Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dion on electoral reform

Along with a number of other bloggers, I participated in a conference call yesterday with Stephane Dion. This call was for supportive bloggers (calls with other bloggers will come soon) and I thought it was a great call, with a lot of good questions on a range of topics and thoughtful, insightful answers from Mr. Dion.

As mentioned I have declared my support for Mr. Dion, so my bias there is clear. Still, given my day job I approached the call as a journalist. My day job is also why I’m a bit late with this post, being in Seattle right now for a Microsoft conference. If you want to read all about Microsoft’s shift to 64-bit computing, click here.

But seriously, back to the call. I’ll let the other bloggers on the call post on their questions to Mr. Dion. I asked two questions: one on the recent polling numbers and one on electoral reform.


Briefly, on the recent Ipsos numbers showing the Cons widening the gap, he said polls can change very quickly, pointing out where the Conservatives were in the polls last year. If we stick to our message, once we have a new leader in place he expects us to take the lead again. He added though that we need to present a vision to Canadians, not just attack Harper and wait for him to fall on his face.

My take: I agree with him on the vision part and on the volatility of polls, but I fear many in our party continue to underestimate Harper. I think the gap evidenced by the recent Ipsos poll can’t be attributed to a Conservative honeymoon or the Liberals being leaderless any longer. His attractive but empty policies are resonating with Canadians, and I think we need a better communications strategy to expose their shortcomings.

Electoral Reform

My second question dealt with electoral reform. I mentioned that many Canadians, particularly youth, are disenchanted with politics and feel disenfranchised by our current first past the post system. With electoral reform well underway in B.C, and now beginning in Ontario, I asked if he would be supportive of a similar exercise at the Federal level. Here’s his answer:

“There is one strength of our electoral system, and that’s giving clear accountability lines. You know who is in power and who’s the opposition. There’s no in between. If the Liberals are in government you know who to fight or who to blame, and the same for the Conservatives when they are the government. In the PR system everybody is in the government and in the opposition at the same time and you don’t know who is responsible for what. There are moving coalitions all the time. Each electoral system has its shortcomings and its strengths, and we need to keep that in mind.

What I dislike in (the current system) though is the over-exaggeration of regional concentrations of the vote. With 50 per cent of the vote in Ontario we have been able in the past to have almost 100 per cent of the seats, and with 1/3 of the votes in the West we were unable to have a significant number of seats. It gives the sense we’re a party for Ontario and a party unable to have support in the West, when it’s not really the case.

One day, assume that you have a government elected where it is Quebec that is out of the government because of this electoral system, with 25 per cent of the vote, and the government has no or few seats on Quebec, and you have a separatist leader trying to have a referendum at the same time. This would be very dangerous for the country.

Because of that, I’m open to consider (electoral reform), and to be frank with all of you I wrote a piece…that will be published soon advocating for consideration for a system that would be very close to the German one, that means you would have a threshold of five per cent to receive compensatory seats, and the compensatory seats would be given on a PR system. I don’t have time to explain it (all) today on the phone, but I’m open…to consider a change in the electoral system.

I don’t think a (leadership race) is a good opportunity to (have that debate), but the one who will be in power will be in a position to study the results of the current consultations about that, and to have an open debate about ways to keep the strength of the current system while having some corrections for the exaggeration of the regional vote that we have now.”

My take: I get the sense he isn’t too keen on the single transferable vote model that the citizen’s assembly in B.C. settled on, but I was glad to hear he is supportive of some significant action toward electoral reform. I’d mainly considered the question an the provincial level so the question of regional over-representation wasn’t one that I’d thought of before, and I thought he made a very good point there. Overall, I’m glad to learn of his willingness to explore this topic and to hear that he has already taken some steps down that road, and I look forward to reading his paper on that topic when it is published.

Certainty his insightful, thorough and well considered answers to all the questions posed by the bloggers served to give me a better sense of the man and where he’s coming from, and reinforced my belief that I was right to support him and that he is the man to lead our party, and hopefully soon the country. I thank Rob, Jason and Denise for organizing the call and I look forward to future opportunities.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

No comments: