Thursday, January 3, 2013

Cancelling my Fair Vote Canada membership/donation

Since some time close to the founding in 2000 I have been a member of Fair Vote Canada, including having a $10/month automatic donation. Today I have contacted FVC to cancel the donation and let my membership lapse.

When I first joined the group was in favour of electoral modernization, was non-partisan and appeared agnostic to any specific voting system alternative to the very broken First Past the Post system. It appears over the years it has moved from being non-partisan to being multi-partisan, and is now focused on voting systems that favour political parties. When they speak of being proportional they mean party proportional, fixated not on the potential of a representative having the most voter support but only on votes which are targeted at parties rather than representatives.

While I heard ramblings over the years about what I consider a change, the policy direction became obvious in the language of a motion for FVC members to have a referendum on limited support of Alternative Vote (AV).

Whereas support for the Alternative Vote (AV) in a municipal context has become an increasingly divisive and disruptive debate within the electoral reform movement;

Whereas National Council has concluded that Fair Vote Canada’s Statement of Purpose does not allow the organization to support the Alternative Vote because it is not proportional, while some Fair Vote Canada members support the Alternative Vote as an improvement to First Past the Post where no parties exist and as a stepping-stone to proportional representation;

Whereas Fair Vote Canada's membership should be involved in major policy decisions for the movement including clarification or modification of any foundational documents, and this done in an open, transparent and democratic manner;

Be it resolved that a Referendum be held on the following question, and that a majority of votes cast shall settle the question:

Please indicate your support for one of the following positions:

A: Fair Vote Canada’s mandate is to promote Proportional Representation and that Fair Vote Canada only support systems that are proportional, at all levels of government.


B: "Fair Vote Canada supports the Alternative Vote for municipal council elections where no parties exist" and that line be added to the paragraph on Proportional Representation in the Statement of Purpose.

This language not only demotes Ranked voting systems in scenarios where parties already exist, but only sees them as a stepping stone towards imposing parties in municipal elections.

Of those two options (B) is more palatable, but is still not something I can support given if parties exist at all FVC is only willing to support voting systems which will further privilege parties over independent representatives. I believe this would only corrupt municipal politics further than is already the case, something I don't want to be seen as supporting.

In my ideal world we would be seeking to minimize the influence of political parties on our democratic system as a whole. Recognizing that this isn't a goal that is achievable in the short term, I've been willing to align myself with other electoral reformers interested in moving us towards systems which were better than FPTP, and which are at least hybrids with representatives and parties. The BC STV system proposed in BC and the Mixed-Member Proportional system proposed Ontario both offered systems that was a healthy compromise between those goals.

The wording of the referendum has clarified that FVC as an organization isn't intending to be working for goals compatible with my own, even if they coincidentally support a hybrid voting system that both they and I can support. While I can still work on specific campaigns to modernize when such as compromise is offered, it is clear that giving (or even being seen to give) support to FVC itself is not in my interests.

Note: With a Ranked Ballot in a single-member district the winner is the individual candidate that has the highest proportion of voter support, regardless of whether they were the first choice (the only choice with the antiquated FPTP) or was offered support at a lower ranking than first. Single Transferable Vote systems can be proportional even with single-member districts. The word "proportional" has been taken by FVC to be synonymous with party proportional where it is the proportion of support for a party that matters, not the proportion of support for an individual candidate (which may or may not even be a member of a political party).

It is quite unfortunate that many I've spoken to in FVC don't see this as an extreme narrowing of the original statement of purpose, and a major change in the overall policy direction of the organization since its founding.