Excerpts from the submission of the Communist Party of Canada to the Special Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform
The Communist Party of Canada is a registered political party with a 95 year history of fighting for peace, democracy, and socialism. Ours was the first political party in Canada to call for proportional representation. We maintain that any discussion about electoral reform should begin with scrapping the anti-democratic “Un-Fair Elections Act” imposed by the Harper Conservative government, and building from the principle of making every vote count.
The Communist Party of Canada again goes on record as a strong champion of electoral reform and replacing First-Past-the-Post (FPP) with Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) representation, without threshold limits.
Despite misinformation campaigns, the Mixed Member Proportional voting system is very clear, involving one ballot with two votes. With one vote, a local Member of Parliament is elected, and with the second vote, the people select a party. The Member of Parliament can be with the party you vote for, or not. Local MPs would be elected in exactly the same way as they are now. The second vote would go toward electing a Member of Parliament from a party list…
Today, the reality is self-evident that the FPP “winner take all” system is undemocratic, entrenching the big business parties. A vast and costly electoral machine is required to win ridings. The big business parties raise tens of millions of dollars through individual donations from bankers and private business. Electoral spending limits are obscenely high, while limiting donations from trade unions, democratic organizations that are already financially transparent. The Conservative Party’s recent “In and Out” scandal further exposed gross violations of electoral funding rules and the 2014 “Un-fair Elections Act” effectively limited the franchise, gagged Elections Canada, and created further loopholes for election fraud.
Elections are therefore widely recognized as a horse-race largely orchestrated by the corporate media, where small and progressive parties are marginalized. This is not only true for the Communist Party; the exclusion of Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, from the 2015 federal election debates had a marked impact on their voter turnout and subsequent vote. This situation is partly created by FPP, which effectively rejects the idea that every vote counts. Most majority governments are formed with less that 50 percent of the vote.
We propose: dramatically cutting spending limits for political parties; banning corporate donations; permitting donations from trade unions; guaranteeing equal time for all registered political parties, including in leaders and all candidates debates, governed by the Elections Act, not the Broadcast Act.
While voting for a party like the Communist Party can send a powerful message regardless whether it wins or loses, voters often feel compelled to “vote strategically,” instead of choosing the party whose policies they support. Strategic voting results from the FPP system and serves voters very poorly. This choice, as well as the decision not to vote, are nevertheless understandable. Indeed, among the big parties voters have little fundamental difference in status quo ideas. For example, voters seeking to support a peace candidate have no options among the big parties in Canada today, which all clearly support NATO and oppose Palestinian liberation… Our party has maintained long-standing and strong support for MMP because it is a much needed and significant reform to the voting system. MMP would help break the stranglehold of the giant corporations over politics. It would help counter the trend to squeeze progressive, small parties off the electoral platform altogether. The peoples of Canada have waged prolonged campaigns to enlarge democracy in this country. Historically, this has included revolutionary struggles to win representative assemblies. Later battles to expand the franchise have fought against class oppression as well as colonialism, racism, sexism, ageism and other structural inequalities. The campaign for proportional representation is all part of this struggle, led by groups like Mouvement pour une démocratie nouvelle and Fair Vote Canada with support from their allies in labour and the people’s movements, the Communist Party, the Green Party, the New Democratic Party, the Bloc Québécois, Québec Solidaire and others. When Prime Minister Trudeau announced the 42nd General Election would be the last under FPP, many people thought his government would bring in some form of PR.
…Mixed Member Proportional representation most accurately reflects majority opinion, while taking into account geographic differences. In contrast, Ranked Balloting and “Single Transferable Vote” (STV) systems mean the first or second choices of only half of the voters are counted, which does not create a parliament that is proportionally representative of all votes cast in an election.
By making the composition of the party list a political concern, MMP could also help elect more Indigenous candidates, people from racialized communities, women and Trans-persons. It will also contribute to the break-up of the dominance of the big parties by fostering coalitions, which are susceptible to public opinion and mass pressure.
The institution of MMP should generally maintain existing Electoral Districts, while being an occasion to eliminate gerrymandering in riding boundaries, including regressive changes in the 2012 redistribution by the Harper Conservatives, and possibly create new ridings. New proportional seats, in equal number to the riding seats, should be added. We strongly oppose any calculation “threshold” beyond the achievement of one proportional seat. Thresholds reinforce the big party system, blocking the entry of small parties and contradicting the principles of proportional representation.
The Communist Party is not in favour of online voting and mandatory voting. Online voting could threaten the sanctity of the secret ballot, and not all family homes should be considered safe spaces like a poll booth. Mandatory voting will not achieve the desired effect.
Instead, we support making voting more accessible including reducing ID requirements, restoring the authority of the Voter Identification Card, and restoring multiple-vouching, to help transient voters (overwhelmingly working class people including young workers and students, the poor, single mothers, seniors, the disabled and people from racialized communities) as well as voters in northern and Indigenous communities. We call for conducting comprehensive enumeration before every election, and lowering the voting age to 16.
… For our Party, democracy is not only about voting, but the people having a decisive sway about the future. But MMP would be a long overdue and important reform, helping the working people in their struggle for a fundamentally new direction and for winning a better society.
(To read the full CPC brief, visit www.communist-party.ca)