Politics

Time for proportional representation!

With the current first-past-the-post system, a political party can get a majority of seats in Parliament with only 40% of the popular vote (total number of votes cast). This is not fair.

In the 2011 election, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) won a majority in the House of Commons by just winning 39% of the popular vote. The Conservative Party won 166 seats out of total of 308 seats. In other words, they grabbed 54% of total seats in the House of Commons by garnering only 39% of the popular vote. They were able to do this by splitting the left of center votes among the Liberal Party and the NDP Party. The CPC won many ridings with less than 50% of the total votes cast in those particular ridings. Many ridings were won with 35% to 40% of the total votes cast.

The Conservative Party was able to this under the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system we currently have in Canada. To prevent this from ever happening again, Canada must adopt a proportional representation (PR) electoral system.

Under the PR system, the number of seats a government wins will be equal to the popular vote. For example, if the Conservatives win 40% of the popular vote, they only get 40% of the seats available in Parliament. This is fair. It is an accurate reflection of how Canadians actually voted.

There are many forms of PR and can be confusing to the someone new to the concept. The basic premise holds for all forms of PR. The percentage of number of seats won will equal the percentage of popular vote.

PR will encourage more people to vote because they will know their vote will not be wasted. For example, if somebody wanted to vote for the Green Party, they might not vote because they know the Green Party does not have a real chance of winning in their particular riding. But under the PR system, their vote would make a difference.

In 2011, the Green Party won 4% of the popular vote. Under FPTP, the Green Party only won one seat. If PR had been adopted, the Green Party would have won 12 seats.

Under PR, you can vote for the party you like. A lot of Canadians voted strategically in the 2015 Canadian election to ensure that Harper did not win another majority government. They voted for the candidate that had the best chance to beat the Conservative candidate. Under PR, there will be no need for strategic voting.

Some form of PR is used in 94 countries . Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, New Zealand and Netherlands are some of the countries included in list of countries that have PR.

Many studies and research show that countries with PR have better results in terms of the environment, representation of women in parliament, income equality and the economy.

Countries with PR score six points higher on Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index. The top seven countries with the highest percentage of women represented in parliament have PR. There is strong research that shows PR is strongly correlated with lower levels of income inequality. Research also shows that countries with PR perform better economically.

You can view all the research on the Fair Vote Canada website. If you do go on the Fair Vote Canada website, you might find that their explanation of PR a little confusing. Again, keep in mind the basic premise of PR which is to ensure that political parties receive a percentage of seats in Parliament which is equal to the percentage of popular vote.

There are many forms of PR. Don’t get bogged down by the technicalities. The important thing is to adopt some form of PR.

It is important that one does not confuse PR with Alternative Vote (AV). AV is also known as ranked ballots, preferential ballots. AV is not PR. Watch video on Youtube explaining AV.

The Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) favors AV because it benefits them the most. The LPC won 184 seats in the 2015 election. They won a majority (54% of total seats) in Parliament with just 40% of the popular vote. Again, this is unfair. If AV was used, they would have won 224 seats  (66% of total seats).3  As you can clearly see, AV is even more unfair.

The Green Party won 1 seat in the last election. Under PR, they would have won 12 seats. Under AV, they would have won 1 seat. This is grossly unrepresentative of how Canadians cast their votes. The AV projected results were calculated by Eric Grenier at CBC. They are based on second choice polls done at the end of the election campaign in 2015

Leadnow is also currently running a campaign calling for the government to adopt proportional representation. According to a poll conducted by Leadnow in 2013, 70% of Canadians polled supported some type of PR. Please sign the petition at Leadnow. Share the link with your friends.

PR is supported by Greenpeace, Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice, the Council of Canadians, Democracy Watch, University of Montreal and many other organizations.

Footnotes:

  1. Canada Elections Results. Information Service. Parliament of Canada.
  2. Electoral Systems. The Electoral Knowledge Network
  3. Change to preferential ballot would benefit Liberals. CBC News.
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