Sunday, February 10, 2013

Political disengagement in Canada: Why is Justin Trudeau ignoring the obvious?

Trudeau vs Reformer Murray
Justin Trudeau told a crowd in Hamilton that a Liberal Party led by him would take steps to reengage Canadians in our political life:

The Liberal Party's first step in a Federal election should be reengaging people who have given up on politics, says leadership contender Justin Trudeau.

“We need to reengage citizens across this country with the idea of being citizens,” Trudeau said at an appearance at the West Town Bar and Grill in Hamilton Saturday afternoon.

“Being a citizen is more than just paying your taxes and voting and obeying the law. It's about understanding that you are responsible for the society of which you are part,” he said.

While addressing a crowd of onlookers at the Locke Street restaurant, Trudeau lamented that Canadians are becoming cynical about politics.

“But we're sick and tired of being cynical about politics,” he added.

“Everywhere across the country, I keep hearing that people are sick of feeling disconnected. We elect people to be our voices in Ottawa and what we get instead is Ottawa's voices here to us.”

To that end, the Montreal-area MP says he's hoping to reach out to voters in the 18 to 25 age bracket who traditionally cast ballots at low levels.

“They have an awareness to the importance of activism and advocacy,” Trudeau said. “They just don't feel like politics is a worthwhile use of their time.”

Why does Trudeau continue to support an electoral reform policy that is doomed to failure after the 2015 election, when a realistic, proven means of reengaging citizens in their country's politics has been successfully used in dozens of other countries?

His preference is a preferential vote, and he seems to believe that a modified proportional representation system "does not represent Canadians":

I do not support proportional representation because I believe deeply that every Member of Parliament should represent actual Canadians and Canadian communities, not just political parties. I support a preferential ballot because I believe it will lead to a more substantive and civil debate during elections and a more representative government afterward.

There is almost zero chance of the preferential ballot system being accepted by the NDP or the CPC after the 2015 election, which is most likely to result in a minority government.

Why on earth would the NDP agree to a preferential ballot system which will probably result in Conservative supporters throwing their weight behind Liberal candidates for MP as their second choice, and NDP supporters choosing Liberal candidates as their second choice, with Liberal supporters split between the CPC, Green and NDP candidates for second choice?

A moment's thought will lead you to the conclusion that the preferential ballot system will harm the NDP the most of all 3 major parties. Mulcair has indicated he will implement a modified proportional representation system to replace the archaic first past the post system, and so has May.
Trudeau is the only leader out of step, and seems wedded to the preferential vote system because it will improve the "tone" in Parliament.

Disengaged Canadians don't want an improvement in "tone" in Parliament. They want real reform, that makes very vote count, that means their votes count, and their views will be represented in Parliament.

Cosmetic reform like the preferential ballot just does not cut it.

And Justin Trudeau's reasons for not supporting modified proportional representation are simplistic, to say the least.

The chances of any meaningful electoral reform after the 2015 election if Justin Trudeau is leader of our party are minimal.

What a pity.


  1. Much prefer Garneau's and Trudeau's idea to PR.

  2. Thanks, Jordon; I disagree. Modified proportional representation preserves a geographic link between the riding and some of the MPs chosen, but also allows votes to count. Preferential vote system does not restore our democratic deficit in any meaningful way. And its chances of being agreed to by the NDP if the Liberals form a minority government come 2015 are zilch.

    So we will end up with the archaic FPTP system continuing.

  3. He's right..... Proportional representation is all about the political parties, not Canadians. The preferential ballot gives the choice to the voter and that is how it should be.

  4. I prefer seeing members elected not parties.

    1. Ontario voters rejected Mixed Member Proportional representation by referendum in 2007.

      At the time I feared that parties could put the worst polemicists on their lists. Without a geographical riding to protect and without any obligation to respect opposition or minority interests an anti-democratic, anti-intellectual like Ezra Levant would be completely unrestrained. Put a roomful of those "party" appointees together and it wouldn't be long before the pillars of Parliament would collapse.


  5. FPTP is only about the 35% or 37% of Canadian voters who can elect a majority government or strong minority government ala Harper's Conservatives or Chretien's Liberals, while the remaining 65% of Canadians have a disproportionately lower ratio of representation in Parliament.

    The mantra that MPs are "about electing Canadians" is nonsense: what about those Canadians in each riding who might represent upwards of 60% of the voters in those ridings, but never see THEIR views reflected in the House? Do they not have equal rights to the minority of Canadians who voted for the winning party's MP? Do they not bleed when stuck?

