of PR does. Italy is the most notorious example, but Israel also comes to mind for fracticious coalitions. Is it possible there are cultural factors at work here i.e. the vast majority of Irish people already have a "cultural" consensus about a broad range of issues?

2. If culture is not the answer, the rigorous requirements for forming a political party and registering it might go a long way to explain what is happening. Once again, there has to be some sort of consensus to work together in a political party, supporters of the "Monster Raving Loony Party" or the "Parti Rhinoceros" would have a difficult time getting off the ground in Ireland.

3. The historical reason for "First past the Post" is the one elected representative is accountable directly to the people of his riding. We certainly have drifted far away from that principle here in Canada, but in theory, initiatives like voter recall or referendums could bring accountability back. What is the accountability mechanism in SVT?

I will be going over this again in greater detail tonight (beware, beware!), since a lot of other questions are bubbling just below the surface.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Zip

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #64 on: January 20, 2005, 13:04:01 »
a_maj,

1.  In Israel the % of popular vote required to get a representative elected is very, very low (somewhere around 1%  IIRC) This again in my view is a fault with the electoral laws not the system. Germany on the other hand with it's mixed proportional system requires a party to achieve 5% of the popular vote. Extrapilate that to our most recent vote and only the Green Party would have been entitled to PR.

I can not say if there are cultural factors at work in Israel but I know that STV was chosen for Ireland specifically so that the minority Protestant population there would not be overwhelmed by a "tyranny of the majority"

2.  Yes, what you have described counters another criticism of STV, which is the perception that it allows "extremeist parties". My personal belief is that the electorate in Canada is smarter and more moderate than they are given credit for and will for the most part be self policing on this issue.

3.  The short answer is the same mechanisim we have now :D which is to say none. STV does not preclude accountability (any more than FPTP) though. What you are talking about is once again the electoral laws/process not the system itself.

A couple of points of my own now which I didn't address in the essay.

Another country that uses STV is Malta which, get this, is a classic 2 party system! although it has made subtle changes to STV for utility. This again exposes theStraw man arguments for FPTP. Germany also uses a PR system, is stable and has limited political participation through electoral law and not electoral innequality like FPTP.

I find it insulting that in the article about NB's proposed electoral reform one of the talking heads that responded suggested that the electorate wasn't intelligent enough to understand the system. What complete and utter crap!  This is just another piece of BS which is often spouted by the main political opponents to PR which happen to be or belong to...  The same mainstream political parties that are often over-represented in the HoC by FPTP. 

Give me a room full of average voters and 10 minutes and I can explain STV so that even the most sound proof individual will understand how it is employed.

Yes Italy has problems with PR but I believe that is a cultural problem (for lack of a better word). Canadians are by in large much more middle of the road than Italians.  I realize that this is a generalization and no I cant prove it right now but that is my opinion.

Unfortunately I may not be able to respond to many more posts here as I'm heading off to Gagetown for a course but I'll do my best to respond once I return.

Cheers
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Offline MCG

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #65 on: January 20, 2005, 18:50:57 »
   The first point of comparison I examine is the depiction of STV as a fractious system, which causes the proliferation and balkanization of political parties when compared to the more restrictive electoral requirements of an SMP system. Upon examining the two nations, with regard to this perception, the immediate and glaring incongruity is that in the United Kingdom, there are over 10 times as many registered political parties than in the Irish Republic.

   In the United Kingdom there are nine major parties, in addition to these there are 114 minor parties registered, ranging from the traditional parties such as Labour and Conservative to nonsense parties such as the Church of the Militant Elvis Party . As of the general election of 7 June 2001 only 9 of the 123 registered parties are represented in the UK House of Commons. Ireland on the other hand has eight major political parties, seven of which are represented in the Dáil Éireann (Irish Parliament) since the general election of 17 May 2002. There are no minor parties formally represented in the Dáil though there are fourteen members that sit as independents.

   This disparity in numbers contradicts the notion that STV creates numerous minor parties. Upon closer inspection, it becomes obvious that the difference in numbers of registered parties in the two nations is due to the application of more or less stringent registration processes and not necessarily a result of the type of electoral system.
 
Your conclusion, that restrictive party registration systems are the true check against a proliferation on parties in government, is mostly accurate but is lacking in depth.

