Canadian Dog Whistle Politics or #ProportionalRepresentation?



For those who don’t know, at the end of Second World War the victorious Allies governments imposed Mixed Member Proportional Representation on West Germany.

They did this specifically to prevent the rise of another Hitler.   Although these powerful government leaders clearly understood this, they chose not to follow the same path for their own nations. Presumably they believed such limitation on their own power wasn’t necessary.   Just as Canada’s current Prime Minister doesn’t feel his power needs limitation.

Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter if there is a good Prime Minister or a bad one.  It doesn’t matter if there’s a bad government in place or not.

What matters in a representative democracy is that voters secure representation in Parliament.  All Canadians need representation, period.  Just as Canadians need the Charter, in times of good or bad.   Like the Charter, representation provides citizens with security.

Had Harry Truman implemented such a change on the USA, the likelihood of a Trump presidency would be nil.

Had Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie King implemented some form of Proportional Representation in Canada, Canadians would not see be seeing a rise in dog whistle politics. My brother wrote about this phenomenon before either of us knew the term.

Winston Churchill knew Proportional Representation was a defence against fascism.

Here’s the thing: fear and dog whistle politics are a powerful tools used over and over again in winner-take-all systems because they work.  One of the things so dreadfully wrong with winner-take-all politics is that the governments we elect are so unaccountable to voters, it isn’t a question of whether they will keep all their promises, it is a question of which promises they will keep.  And, incredibly, we accept that.  We have been conditioned to understand they won’t keep all their promises.  No doubt this is a major reason the young and the idealistic don’t engage in politics: they see it for a sham, and choose to invest their energies elsewhere.

Dog Whistling Islamaphobia

MP Iqra Khalid’s Private Member’s Motion is not the first to reference House of Commons e-petition (e-411).

The Canadian MSM is now reminding us that all the MPs in Parliament — including those Conservative Leadership Candidates seeking to ride a wave of prejudice to 100% power in Parliament — voted in support of Mr. Mulcair’s October Petition.  This was long before 6 Quebec Muslims were murdered at prayer.

Mr. Speaker, following discussions with all parties in the House, I hope you will find consent for the following motion. I move:

That the House join the 69,742 Canadian supporters of House of Commons e-petition (e-411) in condemning all forms of Islamophobia.

The Honourable Thomas Mulcair, Hansard, House of Commons, October 26th, 2016

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair's Islamaphobia motion received unanimous assent in the House of Commons on Oct. 26, 2016
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s Islamaphobia motion received unanimous assent in the House of Commons on Oct. 26, 2016

So what has happened?  Do these Conservative Leadership Candidates feel a majority of their constituents approve of gunning down Muslims at prayer?

I don’t believe that for a minute.

But our winner-take-all political system allows for the distribution of a disproportional amount of power.

In a winner-take-all system like ours, Ms. Leitch doesn’t need a majority of Conservative Party Members to support Islamaphobia in order to win her party’s leadership crown.  Nor does she even need to attract a majority of voters to become the Prime Minister of Canada.

So long as we continue to use this First Past the Post Electoral System, the right dog whistle can win a 39% (or less) majority.

It doesn’t matter if we have a few women or minority MPs in the House of Commons.

We are staring in the face of the polarization inherent in FPTP.  This whole hullaballoo starkly contrasts what happens when a powerful old white male MP puts forward a Motion condemning Islamaphobia with what happens when a young ethnic woman MP does.

And it is a not pretty picture.

But it happens. And it will keep on happening so long as we retain an electoral system that rewards dog whistle politicians with more than their fair share of power.

Canada needs real Real Change.

It does not have to be this way.  In spite of his totally specious arguments to the contrary, Prime Minister Trudeau’s disavowal of his electoral reform promise not only paves the way for institutional racism, it fuels Islamaphobia.  If Ms. Khalid (and other Liberal MPs) want to change this dreadful FPTP side effect, it is time they told their leader he must restore the Electoral Reform process and show leadership to get Proportional Representation legislation through Parliament by October.

Because if Canada wants to be a healthy multicultural democracy, we must have Proportional Representation.


Sign The Electoral Reform Petition

At this time of writing, Petition e-616 is up to 120,651 signatures. If everyone who has already signed it can convince 2 Canadians to sign it our chance of having Proportional Representation implemented by 2019 will be greatly improved.





9 thoughts on “Canadian Dog Whistle Politics or #ProportionalRepresentation?

  1. If Trudeau has said NO to MMP then it’s time to explore alternative mixes of proportional representation and a majoritarian system. I’d like to proffer the Alternative Mixed Proportional system.

    It’d have lots of 4-seat ridings and one at-large seat. The at-large seat would use the Alternative vote. The alternative vote would also be used for one out of each of the 4 seats in every riding. The other three seats would be determined with the simplest, purest proportional representation system possible s.t. there being only 3 seats: Largest Remainder with a Hare quota.

    3-seat LR Hare is very similar to First Past the Post, which is 1-seat LR Hare. It has one vote per voter and one candidate per party. A common outcome would be for the top 3 parties/candidates to win one seat each. However the locally top party can win 2 seats if their candidate’s percent of the valid votes is 33.3% greater than the 3rd place candidate’s percent of the votes. In that case, the second seat would be held by a vice-candidate. It’s unlikely that a party would win 3 seats, as that would require for the top candidate to beat the 2nd place candidate by more than 66.67% of the vote.

    Here’s some concrete examples:If the percents were 40:30:20:10 then the top 3 would win one seat each. If the percents were 50:35:10:5 then the top party would win 2 seats, since 50-10>33.3. If they were 80-10-8-2 then the top party would win 3 seats.

