Green and growing

My story about being a Green politician in Canada, and why it was the best thing I ever did.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Using the party system to achieve electoral reform

Let’s suppose that Canada had a new political party called the Multiparty Party (MP).   

This party would only run candidates in ridings where two or more other parties agreed to NOT run candidates, and instead support the MP.  Their intention in doing this is to pool their support in advance of an election, so that the goal of electoral reform can be achieved more quickly.  Candidates would be selected from the participating party’s riding associations, using a formula which gives each party nominating power in proportion to the votes which they had received in the previous election.

As an example, in one particular riding, the Liberals, NDP and Greens might all choose to not run a candidate, and participate in the selection of a single MP candidate instead.  In other ridings, where a party feels it has a good shot at electing its candidate on their own merit, they would choose to run their candidate rather than opt in to MP.

What platform would the MP candidate run on?  Well, first and foremost, it would be commitment to achieving electoral change.  Then, on other issues, a compromise position from the parties supporting each MP candidate would be struck prior to the election.  Where there are clear ideological differences, a similar power formula could be used to establish this particular candidate’s position.  This alone would help increase engagement from local constituents.  This process would carry on to help guide an MP Member of Parliament when representing their riding.

What happens after significant electoral change is accomplished?  Then, and only then, is there is no further need for the MP party, as the electoral system itself should work to ensure that different groups, beliefs and ideologies are sufficiently represented.  This might be the first time that a party has been proposed with an expiry date!

What kind of electoral reform would the MP party support?  The MP party would support any form of proportional representation (PR).  Often, we get caught in the debate of which system is better, rather than simply implementing PR, and providing a mechanism for further improvement.

What is the downside?  First, candidates and campaign teams would need to temporarily leave their parties of choice.  This is a big step for many people, as we are pretty strongly attached to our political parties!  Secondly, the mechanisms of resolving disputes and positions will be a messy process at times, but worth the effort, in my opinion. Finally, once the goal is achieved through having a sufficient number of MP MPs to enact change, the politics of power could cause the party to try to perpetuate itself.  We have seen that story before.

Finally, is this a practical plan?  I believe it is preferable to many other plans that rely on one party or another to save the day.  I believe it is preferable than splitting the electoral reform vote between several parties.  I believe that the result will be self sustaining in the long run, and therefore makes the temporary nature of an MP party a practical alternative.  With the elimination of per vote funding, there is no penalty for parties to participate, save for the federal election spending cap.

What do you think?  Is electoral reform important enough to take such a radical step?