Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Progressives must consider benefits of ranked ballot

In an ideal universe, Canada would have PR like 85% of developed countries. But we ended up in a whacky one: we dole out absolute corrupt power to an arbitrary minority party and call it democracy.

Canada is more that just a little bit behind the learning curve. European nations figured out FPP was absurd a century ago.

PR in Canada

The odds of bringing PR to Canada do not look good. The only federal parties that support PR are the NDP and Greens. Although the NDP is the Official Opposition, the latest poll has them back in third place dropping from 103 seats to 44.

If the Liberals form the government, the best we can hope from them on the PR file is another designed-to-fail referendum.

So clearly it’s time to consider Plan B options.

PV is progressive

Although PV ranked ballot doesn’t fix everything, it does offer a lot of improvements that will significantly benefit progressive Canadians.

  1. Higher dictatorship threshold: PV makes it harder for a minority party to win all the power. Presently the magic number is 39%. PV will bump that up a number of points. The end result will be more minority governments which the NDP are a part of.

  2. Lower proportional threshold: It takes about 29% before a party gets proportional representation or better under FPP. According to one poll, that number is lower than 24% under PV. So the NDP is going to end up with more seats (and more say) with PV than FPP.

  3. Moderates polarizing results: Under FPP, parties compete for the entire vote. This creates a major/minor party dynamic on the center-left. Voters tend to want to back the winning horse and fear vote splitting will produce a conservative majority.

    When the Liberals and NDP only compete for the #1 spot under PV, this distortion disappears. It makes little difference to center-left voters who they rank #1 or #2. So they will no longer have to vote for the lesser of two evils. They’ll be able to vote for what they want.

  4. Easier for an NDP breakthrough: It took the NDP 75 years to become the Official Opposition. During this time they averaged 15% of the vote and 9% of the seats. Under FPP, the NDP’s rightful voice in Parliament is suppressed and the Liberals wind up with NDP seats.

    PV will remove the shackles. The NDP will be able to compete with the Liberals head on. They will be able to win and form governments.

  5. Green votes: Under FPP, vote splitting means a high Green vote will weaken other center-left parties, allowing the Conservatives to win. With PV, Green supporters can vote Green without worry of the spoiler effect.

    Not only that, other center-left parties will need to court Green voters to get alternative votes. The NDP could corner the market by forming a voting coalition with the Greens, like right-wing parties do in Australia. So if the NDP form or prop up a government, Green voters will actually affect legislation.

  6. Legislating PR: The only way PR will become law in Canada is if the NDP forms the government. The best chance the NDP has at forming the government is using PV ranked ballot.


FPP has produced 30 years of right-of-center government. With a united Conservative party, it will produce 30 more. Center-left parties now need moderate conservative votes to split the right-wing vote and keep the Conservatives out of majority territory. If the Conservatives get a likeable, competent leader like Jim Prentice, they could win perpetual majority governments like the Chretien Liberals.

Progressives need to consider the PV compromise. Under FPP, progressives have no say in government. PV opens up many significant opportunities.

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