Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Cons, the NDP, and the Referendum Trap

As you know for almost a year Rona Ambrose and her Cons have been demanding that any plans for electoral reform must be approved by a referendum.

Screeching away like a broken record.

And for a very simple reason. They know that a referendum would almost certainly end up by reinforcing the status quo, and burying the idea of electoral reform for a generation.

So it's hard to understand why the NDP is now backing their position.

And that Nathan Cullen now says he is open to holding a referendum. 

New Democrats have dropped their opposition to holding a national referendum on electoral reform in a bid to pressure the governing Liberals into agreeing to a proportional voting system. 

NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green members of the committee support a proportional voting system but Conservatives have said they will not support any change unless it is approved by Canadians in a referendum. The Bloc also wants a referendum.

Because if Cullen thinks that by so doing he can get the Cons to back proportional representation.

Asked if it will be enough to win Tory support for proportional representation, Cullen said Reid has acknowledged that the majority of experts and average folks consulted by the committee overwhelmingly favour a proportional voting system. "I can't see us writing a report that doesn't reflect that back," he said.

He is only falling into their trap. 

For you can be sure that the Cons will never agree to a simple question like "Do you support proportional representation YES or NO."

Not when they fear it so much...

They will insist that the existing first-past-the-post system be also placed on the ballot, along with any others like the ranked ballot option the Liberals apparently favour.

And given a choice between the devil they know, and complicated systems they don't, the FPTP option will almost certainly be the winner.

And then there's the other big problem; there is not enough time to hold a referendum AND implement a new voting system before the next election. 

Among the problems with holding a referendum is the tight time frame in which electoral reform must take place to deliver on Trudeau's promise. Chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand has said legislation implementing a new voting system must be in place by June if Elections Canada is to have the system up and running in time for the next election in October 2019.

Not when our referendum law is out of date and would need to be overhauled before one could be held.

Cullen acknowledged that the Referendum Act would have to be amended before a vote could be held, to impose spending limits on campaigners, among other things. And more time could be lost negotiating all-party agreement on the question to be put to Canadians and the threshold of support — not just Canada-wide but also regionally — that would be required to approve a change.

Which would be both difficult and time consuming, and Cullen's way of getting around that is absolutely absurd.

Cullen said he believes Elections Canada could "begin the work" as soon as a new system is proposed by the committee, even before it's put to a referendum or legislation is passed.

For how could Elections Canada start the expensive work of reconfiguring ridings for a new voting system before it even knows whether it would be approved?

And since by having other options on the ballot, even if the proportional representation system was approved, it would fall far short of a majority. And how could it be considered legitimate if say only 30% of Canadians favoured it?

Or as in the recent case of P.E.I., most Canadians didn't bother to vote.

Just 36 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots, prompting Premier Wade MacLauchlan to question the legitimacy of the choice.

And then there are the other problems:

(1) A referendum is not constitutional.

(2) Referendums are incredibly divisive, very expensive, and on complicated questions only too easy to manipulate.  As was demonstrated by the Brexit referendum, where many Brexit supporters later admitted they had no idea what they had voted for.

(3) Unless the fundraising rules of a our existing referendum law were overhauled as well, a referendum campaign would favour the Cons and their deep piggy pockets.

Now I understand that Nathan Cullen, a politician I like, is anxious to implement a PR system since it is probably the only way to revive or resuscitate the dead parrot NDP...

But if he thinks the Cons are serious about democratic reform, when they depend on the FPTP system and a divided opposition to win, he is as Michael Harris pointed out last January, only playing into the hands of Rona Ambrose.

So we’re now to believe that the Conservative Party of Canada has suddenly discovered democracy … you know, the kind of thing the Reform Party once promised but promptly forgot when they emerged from the wilderness to take power. The CPC seriously wants Canadians to accept that it will do anything to block electoral reform unless Justin Trudeau and the Liberals submit their plan to revamp the electoral system to a national referendum.

Who was a loyal servant of the Harper regime that never even suggested a referendum to decide the fate of ANYTHING...

Where was Ambrose’s vehement commitment to democracy when Pierre Poilievre was giving his pathetically partisan response to the Robocalls scandal? Only sad little “Skippy” could confuse doubling-down on skullduggery with reform. Still, Ambrose didn’t seem to mind rigging the electoral system without a referendum when it was her team that was doing the rigging.

And we already had a referendum on electoral reform, and it was called an election...

