Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fair Vote Canada Dumps Direct Democracy

Fair Vote Canada appears to be changing its tactics. After embarrassing referendum defeats in PEI, Ontario and British Columbia, the organization dedicated to changing Canada's electoral system appears to be abandoning its drive for a national referendum. Instead FVC is now calling for a "public consultation" followed by a quickie amendment to the elections act. Of course that amendment would be passed by a House of Commons that is, to their minds, illegitimate but never you mind. The ends justify the means for these people. I guess that silent majority FVC dreams is out there is just too silent.


Skinny Dipper said...

It would be nice to have a referendum on changing the voting system. Then again, we never had a referendum in 1867 on the existing First-Past-the-Post voting system. Some problems with the recent referendums on voting reform in Ontario and BC were that the governments design very convoluted questions with convoluted responses. There were no YES or NO responses. The referendum questions ensured that more people would vote against a new system when there were convoluted choices. Next, the governments applied high thresholds for approval. These weren't just simple majorities, but 60% minimum with majorities in 60% of the existing ridings. Based on my simple knowledge of statistics, the probability of such any referendum passing would be about ten percent.

We may complain about how voters were not comfortable with either MMP or STV. That is fine. I would be happy to hold another referendum on other variations of proportional representation so long as we can have a fair referendum. Since this is unlikely, it means that we need to approach members of the House of Commons to demonstrate their support for voting reform instead of just having their support for a referendum on voting reform. This puts Fair Vote Canada in the driver's seat in demanding that our MPs and candidates support voting reform rather than the weaker referendum on voting reform.

Aaron Ginsberg said...

Skinny, if any of the last three referenda had cracked 40% you might be able to complain about thresholds and convoluted questions. As it is, the proposals flopped. How is "Do you want choice a or choice b?" convoluted? Are you confused when someone asks you if you want Coke or Pepsi? And no, we didn't have a referendum in 1867 because Canadians were using first past the post to elect representatives for generations prior to 1867.

Anonymous said...

Aaron, the first BC referendum on STV did pass 40%, in fact, it passed 50%, but the threshold was set at 50%

I understand it looks somewhat hypocritical, but those in power always demand that those who want a change stick to their 'principles'. The fact is that what FairVote is advocating is an improvement to our representative democracy. We need to choose the right people that the votes actually went to, to go to parliament and work out how to govern.

You assume that if you are for electoral reform you are for direct democracy, that the people should have a say on every issue and votes are the best way to decide things. In fact, votes are highly politicized simplified questions carried out in the environment of intense marketing and campaigning on all sides. Its not a debate, or a discussion. It often comes down to fear and emotion and one single question.

Complex questions and trade offs are not best suited to being solved with a single yes or no question. They are best solved by debate, compromise and discussion which is what our representatives are sent to do. So I would support a referendum question, but not on which system to choose, the question should be something like

"Do you think our electoral system needs to be changed to ensure a closer match between national/provincial proportion of the vote and seats in parliament? Yes or No."

The voters need to give direction, not come up with the detailed solution.

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