Accompanying reforms

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This topic contains 2 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Robert Jarman 3 weeks, 5 days ago.

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    Robert Jarman

    Many of us can cite various countries that do PR, but I would also like to bring up what they also do differently than Canada that makes parliaments more powerful and lessens problems. Canadian prime ministers and premiers are near exceptionally centralized, even compared with most other democratic countries.

    It would also be a good way to address some of the criticism of PR, by providing for reforms that address other issues like the frequency of elections.

    For example, Germany has rules around the selection of a chancellor that provide a nuclear option during a coalition and greatly reduces the chance of a snap election. The president of Germany nominates a chancellor after every election and the Bundestag votes on it. Normally this is all that happens and the coalition deal is already signed and thus is a formality and a party. But if there is no coalition, then the president can go ahead and pick someone regardless. In Canada, this role might be taken by the speaker of the commons. If this candidate does not get a majority, the Bundestag has 14 days to nominate anyone and vote on it, and the first to a majority wins. If that fails, a final round among all the nominees is held first past the post is held. If the winner gets a majority, they are the chancellor, if not, then the plurality winner is assessed by the president who decides whether to appoint a minority government or call a new election. A chancellor can only be replaced if a majority are against the incumbent and a majority votes at the same time for a successor. A chancellor can call for a vote of confidence in their government and if a majority vote against them while also not electing anyone new, the president decides whether to call new elections or to retain a minority government. This is the only way to call a snap election.

    That solved a lot of the issue around deadlock in the Weimar Republic and limited the potential for stagnant coalition building. In modern times, we might have a runoff or ranked ballot in the final round to ensure a majority, and not permit votes of confidence, only votes of no confidence, and only allow an early election by a 2/3 vote like in the UK. France also requires that 10% of the national assembly members propose the resolution of no confidence and if they fail to oust the prime minister, no seconding of a motion of no confidence by them in the same session. That should ensure very stable politics, basically no early elections unless we really really need them, and an assured cabinet even if a coalition building attempt fails.



    At the very least, I think Canada should introduce a constructive vote of no confidence option, like Germany. There can also be a mechanism for MP’s of the ruling party to secretly propose a different member of their party as a replacement for the confidence vote. Perhaps we can also have the PM formally elected by parliament, but that may be unnecessary with the constructive vote of no confidence.

    We should not imitate the Fixed-terms election act like the UK. Just look how screwed they are now with Brexit. Put perhaps the 2/3 rule can apply for just the first 2 years of an election term. But really, it’s not like we’re constantly getting snap elections under the current rules.

    As Centre Block is going through renovations, I seriously think they should change the seating arrangement in the House of Commons. Most pro-rep countries have a semicircular legislative chamber, which easily accommodates a multiparty system while encouraging a less adversarial style of debate. However, my recommendation is a semi-elliptical layout as it would require less radical changes to the chamber’s design. Alternatively, they may have a hybrid configuration like the Australian House of Representatives, which has a circular crossbench:
    Australia House of Representatives
    Source: JJ Harrison via Wikipedia –

    • This reply was modified 3 weeks, 1 day ago by  George. Reason: fixed image, added attribution

    Robert Jarman

    Fixed terms do not have to be designed the British way. There are options. In individual German states, their state legislatures can in many cases be dissolved just with a majority vote of the Landtag, or state parliament. It prevents it from being dissolved against their will to benefit a prime minister facing no confidence, like what happened in 2011 in Canada, but it allows for early elections if needed. Some states also allow for a recall of the parliament by petition, say if 25% of the registered voters demand a new election (this would need to be quite high if this type of petition leads to a new election without a majority of the voters signing the petition or approving it in a referendum and likely some temporal limits on this, like not earlier than 12 months after an election can this be used or in the 6 months prior to the planned election).

    Some other triggers for a new election could also include the failure of certain types of legislation, such as legislation that is supposed to be passed as part of the implementation of a referendum, or the budget. It would need to be clearly defined as to what is allowed to be classified as legislation this important and how long they have to try to pass it before a dissolution is allowed, but they would avoid a Brexit style issue.

    I would also add a limit to referendums and initiative petitions to require that they ask a specific question, such as whether to approve a specific statute or a specific proposal from a citizen assembly, or to convene such an assembly in accordance with a specified procedure that is developed and on hand for these situations (like if a law detailed how these were to be convened regularly), or to merge a municipality with another, or hold a new election for parliament, or to recall a member of parliament. Things that would not be subject to negotiation after the vote. This prevents the types of screw ups the Brexit is leading to in the UK where nobody can agree what a Brexit means and for what it means for a government to be listening to the people, given that no majority is in favour of a specific plan to leave.

    As for electing the prime minister, this option would be useful even after introducing constructive motions of no confidence. Germany has the Bundestag formally elect the chancellor after each election, and there is also a backup process if coalition talks are going nowhere. I would suggest that the speaker propose a candidate from among the likely parliamentary majority or coalition taking into account the results of the election, and the Commons formally votes on them. If they get a majority, they are the PM. If not, then any group of MPs can nominate another candidate, as can any second or more groups of MPs who constitute at least 10% of the Commons, and they are voted on in descending order of how many MPs sign onto the nomination of any candidate for PM. If none of them gets a majority, then hold a ballot where all the MPs get a ballot with all the candidates. If someone gets a majority, they are the PM. If not, then use a ranked ballot to eliminate the least popular and continue until someone does get a majority. And include a clause that states that after a motion of no confidence or an election, the incumbent cabinet continues until their successors are chosen, perhaps under some specific limitations such as being unable to introduce certain new rules without the express consent of parliament.

    I would add a few more features to the constructive motion of no confidence. A no confidence motion must be initiated by at least between 10 and 20% of the MPs, and if they fail to oust the PM, those who initiated the vote cannot propose another motion within 6 months. This is borrowed from a couple countries like France and Portugal. And a short period of deliberation between the motion being delivered to the speaker and the vote can help calm things down for a more rational debate, Germany has a 48 hour period for this. And make it so that an absolute majority of the sitting members of parliament have to pass. This prevents a party from introducing a motion while important MPs from the coalition are away and cannot return in time to vote. And I would suggest that votes of confidence or lack thereof be by secret ballot.

    As for coalition talks within a party, I would suggest that the members of parliament for that party must by a majority vote, approve the coalition deal, and then the registered members of a political party must approve the terms by a majority vote in a mail in or online ballot. This is something that the SPD does in Germany and a few Green parties do around the world. And to terminate the agreement, either 20% of the governing board of the political party, 20% of the caucus, or 20% of the registered members of the party must sign a petition demanding a vote on the agreement and a majority of the registered members of the party must vote to terminate the agreement. This prevents a party leader from arbitrarily terminating the agreement or using it as a weapon during political negotiations to the detriment of everyone involved.

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