Article by Gail P. Armitage
During the last federal election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised that the 2015 election would be the last using the winner-take-all, “First Past the Post” electoral system. The NDP and the Greens called for a form of Proportional Representation.
Earlier this summer, an all-party Parliamentary committee was formed to hear from expert witnesses and Canadians, and report back to Parliament this fall. The committee will be in Victoria on September 27. This is our chance to move to a modern electoral system where a party’s seats in the House of Commons is based on its share of the popular vote.
Fair Vote Canada‘s acting President, David Merner, will be at Edward Milne Community School on Thursday, Sept. 15 from 7 to 9 p.m. He’ll share his knowledge about electoral systems while exploring the myths and realities of different voting methodologies. Admission is free. Sooke Mayor Maja Tait will moderate the evening, which is presented by Transition Sooke and will include a Q&A opportunity for audience members.
A second West Shore opportunity to learn more is set for Belmont Secondary School, 3041 Langford Lake Rd., on Saturday, Sept. 24 at 2 p.m. Speaker will be Fair Vote Canada’s Terry Dance-Bennink.
Canada’s ‘first past the post’ (FPTP) system is based on the ‘winner-take-all’ principle. The candidate with the most votes wins the riding. All other votes are essentially discounted.
In practice, the ‘FPTP’ system rewards parties having concentrated support in specific regions and penalizes parties with broad public support. In the 2015 election, it took an average 37,728 votes to elect one Liberal MP and, at the other end of the line, 602,755 votes to elect one Green MP.
A country’s voting system is the very heart of representative democracy. Our MPs represent constituency interests. But their ability to influence government policies depends on whether they belong to the governing party and whether that party chooses to listen to MPs sitting ‘across the way’.
Both the Conservatives in 2011 and the Liberals in 2015 formed majority governments with less than 40% of the popular vote. In 2015, 9 million voters elected no one to represent their concerns when making important decisions affecting our day to day lives. And majority governments hold 100% of the power to develop and implement government policies.
It is argued that only majority governments ‘get things done’. In reality, cooperation rather than conflict can result in good public policy. Proportional Representation encourages MPs to work together in all of our interests to arrive at consensus-based policies that better reflect the views of Canadians.
It is time to join the modern family of democracies and adopt a system based on Proportional Representation.
Come out to EMCS next Thursday for what’s sure to be a richly informative and lively evening. The evening is presented by Transition Sooke. For more information on electoral reform, visit http://www.fairvote.ca.
For further reading:
- Update on the Special Committee’s study on Electoral Reform, September 6, 2016
- Digital archive of current and recent committee hearings via CPAC
- FAQ about Fair Vote Canada and various electoral systems
- Sign the Declaration of Voters’ Rights
- BC electoral reform referendum, 2005 (Wikipedia)
- BC electoral reform referendum, 2009 (Wikipedia)