Submission KENNEDY-0740 (Online)
|Submission By||Mr John Kennedy
|Address||Burnaby, BC, Canada
'The Seven Cent Solution': A proposal for assigning voting strength
in the Legislature to reflect the proportion of votes won at
elections, and to ensure that the party with the most votes forms
the government. [6 pages]
THE SEVEN CENT SOLUTION: VOTE PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION
Wasted votes. Warped results. Unequal votes. The root of these
problems lies in our conventions of assigning each seat a single
vote, and having the party that won the most seats form the
government. We need to have the party that won the
most votes form the government. And we need to assign
each seat an equal share of the Province-wide votes of
the party which won that seat. The result would be near-perfect
What People Want
People want to feel that they matter in the political system --
that their vote counts.
They want to feel that their vote counts as much as the next
They want to feel that the election results in the Legislative
Assembly are a fair and accurate representation of the votes they
cast in the voting booth.
And they want their local representative to be an accessible
person, whose job it is to help them, and who is accountable to
Now, people do not want to worry about a complicated new electoral
system full of strange procedures, unforeseeable consequences, and
quirky results -- they want the least amount of change that fixes
And, finally, they want an escape hatch -- they want to be able to
get back to the old way, quickly and easily, if the new way does
not work out well.
The Seven Cent Solution meets all of these needs.
The Seven Cent Solution.
The focus of this plan is votes rather than parties, the
citizen instead of the politician. So, I call it Vote Proportional
Representation, rather than Party Proportional Representation. In
fact, though, it does give parties near-perfect proportional power
in the Legislature. It does this through apportioning citizen votes
to seats, rather than providing additional parliamentary one-vote
seats. We divide instead of add.
The beauty of this plan is that we do not have to change anything
on the ground for the citizen. The changes all happen in the
Legislature. We get to keep our local representative. We get to
keep our familiar riding boundaries. We get to keep our simple
plurality ballot. And we still get to elect all our rulers rather
than have any of them appointed by party bosses. It is the
politicians who have to change the way they do things. It is only
fair. The politicians are the problem. We are the solution.
I call this plan "The Seven Cent Solution" because it only involves
seven small changes. But the best part is that these changes can be
made or undone quickly and easily. If we do not like the kind of
politics these changes make, we can change right back overnight.
You can think of this as "the no muss, no fuss, no risk, free trial
offer" of near-perfect proportional representation.
The Seven Cents
Instruct the Lieutenant Governor to invite the leader of the
party which received the most votes in the general election to form
the next government. Scathingly simple. This is the
keystone idea of the plan. The rest of the "cents" flow from this
one. The only change here is the word "votes" for the word "seats".
The escape hatch? Change it back to "seats" and you return to what
we have now, our one seat-one vote system.
Where the leader of the party which received the most votes in
the general election declines the invitation, or suffers a
non-confidence vote, instruct the Lieutenant Governor to ask the
leader of the party which received the next greatest number of
votes in the general election to form the government.
This provision anticipates a number of parties controlling about
fifteen to thirty percent of the popular vote each. We should not
be thrown into another general election just because one of these
parties suffers a non-confidence vote. This provision requires the
politicians to work out their differences within the walls of the
Legislature. And it provides a measure of independence to the
With regard to stability, this provision technically gives us even
more stability than we have now. Currently a Party enjoying less
than fifty percent of the popular vote can suffer a non-confidence
vote and precipitate another general election.
The Leader of the Opposition, of course, would be the Leader of the
Party controlling the greatest number of votes amongst those
Parties not forming the government.
Instruct the Lieutenant Governor to call a general election
every four years, forty-five days prior to polling day.
The purpose here is to provide regular elections and to avoid
having Parties squabbling over when to have an election. Preset
election dates treat all Parties fairly. Canadian practice
indicates that about six to eight weeks is long enough for an
In the event that a seat is vacated before the end of the four
year term, instruct the Lieutenant Governor to call a by-election
within 90 days of the seat being vacated, except that the
by-election will be waived where a general
election is called within 180 days of the seat being vacated.
