Saturday, October 15, 2005

Ed's Ethics

Obviously not satisfied with the performance of the half dozen Liberal MPs hard at work on Democratic reform, Ed Broadbent has announced the NDP's democratic reform package:

1. MPs should not be permitted to change parties without resigning and running in a byelection.

2. Election dates should be fixed and held every four years.

3. Reforming the electoral process by combining proportional representation with the current first-past-the-post system.

4. There should be spending limits and transparency conditions on leadership contests within political parties.

5. Tougher laws to end unregulated lobbying and political cronyism.

6. A fair process for government appointments to end unfair and unethical patronage practices.

7. Better access-to-information legislation to make government more transparent.

The party switching rule is a little silly in my opinion and likely just there out of mischief since neither the Liberals or Conservatives came out of the Belinda fiasco looking very good. Points five through seven are vague, although they can likely score on the lobbyist and patronage issues given the government's track record in these fields. I will comment on the other three points though, since they are significant proposals.

2. Fixed Election Dates: Although I'm fully aware that election speculation makes up a good percentage of my posts, I can really get behind the idea of fixed election dates. Obviously you'd still allow governments to collapse during minority situations but fixed election dates would remove the ability of the party in power to call an election at a time of their choosing because of sheer opportunism and it would provide all parties some certainty. It's extremely difficult to time nomination meetings when you don't know the election date and this would give the party structure for all parties a definitive timeline to plan nominations, fundraisers, conventions, etc.

3. Mixed Member Parliament: Call me old fashioned but I like the good 'old first past the post. It isn't perfect and the preferential ballot would help, but our system is based on the principle of voting for your representative and any form of PR goes against that. In addition, party leaders would have way too much power when it comes to selecting lists. It could easily turn into a patronage factory with the man at the top seeing this as a way to get the Johnny Bethels and Billy Cunninghams of the world into Parliament. The members of this list would lack any sort of legitimacy or accountability.

4. Spending and Transparency in Leadership Contests: Great idea. I wouldn't even be against the idea of turning all leadership contests over the Elections Canada. The last few Liberal leadership races would make third world dictators blush and it's not any better in other parties. Better to add a bit of transparency to the entire process.


  • Primary system, that solves your nomination meeting problem. You get rid of membership forms in parties, no longer does it matter who is running the party, rather it matters who is on the list. Put it on the tax form, you check the box you are. If you are an independent you tick independent and no government money goes to a political party, if you tick a political party you are allowed to vote in the nomination meeting. You reduce the amount of per vote money the federal government gives out and replace it with money based on the number of individuals who "sign" up for a political party on their income tax forms. You have the nomination meeting within a certain time period of the federal election (6 months say)

    If it is a minority situation, you let the party aparatus decide at what point of the election you have the nomination meeting for the candidates. You extend the election period in a minority situation for a couple weeks to compensate for the logistical difficulties of getting candidates in place.

    New parties can be placed on the income tax form if they gather a certain number of signatures, with a certain percentage of representation in certain percentage of the total national ridings. This prevents stagnation in terms of the growth of political parties.

    Any questions CG

    By Blogger iloveLaP, at 1:46 a.m.  

  • There you go, democratic deficit solved, please send this to Paul as soon as you can CG.

    Furthermore, you could even work in a party leadership structure, whereby the party leader runs for leadership of the party so many months before the election, say 10 months. That way, there would be consistent recognition of the individual parties support of their leaders, and you get rid of the Carol Jamieson's of the world. Instead of bitching, they can put forward a candidate 10 months before a fixed election and get their own candidate in.

    This would ensure that for each election the party is represented by an individual that the grassroots supports.

    If in the future CG, you use this brilliant insight, please give IloveLaP credit


    By Blogger iloveLaP, at 1:52 a.m.  

  • I tend to agree with you LaP. I've always felt the primary system would be far fairer since you'd eliminate all the membership form nonsense. You'd also have more people eligible to vote in nomination meetings which should theoretically give stronger candidates an edge (as supposed to ones whose only real challenge is selling membership forms).

    Similarly in leadership, you'd have the real pottential for a grassroots popular candidate to win over the big time organizers. Right now, Joe Volpe would beat Stephane Dion in a leadership race hands down...obviously there's something wrong with that picture.

    I'd have to think over your automatic leadership race thing a bit, but at first glance I think it would eliminate a lot of the current problems.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 2:15 a.m.  

  • did you just say billy cunningham. only martinites call him billy. his red face makes me vomit. he called me "buddy" ... oh, i have substantial beefs with him too. for example, his blog totally blows.

    burnaby sucks. we got to choose between him, bill 'lurch' siksay, and george "hey immigrants, you hate homos, right?! right?!" drazenovich. poor burnaby.

    now, seriously, do you really think mmp will make that much of a difference in how much patronage influences seats? when's the last time a leader ever parachuted a candidate into a riding they were unlikely to win? youre a liberal, you should know all about heavy-handed candidate selection and sham nomination meetings :)

    By Blogger ainge lotusland, at 5:54 a.m.  

  • Most modern democracies seem to make PR work. And they usually have much higher voter turn out than we do, because they know their vote actually means something.

    I seem to recall, right after the election Jack Layton said that if the Liberals wanted the NDP support, the government would have to agree to a national refferendum on PR. THat went out the window of course.

    It'll never fly here. CAnadians hate talk of Constitutoional reform and fear change.

    By Blogger Nastyboy, at 8:07 a.m.  

  • Well isn't that just dandy. Here I am slaving away on a term paper on Martin's democratic reform agenda and now Ed has to introduce one of his own! Had he done this a week or two earlier I could have used it in a comparative context but it's too late now. Curse you, Ed, curse you!

