Electoral reform

Nothing scary about proportional representation, once you know the facts

It’s time for Canada to join majority of OECD countries with PR
Photo: Jason

Jim Cooperman’s recent opinion piece in Ricochet on electoral reform laid out an argument against proportional representation electoral systems in general, on the grounds that they would give more power to parties in the House of Commons. His thesis is based on a myth that comes apart rather easily.

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The author presents us with a wrenching choice: either a proportional system where the political parties get to choose the additional candidates, or a system with a ranked ballot. This is a false dilemma, which is debunked once one knows that proportional systems can easily allow for voters to use a ranked balloting system. The phantom that Cooperman is raising is properly known as closed lists, and it is worth noting that no organization is pushing for such an electoral strategy for Canada.

Having laid out this erroneous hypothesis, the author continues his discussion by introducing the French two-round system used for legislative and presidential elections (which is actually not a ranked balloting system). In our opinion, the French model isn’t anything to write home about, since in 2007 it engendered an index of distortion of 13.6, and that’s leaving out the generally lamentable satisfaction indexes for French presidents (François Hollande had a dissatisfaction rating of 89 per cent in June 2016).

More than 80 per cent of OECD countries already have a proportional voting system. It is our turn now.

The author also claims that the NDP and the Green party favour proportional representation because it would allow them to gain seats. But wait, the Orange Wave of 2011 is a perfect example of the distorted results that can occur under Canada’s broken first-past-the-post system! Indeed, it is false logic to suggest that any one party would be particularly advantaged or disadvantaged by a proportional system, as we can see by observing the vagaries of vote-to-seats distortions from one Canadian election to the next.

Rather than establishing an electoral system that would allow false majorities and stifle compromise, Canada needs to renew its political paradigms and insist on collaboration between parties, in order to get them to come up with positions that resonate with a majority of Canadian citizens. More than 80 per cent of OECD countries already have a proportional voting system. It is our turn now.

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