Letter sent to: Francis Scarpaleggia, Ruby Sahota, Matt DeCourcey, Sherry Romanado and John Aldag
Dear ERRÉ Committee Members:
I am exceptionally invested in Electoral Reform; having watched and participated in many of your meetings as well as being involved in many local DIY Community Dialogues and Information Sessions. I was unable to attend your single Ontario stop on your Cross Country Tour in Toronto because we were putting on a previously scheduled Info Night in a local library. After a life spent voting in every election for over three decades my vote has never actually elected an MP or an MPP. I am frankly tired of electoral futility, and especially of being a second class citizen.
It isn’t that I’ve been voting for some wild fringe party– over the years I have voted for candidates from each of the 4 major parties in English Canada. But the futility of casting my vote had me considering joining the ranks of non-voters … until I started learning about Proportional Representation.
It’s time Canada actually became the Representative Democracy I was told it was back in High School. Not just for me, but for my son. And my nieces and nephews… and everyone else’s kids, too. Because I was raised to leave a place better than I found it. And at least once before I die, I’d like to know that when I vote, it might actually count.
When MPs tell me they can represent all their constituents they are wrong. Oh, sure, any good MP can represent all their constituents in their constituency work, but that is not why MPs are sent to Ottawa. 150 years ago that wasn’t even in the job description. We voters send you to Ottawa to represent us, but the First Past The Post reality is that when MPs are in the legislature, you vote the way the party tells you.
What’s In It For You
Here’s the thing: MPs started out with the wherewithal to speak for themselves, and decide for themselves how best to represent their constituency when voting on legislation. But over time ~ due in no small part to the winner-take-all elements of our antiquated First Past The Post electoral system ~ they were asked to abdicate more and more of that power to the party as the price of getting elected. The result is that today’s backbenchers vote the way they are told. If they don’t, they might find themselves without a party to help them get re-elected. And you and I both know it’s next to impossible to get elected as an Independent these days.
A Liberal MP I know told me LPC MPs are worried about Proportional Representation because they are afraid they’ll have a harder time getting re-elected because it will level the playing field for the other parties. And while that is true, it is also true MPs with a solid connection to their own base won’t be swept away when the pendulum swings back and forth between Liberals and Conservatives. MPs who are good at their jobs are more likely to keep them as long as they like… even until they retire. Seems to me that’s better job security.
But best of all: any reasonable form of Proportional Representation– even the party-centric Mixed Member Proportional (MMP), will give some of that power back to you MPs: because when every vote counts, your constituents will be able to re-elect you, even if you have a falling out with your party.
What’s In It For Me
I have this crazy idea voters ought to be represented in our Representative Democracy. We need Proportional Representation.
No doubt the Liberal Party expects to weather the storm of not delivering on this promise, but will it? I wonder.
Do you realize more eligible voters did not vote than voted Liberal?
Since Confederation both Canadian governments and the Main Stream Media have done their best to keep us in the dark, but the genie is out of the bottle. If you fail to deliver the electoral reform you’ve promised, you aren’t just going to lose the strategic voters who swung the pendulum your way, you’re losing a big chunk of the Liberal base.
Even when Fair Vote Canada was in its infancy, Canadians knew there was something wrong with our system, even when we didn’t know what. When citizens feel they need to vote swap or vote for a lesser evil because that’s the only way to have a ghost of a chance of getting representation, the representative democracy is in trouble.
The best thing for electoral reform to Proportional Representation was PM Harper’s phony majority. It made growing numbers of Canadians question the way we do things, and start to look for answers. But the next best thing for Proportional Representation was PM Trudeau’s sales pitch. Canadians bought it; and more are learning about it every day. If Mr. Trudeau was going to pull the plug on electoral reform he should have done so before the throne speech. It’s too late now. There is no doubt in my mind we are approaching (or maybe even at) a tipping point. And it isn’t just us… our American and British friends are looking hard at electoral reform.
In spite of Ms. Monsef’s initial suggestion Canada would be leading the way on electoral reform, the sad truth is we have been trailing behind all the other truly progressive countries for decades.
This issue has already had more input than any other I’ve heard of in Canadian history. Certainly no e-Petition has had anything close to the response of Mr. Cassels’ e-616 130,000+ signatures.
There is an enormous amount of data from the 90+ countries that use Proportional Representation– some for more than a century. The consensus of experts and Canadians before the ERRÉ Committee and in all manner of consultation has been for Proportional Representation. If you were unable to learn enough from the expert testimony you heard, or if you are unable to put aside your partisanship to do the job Canadians expected of you on the ERRE Committee, you are in the wrong career. My choice is Single Transferable Vote, but any reasonable form of Proportional Representation will be fine.
Any of you who vote against Mr. Cullen’s Motion will demonstrate exactly why Proportional Representation is not an option, but a necessity. Canadians don’t need more consultation, what we need is fair representation. We sent you MPs to Ottawa to make it so.
Let me leave you with a cautionary tale:
Not too long ago a UK Government promised Electoral Reform. They weren’t so brazen as to disavow the promise; they delivered a referendum. Except they forgot to include Proportional Representation…. it was between the two winner-take-all systems First Past The Post and Alternative Vote(aka Preferential Ballot). When AV lost, those politicians thought they’d won. And they knew they won when the odious UKIP party’s more than 2 million votes returned only a single seat. UKIP was denied the seats it would have earned with Proportional Representation system. The UK was saved from the machinations of Mr. Farage… or at least that’s what they thought. But since he had all that time on his hands, he cast about for another way to get what he wanted. Which turned out to be BRexit. So who won, really?
May 31st, 2017
I’ve written this to encourage you to support Mr. Cullen’s Motion to concur in the Second Report of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform.
Laurel L. Russwurm
postscript: I haven’t added the article about the vote outcome to the PR4Canada series, but you can read it here.
This is the thirty-second article in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series
and don’t forget to check out the PR4Canada Resources page!