Thomas Mulcair confirms NDP will put electoral reform forward if elected
It goes all the way back to Ed Broadbent, forty years ago. Electoral reform. Now, Thomas Mulcair and the federal NDP, which benefitted from our first-past-the-post or winner take all voting system to become the Official Opposition, are holding to their principles rather than ignoring them now that they’ve improved their position.
Last night, in Toronto, Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair joined Toronto-Danforth MP Craig Scott at “Democracy Day on the Danforth,” a meeting jointly held by Fair Vote Canada and the riding’s NDP association, to discuss changing the way Canadians vote.
Mulcair announced clearly and precisely that a vote for the NDP in 2015 is a vote for electoral reform, and that “we will treat it as a mandate for change”.
That implies, he answered in a follow-on open question and answer (members of the local Green Party riding association were confirmed to be in the room asking questions; it’s presumed the Conservatives and Liberals had their people sitting quietly there too), that change could come by simple legislation amending the Canada Elections Act, as opposed to by national referendum.
MP Scott then took the audience through a presentation of the NDP’s proposals, which are for a mixed-member proportional representation system using flexible party lists.
Mixed-member PR is the system used in New Zealand, in Germany, and in Scotland, amongst others (83 democracies globally use proportional voting systems rather than the system we use; others do have a winner take all approach but, like Australia, use a ranked ballot to reallocate votes and get clear majorities rather than simply a “one more vote than anyone else” approach like Canada’s).
In it, you cast two votes at an election: one for your local MP, just like today, and one for the party of your choice. Parties end up with seats, first from their elected MPs in ridings (your first vote), then filled out as needed from a list of candidates to reach their share of the popular vote for their party (your second vote).
Unlike other countries, which simply allow you to “vote for the party,” the NDP proposes that Canada allow voters to select an individual name from the party’s list to say “this party and this person”, or simply “vote for the party.” They also want regional lists, dividing larger provinces like Ontario, Québec, Alberta or BC into multiple regions, so that individuals on the list relate to a region and can become known.
Scott presented how the 2011 election would have worked out if the NDP’s proposals had been in effect for it. What gave his presentation credibility was the fact that the NDP itself would have had fewer seats under their own proposal than they actually won.
Other alternatives were also presented, and the 130 or so people in attendance polled for feedback throughout the evening.
Thomas Mulcair, in opening the event, also reiterated his promise that “the NDP in power would appoint no Senators” and that the party would be working to “abolish the Red Chamber.” He received a standing ovation after taking open questions on a variety of subjects for nearly ten minutes.
Scott has been travelling the country this summer holding events like this, and has an extensive travel schedule planned throughout Western Canada this fall to hold similar evenings in all major Western cities.
This is the second major plank in the NDP’s 2015 electoral strategy that has been revealed, after an urban affairs focus. It’s clear that the New Democrats want the next election to be about ideas and policies rather than about personalities.
Scott also indicated that there would be continued outreach to the country during the next two years, including mailings, a video campaign, online information, and door knocking and leafletting so that Canadians can make an informed choice about their future. Feedback from these will refine the proposal into the formal policy plank at the election.
No voting system avoids skewed and perverse results (this has been mathematically proven), but this proposed change would help empower the many Canadians who live in parts of the country where the real battle is at the nomination meeting, not on election day.
Kudos to the Thomas Mulcair and the NDP for standing for their principles even when it might hurt them.
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