Justin Trudeau adviser requested to reserve comment on ‘Preferential Ballot’ by party insiders









We wish to remind your readers that Justin Trudeau has many advisers on the electoral reform brief, not least including several among our own party’s caucus and national membership, and that while we share Mr. Asselin’s concern for our country’s growing democratic deficit, we are stymied as to why he should champion such a profoundly undemocratic alternative.

The preferential ballot is by itself widely shunned as electoral systems go, and it does nothing to improve low voter turnout, which perhaps explains why its most die-hard advocates so often attach the dismal prospect of mandatory voting to their argument.  By contrast, research typically reveals dozens of democracies which boast far higher rates of voter participation and satisfaction than we do, most of them incorporating some degree of proportional representation into their electoral systems.  Instead of threatening to fine their citizenry, they simply offer a superior electoral product: if you vote, no matter how you vote, you’re virtually guaranteed the representation you voted for.  In New Zealand, your chances of electing your representative of choice are just under 100%.  In Canada they’re a lousy 50-50.  And they’d be no better using the preferential ballot alone.

Mr. Trudeau made his remarks in favour of the preferential ballot well over a year ago, before he became leader.  Since then he has reserved comment while his caucus and membership have addressed the file, most recently culminating in a resolution to initiate an all-party process, involving expert assistance and citizen participation, to review ALL electoral systems of merit before making specific recommendations to Parliament.

We hope that in future Mr. Asselin will take Mr. Trudeau’s implicit advice and reserve comment until he’s successfully completed his homework.

Jennifer Ross and David Erland
on behalf of Liberals for Fair Voting

Liberals for Fair Voting is a caucus of The Liberal Party of Canada and Fair Vote Canada, the national multi-partisan campaign for democratic voting.  It advocates equal effective votes and proportional representation.

Share this article

2 Responses to “Justin Trudeau adviser requested to reserve comment on ‘Preferential Ballot’ by party insiders”

  1. It seems that many (most?) people assume “preferential voting” means Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), aka the Alternative Vote (AV). But there are many, quite different approaches to a preferential ballot. IRV / AV is just one of them, and not even the best one, in my view. It is nevertheless a step up from First past the post (FPTP).

    No, it’s not Proportional Representation (PR). That doesn’t make it undemocratic, nor, necessarily, unfair. PR has it’s problems, too.

    While there are forms of multiple Representation, and even PR that I could conceivably get behind, I don’t see these as a be-alls or end-alls for democratic reform. The all too common attitude among PR afficionados that this is the *only* fair, democratic approach, is absurd and counter-productive.

    I think we can all agree that FPTP is egregiously flawed for any case where we have more than two candidates.

    But the decision about whether or not we want PR, or of what kind, should not be made because FPTP is so bad at electing single-representatives, or for making “all votes count” (a contentious argument, in my view), or railing on about the disconnect between the FPTP so-called popular-vote vs the final aggregate seat count (another contentious argument), but should, instead, be made because we explicitly want more varied voices and viewpoints within our legislatures, or not – while at the same time recognizing the benefits and pitfalls, including minority governments, and possible accountability issues, that would also ensue.

    Let’s have that discussion, by all means, but meanwhile let’s not let it pin us down to an egregiously flawed FPTP status quo.

    It should be realized, here, that the NZ system mentioned, Mixed-Member Proportional Representation (MMPR), incorporates an FPTP core — the 70 electorates are elected by FPTP, and the results are then augmented by allocating, nominally, 50 additional seats by party vote, to achieve party proportionality on the whole. This party-vote component does not wash away the sins of the already-committed FPTP, in my view.

    There are ways to improve upon FPTP, however, whether for a stand-alone single-member per riding system, or as a component of an MR system like MMPR, and we should look for them, and embrace at least one of them, regardless of any MR leanings we might also have.

    I have done considerable work in this area, and propose a system called Ranked-Pairs, to replace FPTP elections, whether as stand-alone single-member per riding, or a a FPTP-replacement component of an PR system like MMPR. Ranked Pairs is a Condorcet system, which means that, starting from a single preferential ballot, candidates are matched one on one with each other candidate, and if any candidate beats every other candidate in such one on one matches, that candidate is the winner, the clear favourite of the majority. Should there not be such a candidate who beats every other candidate, there is a straightforward mechanism to resolve the discrepancy, in a fair and equitable manner. This system is hands-down better than FPTP, to be sure, but also significantly better than IRV / AV, which is itself, while an improvement over FPTP, is only marginally so.

    It’s the way forward, I submit, whether we want to end up in a MMPR system, or not. I encourage you to consider the (pdf) in this regard, which you can reach from the following URL, which also portrays the highlights of these various approaches:


    Thank you for your time.


    • Don'tTrust MainstreamMedia

      PV or PB from the way the liberals who are in favor of it is just the same as the Alternative Vote (AV) aka Instant RunOf (IRV) Whatever moniker you want to use – it is still a Winner-Take-All system and it is still NOT proportional. Some experts even say that the Preferential Ballot is worse than First Past The Post. I want my 1st choice vote to count, most times I don’t even have a second choice, certainly not a 3rd or 4th choice.

      Voter turnout is low because – what is the point, why waste my time – if there is zero chance of helping to elect someone that represents my values? Mandatory Voting isn’t going to change that, there will just be many more spoiled ballots.

      Proportional Representation is used in most modern democracies around the world. Check out this map: bit.ly/14M3mY6

      Canada and the rest of the world need politicians who develop evidence based policy, not policy based evidence. There is ample evidence to support Prop Rep: http://wilfday.blogspot.ca/2014/01/ten-canadian-commissions-assemblies-and.html

      Of course, PR isn’t the magic bullet that will cure all our ills, but certainly it’s a step in a better direction. We also need more truth to power in media, instead of the fluff and propaganda that we get now.

      Some good information here: http://prfound.org/basics/benefits-of-pr/ & here (pay particular attention to the myths about PR): http://www.fairvote.ca/about-fair-voting/


Add your comments: