Sunday, March 2, 2014

Trudeau chooses vanity over democracy

Justin Trudeau has abandoned his promise to upgrade our primitive voting system, First-Past-the-Post, with ranked ballot voting — which Liberal party members supported by 70% at their 2012 convention.

Instead, he has opted for the same process that produced designed-to-fail PR referendums by provincial Liberal governments. Given Trudeau was “deeply” opposed to proportional representation a few months ago, it’s clear his plan is to kill electoral reform like his provincial counterparts. Here’s what he said:

I do not support proportional representation because I believe deeply that every Member of Parliament should represent actual Canadians and Canadian communities, not just political parties. I support a preferential ballot because I believe it will lead to a more substantive and civil debate during elections and a more representative government afterward.

Vanity of vanities

So why would Trudeau abandon voting reform and attempt to enshrine corrupt FPP, which 91% of developed countries got rid of because it produces distorted election results?

One word: vanity. Trudeau imagines he has the magic to restore the Liberal party to it’s former glory as Canada’s “natural governing party.” And to do so, he will need the fake majority on 39% of the vote.

Bad at math

Unfortunately for Canadians, Trudeau is bad at math. In 2004, Paul Martin kept Harper down to 30% and the NDP down to 16%, but was still seen as a failure. Although, the Cons are presently at their 30% rock bottom, these protest polls are not carved in stone. And with the NDP at 23% in the polls — their lowest since the 2011 election — Trudeau has a long way to go to better Martin.

Then there’s the Green party. Their 4% to 8% of the vote disappears into thin air under FPP. How Trudeau expects to get their vote by supporting the Keystone XL and Kinder Morgan pipeline expansions is beyond me.


Trudeau’s inability to comprehend the vote-splitting issue will make the Conservatives Canada’s natural governing party, not the Liberals. If he gets his way.


  1. Dont be so quick to dismiss ranked ballot voting just because it does not include PR, You say right at the top of your blog "We need to modernize our voting system. Either Preferential Voting (ranked ballot) or Proportional Representation will work." Indeed Ranked Ballot might have a chance of actually becoming the first step towards electoral reform but judging from past efforts pure PR has little chance without a less dramatic step first.

    1. I support ranked ballot voting. Trudeau no longer does. With Resolution 31 (passed during the 2014 Liberal convention) Trudeau has abandoned his promise of ranked ballot voting reform (which he ran on for Liberal leader.)

      Instead he will put the choice of voting system in the hands of a citizens' assembly. This is what Liberal governments did in BC, ON and PEI. Each year-long assembly choose a form of PR (STV or MMP; PR is the most widely-used system in the developed world.) Then the Liberals, who are opposed to PR, put up roadblocks (like a 60% win threshold) so the PR referendums would fail.

      Since Trudeau is repeating this process, and is opposed to PR, clearly he intends the same outcome. Trudeau, like all Liberal leaders before him (except Dion,) supports the FPTP voting system.

      The only hope we have to remedy this situation is to bring up the fact that any two-way electoral reform referendum will result in a FPTP false majority: with PR/FPTP, ranked ballot supporters think PR goes too far and opt for the status quo; with RBV/FPTP, PR supporters think RBV is a "false reform" and opt for the status quo. Only a 3-way referendum with a runoff vote will ensure the true will of Canadians is carried out.

  2. You are being more than a bit unfair here. As in, it isn't remotely the case that he has abandoned his view of what is best for electoral reform. However, JT has repeatedly spoken that he doesn't want to run a system of top down authoritarianism from the leadership, that his preferred option is imposed as the only solution to discuss. There SHOULD let there be an inclusive multi-party process that helps shape it. Your whole post is basically a massive conspiracy: that JT is giving up on preferential voting because the process will determine something else and then he will deliveraly try to kill it.

    1. Yet this is exactly what happened 3 times already.

      PR is the ideal version of electoral reform that a panel of educated citizens and experts will recommend. It's used by 29 of 34 countries. Ranked ballot voting is used by 1 country (Australia) that uses PR (STV) in its senate. The odds of the assembly choosing ranked ballot voting are astronomical. As I've pointed out; the provincial ones all choose PR.

      Liberals are opposed to PR. The Toronto Star is a Liberal newspaper. It wrote 10 anti-PR op-ed pieces in relation to the ON-MMP referendum (before and after.) Liberals would support ranked ballot voting, which they voted 70% in favor of. But Trudeau has effectively killed that option.

      Last, the provinces have established that a 60% win threshold is required to adopt PR. Its now a precedent. That is an insurmountable (and highly anti-democratic) barrier that would've killed PR in New Zealand. FPTP produces undemocratic election results. There's absolutely no justification whatsoever giving it an unfair advantage in a referendum -- unless the goal is to ensure a FPTP victory. Which it was. The vast majority of Liberals are opposed to PR and will again want to see a PR referendum fail.

    2. So what, precisely, do you think Trudeau should have done differently? Refuse to open up the process to citizens and other parties contributing ideas on their preferences? Just impose his select view as the only one up for discussion? Your claim is that any process to decide the best reform will end up with what you want is for Trudeau to side step that process and impose his view against what he knows informed citizens and experts would recommend? That would be an incredibly authoritarian move. Its unfortunate that the people consistently reject what you think is the best option, but it takes a lot of spin to suggest that having an open and inclusive process to determine a system and then let the people vote on it is a move designed to kill electoral reform.

      I don't even have a problem with a 60% seems if we are going to make a radical change to our democratic system that this should be well endorsed by the people and not a quirk of a particular political moment. If such system is unable to find 60% of people to approve it, then too bad.

  3. Show me how you can have FPP without appointments and even I might think more positively about it. Appointments means indebted to the appointees not the electorate and all the party favourites and losing MPs will be sucking up to them for an appointment. That's one of the main reasons I support Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party. Preferential balloting works. It is used by every party in the leadership races. And, as with Dion, it's not always the winner you think.

    1. FPP is first-past-the-post, which is our present undemocratic system (plurality; single party member.) There are 3 kinds of PR: party list; Mixed Member Proportional and Single Transferable Vote.

      With party-list PR, parties put up the names of the candidates who will be appointed to party seats before the election. These people are scrutinized by the media. Voters give the parties the seats to fill. It's the opposite of life-long partisan senate appointments. It's the most widely-used system in the developed world.

      In fact it is superior to FPTP. With FPTP a party sweeps to power with dozens of seats the people didn't award the party (because of vote splitting.) Most people vote for a party and know nothing about their nobody candidates running in their ridings.

      MMP is a combination of our existing system (Westminster) and party-list PR. Most seats are directly elected. A minority of seats are party-list that equalize power so parties get the same percent seats they got in votes.

      STV has large multi-member ridings. So if there are 5 MPs per riding, parties get awarded power proportionally: 20% of the vote, 1 seat; 60% of the vote 3 seats; etc. This offers better representation because, e.g., a left-leaning constituent won't be forced to talk to a right-leaning MP. Federally, this approximates federal proportionality.

      I agree the preferential ballot is the smart reform, giving PR was rejected in 4 provincial referendums. It's the same system parties use to elect their leaders. MPs should be forced to earn their seats with a majority.

      Unfortunately, Trudeau broke his leadership election promise and has effectively killed PV/ranked ballot voting as an option. In reality, he favors corrupt FPTP, as all Liberal leaders before him (with Dion as the exception.)


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