    By Blogger RGM, at 8:38 a.m.  

  • MIxed Member PR would NOT require constitutional changes. The HOuse of Commons and voting procedure for it do not fall under constitutioanl reform that the Senate does.

    FWIW. I disagree with Grit - Mixed Member is about the best thing that could happen out of that list of reforms Broadbent has brought forth.

    The Globe and Mail put forth a form of MM combined with Past the Post that would give a lot more representation to all Canadians (ie Liberals in Alberta, Consrvatives in Quebec, Greens everywhere), but at the same time still allow a good possibility for majority governments to be formed (to address the criticisms we dont want to be in an endless situation of minority governments).

    I believe the breakdown was 66% of the seats still elected by FPTP, the remaining 1/3 decided by Mixed Member.

    I support that form of electing MP;s whole-heartedly.

    By Blogger Oxford County Liberals, at 9:35 a.m.  

  • If I, as a voter, cast my vote for Jane Blow because I approve of NDP policies, it is the height of stupidity in a political system that, on her own hook, she can decide to sit with the Conservatives tomorrow, or accept a Liberal cabinet post the day after that. This represents a major flaw in a truly democratic system. It ruptures the relations between an MP and her constituency.

    Can no longer sit as an NDPer? Resign, let a by-election be called, and run for another party. Not only is this honourable--it's also democratic.

    Incidentally, 'twould be nice if you'd read up on PR systems rather than retailing stale cliches. Here's a good site (I say this as a National Council member, just to declare interest here):

    By Blogger Dr.Dawg, at 12:58 p.m.  

  • our system is based on the principle of voting for your representative and any form of PR goes against that

    You clearly don't know what a Mixed-Member Proportional system is, then. You still vote for your representative under that system. I used to live in Germany where they have MMP, and I talked about how it works back here, if you're interested.

    By Blogger Idealistic Pragmatist, at 12:59 p.m.  

  • "If I, as a voter, cast my vote for Jane Blow because I approve of NDP policies, it is the height of stupidity in a political system that, on her own hook, she can decide to sit with the Conservatives tomorrow...."

    So what will you do if she sits with the NDP, but consistently votes with the Tories or the Liberals? If she must seek re-election by way of a byelection simply because the Dipper caucus votes her out, why have a representative - just mail their proxy to the party whip and be done with all the travel costs.


    By Blogger deaner, at 6:34 p.m.  

  • Bring on the PR. I don't think that the Westminster tradition trumps the thoughtful electoral reforms of places like Germany, Israel, or New Zealand.

    I'm fascinated by the idea of fixed election dates in the multi-party context - would require changing some parliamentary conventions: keep non-confidence votes, and any majority government would (i.e. per Campbell in BC) promise to call an election in 4 yrs.

    The problem is the party in power campaigning with public money, making a mockery of governance in the lead-up to an election. A fixed date makes those things more transparent.

    By Blogger matt, at 6:56 p.m.  

  • I've got to agree with the rest of these comments CG. Mixed Member solves your perceived problems with PR. I've been arguing for Mixed Member for years but it's hard to convey to average citizen (or even your average political hack) because it does have a degree of complexity. Unfortunately from my dealings the LPC the Liberals will never be the party to champion this change because even the youth wing sees the awesome advantages the current system slants the party with. Honestly, I think a system that would bring more Conservatives into Ontario/Quebec, more Liberals into the West, and less Bloc period, would be a good for the Country. Breaking down regional stereotypes and alienation could help reverse the flow of provincial power buffering and intense de-centralization. What’s bad for the party is in this case good for the country, and it is the right thing to do.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:34 a.m.  

  • I know that mixed member isn't as bad as PR, but it's still going to give you the problems on PR: List members aren't accountable to the electorate and you'll get unstable minority governments.

    For what it's worth, I'm somewhat intrigued by STV, but I think it's a little too complicated to be adopted in a country as big as Canada. At least then you're still voting directly for your representative and all MPs are equal in that they represent constituents.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 12:13 p.m.  

  • It makes no sense to say "mixed-member isn't as bad as PR." Mixed-member is one form of PR. That's like saying "greyhounds aren't as bad as dogs."

    Also, you don't get "unstable minority governments" under a mixed-member system, but very stable coalition governments. I address that misonception in this post. Have you ever looked at the reality in countries that actually use this system? German chancellor Helmut Kohl was reelected five times! If that's instability, then I don't want to see stability.

    By Blogger Idealistic Pragmatist, at 4:31 p.m.  

  • Ed should start a new party. He could call it the Reform Party.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:37 a.m.  

  • There are a number of ways of compiling party lists--they don't have to be the product of backroom jockeying.

    For example, an "open list" allows the electors to arrange the order of list candidates. A "zippered list" can advance women in politics. A list could be assembled regionally with a primary system. Or it could be composed of "best-seconds" in riding races (as in Baden-Wurtemburg).

    Some of the arguments that keep croppng up against PR strike me as having more than a whiff of the straw man about them. The "list" issue is one such; the "PR will sever the MP from his/her constituents" nonsense is another.

    But, if I may say so, SMP (FPTP) has worked very well for the Liberals. Which may explain the opposition to it on this site, no?

    To Deaner: I don't care where MPs are physically located. If they decide to join another party in the middle of a term, they ought to be tested in a by-election. Period. Otherwise the link between the MP and the constituents is well and truly cut.

    By Blogger Dr.Dawg, at 9:05 a.m.  

  • Pretty effective piece of writing, much thanks for your article.

    By Anonymous, at 2:11 p.m.  

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