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A good time to talk about election reform

Fair Vote Nova Scotia sends questionnaire to party leaders in lead up to election

by Robert Devet

A good time to talk about election reform

Fair Vote Nova Scotia believes elections are a good time to talk about election reform.

To start this discussion the group has submitted a series of questions to the political parties in Nova Scotia.

“People should know where the parties stand on electoral reform before the election. The party responses to the questions, if they choose to respond, should pretty firmly determine where they stand. And if parties choose not to respond, that will still be telling,” states their press release.

“The problem we see is that you can end up with a disproportionate number of seats in the Legislature, relative to the overall popular vote,” says Steve Caines, secretary of Fair Vote Nova Scotia.

Caines points to the 2009 election, where a 45% share in the popular vote gave Dexter's NDP a majority government holding 60% of the seats.

“We make the same criticism at the federal level as well,” says Caines. “Harper was elected with 39.6% of the popular vote, but the conservatives have the majority of seats, so Harper has effectively 100% of legislative power.”

Caines also believes that the current first past the post system stops minorities and women from holding seats.

“We see that as a problem. We think that [the make-up of] the legislature should mirror the province,” says Caines.

The current legislature is almost exclusively white, only 12 out of 52 seats are held by women.

“Which is not to say that a proportional system would totally eliminate these problems, but the evidence is that more women and more minorities are elected under proportional systems,” says Caines.

Proportional electoral approaches come in many flavours. Fair Vote Nova Scotia has no preference, it believes any proportional approach is better than the current system.

Yet some proportional electoral systems are notoriously complex.

“To try to explain things like the single transferable vote, people's eyes probably glaze over, and you fall asleep, it can get pretty dull,” says Caines. “But as far as the voting part is concerned, it's pretty simple.”

Another frequently heard objection is that proportional voting systems cause minority governments and coalitions.

Caines points to the many countries in Europe and elsewhere where coalitions are the norm.

“We don't see it as a bad thing,” says Caines. “It is better in the long run, you come to conclusions that more people can be happy with.”

Responses to the Fair Vote Nova Scotia questionnaire will be made public on October 2nd.







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Topics: Governance
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