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Thread: Ideas For Parliamentary Reform

  1. #1

    Default Ideas For Parliamentary Reform

    This thread is to share and discuss your ideas concerning how our system of government can be improved. Here are my 2 big ones:

    House of Commons Electoral Reform: Instant Runoff Voting (AKA Alternative Vote)
    The same number of electoral districts would exist as in the current FPTP, but instead, MPs would be elected by a ballot where voters would order their choice of candidate by preference. In each round, the candidate earning having the least number of votes is eliminated until one candidate reaches a 50% majority.

    Here is that system explained in an ad for the Alternative Vote Referendum (called that in the UK).
    http://youtu.be/Jm5IBhrq_PU

    This type of voting would ensure that elected MPs would more accurately reflect their constituents while maintaining the same level of local representation that exists now. Note that this type of voting is not proportional, however, it is much easier to understand by the layperson. Proportionality is addressed in the next section.

    Senate Reform: Proportionally Appointed Based on Popular Vote
    Based on the first choice in the election results, the caucus of each party represented in parliament or reaching a certain vote threshold would be responsible for appointing a new senate. The number of senators that each party gets to appoint is divided up proportionately by the popular vote in each province. Senators could be appointed to represent a special interest, minority group, or for their expertise in a certain field that isn't reflected in a party's makeup in the house of commons. Having the senate proportionately reflect the popular vote would lend legitimacy to the senate as an institution, and would also prevent any false majority from passing contentious legislation. A senate that is up for re-appointment every 4 or 5 years would also be more accountable to those who appointed them. Senators would not have any term limits, but would essentially be up for review after every election.

    As far as I am aware, no other 2 house system like this exists currently; I'd like to be pointed to other examples to see how they work.
    Last edited by dunkalunk; 2011-May-09 at 04:43.


  2. #2

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    I like your proposal for AV for the House of Commons. But I strongly disagree with your proposal for the Senate.

    Canadians seem to have zero recollection of their history and the purpose of the Senate. The Senate was meant to be a body that represented regional interests and to be a chamber of sober second thought.

    This is why a Senate that is equally distributed (like in the US) would not work in Canada. And the second purpose is why an elected senate (or a senate based on some sort of election result) is a bad idea. Elections yield legitimacy. As soon as you have an elected Senate, they'll start accruing extra powers and pushing back against the Commons. Over time, the Senate might simply supplant the HoC, as it has in the US.

    Consider a simple scenario. A senate that has been appointed (based on election results) more recently than an elected House of Commons. Guess who gets to claim the most legitimacy based on the most recent reflection of voter intent?

    Personally, I prefer a return to our roots. Let the senate do what it was supposed to do: represent regional interests. Let the Premiers appoint the Senators. Give them fixed terms if you must (and those have to be at least double that of the House of Commons). This way they will truly represent regional interests, without supplanting the elected House.

  3. #3

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    I would rather see a Mixed Member Proportional or Single Transferable Vote system for the House of Commons, as AV isn't really a proportional system. STV is probably better suited to reflect Canada's regional diversity and avoids the largest criticism Ontario's propsed MMP reform faced - the fact that party list candidates would avoid direct election and wouldn't really represent a locality in Parliament.

    For the Senate, I would prefer to see it done away with entirely, but there are reforms to be made to make it more acceptable. I agree with kEiThZ that Senate selection should originate in the provinces/territories, but not necessarily from the office of the Premier. I would rather see Senators nominated by MPPs, MLAs, and MNAs - requiring, say 20% of the provincial legislature to support a nomination - and have those nominees placed on the ballot for election run simultaneously with provincial/territorial elections (whether they run province-wide or on a regional basis would be up to the provinces themselves). The Seanad Éireann sort of operates like this in some respects. Ideally, the Senate should abolish party affiliations so that regional interests, and not party politics, govern its actions. Limits should also be placed on what the Senate can do to ensure that the will of the Commons is not overly hindered by the less representative upper house. Provisions should be made for Aboriginal representation in the Senate, possibly with nominations coming from a constituionally recognized Assembly of First Nations.

    And if we're going to open up the Constitution to make these reforms, we might as well reform the way Governor Generals/Lieutrnant Governors are selected. Like the Senate, nominations for the Governor General should come from the legislature and not the executive. Nominations should reflect the tradition of alternating between Anglophone and Francophone GGs. The nominees for Governor General should be put on the ballot during federal elections, elected through an AV system. This is how Ireland elects Presidents, and like the President of Ireland, they would only be figureheads. The GG would officially become a Head of State, sharing the person of the Crown with the Monarch - afterall, having multiple heads of state is not unprecedented (i.e. Andorra).

    So, for example, this is what a federal ballot would look like:
    1) Please rank the following candidates for MP in your multiple-member constituency
    (First preference) (Second preference) (Third preference)
    1) Candidate A ( ) ( x ) ( )
    2) Candidate B ( x ) ( ) ( )
    2) Candidate C ( ) ( ) ( x )

    2) Please rank the following candidates for Governor General:
    1) Candidate A ( ) ( x ) ( )
    2) Candidate B ( x ) ( ) ( )
    2) Candidate C ( ) ( ) ( x )

    Provincial ballots would have one more section for Senators.

