Martha Hall Findlay has become the second Liberal leadership candidate to sign Fair Vote Canada’s Declaration of Voters’ Rights, making electoral reform one of the few issues that has raised sparks in an otherwise dull leadership campaign.
Responding to a questionnaire from Canada’s leading citizens’ movement for electoral reform, Hall Findlay affirmed that the current winner-take-all voting system suppresses Canadians’ fundamental democratic rights, that our legislatures and parliament should have an electoral system where the share of seats held by each political party closely reflects the popular vote, and that the need for reform is urgent.
She has pledged that, if her party forms government or supports a minority government, she will advocate for public consultations to amend elections laws, and that, following this consultation, she will support reforms to add a suitable element of proportional representation to the election of our Members of Parliament.
“Fair Vote Canada welcomes Ms. Hall Findlay’s endorsement of our campaign for proportional representation with gratitude,” said FVC president Doug Bailie. “The time has come for the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) to recognize that Canadians are fed up with phony majority governments that get less than 40% of the votes. Recent polls confirm that most Canadians want a proportional voting system so they can be represented by the people they voted for.”
The LPC has a new point of view on voting reform. Once considered Canada’s “natural governing party”, they were the recipients of the current voting system’s “winner-take-all” bonus, forming majority governments by winning almost all of the seats in Ontario with 58% of the votes. Now in third place, they are on the other end of the teeter-totter, winning just 11% of the seats across Canada in the 2011 federal election with 19% of the votes.
At their 2012 policy convention, the party endorsed “electoral reform”, but failed to call for proportional representation, endorsing instead a preferential ballot in our current, single-member ridings. This would still be a winner-take-all system, but might work well for Liberals if they turned out to be everybody’s second choice.
Fair Vote Canada considers this a phony reform. “We need a voting system that’s good for all voters,” says FVC Executive Director Wayne Smith, “not one that’s good for the Liberal Party.”
Leadership candidate Joyce Murray has gone further than Hall Findlay by repudiating the preferential ballot for electing MPs. “The preferential ballot is business as usual,” she challenged front-runner Justin Trudeau in a televised debate in Halifax.
Hall Findlay would implement a preferential ballot for electing MPs right away, then initiate a public consultation on proportional representation.
Leadership hopeful Deborah Coyne is also supportive of proportional representation, but is hedging her bets and has not signed the Declaration of Voters’ Rights.
“I agree that we are indeed suffering from a serious democratic deficit, and meaningful electoral reform is absolutely essential if we hope to re-engage Canadians in national affairs,” Coyne replied to the FVC questionnaire. “My personal belief is that the clearest path forward is some form of proportional representation (PR), including the Single Transferable Vote, or a system of preferential balloting such as Alternative Vote (AV). As the leader of a Liberal government, I will ask a Parliamentary Committee to launch meaningful consultations with Canadians on this important issue, and develop an option for electoral reform that will be put to Canadians in a national referendum as quickly as possible after the next general election.”
The LPC is allowing non-members to sign up as “supporters” and vote for the new leader, and the Liberals for Fair Voting (LFV) caucus has been urging people to sign up and vote for candidates who support proportional voting reform.
Proportional Representation is an electoral system in which parties gain seats in proportion to the number of votes cast for them. Proportional Representation is superior to the “winner take all” election system in the United States.[tell-a-friend id=”1″ title=”Tell a friend”]
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