One of the significant issues about democracy in Canada today is the way we elect our representatives to Parliament, provincial legislatures, municipal councils and even the boards of corporations and societies. The majoritarian voting method we still use in Canada is geared to the nineteenth century when there were usually only two political factions, Liberal or Conservative (plus some independents), and the candidates generally were men who belonged to one of the two parties. Back then women weren’t ‘persons’ and so were not allowed to vote. There were seldom more than two candidates in a constituency. A simple majority vote was adequate.
Now we are in the twenty-first century; there are generally four or more candidates representing the major political parties in any electoral district, more if independents and separatists are included. A more sophisticated voting system is required to properly determine who should represent Canadians in Parliament (and the other deliberative bodies). Most modern democracies around the world have changed to a form of proportional representation which has the objective of making every vote count by reflecting the popular vote across the country (or province or municipality) in those who are elected to the deliberative assembly. This requires a substantial change in our electoral system.
Plebiscites on electoral reform have been held in British Columbia (2005, 2009), Ontario (2007) and Prince Edward Island (2005). All failed, for a variety of reasons – the system chosen, the requirement for a ‘super majority’ imposed by politicians who are happy with the present majoritarian system which allows a candidate to be elected with perhaps 30% of the vote, and especially lack of fair information disseminated to voters who were misled by biased and inaccurate campaigns favouring the status quo. However, in Fall 2016, in a plebiscite in Prince Edward Island the voters chose Mixed Member Proportional as their preferred electoral system. There’s more information here.
In a Press Release published by Fair Vote Canada on April 8, 2013 . . .
‘A new poll from Environics, commissioned by Leadnow, shows that a majority of Canadians from across the political spectrum support bringing in a form of proportional representation for Canadian elections.
‘The Environics poll showed support for proportional representation spread broadly across party lines, with 77% support from self‑identified Liberal voters, 61% from Conservative voters, 82% support from NDP voters, and 93% from Green Party voters. Only 18% of all poll respondents oppose such a change.
“This is not a left or right issue. Regardless of which party they support, voters understand that proportional representation would benefit our democracy,” said Doug Bailie, president of Fair Vote Canada.
“It’s no surprise. Major polls done over the past ten years, repeatedly show that about 70% of Canadian voters support the introduction of a proportional voting system for Canada,” said [then] FVC Executive Director Wayne Smith.” The Environics Poll results can be found here.
During the campaign leading up to the 42nd General Election, the Green Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party made proportional representation part of their campaign platforms, as they had for many years before. An innovation occurred when Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada announced that 2015 would be the last election conducted under the First Past the Post system then in use. It was evident that if the Liberals won, we would be on our way to electoral reform. The Liberal Party swept to power, displacing the Conservative Party of Canada under Stephen Harper. Ironically, the Liberals won 100% of the power with 60% 0f the seats, achieved with 39% of the popular vote, emphasizing the inequality of the FPTP system. The Conservatives were previously elected in the 41st General Election – with the same percentages of the vote.
Eventually Trudeau established a process to find out what Canadians wanted; to cut the long and ugly story short, he reneged on his campaign promise abandoning any thought of electoral reform in the foreseeable future. Having won yet another false majority there was no need to proceed with reform. He used the pretext that Canadians had not conclusively told him what we wanted. ‘There’s none so blind as they who won’t see” said Jonathon Swift. At the time of writing these latter paragraphs (May 2016) there seems little prospect of reform – except that Fair Voting British Columbia is preparing a constitutional challenge to the status quo. Click here for more information.
Fair Vote Canada (FVC) is a Canada-wide organization dedicated to making every vote count. It is a grassroots, multi‑partisan, citizens’ campaign for voting system reform. FVC promotes the introduction of an element of proportional representation into elections at all levels of government and throughout civil society.
Mark and Ann whole-heartedly support making every vote count through fair voting, at the national, provincial and municipal level. Fair voting can be used in all walks of society, as exemplified by elections in the Green Party of Canada, Fair Vote Canada and of course advanced democratic nations around the world.
Updated 2016 05 07