Yes, restrictive party registration processes will reduce the number of parties that can eventually compete at the polls.   However, if this becomes a bureaucratic process (and I can't think of any other way to do it) then it actually restricts the voter's options at the polls.   SMP is superior when it comes to restricting the number of parties that actually get into government in a society that if overflowing with parties (I think your 9:123 ratio shows this fairly well).   Unfortunately, as you alluded to, the voters that do not vote for the winner of the plurality will essentially have lost their vote.   An option would be to use preferential ballots in single member constituencies.   This would ensure that the majority of voters preferred the winner to the next most preferred candidate.

Ireland is divided into 3, 4 or 5 member constituencies ranging in population from 108,717 to 47,641 registered electors.
I think these numbers are critical in the analysis.   The fact that these constituencies are small, will in itself limit the chances of success of fringe parties.   It will take a much higher percentage of the vote for a party to win one seat (or more) in a 3 - 5 member constituency.   In Israel, there is one pan-national constituency of over 100 representatives.   Clearly, the percentage of votes required to win a seat in this system is much lower.   In Canada, the Irish model would usually see fringe parties drown out at the constituency level against the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, and even the BQ.   The Israeli model could see less than 1% of the population elect a fringe party, and the increased chances for fringe parties to make small victories could lead to more votes for these types of parties (and thus the "Balkanizationâ ? and instability of government).   The problem with small multi-member constituencies is that they would continue the tendency of the SMP system to over-represent regional parties in the House of Commons (the BQ and early Reform demonstrate this).


I find it insulting that in the article about NB's proposed electoral reform one of the talking heads that responded suggested that the electorate wasn't intelligent enough to understand the system. What complete and utter crap! This is just another piece of BS which is often spouted by the main political opponents to PR which happen to be or belong to... The same mainstream political parties that are often over-represented in the HoC by FPTP.
I think the comment was about a mixed PR and FPTP system that the comment was about.   Germany is a mixed system.


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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #66 on: January 21, 2005, 09:59:39 »
MCG,

Electoral law is definitely bureaucratic and in my opinion it should be in a Weberian fashion. Although I'm rather Libertarian I see nothing wrong with ensuring that political parties have more substance than two stoners would be able to come up with while eating the best Kraft Dinner they've ever had.

As long as the requirements were not based on some punitive monetary fee or innacessable (for starting parties) portion of electorate support I see nothing wrong with ensuring a quality of choice over a quantity of it.

I think presonally that the Irish constituancy size would work for Canada. One thing that should be remembered about STV is that it only produces proportionality within each individual constituancy. There will still be a slight non-proportionality in the national outcome but certainly not to the extent that there is now.

My last point was that none of the PR systems is beyond the mental capacities of any person who has it explained to them. The people who seek to ensure the FPTP status quo spit this little gem out any time someone suggests PR because it threatens the stranglehold they have due to the democratic failures of SMP.
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Offline Thucydides

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #67 on: January 21, 2005, 11:59:02 »
Your conclusion, that restrictive party registration systems are the true check against a proliferation on parties in government, is mostly accurate but is lacking in depth.

Yes, restrictive party registration processes will reduce the number of parties that can eventually compete at the polls.  However, if this becomes a bureaucratic process (and I can't think of any other way to do it) then it actually restricts the voter's options at the polls.  SMP is superior when it comes to restricting the number of parties that actually get into government in a society that if overflowing with parties (I think your 9:123 ratio shows this fairly well).  Unfortunately, as you alluded to, the voters that do not vote for the winner of the plurality will essentially have lost their vote.  An option would be to use preferential ballots in single member constituencies.  This would ensure that the majority of voters preferred the winner to the next most preferred candidate.
I think these numbers are critical in the analysis.  The fact that these constituencies are small, will in itself limit the chances of success of fringe parties.  It will take a much higher percentage of the vote for a party to win one seat (or more) in a 3 â “ 5 member constituency.  In Israel, there is one pan-national constituency of over 100 representatives.  Clearly, the percentage of votes required to win a seat in this system is much lower.  In Canada, the Irish model would usually see fringe parties drown out at the constituency level against the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, and even the BQ.  The Israeli model could see less than 1% of the population elect a fringe party, and the increased chances for fringe parties to make small victories could lead to more votes for these types of parties (and thus the â Å“Balkanizationâ ? and instability of government).  The problem with small multi-member constituencies is that they would continue the tendency of the SMP system to over-represent regional parties in the House of Commons (the BQ and early Reform demonstrate this).
 

