Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Canada: A Simple Election Law (“SEL”)

At the Montreal convention, the Liberal Party overwhelmingly agreed to Priority Resolution 31, Restoring Trust in Canada’s Democracy.

An important part of that resolution is this:

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT immediately after the next election, an all-Party process be instituted, involving expert assistance and citizen participation, to report to Parliament within 12 months with recommendations for electoral reforms including, without limitation, a preferential ballot and/or a form of proportional representation, to represent Canadians more fairly and serve Canada better.

Electoral reform has a bad record of success in Canada, with several referenda for modernizing our antiquated and undemocratic First Past the Post system failing to be approved.

There are many reasons for the failed referenda, with the two most important being the setting of threshold of votes for passing at too high a level (60%), and the complexity of the reform proposals.

The FPTP system has one overwhelming feature in its favour: It is very simple to explain, very simple to understand, and very simple to apply. So if the battle for the minds of our voters comes down to the proponents of FPTP fighting any reform proposal, the FPTP system shoots out of the gate with the fundamental support of its simplicity.

This post recommends for consideration by the all-party process that will be implemented after the next election, a simple but powerfully effective alternative to the FPTP system we now have.

The Simple Election Law

This Simple Election Law has the advantages of:

1.      offering substantial electoral reform for the election of our federal MPs;
2.     being very simple to understand;
3.     needing very little detailed explanation as part of its adoption;
4.     requiring just one vote by voters; and
5.     being capable of review and amendment after use in two elections.

How Does it Work?

We keep the 338 electoral districts we now have.

Political parties nominate candidates (selected according to their own rules) to stand for election as an MP in each of the 338 electoral districs (the Direct Election).

Voters vote on election day using the Preferential Vote System:

1.      A voter has to put an X next to at least one candidate’s name on the ballot.
2.     The voter may (but is not obliged to) rank all other candidates in the order the voter prefers (if there are 5 candidates, you put numbers 1 to 5 next to the names).
3.     The priorities of votes are calculated by Elections Canada in order to elect as MP that candidate who first obtains 50% plus 1 vote.

Once the 338 MPs are elected, the next phase – the Proportional Top Up - is done automatically, with no further input from voters.

How the Proportional Top Up works

An additional number of seats in the House is available for the selection of more MPs in order to achieve representation in Parliament of MPs as close to each party’s overall share of the national vote as possible.

The number of additional MPs is capped at (say) 162, bringing the total number of MPs elected to 500.

Any political party that achieves at least 5% of the total national votes cast in the Direct Election, is entitled to have its share of the additional Top Up MPs selected.

Only people who have stood for election as MPs in the Direct Election (but were not the winner in any electoral district) may be selected as Top Up MPs. This ensures that all MPs have gone through the normal nomination process laid down by our election laws, and have faced voters; it also avoids any continuation of the senate appointment process mess.

The selection of the Top Up MPs is made by the leader of each political party, after due consideration by each leader of one or more of the following factors:

1.      The ranking of the party’s candidates for Top Up MPs by their achieving the highest percentage of votes cast for candidates from their political party, in the 338 seats in the Direct Election. So, if I am a Liberal who stood for election in Crowfoot, and achieved 30% of the total votes cast there (with the winner getting 50% plus 1 or more), and if another Liberal stood in Langley and received 35% there, then the other Liberal will rank ahead of me on the Top Up list, and/or
2.     Gender equality of that party’s MPs, and/or
3.     Provincial representation in Parliament of that party’s MPs, and/or
4.     The need for certain skill sets in the House, and/or
5.     Any other consideration that the leader deems fit.
After using the Simple Election Law in two elections, the all-party process is to consider whether any tweaks are required in its operation, including possible changes.

A Referendum if Necessary, but not Necessarily a Referendum

The Simple Election Law may be passed by a majority of MPs in the next Parliament, after the 2015 election. However, if a majority of MPs in the House decides, the Simple Election Law may be put to the people in a referendum.

The referendum must be approved by at least 55% of all votes cast for the Simple Election Law to replace the FPTP in the subsequent election.

The All-Party Process guidelines

The SEL could be part of any presentation made to experts and citizens during the year long process after 2015.

The process should also consider providing for adequate funding for the Pro and Con groups should a referendum be held on any proposed reform.

1 comment :

  1. Simple, but not saleable. One-third of MPs selected by the leader? A nightmare to most people. Also, you have to keep the proportion of MPs from each province constant, or you would need a constitutional amendment. And most people would not like 507 MPs or 500 MPs. No, stick with the Law Commission version: each group of three ridings becomes two larger ones, and in each region of 10 or so larger ridings five Top Up MPs are elected with your second vote, being the regional candidates of the party entitled to Top Up who got the most votes from your second vote.

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