Open response to Fair Vote CanadaDecember 22, 2016
The correspondence below was sent to the President and the Executive Director of Fair Vote Canada, in response to an invitation to participate in the Fair Vote Canada-sponsored electoral reform event planned for January 2017.
Some details of the original email exchange have been omitted for privacy.
— Scott Reid
From: Reid, Scott – M.P.
Sent: December 22, 2016 12:25 PM
To: ‘Réal Lavergne’
Cc: Kelly Carmichael
Subject: RE: Proposed roundtable on PR system design (Ottawa)
Thank you for your email of Dec. 21, inviting me to participate in a round-table discussion on January 21 organized by Fair Vote Canada, at which participants will (as described in your invitation) be doing the following:
Each round-table will have more or less the same format, the emphasis being on systems design, the aim being to recommend one, two or three design alternatives—specific PR systems, including the key design features of each—that are considered at once technically sound, satisfactory to citizens and politically feasible.
Regrettably, I cannot attend this event. It sounds like the purpose of the event is to get participants to adhere to a particular electoral system. As you know, my party’s policy does not advocate any particular alternative to the status quo, but which, rather, defends the right of the Canadian people to have the final say, via a referendum, as to whether a proposed new electoral system should replace the status quo. So I cannot participate in any event in which my participation would leave the impression that I am advocating any particular new system as a replacement for the existing First Past the Post system.
This seems like an appropriate point at which to raise the subject of a profound divide between your organization and myself. Fair Vote Canada—or at least its public spokespersons—have taken a hardline stance against holding a referendum, in which the Canadian people would either accept or reject a new electoral system.
The examples of your position are too numerous to bear repeating in their entirety, so I’ll merely point to one of the most extraordinary: The October 17 post, (which can be found HERE on your website) stating that “a referendum on the voting system would be undemocratic and immoral.”
I’m not sure what to say, when confronted by a statement so profoundly absurd. It is a contradiction in terms to argue that a referendum, whatever the purported failings of referenda (divisive, expensive, subject to manipulation because voters lack sophistication, etc.), is undemocratic. Unless, of course, one conveniently redefines the word “democratic” to have a new meaning distinct from the one in generally-accepted use, and to hope that the sleight-of-hand somehow serves to hoodwink one’s audience.
Likewise, your organization has chosen to distort the evidence when it says things like this (from an October online press release that was re-released on Dec. 1st): “67% [of expert witnesses at the Special Committee on Electoral Reform] thought a referendum was undesirable or unnecessary.” In fact, these are two separate positions, which need not be compatible. Some experts thought that a referendum was a good idea. Others thought it was a bad idea, and many—some of whom thought it was a good idea—thought that even though a referendum isn’t an absolute necessity, it’s still the preferred option. So the 67% number is, quite literally, meaningless.
By contrast, I want to praise Fair Vote Canada for its use of an internal referendum to determine policy (see FVC’s December 8th announcement, posted HERE, stating that the organization had determined, by means of a referendum, that it would not be supporting preferential ballots for municipal elections). I applaud FVC’s decision to use this fair, reasonable and democratic mechanism for determining your organization’s position. Now you need to show the same respect to the voters of Canada, and embrace the position that it’s up to the citizens of Canada to decide whether or not they favour a new electoral system.
From: Réal Lavergne
Sent: December 21, 2016 10:44 AM
To: Reid, Scott – M.P.
Cc: Kelly Carmichael
Subject: Proposed roundtable on PR system design (Ottawa)
… As we discussed, FVC is planning to organize a number of simultaneous round-tables on PR system design in different cities of the country on Jan. 21, from 1:00 to 5:00. Each one would involve three categories of participants:
- MPs and their representatives,
- subject experts and
- engaged citizens who are involved in and knowledgeable about the issue.
Each round-table will have more or less the same format, the emphasis being on systems design, the aim being to recommend one, two or three design alternatives – specific PR systems, including the key design features of each – that are considered at once technically sound, satisfactory to citizens and politically feasible.
The proposal includes a special role for a carefully selected and independent design team whose role would be to draft a set of recommendations, based on results from the round-table discussions that would carry their imprimatur as standard bearers of the citizen consultations. The design team would decide how many alternatives to recommend and how best to shape their recommendations and would deliver its recommendations before the House sits again on Jan. 30.
One of the round-tables will most likely be here in Ottawa, and Scott would of course be invited. Although different venues could be entertained, it seems to me that doing this on the Hill in the same room as the ERRE was using would be ideal from many perspectives. It is just the right size and, in terms of symbolism, could send a powerful message of continuity with the work of the ERRE.
Thanks in advance for seeing if that room would be available and for discussing this idea with Scott. I would be happy to chat with him in person about this and to share some written documentation with you as soon as it is finalized.
As I explained, it is still early days and I am reaching out only informally at this stage, but since time is short, it’s better to be sounding out the possibilities well in advance.
President, Fair Vote Canada