Parties should unite against Conservatives to bring electoral reform: columnist

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Maybe journalists should rule the world.

The National Post's Andrew Coyne has penned an intriguing column about how to get Canada from a 'first-past-the-post' voting system to 'proportional representation' (PR).

PR — whereby the number of seats won by a party is proportionate to the number of votes received — has long been touted as a fairer and more just way of electing a government. With PR, for example, you wouldn't have a party with 40 per cent of the popular vote having an absolute majority in Parliament.

Here's Coyne's plan:

"The opposition parties would agree on a single candidate to put up against the Conservatives in each riding. Were they to win a majority, they would pledge to govern just long enough to implement electoral reform: a year, two at most. Then fresh elections would be called under the new system, with each party once again running under its own flag, with a full slate of candidates.

Supporters of each party, therefore, would not have to give up their allegiance. Neither, for that matter, would reform-minded Conservatives. They could vote for the reform ticket this one time, then return to the Tory fold when it came to deciding who should represent them in a reformed Parliament."

Coyne isn't the first one to propose cooperation — he admits he borrowed pieces of his plan from Liberal leadership hopeful Joyce Murray, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen.

But, as far as I can tell, Coyne is the only one to propose it in this way: 'short-term cooperation, an election victory, electoral change, and then another snap election.'

Unfortunately, at this point, the likelihood of the plan coming to fruition is not good.

Both Liberal leadership front runners — Justin Trudeau and Marc Garneau — have categorically refused to cooperate with the other parties in the next election.

"I don't think it's going to be necessary," Trudeau told CTV's Question Period on Sunday when asked about strategic alliances with other 'progressive' parties.

"Honestly what I'm seeing on the ground in the past month or so, is that people are excited about politics done differently. It is not defined around left or right...so, I'm going to run 338 candidates in the next election if I'm Liberal leader."

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NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has also been cool to the idea of cooperation.

But is there another way to get to proportional representation, a system of government that 56 per cent of Canadians support?

As Coyne so eloquently points out, "the current system heavily favours the Conservatives, as the party with the support of the largest single block of voters."  In other words, a Tory government isn't going to change the system of voting.

If the 'progressive' parties don't want to continue to see the Tories win ridings with just 37 per cent support (see: Calgary Centre) or win majority governments with 39.6 per cent, then maybe the Coyne 'doctrine' is the only choice they have.

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