Sunday, October 30, 2016

Electoral Reform? Don't Hold Your Breath.

Real Change? No, Sorry, Short Change.

Alison at Creekside has prepared an important item on remarks by Trudeau's minister of democratic institutions, Maryam Monsef, during a recent public meeting in Victoria on electoral reform.

Alison transcribed minister Monsef's responses to two questions posed from the audience. They deserve to be read in their entirety but my attention was caught by this line:

"we are advocating hard for reform, for reform that means improvement, that sets the stage for the next generation of leaders to come in and make the system better."

Okay, got that? Her job is to lay the groundwork for some "next generation of leaders" to make the system better.

Weasel words and wiggle room. Again.


Anonymous said...

Could mean they will implement the small reform of ranked ballots and let the PR issue be decided by future generations.

There was zero chance the Liberals would implement PR in the first place. Too much opposition from the establishment.

Fact is, if Trudeau decided to keep the status quo (because the committee votes are split) the establishment media from the Toronto Star to the Toronto Sun would praise him for it. If he tries ranked ballot reform, he would get flak from all corners.

A good bet: he tries to break the deadlock with ranked ballots; gets attacked from all corners; then says, "I tried, but there is no consensus; no middle ground. We have no alternative but to maintain the status quo for now."

The Mound of Sound said...

Interesting scenario, Anon. Thanks.

Ben Burd said...

If you believe that the architect of the Ontario failure of Election Reform - Gerald Butts, would ever allow the Liberals to go ahead with anything but 'ranked ballots' if at all, I have some swampland for you.

The Mound of Sound said...

Honestly, Ben, I would be content with ranked ballots if that's what it takes to deliver us from FPTP.

Northern PoV said...

Ranked ballots would be a significant and welcome change. And easily doable.

PR is a cluserf*ck. Fails at the ballot box every time. (in Canada)

As long as the the 1% control the money - they will control the gov't regardless of the voting system: NZ has MMP/PR and elected a Harper clone w 505 of raw vote.

So - bring back the vote subsidy and give it to 1st choice votes under IVR.


Northern PoV said...

oh for an edit function


Anonymous said...

Someone should start a ranked ballot petition. I bet a lot of Canadians would sign on.

All the activist groups are pro-PR. They use a lot of rhetoric against ranked ballots, claiming they are worse than FPTP.

Average Canadians need to be represented at this thing.

Anonymous said...

" Like all winner-take-all voting systems, IRV tends to exaggerate the number of seats won by the largest parties"

Under this system Libs would actually increase their "majority" while still getting only 39 of popular vote%!

Most countries in the world use some form of PR. For a reason...


Anonymous said...

The stuff about distortions under AV are based on junk statistics. They say the Liberals would've won a bigger majority under AV in 2015. This assumes all people who voted Liberal under FPTP would've made them their #1 choice on their ranked ballot. Obviously a false assumption.

Fact is the NDP was leading the center-left vote for half the election. The tide changed back to the Liberals because they were seen, by strategic voters, as the safest choice in stopping Harper. Under AV, voters don't have to pick one center-left party. They can strategically vote with an alternative vote.

France and Australia use runoff voting. There are no distortions of the vote. A 50% majority decides the government divided along center-left and conservative lines. (No more 40% dictatorships.) AV moderates the debate (extremists lose out on alternative votes.) It would be an enormous improvement over what we have now.

Ben Burd said...

Ranked ballots only work if the voter fills in all of the rankings. A 'plumped' vote is as bad as FPTP and we can't stop it unless incomplete ballots are treated as spoiled ballots.

Alison said...

Thank you for the signal boost, Mound.

But take care on your enthusiasm for "ranked ballots" if implemented in a single member riding, also known as "Alternative Vote" or AV - the system purported to be preferred by Trudeau.

"we re-estimated the results of the seven previous federal elections dating back to 1997 to better understand how a move to AV could affect the outcomes of elections. The results were illuminating.

The only party to benefit in all seven elections was the Liberals, who gained an average of 19 seats."

A fear of AV is keeping the CPC members on the ERRE committee from support of electoral reform, members who have themselves agitated for Proportional Representation in the past.

Purple library guy said...

