NDP must reaffirm commitment to fair voting, Green Party says

Crossposted from greenparty.ca

For Immediate Release
November 8, 2007

TORONTO – NDP leader Jack Layton’s abrupt decision to support Stephen Harper by making the Senate his democratic reform priority raises serious questions about the NDP’s commitment to Proportional Representation, Green Party of Canada democratic reform advocate Chris Tindal said today.

“Since Parliament can realistically only deal with one democratic reform issue at a time, Mr. Layton’s out-of-nowhere proposal to abolish the Senate is at odds with the NDP’s traditional support for reforming our voting system,” Tindal said.

“It’s an open secret in Ottawa that Mr. Layton’s goal is to displace the Liberals and become leader of the opposition under the current First Past the Post system. During the 2004 election campaign, Mr. Layton made electoral reform a priority. Since then, we’ve heard almost nothing from him about fair voting. What has happened to his priorities and his promises?”

Fair Vote Canada, a multi-partisan organization that advocates for electoral reform, insists that the necessary discussion about the future of the Senate must come after citizens have determined how their MPs are elected. “At the federal level, the first and most urgent priority is beginning a citizen-driven process to determine the best electoral system for electing MPs,” said a July 2006 statement by FVC. “Job one is to create a truly representative House of Commons and legitimate majority government.” Under the current voting system, majority governments are often elected with less than 50 percent of the vote, leading to “false majorities.”

Tindal said that even if Mr. Layton’s proposal for a snap referendum on abolishing the Senate was constitutional – and it isn’t – it is both premature and too narrowly defined. Instead, he should immediately reaffirm his party’s commitment to Proportional Representation and push for a federal Citizens’ Assembly to explore that issue.

The Green Party recognizes and supports the need for Senate reform but believes it must explore all options and happen within the context of public involvement and study, and not until after citizens have had a chance to reform the federal voting system.


13 thoughts on “NDP must reaffirm commitment to fair voting, Green Party says

  1. Hear hear.
    I am an NDP member and I agree with you on this. I think the Senate should only be removed once parliament is put in proper order. Let’s get true proportional representation for the House of Commons first, so then the government truly reflects the will of the people. Once this is done, then there won’t be a need for a Senate. But, with the current system still in place, I believe the Senate is needed. Jack, I’m with you on a lot of things, but I think you have your priorities backwards on this one.

  2. Agreed. This just further reinforces the urgent need for electoral reform across the board with Senate reform as part and parcel of that process.

  3. Jack Layton is dipping further into Harper’s political bag of tricks on this one. This is simplistic political posturing that garners media attention, but makes no sense for the country.

    Good on the Green Party for continuing to champion electoral reform!

    Hopefully we’ll also be able to see Elizabeth May in the debates during the next election. Where does principled Jack Layton stand on this one, hmm?

  4. I noted in the subsequent press release on the GPC site, it stated:

    “In this election, the Saskatchewan Greens ran in more ridings and received more votes than ever before,” said Ms. May. “Under a fair voting system, their support would have translated into seats.”

    The Saskatchewan Green Party garnered two per cent of the vote and ran in 48 of 58 ridings.


    I am quite tired of the misinformation put forward in many of the GPC’s press releases. Here’s one, as the GPC’s shadow cabinet member on electoral reform you can answer.

    In the recently defeated referendum on electoral reform in Ontario, the proposed MMP system had, I believe, a 5% threshold before a party was entitled to a seat in the legislature.

    So, can you explain to me how a 2% province wide vote in Saskatchewan would translate into SEATS? Even if there was no threshold, 2% of 58 equates to just one seat.

    Please explain this apparent discrepency.

  5. The Citizens’ Assembly’s MMP proposal in Ontario had a 3% threshold. Different systems can have different thresholds, or none at all. You’re correct that 2% of 58 is one seat.

  6. “So, can you explain to me how a 2% province wide vote in Saskatchewan would translate into SEATS? Even if there was no threshold, 2% of 58 equates to just one seat.”