McG beat me to the punch. Looking at the historical evidence, it seems the trade off is at the level of "compromise" for want of a better term. FPTP requires the representative or the party to appeal to the widest number of voters in the rideing or district. SVT or other PR systems would seem (Malta notwithstanding) to promote the growth of more narrowly focused parties.

If I was to run as a Libertarian in Canada, I would have difficulty since the vast majorety of voters preffer middle class entitlements such as government monopoly Health Care. If I was to work withing the Conservative party, I would have to compromise somewhat, but their message is more appealing to the voters, and hence I would have a better chance as a candidate to run on the Conservative platform. The Conservatives have room for my point of view, so long as I am also willing to work with them.

In a PR Canada, I have less reason to compromise my beliefs (maybe a good thing), and I would be much more apealing to the small number of Libertarians out there. Assuming I crossed the vote threashold, I would now be one of a very small number of Libertarian MPs in a Pizza parliament. Do I represent my riding? all the Libertarian voters in Canada? the Party? These are the practical issues that have dogged PR. Myself, I would like to think the person I voted for represents me and my ridings interests to parliament (alas, the MP is a Liberal, so he represents Ottawa to our riding instead), PR would seem to disconnect that relationship, especially if there was a national or pan national electoral list.

Bottom line, every system has its merits and flaws. I can imagine 10 or 20 years after Canada adops a PR systemn there will be agitation for the adoption of FPTP, with detractors saying how difficult that would be for voters to understand....

Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #68 on: January 21, 2005, 12:22:27 »
a_maj,

Do you believe that your MP realy represents your constituancy now?

Another one of the problems with FPTP is that it produces 4 year dictatorships through Majority governments. In a coalition government there is a requirement to take other points of view into account or else the coalition will splinter and the government will fall. Compromise is supposed to be a function of government not an opposite of it.
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Offline Thucydides

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #69 on: January 21, 2005, 12:45:53 »
Sorry, I thought I was clear that my MP does NOT represent me or anyone else in the riding.

The elected dictatorship can be addressed by finessing other elements of the system besides the electoral method. Swiss style referendums to propose legislation from outside the house, voter recall, even alternating electoral cycles (such as the US Senate, where half the senators are up for reelection every two years) will put the public right in Parliaments face.

How to get there without an armed revolution? I don't know. We could wage a multi-year propaganda campaign through the Internet, or the financial mismanagement of verious governments could cause a financial disaster and voter revolt (London, ON is gearing up for this since council cannot dicipline their spending and have proposed 10% tax hikes three years in a row now). Maybe an asteroid will fall from space and strike Ottawa. As you say, there are enough people who know how to game the current system and beniftit from it to mount a sustained defense of FPTP.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline MCG

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #70 on: January 21, 2005, 17:34:53 »
If you do not like FPTP, then preferential ballots are another option that would allow us to keep with our single member constituencies.

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #71 on: January 21, 2005, 20:46:14 »
Sign me up for the preferential ballot also known as the Single Vote Transferrable with single member constituencies.   I like accountability and it gives a clear decision - most folks in the constituency either like or can tolerate the winner.  

As to regionalism, what's so bad about that?   The whole rpremise of our system is that the house is made up of representatives from 366(?) regions.   It is a geographically based system.   It is designed to reflect the fact that Urban BC issues are not the same as Rural Ontario or the Backcountry of Nunavut.   These characters are all sent there to work out practical compromises that they think will benefit most Canadians most of the time.   Every few years we get to decide if we like the compromises they have made.

Now as to the Senate and the Governor-General and the Lieutenant-Governors, there I am much more open to proportional representation or even some sort of collegial system where they are appointed or elected by the provinces and the federal parliament and government. - As long as their powers are constrained as they currently are.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2005, 20:50:46 by Kirkhill »
Over, Under, Around or Through.
Anticipating the triumph of Thomas Reid.

