Electoral reform requires outside-the-box thinking

Canada should consider adopting its own system to select candidates for federal Parliament

It is important that you keep alive the issue “Electoral reform worth discussing” (Dec 28).  The long-term potential to improve Canada is enormous. Yet the recent process looks like a train wreck.  Maybe the Trudeau government didn’t really want it?  Or maybe they were sincere.  The special committee seems to have worked incredibly hard in great non-partisan spirit.  Even Minister Monsef’s comment that the committee report was inconclusive is, in part, correct.  So what went wrong?

I think the committee’s work was doomed from the outset.  With entirely good intent, diligent staff at the Library of Parliament set out to survey how proportional representation is done in other countries.  They looked at Germany, Ireland, New Zealand and others and made up tables and graphs comparing systems like single transferable vote, mixed member proportional, etc.  After that what remained was to choose one.  Only they all looked awful.  Either we would have complicated ballots trying to choose (by ranking) several MPs from each new super-riding, or we would be limited to electing only some of our MPs while others would be appointed by political party.  Many Canadians opted for the one choice not offered: none of the above.  But, if none of the above, then what?

Wonderfully, in provinces across the country, individual Canadians gave the question fresh original thought.  Why not invent our own?  Sadly, under the workload and the timeline for the special committee, there was no room for such outside-the-box thinking.

Without elaborating, let’s invite readers to consider just one example.  When candidates are elected, they represent people who voted for them.  Suppose candidate A won district XYZ with 35,000 votes.  Suppose candidate A is a member of Purple party.  In other districts people voted for Purple candidates who weren’t elected.  But every vote counts on election day and throughout the next Parliament.  So all the votes for Purples who were defeated are added up and redistributed (within province) to successful Purples.  Maybe that brings candidate A up to 55,000.  Then, when A “rises” in Parliament, the member rises on behalf of 55,000 Canadians.  A computer easily keeps track and the measure is decided on behalf of the total numbers of Canadians for or against (as expressed by their elected candidates).  The result is simple, transparent, proportional (province by province as well as nationally) and costs almost nothing over what we do today.  It only needs a computer about as smart as a modern phone (though it better be unhackable).

However, such outide-the-box thinking was off-limits.  If they don’t do it in Germany, we can’t do it in Canada.  Why not, you ask?  Probably things can’t be resolved before the 2019 election.  But creative Canadians have begun thinking.  This is why an editorial like yours is so important.  Thank you.

Greg Holloway