TORONTO, August 30, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), the political arm of the pro-life movement in Canada, has come out in opposition to the proposed alteration to Ontario voting procedures which includes a system of partial proportional representation. The proposal will be a ballot question in the upcoming Oct. 10 Ontario general election. The following is reproduced from CLC’s September newsletter:
We Oppose Proportional Representation
We are generating much interest regarding our position opposing proportional representation. We understand that there is great disillusionment with the current political situation and frustration with the lack of progress on moral issues in the political arena. CLC appreciates that many people are looking to electoral reform as an answer to these issues, but we are convinced that the proposed solution – proportional representation in general and the mixed member proportional representation (MMP) proposed by the Ontario Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform specifically – may end up making the situation even worse.
What we need is not electoral reform but political reform. We don’t need a better system of choosing our elected officials; we need more informed and engaged voters and more honest and open debate in order to elect better politicians. We need fewer backroom deals and more public discussion of the important issues. We need less centralized control by party leaders and party elites.
Currently Canada has a first-past-the-post system. The candidate who gets the most votes in any riding wins that seat and the party that wins the greatest number of seats gets to form the government. Many people say this is unfair because candidates can win with less than 50% of the vote and many majority governments are formed with 40% of the national or provincial vote.
The answer to this is to open up parliament or provincial government by empowering parliamentary committees, removing the privilege of patronage from prime ministers and premiers, and making it easier to introduce, debate and pass private members bills. This will lead to more accountability, the ability to consider a wider variety of issues, and decreasing the role of government leaders and their unelected staffs.
In October, Ontario voters will decide in a referendum whether the province should adopt MMP for subsequent elections. If passed by at least 60% of voters provincewide and a majority in at least 60% of the ridings, MMP in Ontario would increase the number of MPPs in the legislature from the current 103 to 129 – 90 seats chosen democratically by the present first-past-the-post system and 39 seats allocated according to the proportion of each party’s share of the province-wide party vote with a minimum requirement of 3%. (Each ballot entitles a voter to one vote for a local candidate and one vote for the political party of the voter’s choice.)
For example, if the NDP won 20% of the vote but were elected in just 10% of the seats, they would get “topped up” and be given additional MPPs. The 39 seats would be apportioned to the parties and be filled according to party lists of preferred candidates submitted prior to the election. Unfortunately, these lists, unlike the candidates in each constituency, will not be elected democratically but rather drawn up by party elites.
The totally unaccountable parties have already been parachuting candidates into ridings, forbidden their candidates to answer questionnaires, are supporting gag laws, and now want to completely bypass the voters and directly appoint a significant number of MPPs to the legislature. It is very unlikely that any of the leaders of the three major parties will put pro-life candidates near the top of or even in their lists.
Some pro-lifers believe that proportional representation will result in the appointment of Family Coalition Party members at the provincial level and Christian Heritage Party candidates at the federal level. Sadly, neither party has reached the minimum 3% level of province-wide support that most proportional representation systems require to garner seats in parliament. Until there is a sea change in their support, the number of FCP/CHP elected officials would be negligible to effect change.
There are very few examples of social conservative legislation being passed in countries with PR. This summer The Interim newspaper had a team of three people examine the records of other countries to track the progress of prolife and pro-family legislation in countries with PR. They found just one significant example. In the Netherlands, the Christian Union Party, as part of the coalition government there, has effected some positive change in closing down brothels, reducing the number of marijuana shops and introducing guidelines requiring cooling off wait times for abortions.
But, for the most part, the researchers at The Interim found the reverse to be true: many countries with PR have experienced an advance of anti-life and anti-family agendas in recent years as left-wing coalitions dance to the tune of the most extreme elements in parliament. We are concerned that the highly likely result of PR in Canada will be thirdplace NDP contingencies dictating social policy to minority governments. Pro-life leaders in countries with PR with whom we have consulted over the years have repeatedly warned that proportional representation has made it more difficult to lobby elected politicians.
If proportional representation was clearly linked to demonstrated progress on limiting abortion, euthanasia and anti-family trends, perhaps support for PR would be debat-able. But it isn’t. Therefore, PR’s role in intensifying party dominance by political machines is too great a cost to pay. Coalition politics too often result in backroom deals and empower professional politicians and their staff while disenfranchising voters.
Too often voters get the parties they elected but as a result of coalition deal-making, do not get the policies the parties ran on during the election because of the compromises necessary to keep minority governments in power. Those elected officials in parliament, as a result of being on the party list rather than being elected in ridings, will be beholden to their parties, not voters, and thus will have no direct connection to everyday citizens. That is, fewer elected officials will be influenced by grassroots campaigns, including from pro-life supporters.
This is a perversion of democracy and has no place in our government.
Almost all the problems can be solved if elected officials understood that they are the representatives of those who elected them, not representatives of their party’s leader. MPs, MPPs, MLAs and MNAs must demand less centralized control of the agenda and doggedly fight to represent the interests of their constituents. Most of all, they must stand up for vital moral principles over party interests.
What Canada needs is not a different electoral system, but more principled politicians. Proportional representation will not deliver them.