MYTH #5 – “Is Proportional Representation Unconstitutional?”

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Is Proportional Representation Unconstitutional?

Opponents sometimes claim that proportional representation means amending the constitution or could be subject to a constitutional challenge.

In fact, proportional representation designed for Canada – whether Mixed Member Proportional, Single Transferable Vote, or a hybrid of those, is just an act of legislation.

The only model of proportional representation that is unconstitutional in Canada is one where ridings cross provincial boundaries. For example, implementing a nation-wide, party list system like Israel. Such a system is highly unsuited for Canada and nobody has ever proposed it.

Origin of the Myth

The preamble to our constitution reads:

“Whereas the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have expressed their Desire to be federally united into One Dominion under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom.”

Opponents have seized on the idea that first-past-the-post, and single member ridings, are part of the UK constitution. They’re not.

Consider this:

Despite all this, recently two U.S. law clerks argued in the National Post that PR is unconstitutional. As Canadian Professor Dennis Pilon explains in his well-researched National Post rebuttal: You can’t hide behind the Constitution to spare us electoral reform

“The attempt to cast the voting system as unconstitutional is a fairly recent innovation, one that lacks historical perspective. “

Maryam Monsef, Canada’s Minister of Democratic Institution, stated that any electoral reform will fall “ “within the constitutional framework.”

The government has set a realistic timeline to Make Every Vote Count in 2019.  They will not be distracted by unfounded red herrings brought up by opponents.

References:

Wilf Day’s Blog on MMP for Canada

You can’t hide behind the constitution.” By electoral reform expert Dennis Pilon:

History of STV in Canada

Voting Counts: Electoral Reform for Canada” – Law Commission of Canada (2004)

 

 

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