The Second Failure of PR

I was really sorry to learn that Prince Edward Islanders massively rejected the electoral reform proposal to bring about a form of proportional representation to that province. But it’s the attitude of people like one Blair MacNevin that really pisses me off. Quoted from the CBC story (no longer) linked above:

Blair MacNevin, who voted no, said it wouldn’t do anything to help solve the province’s main problems of unemployment and growing debt. “It’s not going to change a thing,” he said.

The current electoral system IS a big problem in this country and in every province. It no longer reflect the will of the people in a 21st-century democracy like Canada’s. I’m not saying that PR would fix the politicians; however, it would go a long way towards fixing the feeling voters have that their vote doesn’t really count. For instance, someone living in New Brunswick, whose heart leans towards the NDP, could not so easily be convinced that it would be better to vote Liberal to block the Conservatives. In other words, it would reduce strategic voting (i.e., voting for your second choice to avoid splitting the vote).

Earlier this year, a similar plebiscite was held in British Columbia during the provincial election. But there, I must admit, the system being proposed seemed extremely cumbersome and unnecessarily complicated. It still got something like 56% support, but the bar for adoption was set very high. (If I recall, 60% overall and a majority of ridings in favour.)

Electoral reform is still not off the table in B.C., and it’s being considered in Québec and Ontario. (In New Brunswick, too, I think, although I’m not sure how far the effort has gone on this matter.)

Once upon a time, there was such a thing in Canada as dual ridings in some provinces and, I believe, federally as well—that is, ridings that had 2 representatives. So instead of concocting a complicated system that voters would have to select candidates in order of preference (that’s just a recipe for spoiling a lot of ballots!), why not simply apply as a general set of rules:

  1. reducing the number of ridings by half;
  2. having two representatives per riding;
  3. declaring the candidate who got the most votes in each riding elected as Representative #1;
  4. analyzing the popular vote in each province to determine how many seats would have resulted for each party in a strictly proportional system, weeding out those that don’t attain a certain floor (say at least 5%);
  5. determining each riding’s Representative #2 while taking into account the strength of the Representative #1’s win in that riding.

Of course I realize there would have to be a bit more tinkering to make this equation work, but it would be a heck of a lot better than the system we have now! Some 28% of Nova Scotians voted NDP federally in 2004, but because of how that support was distributed over riding boundaries, this province ended up sending only 2 NDP MPs to Ottawa instead of a more-fair 3 of a possible 11. The end result of a dual system would reflect the popular vote more closely, though certainly not exactly—and that’s just fair to the voters, who should never feel it futile to vote for their candidate of choice because they’re surrounded by supporters of one of the two mainstream parties.

Maybe I’m missing something, but a hybrid system doesn’t have to be so complicated as to require multiple polisci degrees and endless commission hearings to figure out.

I Know It’s Childish, But…

You know, at least I’m not about to admit to giggling to bathroom humour at my age. But I will admit that there’s one word that still cracks me up when I read it in a certain usage and, when that happens, I feel like a bloody immature teenager.

Referring to a women’s breasts as her “rack” just slays me.

Maybe it’s because it’s so irreverent. But it does.

An Unorthodox Prediction

Unless a miracle occurs, the Liberal minority government in Ottawa will fall and we’ll be in a rare wintertime election campaign. Last time that happened was in February 1980, when Joe Clark’s Progressive Conservative government fell and Trudeau did his comeback, during which he repatriated the Constitution. That’s because winter elections simply aren’t practical in our climate. Mind you, I’m not shedding any tears for the politicians who’ll have to deal with the slush and snow. Rather, I’m thinking about how it would be unfair if the vote were impeded by a blinding snowstorm anywhere in this vast land. Voter turnout has been going down in the last two decades, so talk about making a bad situation worse.

A lot of people, myself included, believe we’re heading towards another Liberal minority government. As for the date of the election, it will be on January 16 or 23, but we’ll only know on Tuesday after Martin drops the writ to the Governor General. Neither is better or worse, in my opinion, although I’d prefer the 16th to get it over with as soon as possible. And wouldn’t Martin himself prefer as short a campaign as possible to prevent his adversaries from gaining any momentum?