"One thing that being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope to get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it.”  - James Lovelock

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, 1911]

Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #72 on: April 12, 2005, 09:48:30 »
As soon as the position becomes elected it will be politicized.  One of the essential virtues of constitutional monarchy is that the Queen doesn't owe anyone any favours, is immune to political pressure, and is above the divisiveness of politics.  The minute you start choosing the person for the office, which really means electing him or her at some level, then you've got yourself another politician.  And we have plenty of those already.

...

Is the German president overly political?  How about the Indian president or the Israeli president?  There are several Westminster style parliamentary republics, with selected presidents.  I refuse to accept that Canadians are so venal as to be unable to manage.

If you think my (or McWhinney's, take your pick) proposal for morphing into a regency is scary, here is my proposal for Senate Reform, by stealth.

On being appointed, Prime Minister Harper writes a few letters:

"¢   First, to each provincial premier outlining (not proposing) his plan for Senate Reform;

"¢   Second, to each senator -

o   Outlining his proposal, and

o   Demanding each senator's resignation, to be effective the day of the next general election in the province (s)he represents.

Next: the proposal; on the same day as he sent the letters, he goes public and tells Canadians that, starting soon, they will elect their senators when they elect their provincial governments.  He will explain that senators will be elected, province by province, using a simple system of proportional representation: each provincial party will submit lists of candidates for the Senate of Canada when they go to the polls in their respective provinces; senators will be appointed, by the Prime Minister of Canada - as required by the Constitution, from those lists, based on the share of the popular vote earned by each party; senators will, before being appointed, provide the Prime Minster with a letter of resignation, effective at the next provincial general election (this will be a new, practical, requirement for being appointed to the Senate).  He will explain that, almost certainly, a few senators will refuse to resign, preferring that they be allowed to continue in their illegitimate, appointed, pork barrel politics, patronage sinecures.  Most will, sooner rather than later, change their minds after they understand that they will be illegitimate - toothless old hacks, flacks and bagmen.  It may take 20 years to complete the whole process but, at least, it has begun.

In response to questions he will say that while he prefers some form of provincial equality he cannot see how to manage it without turning the Senate into a 250 seat body, something he does not intend to do.  He will also say that he plans to use his power to increase the senate, on a regional basis, to appoint six new senators - one from each territory (selected by the territory, in some form to be agreed) and three others, elected every three or four years by the Assembly of First Nations, the Inuit Tapirisat and the Metis National Council.

Prime Minister Harper will explain that he will establish a new constitutional convention requiring that senators appointed to the cabinet must be elected; he will respect the Senate's right, even duty, to amend or delay legislation but he will not accept that a defeat in the Senate on a matter of confidence in the House of Commons would mean a defeat of the government.  As now a bill might be rejected by the Senate but, if it is passed again by the House then the GG will sign it into law.

The point is that there are many things which can be done to reform our institutions without amending the Constitution; reforming the Senate and ditching the monarch, in favour of a Canadian regent, are just two of them.


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as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
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Offline N. McKay

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #73 on: April 12, 2005, 10:46:14 »
On being appointed, Prime Minister Harper writes a few letters:

[...]

o   Demanding each senator's resignation, to be effective the day of the next general election in the province (s)he represents.

[...]

 senators will be appointed, by the Prime Minister of Canada â “ as required by the Constitution, from those lists, based on the share of the popular vote earned by each party; senators will, before being appointed,

Senators are appointed by the Crown, on the advice of the Prime Minister.  You can't have the PM demanding the resignation of 100 people appointed by the Crown and making his own unilateral changes to the way they're appointed.  It's to prevent exactly that kind of thing that we have an apolitical head of state above the PM.  Without the Queen, who would stop a PM from running amok and reinventing the government to suit his own purposes?

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Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
« Reply #74 on: April 12, 2005, 11:03:46 »
Senators are appointed by the Crown, on the advice of the Prime Minister.   You can't have the PM demanding the resignation of 100 people appointed by the Crown and making his own unilateral changes to the way they're appointed.   It's to prevent exactly that kind of thing that we have an apolitical head of state above the PM.   Without the Queen, who would stop a PM from running amok and reinventing the government to suit his own purposes?

Of course the Prime Minister can demand the resignation of senators; it is an overt political act: just what partisan, political prime ministers are meant to do.  What he cannot do is fire them.

When they have resigned and when new ones have been elected, the Queen â “ or the Regent â “ can appoint them on the advice of the PM, just as the Constitution says.
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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