    Ditto Chris’ response with an additional point that in a fairer system, voting behaviour itself would change with the probable effect that voters are more likely to support smaller parties.

    In the end, though, comparing PR potential to actual FPTP results is apples and oranges and not really indicative of anything.

  7. I guess the point I am making is that the GPC needs to have a more consistent message, not requiring one to look for the fine print or the obtuse explanation to make sense of a missive. Even though the content of the press release I cited related to electoral reform, I would hazard to guess the critic on this topic never veted the response before it was released.

    Another example of misinformation in a recent GPC press release.

    “Income trusts were already taxed when dividends were paid out to individual investors. Over a million Canadians invested in income trusts, based on the assumption that Mr. Harper would keep his word. Tragically, many lost their entire life and retirement savings.”

    As a result of the hasty Conservative decision to tax income trusts, investors saw a rapid devaluation of this type of investment. The overall loss was $30 billion.


    I have followed this issue fairly closely over the past year, and I have never seen any credible evidence presented that “many lost their entire life and retirement savings”, nor any credible financial person suggesting “The overall loss was $30 billion”.

    This is very similar to the heated rhetoric put out by a special interest group, CAITI, who happened to be in Ottawa recently for an Income Trust demonstration on Parliament Hill on Oct 31st. While being interviewed on CPAC, Brent Fullard, head of CAITI claimed he had spent some time meeting with E May, and she agreed with his positions. Fullard is WIDELY discredited in the media.

    So, when the party sends out this type of press release, to THE PRESS, many will just discount this type of overinflated rhetoric, and the party loses credibility ie it is counterproductive.

    This type of exaggeration is best left to activist groups, and NGOs, a mesage that needs to be delivered and constantly reinforced from council to the party’s leadership.

  8. Dot, in all sincerity, thanks for reading what we put out so closely and analyzing it so critically. With regards to the income trust tax issue, all I can tell you is that we looked at a number of different facts and viewpoints very carefully before coming to our position. As you know it’s a very complicated affair, and I’m not yet convinced that the media’s done a good job of reporting the full story in a clear way (which is a challenge).

    I’d encourage you to address your specific concerns to the Shadow Cabinet advocate responsible (in this case, Peter Graham) — our contact information is available on greenparty.ca. He’ll be able to give you a better response, and I know we all appreciate constructive feedback.

  9. I think the issue is bigger than writing to each critic everytime this occurs.

    The media will eventully catch on, as I have. The party’s credibility suffers over time. You’ve probably already seen this editorial (I happen to agree with it). Of course, rebuttals from the usual suspects from across Canada.


    This is just the start of a trend, I predict. Anyway, enough of one person’s opinion.


  10. I’m glad the GPC is covering this issue.

    To Dot: That PA Herald editorial is so full of spin it’s hard to keep my balance while reading it. The better the Green Party does, the harder some partisan folks will attack it. Even the CPC is putting out media releases specifically about the GPC and its policies.

    Based on the recent release of the Vision Green policy document (found at http://www.greenparty.ca/en/policy/visiongreen ), the rise in polls, and the recent public statements of support from respected and well known Canadians, I would say that Green party credibility is improving rapidly.

    Now, what is the NDP doing for electoral reform? Didn’t they (along with the old PC Party) support electoral reform in the past?

  11. To Cameron:

    The significant point that the PA editorial makes that I agree with is the use of hunger strikes by a political party. It does make me think of desperation, radicalism, and tactics best employed by NGOs such as GreenPeace.

    One comment attached to the editorial alludes to “a fasting senator saving the Katimavik program years back…”. I recall this event as well. It was Jacques Hebert, a longtime friend and travelling companion of PET, and a founder of Katimavik – hardly a disinterested party to the issue.

    I thought it a bit ironic that the author of that comment, Mark Francis, is no longer a Green, but switched to campaign for the Ont Liberals who support nukes. If you read his blog comments on why he switched, they do touch to some extent on the issues I have mentioned.

    Chris, sorry to have gotten off topic.

    But hey, why not start a hunger strike demanding electoral reform of the HofC?

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