Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Why Proportional Representation is a Bad Idea

I originally wrote this back in 1999, and dusted it off again, since , in light of the elections in Canada and the Liberals' plan to  disenfranchise Canadians by forcing proportional representation on us without public consultation via referendum. , i think it is good to get a jump start on the debate that will begin again here.

Why Proportional Representation is a Bad Idea

by Neal Ford,

Invariably after every election, party spin doctors, in an effort to put the best possible light on electoral defeat, trot out the idea of replacing the current "first past the post" electoral system with proportional representation. A chorus of voices, usually those belonging to fringe parties, then chimes in with their support.  The NDP Greens, and CHP have been longtime supporters of PR
When The Liberals inserted changing the electoral system into their platform, bear in mind hey were dead last in the polls, and only held 35 seats, so suddenly the idea became very appealing to them.

Canada has been served extremely well by the system that is currently in place.
An undesirable  by-product of proportional representation would be the firm entrenchment of party insiders and "elite" in positions of power. As it exists, the current system, allows parties to nominate local candidates at the riding level. Proportional representation would effectively end this form of local practice of democracy. The parties would then choose "slates" of candidates with little regard to where they come from or what they can offer. For example, Party "A" would have a list of 338 potential candidates, and if, by virtue of their popular vote they got 170 seats, the first 170 names on the list would become members of parliament, with the average voter having no say whatsoever in who represents them. People invariably complain when a party "parachutes " a candidate into a riding yet proportional representation would virtually institutionalize this practice. A voter would no longer have their local MP to consult with, or hold responsible. 
What we would end up with is a system where party hacks and bagmen would be rewarded with seats, just by virtue of belonging to a party that got the most votes. If you think that the trend towad centralizing power in the Prime Minister's Office is bad now, it will be much worse when MPs answer only to him ,and not to the people.
Under the current system, if people are dissatisfied with their MP, the MP can be challeneged for their nomination and replaced, and failing that, voters may choose an MP of another party. With PR,we the people will lose that power.

Many people believe that local members of parliament are nothing more than trained seals who must blindly carry out the will of the leadership of the party. On the surface, this would appear to be true, and indeed, enforced party discipline, especially on issues of conscience is something that needs to be addressed. However, behind the scenes, many members do stand up for their constituents while in committee where bills are drafted, and changes end up being made to proposed pieces of legislation, and new legislation introduced as a result of caucus & committee debate. Also, as I pointed out earlier

Proportional representation would also effectively end independent candidacies, as people would only be voting for parties. This is yet another aspect of disenfranchisement.

In spite of their constant clamouring for the idea, no fringe party garnered enough support to win even one seat. In the case of the Green Party, they actually built themselves up and start nominating candidates in all ridings, and began to be taken seriously as an option, and as a result have now won seats on their own account. The NDP, though not a fringe party, which had long agitated  for this type of reform, found in 2011 that FPTP worked out fine for them when they were able to win over 100 seats.

PR is just a way for losers to try and sneak though the back door. Parties that wish to have representation should concentrate on fielding enough candidates to be taken seriously and target ridings to win the support of enough people, and expand from there.

We should all step back for a moment and think about what kind of democracy we want, and we should all have  a say , and if PR is chosen, we the people should be consulted as to how we want it to work  The current system, with its flaws, but which allows local constituencies to choose the candidate they want, or a new system, where the parties choose who will sit in parliament on behalf of the citizens.

January 27th 1999, published in The Suburban . Updated Nov. 3d 2000: Updated March 15th 2016

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