    In Canada, AMP would give Trudeau/LP one-fourth plus of what they want and overall tend to let two outcomes happen if there is a dominant party: it’d either have a majority or it’d be the bigger party in a coalition. But to get the majority, it would need to win quite a few 2 out of 3 seats in a 3-seat LR Hare election and that would require them to be attentive to the issues of local minority groups, like First Nations people. This would not be as true if only the Alternative Vote were in use.

    So no doubt Canada needs electoral reform, but there are true hybrid systems that are neither purely proportional nor purely majoritarian and it seems that is what you should focus on….

      • He said no to the electoral reform proposed… and he cited the insistence on MMP on the left as evidence they weren’t willing to compromise. Thus, there is the possibility that a new mixed form could enable reform. It is 1/4th+ of what he wants and it would tend to let his party either have a majority or be the biggest party in a coalition, which is what he really wants. However, presuming he and his party prefers to have a majority, it’d force him to be more mindful of minority groups than they would if it was AV alone….

        And, as you pointed out, the vulnerability of FPP to whisper campaigns and gamiing of the system by the CP is reason enough to seek out new hybrids that might be more fit…

        • Sorry, the left was willing to compromise. NDP was willing to step back from its decade (or more) support for MMP.

          Even if Mr. Trudeau doesn’t understand it (which I don’t believe for a minute) there are plenty of clever folk in his party who might explain it to him. It seems Mr. Trudeau is not interested in long term stability and collaboration. He much prefers the old fashioned kind of absolute power his father wielded back in the day. When Justin Trudeau threw his hat in the Liberal leadership race, his entire campaign was “I’m listening” on everything but electoral reform. He is simply not buying. Which is why we must insist.

  2. A credible source, The Electoral Reform Knowledge Network (ACE), refers to the installation of MMP in Germany as an “External Imposition”. The same source also refers to some compromise. So, the premise of this blog seems like a fanciful splitting of hairs.1. 2.

    Winston Churchill stated on a number of occasions that, in general, he preferred proportional representation. I am not personally aware of any specific Churchill statements in respect of Germany, although he certainly may have done so..

    From ACE:

    ” External Imposition

    A small number of electoral systems were more consciously designed and imposed on nation states by external powers. Two of the most vivid examples of this phenomenon occurred in West Germany after the Second World War, and in Namibia in the late 1980s.

    In post-war Germany, both the departing British forces and the German parties were anxious to introduce a system which would avoid the damaging party proliferation and destabilisation of the Weimar years, and to incorporate the Anglo tradition of constituency representation because of unease with the 1919-1933 closed list electoral system which denied the voters a choice between candidates as well as parties.

    During 1946, elections in the French and American zones of occupation were held under the previous Weimar electoral system. In the British zone a compromise was adopted which allowed voters to vote for constituency members with a number of list PR seats reserved to compensate for any disproportionality that arose from the districts. Thus the Mixed-Member Proportional Representation (MMP) system, which has since been emulated by a number of other countries, was born. This mixed system was eventually adopted for all parliamentary elections in 1949 but it was not until 1953 that two separate votes were introduced, one for the constituency member, and another based on the Länder, which ultimately determined the party composition of the Bundestag. The imposition of a five percent national threshold for party list representation helped focus the party system on three major groupings after 1949 – the Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and Free Democrats – although in all a total of 12 parties gained representation in those first post-war national elections.

    • You seem to disprove your own suggestion my article’s premise is “fanciful splitting of hairs” with your own quotations.

      Post WWII Germany was completely at the mercy of the Allied Powers, and MMP was imposed by the allies with the intention to prevent a recurrence of the war just ended. I have not attributed specious quotations to Mr. Churchill; indeed, it is no secret he was well acquainted with different electoral systems and favoured Proportional Representation. (In fact Mr. Churchill’s idea was to implement PR in cities but not rural areas. Which is effectively what we implemented in western Canada for two or three decades in the mid twentieth century.) Both of these things are known.

      • You still need better citations.

        My sources come from email interactions with FairVoteCanada and Antony Hodgson. FVC focused on “pure” PR systems, of which MMP still very much is. And that is what Trudeau rejected and even used as evidence for the other sides unwillingness to compromise. This then led to the “lack of consensus”, but if there were a hybrid between a pure PR and a pure majoritarian system that would tie Canada to the mast to make sure its FN peoples were more often swing voters and thereby better able to hold Canada accountable for turning from its past mistreatment of them then it’d be worth exploring…

        Compromises need to happen and depend on the circumstances… If Canada gives too much power to the PM of the party in power then it makes sense to push a mixed system that’d still let him and his party tend to be in power but also tie him and his party to the mast to do right by FN peoples who’s rights have been trampled in part due to the use of majoritarian systems and the fickleness of white or middle class guilt over racism.

        • Canada has already given too much power to the PM of the Party in power; this is precisely why, looking south, we need PR.

          The ERRÉ process was not driven by FVC, in fact it was (likely) deliberately driven around FVC. They made a submission that was ignored like everyone else’s. Including the committee.

          This blog is laden with citations in the resources section:

          You can find and read for yourself the ERRÉ report (and those that preceeded it in recent decades) here:

          Or watch all the video or read the transcripts for the ERRÉ process here.

          The ERRÉ Committee chose to compromise: their recommendation was PR. Mr. Trudeau could have chosen any he liked ~ including Mr. Dion’s made-for-Liberal’s P3 system ~ and tweaked it to favour his party as much as possible. He chose not to. He could have chosen PR without a referendum, or a confirming referendum after a few elections.

          There is still time for him to relent; we might still get PR in place before 2019. If he chooses to hang tough in spite of the foolishness of driving away not just the strategic voting crowd, but his actual Liberal base, I doubt there will be a subsequent LPC majority. There might, however be a CPC majority.

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