Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Referendum or bust......

In 2011, the Harper Conservatives won a convincing majority in the Canadian Federal election. They did it with just over 39% of the popular vote.
Imagine if Stephen Harper had campaigned for election reform back then, saying words to the effect that the 2011 election would be the last one using the First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system for selecting a Parliament. But at no time during this imaginary campaign, was it revealed what alternate voting system was preferred, just that it had to be changed. Choosing an alternate would be left to an all party parliamentary committee, and the choice would be put to a vote in Parliament where the majority party, the Conservatives, would likely prevail even though it had earned just 39% of the popular vote. Would people be incensed?

Since this is all hypothetical, and moreover would be antithetical to the very idea of 'conservatism,' I leave to your imagination what kind of outcry might ensue. Suffice to say that the main stream media would lead the charge with wall-to-wall coverage of the 'Harper Haters,' placards in hand, marching on Parliament Hill and in every similar hill in every village, town and city across the nation. The outcry would be deafening - maybe. I know there is wide spread support among the politically connected, especially Liberals, NDPers and other parties that see this as a chance to grab a seat in the House of Commons. Even some Libertarians erroneously view electoral reform as a good idea. But most people don't give it a second thought, and probably have no clue how the Parliament works currently. Their view might be characterized as: "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

The imaginary scenario I've described is what is actually happening right now, but its Justin's Liberals that are leading the charge. They too were elected with a convincing majority on the backs of just 39% of the popular vote. At no time in the campaign did Justin proclaim which system he favours. But he did pledge that this 2015 election would be “the last federal election held under the first-past-the-post voting system.” However, there is no outcry from media, no marching to the Hill, in fact very little reaction from most main stream media and very few 'letters-to-the-editor' on the issue. Some, politically connected media types have weighed in on the matter, but their main issue is: shouldn't this be put to a referendum?

Absolutely I say, as do several with no particular affection for young Justin and his gang. There is plenty of precedent for a referendum both inside and outside Canada.

I was a Poll Official in the 2007 Ontario Provincial Election which included a referendum on an alternative voting system. It was soundly defeated. Many that voted that day at my Polling Station had no clue about alternative voting methods, and as a "neutral" poll official I could not explain it to them without committing an election violation. I just pointed to the printed explanation Elections Ontario had given me to tape to the wall. Very few went to read it.

National Post columnists, none that love Justin, have written columns supporting the idea of a referendum. Rex Murphy did, then Colby Cosh, both gave good arguments for a referendum. But last week, Liberal House Leader Dominic LeBlanc ruled out an explicit referendum on replacing first-past-the-post in federal elections. Dumb move I think, but I expect many, many more from this gang.

Aaron Wudrick, Federal Director of the Canadian Taxpayer's Federation, also wrote in the National Post and explained the debate this way:

"......this debate has largely polarized into two camps: those who prefer the status quo and want a referendum on the presumption that any change can be defeated; and those who prefer some alternative system and fear a referendum would scuttle any chance for change. Both sides are more interested in getting the outcome they want and are merely using the question of a referendum as camouflage for predictable self-interest."

That's fair, but we still need the referendum, regardless of what LeBlanc said.