October 25, 2015
The great thing about innovation is that it is a two way street. Ideas do not replace other idea, instead they collect to form an increasingly cluttered toolbox for solving problems. While I, understandably, focus on issues I think Europe, I realise that my homeland could benefit from ideas and methods applied in Europe as well.
Since last week, we’ve seen the Liberal party of Canada secure a landslide majority victory. The Prime Minister Designate, Trudeau the Younger, presumingly attempting to distance himself from the robotic and reactionary Prime Minister Harper, has taken it upon himself to champion progressive idea publicly, if not in fact. One such “progressive” idea he has decided to, quite publicly, tackle is the fight against antiquated majoritarian representation, or more popularly called: first past the post, or FPTP.
Now, I use the term antiquated with some small sarcasm. Despite perception of proportional representation as a progressive and new development in democracy, I would note the novelty is relative; proportional representation has been debated as an alternative to majoritarian representation for a little over two hundred years.
However, opinion on proportional representation, mine or others, would make little difference; the system is unlikely to change.
Firstly, Canada is a country that is built on order and tradition; police officers are one of our national symbols. Majoritarian representation is a national institution and therefore is supported. A similar phenomenon can be seen within monarchies (like Canada), which confounds republicans world-wide, who cannot understand the popularity of a hereditary ruler in an otherwise democratic society.
Second, PR is contentious in its effect. Canada is not uniform, and moving to, for instance, a party list system, would do a lot for centralising power in the political centre, but little for the marginal periphery. A disassociation of the individual elected to the community who elected them, would only undermine a constituency’s ability to influence their, supposed, representative, who would owe more to the party boss who placed his so high on the list.
“Mr. Shannon,” you cry, “you told me this would be about European ideas useful to Canada! So far, you have only defamed the venerable system of proportional representation, which has flourished and thrived in European electoral soil! I demand you account for your words, sir!”
Quite. As the dear reader notes, I have not yet arrived at my principle point. Proportional Representation is not a good fit for Canada. At least, it is not a good fit for Canada by itself. However, if we draw inspiration from the elections of the MEPs in the European Parliament (words I never thought I’d hear anyone breathe, let alone utter myself), I believe we can start developing a form of proportional representation that works in the Canadian example.
The chief problem of proportional representation in Canada is that is undermines the representation of geographic regions in exchange for better ideological representation. The solution is then to devise a mechanism that reinforces geographic solidarity at the expense of central authority. I believe this can be achieved by outlawing national parties.
Forcing political parties to organise by the province (ie. not a Liberal Party of Canada, but one Liberal Party per each province, working in congress– like the parliamentary groups in the EP), rather than the country, would force devolution within party hierarchy to create ten party bosses– who might very well agree on a central leader, who would have to answer to their electorate. An MP who betray their constituents for the party couldn’t be relocated across the country in reward for their party loyalty. Nor could the provincial party boss escape being directly responsible to their electorate.
I do not pretend to have fully explored this idea, but at first glance, it seems like an acceptable compromise to get more proportional ideological representation, while keeping the electors connected to their electees.
Okay. I’ve got the Canadian election out of my system. I hope this bit of applied electoral theory was interesting to you. This upcoming Friday (30th October) I have a good and proper piece on Europe. Thanks for reading.
Author : C. Shannon