Friday, December 08, 2006

Why Are We Even Considering Proportional Representation?

Some time ago I wrote a post listing why I think we should not go to a Proportional Representation voting system. The six issues I raise still seem to me to be show-stoppers.

The biggest motivation I can see for moving to PR is to help out the smaller parties. The NDP regularly gets much more of the popular vote than its perecentage of MPs indicates. Little parties like the Green party get a certain amount of votes, but spread too thin to elect anyone. It's a no-brainer that those little parties would be pushing for a system that benefits them.

But we have to realize that it would not only be the NDP and Green party that would benefit. All sorts of extremist and weirdo organizations would start to elect MPs. Think back to the 1993 election. The Natural Law party fielded 231 candidates, spent millions on advertising, and garnered 84,743 votes. Under PR, they might have elected an MP. Their platform? Kinda hard to say. Their main schtick was "yogick flying" - essentially, Doug Henning sat in the lotus position and hopped, with photographs taken as his bum was a couple of inches off the floor, and they claimed he could fly.

PR does not help Liberals, and it does not help the country.

Here's a recap of the six things I could think of that are wrong with PR:

1. More elections. Lots more elections. This will be very expensive, and it can lead to voter apathy.

2. Strange coalitions. At the federal level, we could very well be governed by a coalition including a Quebec separatist party. In other countries, it's not uncommon for extremes of the left and right to join up against the centrist party.

3. The election of fringe party MPs.

4. Loss of local focus. Instead of our current small ridings where we know the issues and can meet the candidates, we will be voting in much larger ridings and have much less understanding of the candidates or the issues. Depending on what form of PR is in place, there may not even be the concept of a local representative.

5. More instability in governance. With the creation of temporary alliances to form coalition governments, there will be greater swings in policy approach. It will be more difficult for the government to have a strong vision.

6. Undemocratic. Coalitions are created between members of the political elite, without any input from voters. Nobody voted for the coalition. A party that got few votes can wield a disproportionate amount of power.

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4 comments:

ottlib said...

I hope not.

Ed King said...

The Natural Law Party was so cool! I loved their commercials. I think the early to mid 1990s would've been much less acrimonious if Jean Chr├ętien, Preston and Lucien Bouchard had all taken up yogi flying.

Clear Grit said...

PR does not help Liberals, and it does not help the country.

I know some of my fellow Liberals don't like to hear this, but helping the Liberal Party should not be the objective of democratic reform, fairness should.

1. More elections. Lots more elections. This will be very expensive, and it can lead to voter apathy.

Elections aren't that expensive. Also, most countries with PR don't have election after election. In fact, to most countries with PR, the fact that Canada is going to have elections in 2004, 2006 and likely 2007 would be considered weird.

Take The Netherlands. Their last elections were in 2006, 2003, 2002, 1998, 1994, 1989, 1986, 1982... get my point?

2. Strange coalitions. At the federal level, we could very well be governed by a coalition including a Quebec separatist party.

Unlikely, considering the Bloc has stated on many occassions that it will never be part of a Canadian government.

Also, how is this any different from the situation we have now? The Liberals and the Bloc could form a coalition government together - why don't they?

In other countries, it's not uncommon for extremes of the left and right to join up against the centrist party.

I'm quite unaware of this; the norm in PR countries is for a centre-right or centre-left party to team up with either another centrist party, or a party further to the right or left. Think Germany, for instance, which is currently governed by a broad centrist coalition.

3. The election of fringe party MPs.

So what? Would 2 or 3 Christian Heritage MPs really be such a horrible thing? If that's what the people want, and I can't emphasize this enough, if that's what the people vote for... so long as it isn't unconstitutional, why shouldn't they get it?

4. Loss of local focus. Instead of our current small ridings where we know the issues and can meet the candidates, we will be voting in much larger ridings and have much less understanding of the candidates or the issues.

This isn't true; there are many forms of PR which still place emphasis on local candidates. The systems in place in Germany, Australia, and Japan are all heavily locally-oriented.

5. More instability in governance.

Assuming that PR leads to instability is begging the question. It doesn't lead to instability at all. The fact is, the vast majority of PR countries regularly form stable, lasting governments with coherent policies.

6. Undemocratic.

This is perhaps the most specious claim of all. Undemocratic? As opposed to a system which allows a party with less than 40% of the vote - less than 40%! - to have absolute power? Come on, now...

Read my essay on the matter for further arguments.

http://www.angelfire.com/vamp/seashore/pr.html

Mark Dowling said...

I'd like to see List PR in the Senate. Clear out the appointees and ensure minority representation in each Province. The Senate to me is a democratic cesspit.