Ottawa Citizen, Jonathan Rose, July 11, 2016
The focus of these town halls should be on what values matter most to Canadians in an electoral system. I think citizens care less about the allocation of seats than they do about how each system embodies principles such as accountability, fairness, simplicity and inclusiveness.
Should an electoral system offer greater voter choice, create effective parties, be simple and practical or offer fairness of representation? These are ideals that both reformers and non-reformers can rationally discuss without getting lost in the weeds of how votes are transferred under single transferable vote.
There are many lessons to be drawn from the recent U.K. referendum for electoral reform in Canada.
The first is the buyer’s remorse from when people vote on an issue they think they know a lot about, when in fact their knowledge is superficial or incorrect. Will we wake up the day after our referendum learning that the most searched term was “What is first past the post?”
The second lesson is about the powerful role fear can play in motivating voters. In the case of Brexit, it was fear of foreigners. In the case of electoral reform, could it be the fear of Canada’s electoral system morphing into that of Israel or Italy? Referendums are notoriously blunt instruments. Leave or remain doesn’t offer much nuance, and assumes voters understand what each of these options entail.
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