Saturday, July 20, 2013

Incremental approach to voting reform

The direct approach to electoral reform has failed. So far 4 provincial PR referendums have gone down in flames.

Given Einstein’s definition of insanity — repeating the same thing over and over, expecting different results — walking into a federal referendum buzz-saw at this point in the game is crazy.

A better approach is step-by-step reform.

First step

First, legislate Preferential Voting (ranked ballot) direct. Like fixed election date legislation, it’s only a minor upgrade to our existing system. It merely requires that MPs earn their seats with a majority of votes — same way parties elect their leaders.

Since there’s no referendum, it’s not the final say on voting reform.

Second step

Next, hold a PR/PV referendum. This ensures one democratic voting system has the support of a majority of voters.


This plan is not only more practical, it’s the safest bet. A federal PR/FPP referendum is a dangerous gamble with Canada’s future. If it loses, it cements FPP as the democratic choice of Canadians, killing electoral reform in the country. Better to have a fallback plan.

Other steps?

Before pulling the trigger on a PR/PV referendum, supporters need to build solid grassroots support for change. (Not soft support that evaporates in a referendum.) Blind optimism is deadly.

If real support for full-out PR isn’t there, a semi-proportional system like AV+ should be considered as another step in the process.

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