10.04.2008

why do we need proportional representation?

Nicholas at Life Without Borders has the answer.

7 comments:

stageleft said...

If Canada had proportional representation we would still have party leaders whipping their MP's into representing the will of the party over the will of those who elected the MP's wouldn't we?

Sure, the party make up in the House would be representative of the vote, but that would not make representative of the electorate would it?

(Also posted at the blog you referenced)

L-girl said...

I'm not suggesting that proportional representation is a panacea. It would, however, be a great improvement over what we have now, and much more democratic.

What do you suggest instead?

stageleft said...

How is it an improvement if the MP's, no matter which system they gain their seats under, are forced to vote how and when the party whip instructs them?

What type of label would you place on a system where the electorate gets to chose who is told what to do by their party leader?

What would I suggest -- how about a real democracy?

L-girl said...

How is it an improvement if the MP's, no matter which system they gain their seats under, are forced to vote how and when the party whip instructs them?

Presumably this "forced" vote conforms to a party platform, which voters ratified by giving the MP her or his job.

So is your problem with representative democracy in general? Or specifically the Parliamentary system?

Perhaps you could try making a statement, rather than asking semi-cryptic questions. This could be an interesting discussion - if I knew what it was about.

stageleft said...

I'm not sure how much more clear I can be.

Canadians like to say that they live in a democracy, but we don't, we live in what is supposed to be a "representative democracy" - a system of government where the people elect an MP who goes to parliament to represent them on issues and matters in the House.

In practice an MP is elected by the greatest minority of voters in a given riding (how many actually take their seats with more than 50% of the popular vote?) and then in the House they are told when,and how, to vote by the party leader through the party whip.

The penalty for defying the will of the party is expulsion from the party by the party - the local riding associations have no say in this, it is a party leader decision.

In other words MP's represent the party during votes in the House, and not the constituency.

People can talk about how differing forms of proportional representation will make things better, however as long as the party is able to control when and how an MP votes the fundamental problem of the MP representating the party and not the constituent remains.

Asking why we don't try a real democracy is only cryptic if people think we live in one, unfortunately the simple act of voting does not a democracy make.

In a real representative democracy the MP would actually be able to represent their constituents wishes.

In a real democracy people would actually have a say in whether or not a given piece of legislation passes or fails. In a real democracy people vote on issues, and not simply for the person who will be told what to do by their party.

Check the Wikipedia for Direct Democracy

L-girl said...

I'm not sure how much more clear I can be.

Actually, this was the first time you were clear. Thanks for explaining.

Asking why we don't try a real democracy is only cryptic if people think we live in one, unfortunately the simple act of voting does not a democracy make.

Or the question is asked out of context, of someone who is unfamiliar with your ideas and themes, leaving much room for interpretation.

I certainly agree that the act of voting does not make a democracy.

Sometimes voting is a smokescreen hiding an autocratic government, as in the US and many other places.

Sometimes voting becomes a substitute for real participation, where people believe showing up at the ballot box is sufficient.

I'm comfortable with a representative democracy in which those representatives respond to concerns and pressures from their constituents (i.e. activism).

I'd rather re-shape the representative democracy we have than claim we shouldn't fix it, because it's not a real democracy - and so end up with exactly what we have now.

Thanks for explaining your thoughts, even though you were hijacking the thread, which was about proportional representation.

David Heap said...

Actually, whether and how much parties whip their MPs is a variable, not a constant of the parliamentary system: there have been times & parties when whipped votes were restricted to only money bills (before the current climate of "everything is a confidence vote").

WRT the wikipedia reference for "direct" democracy, I think recall might a reasonable provision, but ballot initiatives and referendums seem like a fairly mixed blessing. What Venezuela has been doing recently with referendums seems like an expression of popular will; on the other hand, ballot initiatives in place like California seem to be (at least at times) mechanisms which allow single-issue lobbies to force laws which legislators would never touch, including overtly racist anti-immigrant provisions. The Swiss experience seems mixed as well: the referendum requirement has e.g. delayed equality rights for women in many cantons.

In Canada, the whole referendum-in-place-of-legislation idea was associated mainly with the former Reform-Alliance party, famously under Stockwell Day, who held that any issue could be put to referendum -- a position beautifully ridiculed by Rick Mercer (then of 22 Minutes, who gathered enough signatures on a petition to force a referendum on Stockwell changing his first name to Doris.

Even with robust referendum provisions, there will always be issues which call for the more nuanced debate which a representative democracy allows -- provided it is truly (proportionally) representative.

One time it would have been great to have a referendum provision was when "free" trade was brought in, against the wishes of most electors -- but in that case, a proportionally representative parliament would have had the same effect (since a clear majority of electors voted for parties opposed to FT, but Mulroney formed a majority government and brought it in anyway).

PR is certainly not a panacea, but has the potential to greatly improve our electoral politics.