Jason Kenney on Proportional Representation

“Does he have any regard at all for the fact that Canada is now the only multiparty advanced democracy in the world that has a system of voting designed in and for 16th century England when candidates really were non-partisan candidates elected for the purpose of representation?”
Jason Kenney, Alliance MP for Calgary Southeast, AB
February 20th, 2001 / 4:15 p.m.

The other night at the annual Fair Vote Waterloo Holiday Get-Together, there was some speculation about the upcoming Alberta election in which Jason Kenney seeks to reclaim the Alberta Government for his new incarnation of that province’s provincial Conservatives. I was surprised to discover not everyone was aware of Mr Kenney’s strong support of Proportional Representation back in 2001.  [Read Jason Kenney’s whole statement here.]

Proportional Representation is not and has never been a partisan issue.  It only becomes so when a party championing PR gets elected to disproportional power in a winner-take-all political system.  When that happens, the party starts to rethink the wisdom of adopting electoral reform to a voting system that will limit their future power to what they can earn in votes.

At the time Mr Kenney demonstrated his considerable understanding of Canada’s need for Proportional Representation in the Parliamentary debate referenced above, he was an elected Member of Parliament from a regional Alberta party that didn’t (and wasn’t likely to) achieve winner-take-all false majority power any time soon with First Past The Post.

Mr Kenney was initially elected as a federal Reform Party of Canada candidate. Until the Reform Party morphed into a the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance. That’s where he was when he spoke in that 2001 debate. But although the Alliance was able to gain regional traction and win disproportional power in Alberta in a First Past The Post System (much as the Bloc Québécois could in Québéc) he understood that before his party could hope to form government, Canada would need Proportional Representation.

Naturally, the Liberals who held phony majority power under PM Chrétien at the time did not like the idea of Proportional Representation, which would prevent future false majority power by limiting their power in government to what they could actually earn in votes.  Jason Kenney was not alone, in this, there was a lot of support for PR within the Canadian Alliance, up to and including Stephen Harper.  But the parties enjoying disproportional power are never very likely to make voting fair.

The Canadian Alliance had the power of regional concentration without much hope of forming government, while the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada could barely win any seats yet owned the name of one of Canada’s alternating governing parties, so the two merged into the Conservative Party of Canada.  Naturally with its own false majority, suddenly electoral reform was no longer something this new/old party wanted any party of.

During the Harper Government’s decade in power, Canada’s federal Liberals slipped to third place for the first time in history.  So Justin Trudeau ran on a platform of Electoral Reform, but Mr Trudeau’s appetite for electoral reform evaporated with his own false majority.  The BC Referendum was lost by the BC NDP who are convinced they’ll be re-elected, this time with a false majority of their own.

This may sound like bad news, and indeed it is in the short term, but the reality is that more and more Canadians are learning what Proportional Representation is, and just as important, why we need it. And because of this, Proportional Representation just isn’t going away.

Defenders of the Status Quo have been able to stave off Proportional Representation for so very long is because most of us have little experience or understanding of anything but winner-take-all politics.   The fact that 90+ countries use some form of PR is a blessing because there is so much information about how Proportional Representation works.  But it’s also a curse, because detractors can cherry pick the elements or examples of the application  of PR that will make it look the worst.  Because Canadians have so little or no understanding or experience of PR, when they spread misinformation most of us don’t even know they’re talking nonsense.  The moment any province adopts PR, we will see for ourselves that the sky doesn’t fall, and suddenly it will become much harder to sell us misinformation.

The issue is very much alive in Quebec and PEI, (soon to hold another Proportional Representation Referendum)  and Ontario’s Premier Ford is reminding Ontarians why a fair voting system is so important.

Not long ago the UK’s electoral reform referendum failed to even offer Proportional Representation as a choice. When it failed, the powers that be claimed this meant citizens were happy with the way things worked.  And the next referendum gave them BRexit.  Except the people didn’t think so.  Which is why Proportional Representation is back on the table there, too.   And why there is a new John Cleese Proportional Representation video.  Enjoy.

Regards,
Laurel L. Russwurm

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