Contact UsSearch
Click for Search Instructions
Home > Get Involved

Submission LIZEE-1569 (Online)

Submission By Vincent Lizee
AddressCoquitlam, BC,
CategoryDemocratic elections, Democratic government
Discussion of three propositions: the first past the post electoral system is faulty; political parties work against democracy; the need for elected cabinet ministers. [3 pages]

Submission Content
I have 3 main propositions for the Assembly to examine. I will give the proposition first and then the explanation
Proposition 1: the first-past-the-post election system is faulty

One of the two questions the assembly is trying to answer is does the present electoral system need fixing? I say yes since one fault is it tends to favor the party with the best distribution of votes rather than the amounts of votes. An extreme example will help illustrate my view. With our present election system with 3 competing parties, a party can win with 17% of the popular vote while another party can lose with about 66% of the popular vote. In this example, the 3 competing parties are Party X, Party y and Party Z. In our province, there are 75 ridings and a party needs to win 38 of them to have a majority government. In this example, 38 ridings have the following vote pattern in each riding:
Party X: 34%
Party Y: 33%
Party Z: 33%
From these results, Party X wins in 38 ridings. However these 38 ridings compose of slightly more than half of all the ridings and thus half of all the province's votes. Therefore, Party X has about half of 34% of all the province's votes in this example, which is 17%. This is how Party X wins with 17% of the popular vote.

Now, suppose in each of the remaining 37 ridings the vote count is 100% Party Y. Since these 37 ridings is about half of all the province's votes, Party Y has about 50% of the popular vote with these 37 ridings. From the 38 ridings Party X has won, Party Y has about 16.5% of the popular vote of the whole province. If the Party Y votes are all added, Party Y has about 66% of the province's popular vote yet does not win the election. The reason is Party X votes are distributed better for winning than Party Y even though it has less.

Since the first past the post system favors voting distribution, real election results can be strange. For example, In the 1986 and 1991 provincial elections, the NDP got 40% of the popular vote yet they lost in 1986 and won in 1991. The Socreds won in 1986 but lost in 1991. Reason I see is many voters switched from Socred to the Liberals and perhaps some other changes were made to alter the vote distribution.

Another problem with the first-past-the-post election system is winner takes all even though they have minority support of voters. The winning party can appoint cabinet ministers, pass anything in the Legislature and can make key appointments in the higher levels of government agencies. 
Proposition 2: political parties work against democracy

If the present election system is so faulty, how should it be fixed? That is the other main question that The Assembly is trying to answer. From what I read in the news, The Assembly is looking into different system like proportional representation. I am doubtful they will work because political systems, all if not most of them, assume political parties are sound and functional. I disagree and think a main problem with political parties is they tend to or do work against democracy.  We in this province are suppose to be a democratic society. A trait of democracy is through discussions and deliberation some kind of consensus is reached that at least the majority agrees with. This does not always happen and maybe never does. Political parties tend to work against democracy since they are not democratic entities themselves. The party policies, ideas and ways of governing or hope to govern are often set by the leader and called the party 'line'. People joining the party must comply to it and respect the leader if they want to progress in the party. Examples of those who failed to do so are Sheila Copps and David Anderson. Both are MPs and use to rank high in the Liberal Party until their critiques of Paul Martin caught up with them. If party member becomes an MLA or cabinet minister, the party line may conflict with wishes of voters of their ridings.

Once a party gets into power, they have a reputation of breaking promises and do things that are not in the public's best interests. Anyone who has followed politics can certainly remeber some examples. One I read recently is about MP John Reynolds who condemned Prime Minister Paul Martin for giving the helicopter contract to an Eastern Canada firm even though the areospace industry is better in the West. Martin's action contradicts his election promise of more respect and consideration for the West in Canada.

In the Legislature, political parties almost never agree with each other. They always argue and make destructive, negative comments to each other. There never seems to be any reaching of consensus through discussion since parties are competing with each other. Thus they achieve little or nothing in developing sound policies and laws.

To get a better understanding of what I am saying, try watching some 'debate' in any Legislature or The Parliament. You will see politicians yell at each other, talk out of turn and make comments while another politician is talking. Now, imagine this sort of behavior happening in other situations. If someone acts like a politician in court, they would be charged with contempt of court.  In some corporate boardroom, an executive could be demoted. If some student acted like a rude politican in class, they would be scolded. Strangely, it is tolerated in the Legislature.

One possible solution to political parties is to have an election system that does not rely on them but I strongly doubt such a system would gain public acceptance. The multi-party system of governments and elections is strongly entrenched in the public's mind. Thus most people are reluctant to make bold changes and accept very different ideas. However much some people hate the status quo with politics, I think many are too fearful to support very significant change since they not confident they can adapt to it or they do not want the changes to affect them. Case and point are voting patterns. It seems that no matter how bad a political party can become, they can somehow win another election. Examples are The BC NDP rebounding after the 2001 provincial election and The Liberal Party in the federal elections.
Proposition 3: the need for elected cabinet ministers
If there is to be any increase in voting participation and for people to transcend from the 'us vs. them vs. them' mentality of multi-party politics, there needs to be some new things in politics. One suggestion I have is to have Legislature seats that are exclusively for elected cabinet ministers.

Before I explain this idea, one would ask what is wrong with the present means of selecting cabinet ministers? The problem I see is cabinet ministers are chosen by the premier. There is no certainty that his selection method is good and often it is poor. The premier will often choose people who show him the greatest devotion to him and the party. Even if a premier can make sound choices for ministers, he is choosing from people who are often unqualified. Reason is the premier is choosing elected MLAs of his  own party and have developed their expertise in political party workings, not in field of expertise their cabinet position requires. For example, someone could spend years developing an expertise in transportation and spend years working in that field. Yet they would never become a transportation cabinet minister because they did not developed links in a political party.

Getting more qualified people as cabinet ministers could be done with electing them. This can be done by creating seats exclusively for elected cabinet ministers. These seats could be created by adding more seats in the Legislature or convert some riding seats to cabinet seats. This would require ridings to have a greater number of people and then redraw the riding borders. The people who elect cabinet ministers are what I call ministrial delegates. These are citizens who are eligible voters but can choose to be a ministrial delegate of one ministry. By being a ministrial delegate, a person over time will develop expertise with a certain ministry, the issues, the background knowledge and some idea of qualifications for a minister. Cabinet ministers could be elected the same time MLAs are elected and they need not be political party members.  One advantage with elected cabinet ministers is they are more likely to be qualified. Another is it would encourage political participation. A person is not forced to conform to some party line that makes little rational sense and is more likely  discuss politics. People of different ministry memberships are not in competition with each other and thus more likely to discuss politics. This encourages learning and makes politics more interesting which encourages participation. People of different political party memberships are often at odds with each other and therefore not likely to discuss politics. This is because political parties are in competion with each other and view each other as enemies, not as citizens of the same province.

Another bonus of elected cabinet ministers is it reduces the power of the premier and his party. This forces him and his party to be more accountable since they have less control over the provincial government. Another bonus is that there is a chance of seeing people in political positions without political party links. If they succeed as cabinet ministers, it would over time show some people how faulty political parties are and they are not necessary for governments to work.

© 2003 Citizens' Assembly on Electoral ReformSite powered by levelCMSSite Map | Privacy Policy