Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Electoral reform lives on

The BC-STV referendum result is a crushing defeat of that particular reform concept, and most disappointing. It joins the other recent failures to reform the silly and antiquated first past the post system of electing political representatives.

But all is not lost.

If we think back ten or so years, electoral reform was not a topic of everyday discussion. Proponents were regarded as slightly loopy, and most people would cross the road and walk on the other side to avoid being accosted by a reformist.

But now? Now people talk about it. Now we debate different types of reforms. Now we consider the ironical results of the FPTP system. Now we have politicians wringing their hands over regional alienation, and wondering aloud how to ensure that the centrifugal forces in Canada do not splinter the country.

Let us take heart from earlier reform movements. Think about how long it took for women to gain the vote. How about them suffragettes? Not even the Cat and Mouse Act could deter those dogged reformers:

"The so-called Cat and Mouse Act was passed by the British government to prevent suffragettes from obtaining public sympathy; it provided the release of those whose hunger strikes had brought them sickness, as well as their re-imprisonment once they had recovered."

So let us lick our wounds, commiserate with each other, reflect upon what happened, and then put our heads together to come up with new ways to achieve that most worthy end: making every vote count, and improving democracy in our country.

And above all, don't let the bastards grind us down.


  1. Fantastic post. The worst reaction possible right now is to believe that the defeat of BC-STV has doomed the broader project for electoral reform.

  2. There is not reason to despair for the Canadian electoral reform movement. Our organization, Fair Vote, is growing and we are slowly learning how difficult (but necessary) reforming our outdated political institutions will be.

  3. Well said.

    We should not forget that, for electoral reform to take place, we do not need a referendum, as we can see here:,_1952

    What we need is MMPs who are committed to a fair voting system.

    Letès start working at it today!

  4. okay, that should have said MPs; Freudian slip....

  5. There are insidious forces working to block electoral reform. For example, if FPTP is so good, then why not just have a referendum that has two choices, FPTP and PR and the one that gets the most votes wins? Worry about the details later .. kind of like what elected officials do about their promises. Voters, after all, do not vote on legislation.

    But no. Somewhere along the line, the entrenched power saw to it that the process must contain an enormous process like the Citizen's Assembly tasked with the creation of a detailed implementation. Then, when it comes to the vote, then voters can split hairs on the implementation, STV vs MMP, the timing, the number of members, etc. etc. As this support siphons off, the likelihood of winning the referendum by the ridiculous standard of 60% wains.

    What concerns me most is the fear that many Canadians will tune out of the discussion on the need for PR, and will falsely assume that it is not achievable, and worse still, that we don't critically need it.

    Would anyone out there be interested is setting up a mock election site using MMP or STV (or perhaps both) for the next federal election by merging a bunch of ridings together? Then we could show the world how easy it really is.

  6. Jim, a magnificent idea! Let's hope some techies volunteer to do that. If they design a model they could go back over earlier elections. Of course, they would have to estimate what people's ranking of choices were (if using STV).

  7. Referenda are a dead end. What is needed is for the provincial NDP in one of the provinces to win a majority and then ram it through the legislature. Unfortunately, a strange thing happens to parties that win majorities. Suddenly FPTP looks pretty damn good to them.

  8. "Referenda are a dead end. What is needed is for the provincial NDP in one of the provinces to win a majority and then ram it through the legislature"

    Sounds like you think that people are too dumb to pick what you want. The whine of an elitist....

  9. Sounds like you think that people are too dumb to pick what you want. The whine of an elitist...

    Nope, it is using the system we have now to achieve my ends. If you think that is anti-democratic, you must think all of our legislatures are illegitimate.


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