  4. #4

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    Electing the Governor General gets dangerous. Give the GG democratic legitimacy, and presto-chango you have a President. The GG can fire the PM at will and commands the armed forces. Our Parliamentary democracy relies on the fact that the GG has no democratic legitimacy and is very reluctant to use these powers except on the advice of the PM.
    Member since February 10, 2002

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by afransen View Post
    Electing the Governor General gets dangerous. Give the GG democratic legitimacy, and presto-chango you have a President. The GG can fire the PM at will and commands the armed forces. Our Parliamentary democracy relies on the fact that the GG has no democratic legitimacy and is very reluctant to use these powers except on the advice of the PM.
    +1

    I think a lot of people who propose that we elect such positions tend to forget about the ramifications of doing so in a Westminster parliamentary democracy.

  6. #6
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    Would that be so bad? Many argue that there is currently too much power resting with the PMO. A separation of the executive and legislative branches might be a good thing.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by ttk77 View Post
    Would that be so bad? Many argue that there is currently too much power resting with the PMO. A separation of the executive and legislative branches might be a good thing.
    And a lot of us like the Westminster parliamentary system and prefer it over the Republican system of government that you seem to think might not be a bad idea.

    One look at the USA, tells me that I'd rather keep what works.

  8. #8

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    Parliamentary systems (whether Westminster or otherwise) have a far better record of stable government than presidential republics, which have been historically proven to be much more predisposed to coups, etc.

    I suggested electing the Governor General as I believe the person representing the people of Canada both internationally and at home should have a mandate from the Canadian people. I do not think the Governor General should have any executive powers, nor should s/he have the right to withhold royal assent from any bill passed by Parliament, perhaps with an exception for extenuating circumstances - for example, if a hypotherical Parliament were to pursue a program of genocide, or if Parliament attempted to subvert the democratic nature of Canadian government. There are several nations with directly elected heads of state who do not exercise any executive power on a day-to-day basis (although, like our Monarch, they may legally retain some reserve powers). I mentioned Ireland where the President is first and foremost a representative of the nation, but where executive power is exercised by the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) who must maintain the confidence of the Dáil (their lower house of Parliament). Since a program of extensive parliamentary reform would require opening up the constitution anyways, I see no reason why we could not set down in constitutional law the duties, responsibilities, and powers of the GG - and under which circumstances and by which procedures s/he would be able to use those powers. For example, we could limit when s/he could grant prorogations (ex. not when there is a vote of no confidence before the house), how s/he could refuse assent for a bill (ex. if there are concerns about the constitutionality of a law, s/he would have to submit it to the supreme court for review before acting). Democratic legitimacy should be something we demand of our representatives, not something we shy away from due to some residual cultural fear of American-style mob rule democracy.

    Getting Canadians involved in the election of the GG would have the added benefit of making the winner a household name (how many people know who the current GG is?), by extension increasing the prominence of Rideau Hall (how many Canadians know what that is). As I mentioned earlier, I would like to see the GG made a joint person of the Crown alongside the Monarch (perhaps in a "junior" capacity), officially recognizing him/her as a head of state without resorting to republicanism.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by kEiThZ View Post
    And a lot of us like the Westminster parliamentary system and prefer it over the Republican system of government that you seem to think might not be a bad idea.

    One look at the USA, tells me that I'd rather keep what works.
    Nowhere in my statement did I advocate moving towards an American style republic. Like lesouris said, there are many systems with various degrees of power invested in their executive branch. It is up to us to decide how much power goes where. An elected senate or an elected head of state need not take us down the same path as the US. I simply believe that our system of checks and balances are too weak and it leads to too much power resting in the office of the Prime Minister.

    I am in favour of an elected GG, and it could be as simple as asking the Queen to accept a nomination directly from the Canadian people rather than the Prime Minister. What I want is the GG to have a mandate and a sense of legitimacy around using his/her powers when the situation demands it without having the use of those power seem any less severe or drastic than they do now. The position of GG, LG and Senator should all be elected and non-partisan...and while we're at it, I'd also like to see our house of commons be elected on an STV system.

    It looks now like the majority of Canadians are open to another round of constitutional debates over Senate reform:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/...rticle2036312/

  10. #10

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    Electing the GG seems to make the office inevitably political. Once it becomes political, the powers of the GG are more and more likely to be exercised in the furtherance of a political agenda. I could get behind an all-party consensus nomination process. The choice for GG should be based on merit and gravitas, not political popularity.

    I think major changes to the Senate or GG are misguided. We need to fix the House of Commons first. One of the most important changes would be forbidding political parties from overriding the local nomination process. They party leadership should not be able to appoint candidates, refuse to sign nomination papers, or protect candidates who are not supported by the local membership. Party discipline in Canada is among the highest in the world, and it's causing an atrophy of our legislative body.
    Member since February 10, 2002

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