Politicians on PR

Perhaps no-one is more qualified to explain the problems with our voting system than those who have been elected under it, but some of them are also inclined towards what can charitably be called exaggeration or fear-mongering.

Politicians Explain Why First-Past-the-Post Should Go

Scott Reid, Conservative Critic for Democratic Reform: “We need to build a coalition of parliamentarians, intellectuals and journalists behind the idea that first past the post is not acceptable in a mature democracy and that some kind of electoral reform is needed.”

hugh-segalHugh Segal, Conservative Senator:  “As first past the post elections manufacture contrived majorities – where 38% of electors can elect 60% of the seats – majority governments who classically eschew compromise with other parties get to impose economic policies from the right or left that do not reflect a balanced or inclusive economic policy framework. This can and has led to bad policy, excessive or inadequate tax initiatives, tilted labor relations, excessive or incompetent regulatory régimes. All of these can and have cost Canada and provinces economic slow downs, wild lurches from one economic policy to another and so on. This costs us vital time and setbacks on issues like jobs, investment, tax reform, poverty reduction, and education. These are setbacks that hurt people’s lives, aspirations and economic and social prospects.”

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister: “We need to know that when we cast a ballot, it counts. That when we vote, it matters. So I’m proposing that we make every vote count.”

Stephen Harper, Former Prime Minister:Our parliamentary government creates a concentrated power structure out of step with other aspects of society. For Canadian democracy to mature, Canadian citizens must face these facts, as citizens in other countries have, and update our political structures to reflect the diverse political aspirations of our diverse communities.”  “In today’s democratic societies, organizations share power. Corporations, churches, universities, hospitals, even public sector bureaucracies make decisions through consultation, committees and consensus-building techniques. Only in politics do we still entrust power to a single faction expected to prevail every time over the opposition by sheer force of numbers. Even more anachronistically, we persist in structuring the governing team like a military regiment under a single commander with almost total power to appoint, discipline and expel subordinates.” “Many of Canada’s problems stem from a winner-take-all style of politics that allows governments in Ottawa to impose measures abhorred by large areas of the country.”

Jean Chretien, Former Prime Minister:  “[T]he federal election system has to be reformed to help end Western alienation, which … has been fuelled by a chronic lack of Western representation in the federal government.”

Why Proportional Voting Would Help

Stephen Harper: “Modernizing Canadian politics would not only be good for conservatism, it might be the key to Canada’s survival as a nation.”  “However, the incentive would change if an explicit coalition of conservative sister parties advocated electoral reform as part of a common platform. The partners would then have to carry through as part of their commitment to each other, and at least some of the partners would also want to, knowing their own futures would become more secure in the process. The NDP should also support electoral reform, allowing even a minority conservative government to pass the necessary legislation”  “voters on the left are as much entitled as voters on the right to effective elected representation” – [article]

Hugh Segal:  “Electoral reform would break this cycle and create incentives for a much broader economic debate where truly democratically representative legislatures and parliaments would make budget, trade, fiscal and tax policy more truly reflective of how people actually voted.  Economic policy only works when it reflects‎ economic and social reality. In a democracy that reality is made real by parliaments that are representative of how people actually voted.”

Party Leaders Know PR Is The Right Thing To Do

Pierre Elliott Trudeau offered to introduce proportional representation if the NDP would agree to co-sponsor it.  The NDP (under then-leader Ed Broadbent) declined. [Winnipeg Free Press article]

Jean Chretien: “Energy Minister Jean Chrétien said … that one of the first things he would do if elected prime minister would be to introduce a system of proportional representation for federal elections. … ‘If I were the prime minister, I would do that right after the election,’ he said.” – [article]

Stephen Harper proposed using the Single Transferable Vote to elect senators (2006) [article]

From the Horse’s Mouth:  Why Politicians Haven’t Acted

Stephen Harper (Conservative Party):it is seldom in the short-term interest of the party in power to carry out electoral reform; by definition, the system worked admirably for those now in power and changing the system might benefit the opponents next time.”

Christy Clark (former Premier of BC, Liberal Party): “The hacks, the backroom boys, and the politicians who are served and elected by our current system … have grown accustomed to the power the current system grants to them. I see people whose interests and in many cases, whose income is dependent on keeping our system the way it is. People who, unlike you, relish the ugly realities that are the consequence of our first past the post system. … If the established interests succeed in defeating this [voting reform], they won’t give you another chance.”

Scott Reid (Conservative Party): “[F]or all the failings of the first past the post electoral system, and they are considerable, there is nevertheless a very powerful interest group that has a strong incentive to keep that system in place. That interest group is us. All 301 members of parliament are here because the first past the post system put us here. It may be that we will be able, through the efforts of high-minded members … to temporarily build a majority within the House that is brave enough or self-sacrificing enough to abandon the status quo for a future that would return only some of us to this place, but it will be an uphill battle.”

Hugh Segal (Conservative Senator):  “As those who are elected under the first past the post regime have won within that regime’s strictures, they are unlikely to want it to change. This strident complacency leads to an unwelcome tolerance for unrepresentative democracy.”