An Alternative

The 3 R’s of Parliament are representative, responsible, and responsive. With our first past the post system we don’t even get beyond the first R of parliaments. Here is an alternative to both the current electoral system and the defeated proportional representation.

In the 2001 BC election 21% of voters did not vote for either the Liberals or the NDP. That means 1/5 of all taxpayers; the people that are paying the government’s bills had no representation whatsoever. For the 2005 election it was 13% and in the last election it was 12%. The worst-case scenario is what happened in 1987 in New Brunswick. The Liberals won every seat with 60% of the vote. Forty percent of the voters had no representation at all and thus no say in determining how their tax dollars are spent. I believe this is commonly referred to as taxation without representation!

Like many I know that our first past the post election system doesn’t give us a representative House of Commons but also like many I don’t like the various proposed proportional representation systems either. After the Quebec 1998 general election where the Liberals got more votes then the PQ but the PQ formed a majority government with it having over 60% of the seats I thought we really do need an alternative to first past the post. What follows is my proposed alternative to FPTP and PR elections.

Dual Electoral System

This proposed system of representation comes from the House of Commons itself. It can be said of the House of Commons that it is a group of 308 voters who choose from among their number two principle leaders, one who leads the majority caucus of the House and one who leads it’s minority. This is the basis of the dual electoral system.

A preference ballot is used for voting. The candidate with the number one on a ballot gets one vote. The two candidates with the most votes are elected. The ballots are counted a second time with the elected candidate with the lower number getting one vote. Each elected member will have one ” member vote ” in the House to be used in regular sessions and one ” legislative vote ” for each vote received on the second count of the ballots. These votes are voted when the House is in legislative session and is used to pass what else, legislation! One day a week is set by the Commons for the legislative session and any bills requiring third reading are voted on during that session.

Last three BC general elections

BC Party % Seats Dual Leg vote
2001 Lib 58 77 79 57-78%
NDP 22 2 79 22-43%
2005 Lib 46 46 79 46-59%
NDP 42 33 79 41-54%
2009 Lib 46 49 85 46-58%
NDP 42 35 83 42-54%
Ind 1 2 ~1%

The main drawback of this system is if you keep the same number of ridings you will double the number of members or having the same number of members will double the size of the electoral ridings.

Benefits of the Dual Electoral System

1.    Guarantee of an opposition since no party can have more than 50% of the members.

2.    In regular sessions the members have one vote each so there will be non-partisan voting on the election of the Speaker, rules of the House (2/3 majority), procedural motions and committee membership.

3.    In legislative session you will have proportional representation since each member will have one vote for each vote received on the second count of the ballots.

4.    No party lists since your still voting for the Member of Parliament of your choice. One MP represents the majority vote in a riding and the other MP the main minority vote.

5.    No major revision of the electoral map. Ridings should only be altered when the number of electors in a riding is 150% or more or 50% or less of the average number of electors per riding. Each election few if any ridings will change. This will mitigate the political fighting over riding boundaries or size for the purpose of any real or imagined partisan gain.

6.    An incentive to vote since the more votes an MP gets the more votes they have on voting on legislation. Also ridings and provinces will increase their voting strength in the House if their voting turn out is higher than the National average.

7.    All votes do count! If your first choice doesn’t get elected then one of the two candidates who did get elected will get to vote your vote because of the preference ballot.

 

If the dual electoral system were to be used it would have to be decided what the maximum size of the legislative assembly should be. British Columbia’s legislative assembly currently has 85 seats. If an Assembly of 100 members were set this would give you 50 electoral ridings. This gives an 18% increase in the number of members and a 70% increase in the size of the ridings.

One can easily try it before you buy it. The BC legislative assembly could establish the Assembly advisory council.  The top two candidates for each riding would be appointed giving you a council of 170 members. In regular session each member has one vote. In each riding the other candidates transfer their votes to one of the appointed candidates for that riding. When added to their own this becomes the number of votes they get to cast when the advisory council votes in legislative session. The council in regular session advises the Speaker of the Assembly on procedural motions and when in legislative session advises whether a bill should be given third reading.

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About Barry Aulis

Founder and acting President of the Federalist party of Canada.
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