As much as Ambrose and her media enablers may not like it, the results of that poll were decisive. The Liberals won in a landslide and now have the mandate to govern that exceeds any that the Harper Conservatives could have claimed. The Liberals had more votes, a higher percentage of voters and more seats than the Conservatives. As a result, Ambrose was left with a mandate to oppose — not to obstruct. The public will eventually judge the Liberals on their actions, just as they did the Conservatives. What part of that is mysterious?

Now I must admit I have no idea where this process is heading, and I can't even decide which system I favour.

But what I do know is that the NDP are just playing into the hands of the Cons.

And that if we want to destroy the Harper Party a referendum is not the answer...


  1. Everyone knows a referendum on PR would fail just like a referendum asking if people want to pay taxes.

    1. hi Steve...As I said in my post, a referendum would almost certainly bury electoral reform for a generation. For two good reasons. One, nobody would want to go through a divisive exercise like that one for a long time after. Two, most Canadians are too dumb to understand the subject. And three, this is an elite issue, and most Canadians don't give a damn...

  2. I can hardly wait for December when I get my postcard to participate. Is this not a quick, cheap referendum and a better way to vote?

    1. Anonymous11:13 PM

      With a large participation rate this will act similar to the recent census. People can respond online, by phone or mail like the census. It is cheaper and likely a better turnout than a referendum. Also allows for more info than a yes or no. DN

    2. hi runleyfips...yes I forgot to mention the mass mailing the government is planning. But I see the NDP is really worried about it, with good reason. For it will give the government a good idea of what Canadians think, and give them some idea about how to proceed...

    3. hi anon 11:13...yes I think you're right. It should let the government know what Canadians are looking for, and it will be much much cheaper and better than a divisive referendum...

  3. Anonymous12:22 PM

    Fuck a referendum. We just had one. It's called a general election, and guess what? We gave the Liberals an overwhelming mandate to modernize Canada. That includes reforming our antiquated and unfair first past the post electoral system.

    So Ambrose and her ilk can go to hell, or better yet move to Trumpland where they belong.

    1. Anonymous3:51 PM

      Hmmm funny how the people who say Trudeau won the election, end of story, now the Liberals can do what they want... are the same people who are fighting tooth and nail the fact that Trump won the election down south.

      If "your guy" wins it's all fine and dandy, but if "our guy" wins oh no no no this isn't happening we're going to fight this.


    2. Anonymous5:59 PM

      I think you've got that the wrong way around. The Cons lost the last election and they're the ones fighting electoral change.

    3. hi anon 12:22pm...yes I agree with you. I think that Trudeau should never have surrendered his majority on that committee, because it was obvious to me that given a chance the opposition parties would only play cheap politics. It was an election promise, the Liberals won the election, and they have the support of most
      Canadians to do anything they want...

    4. hi MC...please don't compare the Liberal victory for decency and tolerance to the victory of Trump and his deplorables, for there is no comparison. However much you may hate the Liberals they are not bigots and misogynists. And our country is presently regarded as a beacon of light in the darkness...

  4. Dippers know that Trudeau is going to do simple ranked ballots and that PEIers just voted for MMP in a ranked-ballot 'plebiscite'. (The real referendum will another false-choice two-option polarized vote with caveman voting designed to win, including media collusion.) So they want to roll the dice.

    They are ignorant of how ranked ballots could benefit the party. With the Liberals and NDP competing directly for center-left votes, the Liberals can no longer play the "a vote for the NDP is a vote for the Cons" card.

    A voter can safely vote: #1 NDP, #2 Liberal, and suddenly the NDP can form the government if the Liberals got nothing but neoliberal clap trap.

    It's all politics. The NDP can't be sensible because their base has conditioned themselves to get hysterical anytime anyone mentions 'ranked ballots.' Thanks to Fair Vote Canada's weasel politicking.

    So the ER committee will vote for a referendum. Votes for: 3 Con, 2 NDP, 1 Green, 1 BQ (they said they want a referendum to dredge up the constitutional issue); Votes against: 4 Lib. So, 7 vs 4 for referendum.

    Trudeau will say a referendum is too divisive and will drop it. No electoral reform. Trudeau is safe to wash his hands of it. Establishment Liberals never wanted it in the first place. The establishment media will praise him for it.

    Canada may one day become a democracy. But not this time around. (Not PEI either.)

