PAPM 2000 January 28, 2014.docx

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Carleton University
Public Affairs and Policy Management
PAPM 2000
Graeme Auld

Electoral Reform •Today's class o Context for recent reform discussion o Our system: strengths and weaknessess o Alternatives: strengths and weaknesses o Reform debate in Canada o Evaluation of the options •Trends in voter turn out and engagement o Context for the Law Commission report: o "An opinion poll from the 1990s found that 60% of Canadians had little or no confidence in governments. A more recent poll found that approximately 70% of Canadians believe that both federal and provincial political systems are highly or somewhat corrupt" •In 2011, the voter turnout was 61.1% o There is something wrong with our electoral system and getting people to feel like they are going to engaged in the vote •Before examining the downturn o What are the reasons that citizens vote? • Responsibility • For change • Look for a representative that has values that aligns with yours • Symbolizes that you are participating in a democratic process • Vote if they think that it will make a personal impact on their lives o What are the individual benefits of voting? • Get who you want in • Take in your responsibility o What are the individual costs of voting? •Factors outside electoral system •Facets of electoral system o How political parties are financed and run o Impact of party dicipline o Role of party caucuses o Role of lobby and interest groups o How campaigns are run • Canada's Electoral system o Single-member plurality system (aka "first-past-the-post" system) • One member of parliament elected per riding • Voters choose from a lit of various candidates • With more than two candidates in a riding, winning MP usually wins with less tthan 50% of vote •Critiques o Party can win majority without majority of popular vote o Votes are not treated equally, as those who vote for a losing side have "wasted" their vote o Underrepresents women, minority groups and Aboriginals • Interests that are distributed across the country are not as well distributed •Vote-to-Seat distortion o Parties are individual representatives can win power with less than 50% of vote in total or in a specific riding • With more parties/candidates, the distortion increases • Low-bar winning threshold for candidates, 35% 4 candidates, 26%.. Etc • Creates "exaggerated majorities" and "weak" oppositions  Aggregate affect o Some examples • Alberta 1972 and 1974, all seats went to PC party when 20% of votes were cast for other parties • In quebec 1974, 91% of seats went to Liberal Party with only 54% of popular vote • In 1979, 0.5% popular vote difference gave PC 20 more seats than Liberals in Ontario • In 1980, Liberals received between 21-24% of popular vote in BC, sask. And Alberta, but received no seats o More recent: • In 1993, the PC won just two seats but got 16% of the popular vote • Reform won 52 with 18.7% • Liberals won 17 with 41.2% • Wasted vote o Those who vote for losing candidates don't feel as though their votes have an overall representation of candidates o Claim that this may lead to citizens not voting, depressing turn out rates o Voters sin ridings with stronger lead candidate may not turnout because vote won't matter • Regionalism o Cairns argued "First-past-the-post" system drives regionalism, as parties concentrate campaigning in ridings where winning is most likely o Reduced incentive to appeal to national interest o Outcome - reinforces regionalism • Advantage goes to parties that have a regional base of support rather than a broad by narrow national base of support • Concentration has an effect, making it so that regional parties are more able to gain dominance in a federal level • Another force of decentralization in the Canadian context • From a party's perspective, decreases the incentive to appeal to the whole nation • Women and minority representation o Disadvantaged because not typically strong on a regional basis; regional bias works against these minorities o Also claimed that "winner-take-all" system creates barrier for parties to run minority and women candidates given a desire to run safest candidate in each riding o FPTP system have low rates of minority and women representatives • Advantages of FPTP o Creates line of accountability between electorate and Members of Parliament o Easy to administer o Rewards candidates and parties that win the most votes, even if they don't capture a majority, still the "winner" in this sense o Best for producing stable majorities • Not a lot of coalition voting or cross party minority politics when the house is in session • Considering the alternatives o Run off elections (Used for party leadership) • With more than 2 candidates, run-off electoins are conducted until one
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