Kelly McParland: So you think you want electoral reform?


Would anyone bet against the creation of a party of truckers?

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The next time someone tells you that Canada should change the way it elects governments, think of Israel.

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Israel has a proportional representation system of the type that proponents of reform like to advocate. There are many variations of proportional representation; Israel’s is quite simple version. You vote for a party, not for an individual candidate. Parties assemble lists of candidates, who are allocated seats based on the proportion of votes the party receives.

It sounds simple. Should work. But it’s a disorder. Israelis are preparing for their fifth election in four years. The last one, 16 months ago, resulted in a particularly unwieldy coalition of parties, many of whom genuinely disliked each other and had radically different political views, all cobbled together with the overriding aim of preventing Benjamin Netanyahu from continuing. as Prime Minister. .

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Netanyahu is a highly skilled politician who has held power for 15 of the past 25 years. He is the leader of Likud, which regularly gets the largest share of the vote, even though it usually accounts for a quarter or less of the total. Any party that reaches a minimum threshold of votes (currently 3.25 percent) can get a seat. With between eight and 13 qualifying parties, Netanyahu has proven adept at mustering assemblies of partners willing to keep him in power in return for specific freebies, such as a cabinet seat, political favor or budget concession.

By March last year, his final term had lasted 12 years and numerous elections, prompting other parties to set aside enough differences to band together and oust him. No one thought the regrouping would last forever, of course, but the array of differences proved so unwieldy that it barely made it from last spring to this one. Netanyahu is currently on test for bribes, fraud and breach of trust (hanging on to the prime minister helped him defer charges), but he could well be return supported once the last go-around is complete.

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Israel is a unique place with historical, geographic, political, cultural, social, religious, and security concerns that make it particularly difficult to govern. Its electoral system is not solely responsible for its struggle to find a stable system of government, but it certainly hasn’t helped. The idea behind proportional representation is to ensure that the government comes as close as possible to reflecting the society it represents, based on the votes it casts. But when you have a society as rich in contrasting viewpoints as Israel, it can be decidedly difficult to find enough common ground on which to build a basis for broad agreement. There could be up to 14 parties vying for the 120 Knesset seats. All you need is a handful of seats and you too could be a powerbroker.

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  1. People walk past a voting sign near a polling station during the Ontario provincial election in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada June 2, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

    Kelly McParland: Losers angry at Doug Ford win no reason to upset voting system

  2. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull takes part in a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron (not pictured) at Kirribilli House in Sydney May 2, 2018. Turnbull is the country's fourth Prime Minister in 11 years - fifth if you include Kevin Rudd, who had two cracks at work.  None made it to the next election before being ousted.

    Kelly McParland: BC voters should think about the folly below when considering electoral reform

Canada is a different place, and proponents of electoral reform seem to assume it could change the system with minimal fuss. We really only have three major parties and a few smaller ones. How complicated could this get? Bring in reps by the pops, it is thought, and you’ll probably get a steady streak of Liberal-NDP coalitions with a grumpy, outnumbered bunch of Conservatives on the other side, which is why the Liberals and New Democrats tend to like the idea. of a switch and the Conservatives do not.

The presumption does not necessarily hold, however. If proportional representation does anything, it is to encourage proliferation. Only six parties garnered enough support in the 2021 Canadian election to qualify for seats in a simple system like Israel’s, but 15 others fielded candidates. None of the 15 got enough votes to win a seat, but under a proportional representation system the bar would likely be much lower. That might not be a bad thing — it could certainly be more entertaining — but given how neatly Canada has divided itself along partisan, regional, linguistic, economic, ambition and other lines, it doesn’t It is not difficult to imagine several other special interest formations developing, with the potential for serious consequences, if not disruption.

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Would anyone bet against the creation of a party of truckers? God knows what his rig would contain. Probably something about the Governor General overthrowing the government and instituting free gas and a tax break on portable hot tubs. Want to bet against him that he garners enough votes to win several seats in the Commons, where he could perhaps join forces with Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party to create a faction dedicated to “more freedom” for all but immigrants , who would not be allowed to enter the country in something like the usual numbers.

Given the power that large blocs can enjoy in split parliaments, this would provide Quebec voters with compelling reasons to band together behind the array of nationalist, sovereigntist/separatist movements already in place and create a single entity capable of increasing its ability to demand concessions to new heights. The main federal parties barely exist in Quebec provincial politics; the once powerful liberals were reduced a few redoubts and could lose several seats in the October elections. It’s easy to imagine a figure as popular as Prime Minister François Legault leading a federalist challenger in a rep-by-pop system, with the ability to marshal demands backed by a bulging bloc of seats devoted entirely to interests. Quebec.

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If Quebec leaves, Alberta would have good reason to follow. An Alberta party, or a joint Alberta-Saskatchewan entity, could pick up where the Reform party left off, once again dividing conservatives while saving western conservatives from fraternizing with those annoying Ontario moderates who continue to stand in the way of social conservatism and gun rights. Who knows, if Legault’s Quebec faction could get enough seats to weaken a Liberal-NDP alliance, maybe a Sask-Ab bloc could team up with a Bernier bloc and a Trucker bloc to prevent any viable form of government to take office, and Canada too could have regular and futile trips to the polls in search of stability.

It doesn’t have to be that way, of course. We could all learn to rally around the flag (the one we are still allowed to fly) and grasp a common vision of Canada without the regional, social, cultural, economic and geographic divisions that plague appearances. But that doesn’t seem to be the trend.

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