But Julie at MaZe predicts the election will be called for the 23rd. Even more interesting, however, is her prediction of a Liberal majority government: 156 Lib, 75 Con, 55 BQ, 19 NDP, 1 IND. I’m certainly not challenging her prediction; it simply goes against expectations.

Even though the campaign hasn’t officially started, Harper has already had his first faux pas by stating in the House that the Liberals have been found to have links with organized crime. Nowhere in his report does Gomery make any such accusations. Granted, when Canadians heard testimony last spring of cash-stuffed envelops exchanged in restaurants, many felt they were reading the script from an episode of The Sopranos. However, in fact, the scandal was never about organized crime as we’ve come to understand the meaning of that term. Even with criminal charges pending, we’re still not talking about organized crime!

Essentially, Julie’s prediction numbers suggest a direct shift from the Conservatives to the Liberals. But I think it will be a bit muddier. I think the BQ, which currently has 53 seats in Québec, could win 58: Liza Frulla and Pierre Pettigrew will most certainly be toast, but some Liberal wins in 2004 in some Montreal-area ridings (e.g., Brossard-la-Prairie) weren’t exactly landslides. Ontario and British Columbia (to a lesser extent) will be the battleground for this election, though. But I think that even if the Liberals do well in Ontario, we’ll still be left with a minority, with the NDP really holding the balance of power this time. So I say:

Jan. 16; 145 Lib, 80 Con, 58 BQ, 25 NDP, 0 IND

It still irks me that the NDP, which garned 15.69% of the popular vote nationwide, only got 19 of Parliament’s 308 seats (i.e., 6% of the seats) thanks to our antiquated first-through-the-gate system. And speaking of which, Prince Edward Island is holding a plebiscite today on the adoption of a form of proportional representation provincially…

Between the Lines

While writing an e-mail message today, I found myself using an expression I normally hate: “reading between the lines.” Indeed, I was reminded of the (admittedly cheap) remark I made in one of my classes: “The only thing you’ll find between the lines is white space.” On the other hand, a close reading of a text is a different matter entirely. Everything from the choice of words to the sequencing of ideas can offer insights on what the writer intends to say and not say, as well as on the affect and effect of the text.

That said, I’m reminded of how I’ve been told that I come across as more assertive in my writing than I do in person. In person, I tend to be slow to react as I take in what I’m being told. But writing affords me the time to reflect; as a result, more often than not, what I write is the result of either a lot or at least of tiny bit of reflection.

I’m not entirely sure, however, what is bringing me to write this blog entry, other than the fact I’ve just finished writing an e-mail message with a much-hated expression. That, and possibly the fact that I’m wrestling once again with the perceived gap between my written and “live” persona. I don’t think that one is better than the other, nor that my writing style is misleading. At the same time, I’m thinking about the many people I know whose writing style is more consistent with their “live” persona, and wondering how I’ve managed to develop two distinct personas. And my first guess is that I have spent (and enjoyed) a lot of time by myself.

Die Already!

I think just about everybody who’s been watching the political antics in Ottawa simply want the Liberal minority government to fall already. No one is buying that any politician regrets that we’re being thrust into an election campaign over the Holidays. All the opposition parties have cared about is to bring down the government, while all the government has cared about is to remain in power. Most are promising to suspend campaigning from December 22ish to January 2nd. I would think that the annual Christmastime interview with the Prime Minister should be suspended this year, as it would be impossible for Martin not to use that opportunity to campaign.

While much can change from now to election day, expected in mid-January, the outcome is expected to be more of the same: another minority, likely Liberal. Even the (Progressive) Conservative premier of Alberta, Ralph Klein, said as much in Halifax this week. The best small change we can hope for is that the NDP will hold the true balance of power. That’s when the sum of the seats won by the party with the most seats and the seats from a third party (like the NDP) adds up to a majority in the House, so that third party can effectively make or break the government. This time around, it’ll be important for those NDPers who ended up voting Liberal in 2004 to make sure the Conservatives didn’t form the government to stick with the NDP this time. The Bloc will likely pick up a few extra seats in Quebec (at the Liberals’ expense), but otherwise the split of seats should be roughly the same we have now. The NDP must convince its soft supporters not be convinced that a vote for them is a wasted vote …unless you’re in New Brunswick (outside Bathurst) or Alberta, where the NDP doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell.