|A pocketful of votes|
One new idea that he dropped on the table is interesting, and, I believe, novel: that our MPs votes in Parliament be counted in an entirely different way than they are now.
In the past Dion has proposed his P3 variant of proportional representation, which might work well.
His new idea is intriguing: let our MPs take a pocketful of votes to Parliament.
It works this way. We use his P3 idea with an added modification. We equalize the ridings so that all of them have, say, 100,000 registered voters. Because the rural ridings have large areas for MPs to cover, we make sure that those ridings have more MPs, no less than they have today. And because the smaller provinces also have a certain number of MPs today, we make sure they keep that number of MPs.
However, what changes is that the vote of an MP in Parliament will have a weight on any bill or motion equal to the number of votes cast for that MP in the past election.
So if an MP stands up to vote on a bill, representing say Vancouver Central, and she has received 40,000 votes in the election, her vote counts for 40,000 units. Another MP, who received 15,000 votes in that same riding, has a vote counting for 15,000 units. And the MPs elected from the rural areas would have smaller units, because there are fewer voters in those ridings.
We then have the MPs vote on the bill, and their units are counted; the maximum units determine whether the bill passes or not.
This means that every vote in the country will have the same value.
We would not have a vote in a rural area having more clout because there are fewer people in that rural riding, while votes in our cities are devalued compared to rural votes.
We would also not have to keep adding new MPs as the population expands in some regions compared to others. Instead of adding MPs, we simply change the number of units that each MP can have based on the votes cast for each MP, as per Dion's scheme: population changes are therefore self-adjusting with each election.
Need for agreement on a way forward
Dion stressed a point he has made before: for the Liberal Party to simply say that the existing system is acceptable, is not on. But for any realistic alternative to be arrived at before the 2015 election is unrealistic.
But all 3 opposition parties could do this before the 2015 election (Dion's words):
It would be unrealistic to think that we will agree on a solution by 2015. What I do think is achievable, is for parties – the Greens, the Liberals, the NDP and even the Conservatives should they be so inclined – to have in their electoral platform a commitment to conduct meaningful studies and consultations on voting system reform – perhaps via a Royal Commission. This commitment must be as assertive and official as possible, in order to avoid the usual pattern whereby parties are open to voting system reform when in opposition, but much less so once they have seized power under the current rules.
In the meantime, we should not be afraid to continue the debate and investigate what kind of alternative system we could propose to Canadians in lieu of the current system.
I think Dion's concept of our MPs taking a pocketful of votes to Parliament when they vote on bills etc. is a thoughtful one, and worthy of discussion.