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Electoral Reform Doesn’t Seem Likely to Me

What exactly would Canada’s House of Commons look like if we adopted the German (mixed member proportional) electoral system?

Two witnesses among the parade of academics and others appearing before the Commons committee studying electoral reform this summer have hashed that out.

Or the closest thing to it……

The German Bundestag’s MMP system, which the professors admitted is exceedingly complicated to explain, wouldn’t be entirely possible to graft onto our own, so their model is an approximation. It would have to be adopted within each province and territory used as a “district,” with 181 ridings total to add up to 338 MPs.

“Although Canada is also a federal state, due to constitutional constraints, especially the fixed numbers of seats for every province, the one-to-one transfer of the German electoral system to the context of Canada is probably not possible,” they write….

I like proportional representation because it reduces the power of the PM and his party by making majority governments more difficult to achieve or impossible, depending on the system used.

Why would any PM with a majority work to change a voting system that gives him that majority?

For 5 years, a PM with a majority government can do just about anything he (or she) wants to do. Power is the reason for entering politics in the first place. The FPTP system provides it.

Our system rests on a counter-intuitive notion that democracy cannot be trusted completely. It can run amok in the hands of a populist leader, which is (hopefully) restrained by an upper chamber, the Senate, in a bicameral Parliament or the Supreme Court (since 1982). It is ironic (to say the least) that our democracy is protected by undemocratic institutions and a voting system in which a minority of the popular vote can elect a majority government in which a PM has nearly absolute power.

If you think about it, you (like me) may appreciate the genius of it and there is little that can be done to actually change it, presumably, without amending the Constitution, which as one might expect, isn’t an easy thing to do.  

Our system of government rests on a Monarch, as Head of State, who reigns but doesn’t rule, police and courts who are appointed, not elected, and an appointed civil service that remains in place regardless of the political party that forms the government.  In fact, we don’t elect a PM during an election; the House of Commons does that days or weeks after the vote.

We are destined to be uncomfortable about this because we have been so Americanised in the years since the end of WWII.  We think an election will fix the country and we feel discouraged when we realise, eventually, that it doesn’t.

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Professional. Retired. Canadian.

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