By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, July 29, 2009 - 5 Comments
Michael Urban repeats the case for proportional representation.
This structural bias is exacerbated by the fact that despite claiming to desire more cooperative politics, voters routinely punish politicians when they seek to cooperate.
The 2008 coalition debacle demonstrated that many Canadians, apparently unaware of – or at least uncomfortable with – how our parliamentary system works, opposed an unprecedented level of cooperation that would have installed a government supported by representatives who garnered a greater percentage of the popular vote (53.72 per cent) than any other peacetime government in Canadian history. Granted, some of this opposition was based on certain reasonable objections, but no small amount of it emerged from other mistaken notions that what the coalition proposed to do was somehow unfair or unconstitutional.
Similarly, the critiques of Stephane Dion, and more recently Michael Ignatieff, for supporting their Conservative opponents in parliamentary votes – what cooperation actually looks like in action – show some of the dangers for any politician that seeks to cooperate with another party, even when this cooperation could arguably benefit the country in the long-term.
By Andrew Coyne - Monday, May 11, 2009 at 11:20 AM - 60 Comments
Elsewhere you will find a lengthy piece by me explaining why I support the electoral reform (STV) option in Tuesday’s BC’s referendum. But for those pressed for time, here’s the gist:
Think of all the things you detest about politics as it is practiced in Canada today.
- The viciousness.
- The emptiness.
- The lack of real options.
- Voters being told they can’t vote for the party they support, but must support another party, to stop yet a third party — that is, to prevent “vote-splitting.”
- The preponderance of so-called “safe” seats.
- The vast and artificial disparities in representation between regions — no Liberals in Alberta, no Tories in Toronto, etc
- The discrimination against new or small parties like the Greens
- MPs who have little role but to vote with their party.
- Being forced to choose between a candidate you can’t stand running for a party you support, or a candidate you like running for a party you despise.
And so on.
Well: we can just sit and complain about it, as important issues are ignored, voter turnout declines and our politics slide ever further into the mud. Or we can do something about it.
If we are to do something about it, we need to understand the causes of our present fix. And, while no cause explains everything, number one on the list of explanatory variables is the way we elect members of Parliament and the provincial legislatures.
By Andrew Coyne - Sunday, May 10, 2009 at 10:02 PM - 7 Comments
This is pretty cool. It simulates the voting process under BC’s proposed STV, using the actual proposed ridings and the current lineup of candidates — in other words, as if the current provincial election were being held under STV rules.
Here, for example, is what the ballot would look like in Burnaby-New Westminster, a five-member riding. You can vote as you would in an election, ranking the candidates from 1 to whatever you like. It immediately becomes apparent, as you do so, how much more the individual candidate counts than in first-past-the-post elections. You start thinking, hmmm, I want the Liberals to do well, but I like that Dawn Black from the NDP, wouldn’t mind seeing her as one of the five. Maybe I’ll put her third? And so on.
Then you submit your vote, the computer tallies it with the votes other people have cast in the same riding, and you can see the results: how candidates are knocked out, and how their votes are redistributed through successive rounds.
By Andrew Coyne - Sunday, May 10, 2009 at 9:20 PM - 6 Comments
By Andrew Coyne - Sunday, May 10, 2009 at 8:45 PM - 8 Comments
The biggest single knock against STV, the one that the critics have had the most fun with, is the elaborate system for counting the ballots — the basis for complaints that the system is too complicated for voters to understand.
It’s not that complicated. You count up first choices. You eliminate the last place candidate, and redistribute his or her votes according to their second choices. You do the same thing on the second ballot, and the third, until you’ve elected the required number of members. It’s actually quite familiar, to anyone who’s watched a party leadership race. Only instead of holding multiple ballots to find out people’s second and third choices, it’s all done in one.
Is it only the losers’ votes that get redistributed? No: that’s the first wrinkle. You also redistribute the votes of candidates that have been elected (since we’re electing more than one in each riding): that is, once they pass the threshold number of votes needed to make it a mathematical certainty they’ll be among the winners, like a hockey team that’s clinched a playoff spot.
How do we know where that threshold is? Simple. In a one-member riding, it would obviously be 50% plus 1: with that many votes, there’s no way that anyone could finish ahead of you. In a two member riding, it would be 33% plus 1: again, there’s no way two other candidates could both have more votes than you. In three member riding, it’s 25% plus one, and so on.
