Timing, they say, is everything, especially in politics.
As such I can’t help but note that Justin Trudeau’s campaign announcement swinging his party decidedly to the left came one day after a Globe and Mail story of a Liberal candidate who resigned because his party supported Bill C-51, which swung the Libs decidedly closer to the ruling Tories.
I have to admit I was surprised by the Liberal support of the bill, which I attributed it to the Liberals having a better handle on the national psyche over these things than I.
Now, pollsters are suggesting this support may have been a critical error, particularly in urban centres like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Time will tell.
Regardless, Tuesday’s announcement clearly tries to distance the Liberals from the Tories while stealing some of Thomas Mulcair’s momentum (not to mention some of his campaign planks.)
The one making the most noise is the pledge to end the first past the post electoral system, which actually takes the NDP’s position a step further (the NDP only says it prefers mixed member proportional, not that it will absolutely implement it.)
While the move should bring some of the wandering left back to the fold, Trudeau has also hedged his bets, committing to changing the system but not committing to exactly how.
Instead he will form an all-party committee to come up with the replacement system within 18 months of his party taking power.
(Interestingly, he will also form an all-party committee to oversee the activities of Canada’s national security agencies, which wouldn’t have been necessary if Bill C-51 hadn’t passed. But I digress.)
But with voting reform – as with many things — the devil is in the details. And I’m not sure how many people will vote to form a new system without actually knowing what the new system is.
As an example, a few years ago, Ontario put a proportional representation plan before the public, which got voted down.
I voted against it because I didn’t like the system which to my mind threatened to give too much representation to urban areas in southern Ontario, areas already grossly over-represented.
If we are going to change the system, I don’t think we should exacerbate existing problems any more than we have to.
That being said, I have seen few systems elsewhere that I think adequately factor in issues of Canada’s unusual geography and population density.
But I have come across a home grown solution that I like.
The system is outlined in exacting detail on the website threehundredeight.com, (http://www.threehundredeight.com/2015/05/a-proposal-for-electoral-reform.html) and has been dubbed for simplicity’s sake 308PR (for proportional representation.)
Among the key features, in my mind, is that it does not do away with ridings and does not change how people vote.
Ballots would look as they look now, and voters would mark it in the same way. And parties would nominate one candidate per riding, as they do now.
Here is where things vary. Under proportional representation, each party gets the percentage of seats that equals the percentage of the popular vote they gained.
In this system, that is broken down per province, so that each party receives the proportion of seats equal to the proportion of votes they received in each province.
Here is where this system is a little different than most — which candidates represent the party is not determined by the party, it’s determined by the voters, in each riding: those candidates who get the highest percentage of votes get the nod.
For example, had the system been used in 2011, the Tories, with 44 per cent of the popular vote would have won 48 seats in Ontario as opposed to 73 seats (69 per cent of the total.)
Those seats would have gone to the 48 candidates with the highest percentage of votes in various ridings, which would have ranged, in this case from 63 per cent by Mike Chong in Wellington-Halton Hills to 47 per cent won by Bob Dechert in Mississauga-Erindale. (Both Daryl Kramp and Rick Norlock would have earned seats.)
Those candidates then represent the party, and the party ensures their candidates represent different areas of the province to ensure everyone is represented.
But those candidates also retain local loyalty, since it is still local voters who will ensure they do, or do not, get re-elected.
The website contains greater detail, including pros and cons that I won’t get into here.
But I will say I like this system primarily because it places a premium on local voting and it keeps the fundamental decision making in the voters hands, as opposed to allowing parties to choose who fills extra seats.
Whether this is the way the all-party committee chooses to go is anybody’s guess and until I know the answer to that I’m not sure I can support this move.
Once again, it all comes down to timing, doesn’t it?