November 04, 2015

Why Conservatives must oppose proportional representation -- and the Liberals should, too (Part Two)

John InglisRebel Blogger

As I said in my previous post, if Trudeau lives up to his promise and radically changes the Canadian electoral system, it may not only mean the end for the conservative movement, but for the Liberal Party itself.

Recall that Justin has talked about possibly implementing one of two different electoral systems: ranked ballots and proportional representation.

The effect proportional representation will have on the Liberal Party is a little more obvious. As it currently stands, the Liberal Party has governed Canada for most of its history, meaning that they have had, at the federal level, all of the power, most of the time. Under proportional representation they would, at best, have some of the power, most of the time.

Some Liberal surrogates in the media have said this election was not about stopping the Conservatives, but rather about electing the Liberals. These people are either deluding themselves or trying to create a mandate for the Liberals.

Liberals have done a fantastic job of demonizing conservatives throughout the culture.

That gives them a tremendous advantage under the current electoral structure: because the Conservatives are always within reach of grasping power, Liberals can woo voters who would otherwise vote for parties  further to their left, with the promise of stopping the big, bad Conservatives.

Under this template, Conservatives stand for freedom, the NDP stands for socialism, and the Liberals stand for winning, particularly for the Left.

The problem for the Liberals is that, as good a job as they have done in moving the culture leftward, they have done a terrible job of turning anti-conservatives into true believers in the Liberal cause.

First, for empirical evidence of the fluidity of Canadian party identification, click here.

Second, some personal stories.

At the Liberal leadership convention that elected Stephane Dion, I overheard another Liberal, who was about my age at the time, say: “Some days I wake up a Marxist...” The ideas that underpin the distinctions between the Liberal Party and the Conservatives have their logical conclusion in Marxism.

Earlier in my high school education, I had a Liberal Party member as my Politics teacher. He said the Liberals and the NDP had the same goals, but that the Liberals wanted to get there slowly, whereas the NDP wanted to get there yesterday.

We also had a mock election during a provincial election. Turnout was about 200 students in a school of about 800, and the NDP won in a landslide. They had somewhere around 60% of the vote; the PCs had around 10% and the Liberals had around 30%. My riding is considered a very conservative riding. Later, in university, a similar situation happened in one of my classes.

Recall that the mock election was voluntary and that the students in a Political Science program tend to be the most motivated to show up at the polls. Right now, political motivation is trending away from the Liberal Party. This means that up and coming minds in academia, labour, government and even business are now trending to the NDP.

Some will say that young people have always tended to the left, but I doubt it has always been this far left.

How would this affect the NDP's election prospects under proportional representation? First, it would free NDP voters in ridings where the Liberal Party is dominant. They could finally be true to their own hearts, since they will not need to win a riding, merely improve their popular vote. Although ridings can make a statement under mixed-member proportional representation, ultimately the popular vote has the larger impact.

I would also predict that the Greens would grow, and new parties would emerge, even with a popular vote threshold of 5%.

Liberals who doubt me on this should recall their last decade of darkness, when under Dion, they told themselves that at least they knew their electoral prospects could not get worse -- and then learned that they could. As the Liberals began their decline, the NDP's electoral fortunes increased. The last election was the only exception, when the Liberals actually ran to the left of the NDP! I do not think that trend will last.

Secondly, the opportunists, cronyists and careerists would leave the party. Some would even move to the Right, because some ideas they hold are ideologically opposed to Left's worldview. The Liberal Party would no longer provide the same boon to their respective ambitions that it once had. This defection may begin as a trickle or it may start as a flood. I think the Liberal Party realized just how fickle these types can be when their party donations crashed.

Next time, I will cover preferential balloting and its likely impact on the Liberal Party.

But under proportional representation, whether the Liberal Party is destroyed or merely becomes the minority partner in a coalition government (just ask the NDP how enjoyable and productive that is), their electoral fortunes would be changed forever.



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commented 2015-11-05 17:29:09 -0500
Rank Ballot systems are ridiculously and needlessly complicated. Why not go either 100% or PR or just bag the whole idea. Personally I will stick with the constitutional monarchy/parliamentary system. BC STV was ridiculous which is why I voted against it.
commented 2015-11-04 20:28:56 -0500
Andrew i actually agree with you on this , i also wonder where it would come into effect, would every seat be divided into 3 or 4 people who got votes? The people who want this have not thought it through. The squabbling for every little thing would be ludicrous and nothing would ever get done.
commented 2015-11-04 16:51:17 -0500
The ideas weren’t ridiculous. BC Voters just couldn’t understand them. I did, I voted for STV, but my co-workers who voted against, really had no idea what they were voting for until I explained it to them and how it would work. Fact is, people don’t care what voting system they use for the most part unless someone tells them they should and even then it’s hit or miss.
Ranked ballots would be a good medium. But for the near term would probably result in Liberal majorities as they get second votes from NDP and Conservatives, but the others get nothing really from them. A cynic would think that Liberals would definitely want a Ranked Ballot system over proportional representation.
Proportional Representation sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. In Canada it would probably work if the parties could work together. But that’s not extremely likely.
The Blue party in particular has been obstructionist since the Reform days unless they’re in power. And when they’re in power they have been pretty dictatorial.
commented 2015-11-04 15:25:15 -0500
Personally I doubt it will happen. BC held a commission and they came up with their ideas, and they were so ridiculous that BC voters rejected the whole idea.
commented 2015-11-04 14:56:52 -0500
@jack Carter,

Actually, Proportional Representation would hurt the Liberals nearly as much as the Conservatives, and this is because PR all but eliminates the possibility of majority governments. The last time any politician got a popular-vote majority was Mulroney in 1984, and even that was the barest thing, a mere few thousand votes. Prior to that, it was Dief in ’58.

Ranked balloting is less harmful, as it still allows the formation of majority governments, although this one WOULD be detrimental to the conservatives, as they’ve got a strong core but relatively little “second choice” support. It would force them to broaden their appeal, but I don’t necessarily see how that would be a bad thing. Even Harper realized that and was able to push the party centrist enough to eke out a majority in 2011.
commented 2015-11-04 12:54:57 -0500
Basic Hodge Podge of nothing! Socialist Liberals like that because everybody is distributed equally nothing!

Their known decree -everybody should be equally broke! That way no one has to be jealous? That is the Left alright!
commented 2015-11-04 11:11:02 -0500
Translation: This would really be bad JUST for the Conservative Party, but let me try to get liberals worried too.