In a multi-party, proportional representation system, it would be
inappropriate for a current coalition to determine when a
byelection should be held. This provision standardizes the
procedure. The 180 day exception prevents the pointless expense of
two, back to back elections in a riding.
Instruct the Lieutenant Governor to call a general election in
the event of a lost confidence vote, or succession of lost
confidence votes, where the party or parties suffering that loss or
losses, control in the Legislature more than fifty percent of the
At some point an early election is justified. When a party, or some
parties in a row, who control more than fifty percent of the
popular vote cannot keep the support in the Legislature that they
need to govern, then we need a new election. Clearly the
politicians are "not playing well with others". And it is time to
This provision addresses the issue of stability under proportional
representation. In fact it takes the issue of stability to its
reasonable conclusion: Where leaders of parties controlling more
than fifty percent of the vote cannot get the support of their
followers, it is time to change the leaders, the followers, or
both. This is remarkably more stability than we have now.
Assign to each MLA an even share of the total Province-wide
popular vote received by his or her party. That share constitutes
the MLA's indivisible parliamentary vote on the floor of the
Legislature. Thus each party would have power on the floor equal to
its popular vote.
It is hard to be more proportional than an exact correspondence
between popular vote and power on the Legislature floor. Needless
to say, this would greatly magnify the importance of the citizen's
vote in the eyes of the politician. In fact, it would tend to
reverse the flow of power from the top down to the bottom up. No
longer would we feel we were "electing our dictators".
In one blow, this provision would eliminate warped results, unequal
votes, and most wasted votes. The "threshold" for a Party would be
to get at least one member elected somewhere. And of course each
Party would try to get as many votes as it could everywhere.
Naturally, some parties will be unable to elect even a single
member -- this is near-perfect proportionality. I will address the
imperfections under "The Rest of the Wasted Votes".
I specified that the MLA's share be an "indivisible" parliamentary
vote. Politicians tap dance and mealy-mouth enough as it is.
Responsible government requires the MLA to take a clear stand on
issues. In order to monitor, hold accountable, and maintain the
integrity of the MLA's performance, we must insist that he vote his
whole share on the floor.
I referred to the MLA's share as an "even" share. This is another
small integrity issue -- the integrity of the voter's vote. The
citizen's vote is the smallest unit of currency in the political
system. It should be respected as indivisible. In any case, we want
to avoid repeating decimals. And we especially want to avoid having
important issues decided by microscopic fractions of a vote. We
will usually get a remainder after dividing the percent of popular
vote by the number of MLAs. The remainder should be given, one vote
each, to the higher vote-getters in the party. In practice, the
tiny difference will very rarely matter. So, the share is a
near-equal share, an "even" share.
By-elections: When a by-election is called, the
votes cast in the riding in the prior election will all be
withdrawn from the parties' pooled votes. Then the by-election is
held, and the new votes assigned to the parties' pools. The new
MLA will be assigned an even share of his or her party's
Crossing the Floor: Occasionally an MLA will
want to change party affiliation and cross the
floor. the MLA abandons the share
of his or her current party's pool of votes. He or
she carries the votes he or she actually won
in the riding to the new party. What is
now the MLA's old party has its pool reduced
by the subtraction of his or her personal
votes. These personal votes are aidded to the new party's pool, and
then the MLA is assigned his equal share
of his or her new party's votes.
Wasted Votes, Proportionality and
Independents: (A "wasted" vote is a vote that has
not contributed to the election of a candidate. Under the plan
proposed here, all the votes cast Province-wide for a party go into
that party's pool of votes, including all of that party's "wasted"
votes. In order to exercise those votes on the floor of the
Legislature, that party has to elect at least one MLA. Obviously,
not all of the small parties are going to be successful in electing
even one candidate. Also, not all of the independent candidates are
going to get elected either. So we have more wasted votes to tend
to.) Treat all unsuccessful parties, unsuccessful
independent candidates, and successful independent candidates as if
they all belong to one party. Put all the votes cast for these
groups and individuals into a common pool. Assign to each
independent MLA an even share of that pool of votes. That share
constitutes the independent MLA's indivisible parliamentary vote on
the floor of the Legislature. In the event that there are no
successful independent candidates, all of the votes in this pool
shall be assigned proportionally to the vote pools of the
This proposal, of course, does not contribute to proportional
representation as such. These wasted votes are not those of
like-minded voters. On the other hand, if we do nothing with these
wasted votes, they are completely wasted. This proposal is a nod to
the importance and value of the citizen's vote. And it reassures
the citizen that he can vote for whomever he pleases, and still not
waste his vote. The only wasted votes left then would be spoiled
ballots. Mechanically speaking a spoiled ballot is the equivalent
of not voting, or voting for "none of the above".