    As for MPs representing voters, there are other reforms we can introduce that will allow this; the meaningful Parliamentary reforms that the Cameron Tories introduced in recent years are serious attempts to devolve power to individual MPs, and worthy of our copying them.

  6. Party list members are not accountable to any voter, and thus have no place in our House of Commons.

  7. We've seen how accountable the MPs are who are elected by only 33% to 35% of the voters actually voting in a riding yet now have unfettered power in a majority government.

    And we've seen how voters have voted by sitting on their hands over the last 8 or more elections, with turnout on election day dropping - 4 in 10 stay away, so a 35% vote is really only a 21% vote (less than 1 in 4 of those elegible to vote).

    And we've seen how a high percentage of young people are so turned off they don't vote.

    Tell me again that our current system of elections results in members of parties who ARE accountable to voters?

  8. A nitpick: again the cliche about young people being "so turned off they don't vote". Being turned off implies previously being turned on - but can anyone prove that young people (under 25?) have EVER voted in significant numbers?

    Seems more a case of a demographic that until the age of the Internet has never seen a need (or a means) to be engaged. Let's retire that cliche.

  9. Obviously know next to squat about the issues involved.

  10. So?

    Nobody has ever seriously proposed party list proportional representation for Canada, for *exactly that reason*.

    That is why every proposal for PR in Canada, nationally or provincially, makes sure it is based on local riding candidates. And that includes MMP, the choice of the Law Reform Commission: a system like the one used in Scotland or Germany. And where they have "top-up" candidates from a list in Germany, it has been shown that they compete for local voters' support with existing local Bundestag members in hopes of getting selected as a local candidate in subsequent elections. (Top-up seats are the ones that complement the local riding seats to balance out the overall representation so that it reflects the overall vote for each party.)

    You could also put the "star", cabinet-quality candidates on a party top-up list, which makes sense since the people with special responsibilities for complex dossiers — whether in cabinet, as opposition critics, or as members of important committees, would do well to spend more time on those issues than merely as riding MPs. Then there is also the "best runners-up" top-up method, where candidates who lost their ridings with the best run-up counts (whether under an FPTP or AV riding-level vote) would be elected to the province's top-up list.

  11. The overwhelming majority of voters vote for the party and/or leader — somewhere in the 80th percentile. Those who vote mainly for the local candidate are around 5%, at least that's what I remember from the last time I saw the figures.

  12. You don't seem to know what you're talking about.

    Proportional representation is all about respecting Canadian voters' choice of the political parties they want to represent them.

    Political parties are universal in the lawmaking bodies of every jurisdiction of any size: they are, believe it or not, one of the ways to keep corruption and influence-peddling to a minimum in politics by imposing a certain level of team discipline on elected representatives. So you are always going to have parties.

    Voters vote in their vast majority for parties, most of them voting for a party that has a good chance of forming government, because they want it to form the government — third-party voters vote for that party because they hope it will have a chance at forming the opposition.

    The whole idea of national elections is to get a House of Commons that represents the will of voters in the aggregate. To the extent that the voting system distorts the people's will, it is undemocratic. That's the whole idea behind the proportional representation principle.

  13. I can imagine two scenarios.

    In one, the NDP and Liberals agree on a compromise solution, perhaps along the lines of St├ęphane Dion's P3 scheme or even STV-PR. Canadians get representation in the House of Commons that corresponds much more faithfully to what they voted for, both nationally and within each province's Commons caucus.

    In another, the Conservatives support Corralled Voting as a fake reform (after all, Harper and Flanagan did propose this before uniting the right) in the knowledge that it hasn't been found to change much in Australia and also knowing that it is a way to continue creating fake majorities but with even more reason to claim an "overwhelming mandate". It isn't necessarily something that will automatically favour the Liberal Party. In some regions, such as Alberta or Quebec, the Liberal Party risks being the third choice alternative among enough voters that it could actually harm the party's electoral chances.

  14. PR is all about political ideas and platforms, not personality cults.

  15. Under MMP you'll get local representation members elected as well as party list members elected, all are elected members. Party lists are published before elections so your party vote is far from blind, you know exactly who all you're voting for. Under FPTP you normally vote blindly for a backbencher who stands up and sits down according to the party whip, and even then your vote doesn't count half the time, so in the current system you may vote for a local rep, but all you get is their party - so it'd be way more democratic if we at least got to vote for what we get in power - a party, not just a member.


Thank you for commenting; come again! Let us reason together ...

Random posts from my blog - please refresh page for more: