Craig Scott visits the U of R

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Craig Scott: Reformist Extraordinaire /image: Emily Wright

Craig Scott: Reformist Extraordinaire /image: Emily Wright

Should Canada change to proportional representation?

Article: Michael Chmielewski  – Editor-in-chief

On Oct. 1 Craig Scott visited the University of Regina to discuss electoral reform with a political science class, and to meet with the U of R New Democrats.

Craig Scott is an NDP Member of Parliament in the House of Commons and the “Official Opposition Critic for Democratic and Parliamentary Reform.” Scott is the Member for Toronto-Danforth, the late Jack Layton’s former riding.

Scott sat down with the Carillon to discuss electoral reform, the constitutional implications of Senate reform, and Justin Trudeau, the Leader of the Liberal Party.

The NDP is opposed to the current Canadian electoral system, which is the “first-past-the-post (FPTP)” system. Scott said that “the NDP has been in favour of reforming our system to have proportional representation for quite some time, and I’m on a national tour, this is probably the now sixth stop in the last little while.”

The two electoral systems are widely different, and their names are indicative of what kind of system they are. The FPTP system means the candidate with the most votes in a riding wins that riding, while the others go home with nothing. Critics of this system argue that those who voted for the losing candidate(s) are not really being represented.

[pullquote]“The issue is not so much the mechanism constitutionally, it’s insuring that right across the country there’s a groundswell of popular desire to get rid of the Senate.” [/pullquote]

Proportional representation (PR), as the name implies, would represent all voters, because the number of votes a party gets will be proportional to the seats the party gets in the representative legislative body.

These are just simple overviews of the two systems. When narrowed down, there can be a lot more specific elements, for example a percentage threshold in the PR system, etc.

Scott pointed out “whoever is committed to changing this, whichever party, does have to either form government on its own, or become part of a government under the current system.” Essentially, a party needs to win under the old system to reform it.

Another bold proposition of the NDP is to eliminate the Senate. If the NDP forms a majority government, abolishing the Senate would be a tough constitutional battle.

Craig ScottWith a background as a constitutional international law professor, Scott said that abolishing the Senate could go one of two ways. To change the constitution in Canada, the federal government would need to get the consent of the provinces. It’s up to the Supreme Court if that means 7 out of 10, or complete unanimity.

“The more technical, formal argument suggests its unanimity.” Scott argued. He went on, saying that “the issue is not so much the mechanism constitutionally, it’s insuring that right across the country there’s a groundswell of popular desire to get rid of the Senate.”

When asked how the NDP, if they formed government, would prevent a Charlottetown Accord like meltdown, he argued that that wouldn’t happen, and that it was largely “the liberal’s big card” in opposing Senate abolition, which the Liberal Party has come out against.

He went to talk to about how the NDP feels with it’s chances against Trudeau and the Liberal Party in the next federal election, saying that “well I think the whole point will be month-by-month Canadians will be actually comparing parties and leaders on the basis of substance and capacities. That’s the way it has to be. There’s going to be a point at which sort of inherited an easy celebrity cannot carry you through for two more years.”

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