But the most important purpose of this proposal is to encourage
independent candidates. Loenen and others have mentioned the value
of having independent voices in the Legislature. Not everyone who
can make a valuable contribution to the community fits a party
mold. If nothing else, it is occasionally refreshing to hear a
politically incorrect maverick voice.
Of even greater value is the vast reservoir of talent, experience
and knowledge we have in the community. There are all sorts of
people who might be persuaded to add an independent voice, if they
do not have to deal with the infighting of political parties.
Consider former premiers, cabinet ministers, and mayors. And
notable businesspeople, former labour leaders, journalists,
academics, founders of movements, artists and visionaries. All of
these will provide us with insights not available throough the
channels of political parties. Parties are trying to win power.
Independents, because they have little chance of forming the
government, can afford to tell the truth. It is a shame to waste
such valuable contributions, as we do now, because an independent
has next to no chance of being elected.
The first five of these small changes are administrative in
character. Essentially they take powers away from the Premier,
standardize procedures, and then hand the powers to the Lieutenant
Governor. The sixth and seventh small changes are a new way of
employing citizens' votes. Although these are small changes, they
will have a profound effect on our political landscape.
Every citizen's vote will actually count on the Legislature
There will be no wasted votes
Every citizen and politician will be acutely aware of the value
of the citizen's vote.
Voter turnout will likely rise markedly
During an election campaign there will be fierce competition
for, and hot pursuit of, the citizen's vote
Winning an election will no longer be winning a licence to do
whatever you want
Winning an election will be winning individual citizen's votes
so as to accumulate enough power to have a significant influence on
The flow of power will reverse from the top down to the bottom
Legislation will be framed through consensus and cooperation,
and with an eye to the voter
The Parties will be more issue-oriented
Young voter turnout will rise dramatically because parties will
form to address their issues and capture their votes
Some politicians may actually be persuaded to tell the truth in
order to win the youth vote
Each Party will try to run in every riding
Each person's vote will count exactly as much as the next
Reasonable equality in area in rural ridings, and in population
in urban ridings, will be all that is required
We can keep our familiar riding boundaries and rarely change
In the future, we can make smaller rural ridings so as to give
rural citizen's the service, voice, and influence they deserve
We get to keep our local representative
We still translate votes into seats the same way, our simple
First Past The Post ballot
We still elect all our rulers, rather than having any of them
appointed by Party bosses
The formal changes all happen in the Legislature
There is no complicated, quirky new system for the citizen to
There are no warped, one seat-one vote, election results in the
There is an exact correspondence of popular vote to
parliamentary vote which results in near-perfect vote proportional
There will be regular general elections
There will be prompt by-elections to maintain local
Because it would be difficult to cause an early election, we
will have even more stability than we have now
The MLA will enjoy a measure of independence from his Party,
because he knows voting against his Party will not likely bring the
While passing the mantle of government to Parties, the plan
promotes valuable contributions to government by independent
The whole plan can be quickly and easily reversed if we do not
like the kind of politics it produces.
Caveat: Learn from New Zealand's Mistakes
Make sure any referendum on a change of electoral system includes
within it a provision for a follow up referendum to confirm,
enhance, alter, reformulate, deny, or revert from any change in
Also, seeing here how many profound effects can be wrought by such
small changes, should give one pause about making large changes.
Thank you for your time and efforts, particularly during such a
wonderfully hot summer.
NB: I ask those who read this submission to please make a
submission themselves. Perhaps something unique. Perhaps in support
of The Seven Cent Solution -- it needs to attract a little
attention versus MMP.