Whatever number of members a riding elects, the threshold for election is the number of votes divided by one more than the number of members. Once a candidate crosses that threshold, he’s declared elected, and his votes are redistributed.
All of them? No: only his surplus votes — the number of votes in excess of the threshold. That’s the second wrinkle. Before redistributing his votes among the remaining candidate, they’re weighted by the proportion that is considered surplus — if the surplus is a tenth of the total, for example, they would only count a tenth as much.
And that’s it. That’s the Big Complexity the critics complain of: you redistribute votes from candidates as they are either eliminated or elected to those still in the race.
But of course, all the voters need to know is how to count to five. The precise intricacies of the counting system would be of more concern if this were the first time this system had ever been tried. But as it is already in use in many jurisdictions around the world, it rather puts to rest any fear that this is some sort of trick — that there is some nasty surprise lurking in the fine print.
Anyway, the Irish seem able to stumble through it somehow.
By selley - Monday, October 27, 2008 at 2:35 PM - 29 Comments
Must-reads: …Daphne Bramham on Nazanin Afshin-Jam; David Olive and Greg Weston on
Must-reads: Daphne Bramham on Nazanin Afshin-Jam; David Olive and Greg Weston on tough economic times; Scott Taylor, off to the Caucasus; Haroon Siddiqui on the Iacobucci inquiry; Dan Gardner on ending the oil addiction; Barbara Yaffe on Bloc Québécois fundraising.
About those election promises…
Prepare to be disappointed for your own good.
The Toronto Star‘s David Olive observes the “awkwardly choreographed dance” currently being performed by the prime minister and the provincial premiers on the matter of deficit financing, whether it’s necessary and who should be blamed for it if it is. “It’s not just that if a swimming pool somewhere has to be closed next year, the premiers want Ottawa to wear it,” he writes. “They also want Ottawa to speed up its spending on job-creating infrastructure projects for which the premiers and territorial leaders could claim some credit when the unemployed start pounding on the doors of legislatures from Charlottetown to Victoria.”
So long as deficits are short term and exist only when times demand them, The Globe and Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson says there’s nothing inherently wrong with them. But as a habit, they’re a ruinous addiction that’s incredibly hard to break. Consult Hansard from the 1980s and you’ll find “Liberal and NDP MPs … predicting that any attempts at fiscal prudence would result in tens of thousands of people becoming unemployed, communities being crushed, grim fates awaiting millions of vulnerable people,” says Simpson. As such, it would behove the Tories to ditch as many useless, costly election promises as they can—he suggests the two-cent cut to the diesel excise tax and the $5,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers—before they’re forced to ditch the one about never running a deficit.
By selley - Friday, October 17, 2008 at 2:49 PM - 10 Comments
Must-reads: …Chantal Hébert, Josée Legault and John Robson on the battle for the political
Battle of the centrists
Three absolutely excellent columns about the state of the Liberals and of Canadian centrism, and some mercifully interesting (if misguided) post-election roundups.
The Canadian left “is inhabited by parties which do not or cannot aspire to replace the Conservatives,” Chantal Hébert writes in the Toronto Star, and the Tories have no choice but to move further towards the political centre—either strategically under Stephen Harper or naturally under his successor, who “could well be more progressive.” As such, she argues, the political centre “is where the action … will be in the next election,” just as it was on Tuesday night—in Quebec as well as the Rest of Canada—and so the Liberals need to correct their leftward drift immediately. And, crucially, they need to realize they can be a legitimate threat in Quebec again, but only if they “set their watch to 21st-century-Quebec time and stop looking for a separatist bogeyman behind every tree.” We suggest the Liberal brainboxes print this column out, frame it, and fit Justin Trudeau for a muzzle.
The Montreal Gazette‘s Josée Legault agrees entirely with Hébert, arguing “it was mind-boggling to see how Dion gave up on the Grits’ traditional centrist branding and let Harper claim falsely that the Tories were now the more pragmatic, mainstream option.” Practically speaking, however, the Grits are cash-poor and have, shall we say, a penchant for internecine bickering. As such, Legault says if they are “to have any shot at rebuilding, unity will be a must, even if they have to take it intravenously.” Paul Martin’s “Chrétien-bashing memoirs” couldn’t have come at a worse time, as she says, but he could use his book tour, if he so chose, “to band together rather than lashing out at his predecessor.” And Jean Chrétien could, if he so chose, shut his gob.