    1. Anonymous9:51 PM

      Have had a sister in Australia since 1971 and I believe she said that in the last election, they had no less than 22 parties, and you were obliged to rank them all. Imagine that.

    2. Australians are kinda weird. Mandatory voting. Mandatory ranking of all parties on the ballot. That wouldn't happen here. People could still scratch an X on the ballot if they wanted to.

    3. hi Ron...well you may be right. The Liberals could agree to a referendum and see the idea go down the toilet. But they have made an honest effort, they have consulted Canadians, and they gave up their majority on that committee which they didn't have to do. I'm starting to believe that the Liberals should have just decided to go with a ranked ballot, and if the voters didn't like it they could have voted them out of office.
      And while I'm sure many in the Liberal establishment are for the status quo, the bigger question is whether most Canadians favour that as well...

  5. Anonymous3:45 PM

    According to Her Honorable Maryam Monsef we don't need a referendum. Likes on Facebook and Retweets on Twitter is the best way to judge if we need electoral reform. After all, it is the Current Year.


  6. e.a.f.8:23 PM

    First past the post will most likely continue as the Canadian system. Why? because we were able to get rid of the dreaded Cons with it. The Cons would like a referendum because as you noted that will be the end of proportional representation for a while. Of course the Cons are banking on the federal Liberals screwing up in the not so distant future, leaving them to take the lead of course. What they haven't considered is that it will be at least 10 to 15 years before that happens and by then who knows the NDP MAy HAVE gotten their act together again and be given a chance.

    The real problem with representational is it hasn't been explained well enough to most Canadians. As to what Canadians want or don't want, lets not rely on polls or what 'experts' think.

    Proportional representation was quite thoroughly examined at one time in B.C. but was the voters voted against it. The demographics in Canada are changing and this too may impact voters attitudes to the various voting systems.

    1. hi long as we keep the FPTP system, and progressives are divided, the Cons will be able to use it to rule us again. The only reason the FPTP system worked for us last time was that the need for change was overwhelming, and the NDP vote collapsed. We can't count on that happening again, so in my opinion this is our last chance to bury the Cons forever...

  7. Anonymous8:53 PM

    Trudeau and the Libs should have implemented a simple ranked ballot voting system shortly after the last election.They made the promise,had the mandate,and did not act (at least to-date). All the rest pales in comparison. Without it the possibility of a Trump Tower North is a continued threat in a few years time as nostalgic voters delude themselves into believing a return to a new improved yesteryear is just a matter of faith.

    1. hi RT....yes you're probably right, but the Liberals did promise to consult Canadians as much as possible, and they gave in to the demands of the opposition too easily. However, since the Liberals are like to win the next election even with the FPTP system still in place, when Canadians vote they could also vote at that time for the system they prefer, like they do with other issues in the United States. It would be cheaper and more efficient, and there would be a lot more time to educate the public. For unless they are educated and motivated it will go nowhere...

  8. Anonymous11:34 PM

    The NDP has lost its way. It's getting harder every day to distinguish them from the Cons. All they care about is trying to drag down Trudeau thinking that will make them popular.Good luck with that one.

    1. hi anon 11:34pm...I'm afraid you're right. I didn't use a dead parrot to illustrate the state of the party for nothing. There are good people in that party but thanks to the leadership of the Con Mulcair they are going nowhere...

  9. If people think Trump is bad, just think that he could get absolute corrupt power on 38% of the vote in Canada. And who knows what kind of populism the Con leader will bring in 2019?

    In the US, Trump needed about 50% of the vote to win the election. (A majority of state votes.) He won the House and the Senate. A super-majority. (Three actual 50% majorities.) But even still, in the US there are no party whips. Representatives are not trained seals. They can vote against a bill they don't like. Can flip opposition members to support a bill.

    In Canada, what the indirectly-elected PM says goes. No ifs, ands or buts. A 'benign dictatorship.' Not always so benign.

  10. hi Ron...all that may be true but our parliamentary system helps set us apart from the Americans which is a good thing, and w must play with the hand we have been dealt. But while we're at it, one thing I am very disappointed about is that nobody has suggested giving the vote to sixteen and seventeen year olds, as they have done in Scotland with amazing results. Studies show that the sooner you engage young people in the electoral process, the better the chance that they will become steady voters for the rest of their lives. As well as shake up and revitalize the whole political scene. But then in this aging country where so many older people hate the young, why should I be surprised that nobody should even suggest that change? Pity.