It's not inevitable, but ranked ballots tend to favour centrist/compromise parties. Like, in the Canadian example, the NDPers will tend to mark Libs #2 because they hate the right-wing Conservatives worse, basically the same way some dippers will vote Liberal tactically under FPTP. Meanwhile Conservatives will also tend to rank Libs #2 for similar reasons in reverse. To the extent this happens, the only way for Liberals not to win is if they're the party with the lowest starting total and so it's their second choices getting counted.
There are exceptions--in Alberta, for instance, bad blood from the past combined with an emphasis on corruption over ideology, along with a tendency not to take the NDP seriously, have led to Alberta Conservatives often hating the Liberals more than the NDP. But the trend is what I described. As a radical, I'm not really in favour of replacing an option that systematically marginalizes my side with another option that systematically marginalizes my side.

Really, why is something approaching fairness for a change such a hard sell?

Purple library guy said...

It's certainly not surprising, though, that whenever Liberals consider electoral reform, ranked ballots are their go-to option and they tend to rapidly lose enthusiasm if it becomes clear that other approaches are sufficiently more popular that it will be hard to game the situation to produce "ranked ballots" as a result.

Alison said...

PLG :"Really, why is something approaching fairness for a change such a hard sell?"

A lot of it is confusion around terminology. Monsef, Lib MPs on the ERRE committee, the media, and people intentionally trying to muddy the waters do not differentiate between "ranked ballot" as just a means of counting votes under many different electoral systems - both majoritarian systems like AV and proportional systems like STV use ranked ballots - and "Ranked Ballot", also known as Alternative Vote as an electoral system in itself.

Only 4 of over 300 witnesses at ERRE had anything nice to say about AV.

The Mound of Sound said...

"ranked ballots favour centrist/compromise parties" Yes, I expect that's right. It's perhaps a reflection of what the majority of Canadians consider desirable and what is wrong with that? I can understand a self-described "radical" might not see things in the same light as mainstream political thought but what possible justification is there for yielding to fringe views? In a way this mirrors your argument for confiscation of assets without compensation. That is, at best, undemocratic and a practice generally adopted only by particularly authoritarian regimes. History is littered with them.

Anonymous said...

"but what possible justification is there for yielding to fringe views?"
Democracy. And not "yielding" but acknowledging.
In any case, all democracies use some form of threshold...
Let me repeat. Most countries in the world use some form of PR. For a good reason.

Anonymous said...

Nope...not holding my breath...don't want to pass out. Anyong

Purple library guy said...

Mound, I'm not sure if you are fundamentally misunderstanding or intentionally obscuring. You are taking "radical" as equal to "small" or "fringe", but this is not necessarily the case. There have in history fairly often been mass movements for radical views. My point is that if three parties are split fairly evenly in terms of primary voter attachment, the one seen as "in between" the other two ideologically will clean up in a ranked ballot. It gets a major boost based on "position" rather than how many people believe in it. Or is your position that votes for the non-centre SHOULD be worth less than votes for the centre? How very democratic of you.

(Even with PR, centrist parties have a slight advantage in that they are likely to be part of coalitions more often--but it's not as egregious)

As to your zinger . . . moving away from feudalism tended to involve a fair amount of taking away the lands of the nobility. We nowadays would consider that the true owners of the land would be the peasants that lived on it and worked it and whose ancestors had done the same for generations, not a parasitic aristocracy. The aristocrats would consider that it was theirs according to the law and because they, as the military class, protected those peasants from bandits and invaders--but today we do not consider these sorts of reasons adequate and recognize various half-truths in such claims. We would not think it reasonable that the serfs should have had to compensate the barons for "their" land.
In my opinion, today we are at a similar point with respect to great private wealth not related to land; capital is too destructive and its extraction of wealth from both the environment which sustains us all and the people who do the actual work creating their wealth is not justified by their claims about the magical properties of entrepreneurialism and so on. Further, a great deal of the wealth corporations get access to is handed to them for free or a song by the state, often by dispossessing poorer, less politically connected people (such as, in Canada, First Nations); nobody ever seems to say anyone is undemocratic or a "particularly authoritarian regime" when it rips off poor people's stuff to give to rich people, only when the tables get turned on the rich. Which is odd, since last I checked the rich were not in the majority.

Even if one broadly agreed that government taking things away from people without compensation (such as by taxing them or by imposing fees or issuing speeding tickets) was bad (which it often is but IMO it depends on the specifics), what was bad about it would have nothing to do with democracy. If a majority voted to take stuff away from a certain category of people, that would be democratic even if it happened to be a bad idea.