Meeting with MP Marwan Tabbara on Electoral Reform

On the 28th of November 2019, I met with and encouraged our Kitchener South – Hespeler MP, Marwan Tabbara, to have the Liberals fulfill citizens’ expectations on electoral reform. There is a groundswell of support for a non-partisan National Citizens Assembly to be convened, do research and propose binding recommendations to the government in regard to fair representation of voters’ interests. Further, a November 22nd poll by Angus Reid indicated that of all age groups and of all provinces, at least 60% supported electoral reform to include some type of Proportional Representation.

During the 2015 election campaign, Justin Trudeau promised that “This will be the last election using First Past The Post (FPTP)”. These words were echoed by Liberal candidates across the country, including our local candidate Marwan Tabbara promising he’d make every vote count. We currently have a non-proportional voting system, which has election results not consistent with how voters across the country cast their ballots. Therefore, some voters are over represented and others are under represented or not represented at all. After being elected as Prime Minister, Trudeau eventually announced that there would be no electoral reform, and that it was his decision to make. He claimed that there was no consensus found in the Electoral Reform Committee which was comprised of all elected parties and heard from experts on the subject. In fact, the committee made an informed decision in unanimously recommending we adopt a Proportional Representation voting system, as the vast majority of experts testified PR is what our country needed. There are many models for PR, and the ERRE committee was not mandated to recommend a specific version, so it did not do so. Trudeau used the lack of a model recommendation to claim there was “no consensus” in order to justify keeping our current non-proportional FPTP model which favours the larger parties, including his.

We are all aware of the disproportionate outcomes of FPTP and how it makes voting for smaller parties appear to have such long-shot odds, along with vote spitting arguments, that it compels voters to choose a large party they don’t like to avoid another large party they hate. It is a very flawed system that makes it difficult for voters to choose what they truly want, as the system won’t have all votes count towards what the voter is wishing to support. Proportional Representation would mean that all parties would end up with elected MPs in numbers that would be reflective of actual voter support. The Canadian government would accurately reflect the image of Canadians’ values. It would not allow a party with 39% support to have more than 50% of the seats and all the power.

In meeting Marwan, I urged that he again take electoral reform for Proportional Representation seriously. Politicians have repeatedly let voters down that have demanded improvements to our voting system. I asked that he give his support for a non-partisan National Citizens Assembly, which would learn about and then recommend binding improvements to our democracy.

Prime Minister Trudeau has advocated for the ranked ballot. This is not a voting system, but is a tool that can be used in any type of voting system. When a ranked ballot is utilized within our current FPTP system, it takes the votes cast for the least supported parties and reassigns them to one of the more popular parties. This reallocation helps a larger party win, without any representation being given to the smaller groups which were eliminated. This is called the Alternative Vote, or AV system. Political experts say that AV consolidates power to the biggest two parties with even more disproportionate results than we currently have with our FPTP model. However, we can apply a ranked ballot as a tool within a PR system, such as in the Single Transferable Vote model (STV). A ranked ballot is also a feature of a new PR voting model developed and proposed by Gordon Nicholls, whom lives in our Kitchener South – Hespeler riding. His new model is known as MMPP, Mixed Member Preferential Proportional. It expands the Mixed Member Proportional model (MMP), currently used in Germany, to an improved model that incorporates a preferential ranked ballot. You can see the details of Gordon Nicholls’ proposal here. I commend Gordon for his brilliant suggestion of this made-in-Canada PR version which deserves our consideration.

We must not allow PM Trudeau to abandon his promise for electoral reform. We must not allow him to dupe Canadians into thinking that AV would be an acceptable substitution for PR. The AV system is not proportional nor representative of voters, and it is the only system worse than what we currently have with our flawed FPTP. I would like to be proven wrong, but I did not leave my meeting with MP Marwan Tabbara with any confidence that he would advocate for a National Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform. We must all encourage our MP and his party to follow a course of action that has integrity and is fair, by mandating a National Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform to give unbiased and binding actions for our government to improve Canadians’ democracy.