Electoral reform about fairness | Unpublished

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Ottawa, Ontario
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 I am interested in sustainability, civic engagement and democratic renewal. You might meet me at the soccer pitch, at the Farmers Market, or walking or biking on local trails.
I'm a high-tech veteran and have lived in Ottawa since 2000. Before moving to the private sector, I earned my Ph.D. in laser & semiconductor physics at the University of Toronto.

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Electoral reform about fairness

July 25, 2016

The fact is that proportional representation is the norm in the most advanced democracies because it is FAIR and it WORKS. Yet there is quite a lot of scare-mongering on opinion pages regarding possible reforms to the voting system in Canada. 

This usually involves cherry picking of particular countries that have unusually complex political dynamics, which would remain true under any voting process. Another common anti-reform approach is to exaggerate the complexity of other voting systems.

What really matters is the fairness of the ways in which we choose our elected representatives.

Electoral reform about fairness

Re: Electoral reform discussion must focus on Canadian values, July 11.

Jonathan Rose is right that electoral reform should reflect shared Canadian values. Tolerance, fairness and inclusivity are perhaps our most cherished values.

Proportional representation (PR) elects a more diverse set of people and parties. Countries with PR elect more female representatives than Canada: by 50 per cent in Germany and 80 per cent in Sweden. “Because it’s 2016,” Canada needs PR!

Some opponents of PR stoke fears of political instability if fringe parties win seats. In fact, PR favours tolerant politicians who can work with other parties in a chamber where many more voters are represented.

Our current first-past-the-post system often disproportionately rewards divisive politicians who can inflame a highly partisan base. Sadly, wedge politics, built on xenophobia, fear and anger are known to be more motivating than policy debates. This is not confined to the Brexit referendum or the Donald Trump campaign. In Canada, both federal and Quebec politicians have exploited anxieties about minorities.

While protections for human rights are essential, our multi-ethnic society also needs PR to reduce the political rewards for sowing division. Our discussion of electoral reform need not be so unfocused. Let’s focus on PR and learn from the many countries that use it.

James Mihaychuk, Ottawa