Sunday, March 10, 2013

Letter to Joyce Murray

In 2011, the Liberal Party of Canada had their worst election ever, getting only 19% of the popular vote and 11% of the seats, and for the first time in history they formed neither the government nor the official opposition. For a party accustomed to getting more seats than the popular vote warranted, it must have seemed unfair to get so few seats in Parliament... but perhaps it helps explain why electoral reform, one of my favorite causes, is being discussed in the upcoming Liberal leadership election. I am backing Joyce Murray for her support of Proportional Representation, although the polls say she won't win the leadership.
Hi Joyce, I just donated $100 to your campaign for one reason: because I want modern democracy to come to Canada.

I studied a lot of voting systems in college and of all of them, my favorite system is one called Direct Representation, which breaks the tradition of "one seat, one vote" in Parliament in favor of giving politicians power proportional to the number of voters who voted for them. The MP with 200,000 votes gets four times as much power as one that got 50,000, for example. The other thing I love about DR is that voters aren't forced to vote local--I live in Calgary Northeast, but I don't have to vote for someone from Calgary Northeast.

DR has other interesting properties too, but I know DR doesn't have much political traction, so I do support proportional systems such as mixed-member proportional and Stephen Dion's P3 idea as the "next best thing".

As you know, Justin Trudeu and Marc supports only minor reform via Instant Runoff Voting aka Alternative Vote. IRV is a mathematically unsound system that does not meet the monotonicity criterion nor several other common-sense criteria used to judge voting systems, and picks winners in an unstable way in close races. And like all riding-centric single-winner systems, it produces results that are not proportional and that depend on where people live and where district boundaries are drawn. Why should it matter that I live on the east side of the city rather than the west or the south? Heck, why should it matter that I live in Calgary and not Vancouver? This is a strange criteria for restricting which individual I am allowed to vote for!

The fact is, anything is better than our current FPTP system, so I would vote "yes" in any referendum for reform. Nevertheless, IRV isn't a serious choice for people that truly believe in democracy, and without some amount of cooperation with the NDP, even that modest reform will probably not be possible. If Justin wins instead of you, Joyce, please pass this letter on to him.

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