Friday, July 09, 2004

Proportional Representation, part deux

This is further to yesterday's post...First off, Coyne has his own responses to a week of heavy bombardment against his arguments:

To which I might reply: What's so special about ridings? The division of the country into 308 geographic districts, each with its own member of Parliament, is one way of representing the population, but it's not the only conceivable way. At various times in world history, it has been thought more important to represent the different classes, or estates. Some people today would like to see seats apportioned by race or gender. So there's nothing self-evidently "natural" about the riding as the basic unit of representation, much though it may have to recommend it.

This gets to the heart of the matter, and I am positive that Coyne was reading the argument about problems of representing geographic interests in PR. The problem in Canada with PR is the basic dichotomy of interests between rural Canada, where a healthy chunk of ridings are based, to equal out the power of the cities, and the urban ridings. This dichotomy is evident in every election. Urban Toronto ridings (and most urban Canadian ridings) did not vote along the same patterns of rural Canada. PR's problem is that even if there is a mix of geographical riding MP's and PR MP's, even one PR representative is going to distort Canadian's interests in the house. Why? Let's see how this would play out.

PR means that only absolute votes would matter, so parties vying for votes would concentrate their efforts in the major population centres where the majority of votes are located. Vancouver, Montreal, the GTA and the vote heavy south western Ontario region would all be heavily canvassed. Do you really think PR candidates would bother with the riding Skeena-Bulkley Valley? Do you really think that PR candidates would have the money or resources to canvas the Yukon? Of course not.

PR candidates would simply live in, canvas and petition the larger population centres of Canada, promising the moon, stars and heavans above. PR candidates would certainly not represent the rural votes of Canada, and more specifically, not Western Canada. They could sacrifice all the western votes for the voters of Toronto. They could promise to put Western Canada oil in a vacuum to suck all it all to Toronto, and would probably still get voted in by synchophants from the GTA.

The beauty of our current system is that parties cannot hope to sacrifice one part of the country (for the most part) and still win nationally (okay, I know this isn't entirely accurate, but..). You have to satisfy all parts of the country in order to win. Notice that Martin actully did canvas the Skeena in the last two days of the election. Would that happen under PR? Probably not. The overblown comparisons of PR in other countries are ridiculous. Small, densely populated European countries with PR have a better shot at this kind of system, because the interests of one area of the country cannot be sacrificed for others: the areas are simply too small to be differentiated as having seperate interests.

Coyne needs to address regional problems with PR and explain how PR can be something other than pitting rural vs urban votes.

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