In Canada, our government is not as representative of its people as it could be. Consider the Harper years. And our electoral system encourages parties to bicker and fight, instead of get along and cooperate in a productive manner.
Alternative voting systems exist that could solve these issues, and many wise minds feel Canada needs to change its electoral system. It’s certainly a rare system: Canada, America, and the UK are the only 3 OECD countries using a “First Past the Post” (FPTP) voting system.
In an FPTP system, Members of Parliament are elected such that whoever gets the most votes in a district gets in and represents EVERYONE in that district, including people who never liked them, because voters can only cast one vote.
One alternative to this is the STV system, which lets voters rank candidates, so their elected officials better represent the general consensus. 85% of OECD countries like Ireland, Sweden, Chile, Iceland, Germany, and New Zealand (among others) use a variety of voting systems that ensure more proportional representation.
One glaring issue with our system is “False Majority.” In 2011, the Conservatives held a majority in the House of Commons with 166 seats, despite having only 39.6% of the popular vote. In 2015, the Liberals took 184 seats, despite having only 39.5%. Our last two elections are proof that under FPTP, a party with less that 40% of the people’s vote can hold all the power.
There’s been a lot of talk about changing Canada First Past the Post system, and it was actually one of Trudeau’s campaign promises. Yet Trudeau changed his tune, claiming a (poorly publicized and under-used) Canadian poll indicated Canadians don’t really care to change their system.
A 2016 report entitled Strengthening Democracy in Canada: Principles Process and Public Engagement for Electoral Reform is more or less being swept under the rug in terms of public discourse.
Saturday Will See St. John’s Participating in a Nationwide Rally for Reform
Not everyone is ambivalent to Trudeau’s dropped promise. Saturday is Canada’s National Day of Action for Electoral Reform, and it will see a rally in St. John’s at 3:30pm in front of City Hall. Liberal MP Nick Whelan, and former NDP parliamentarian Jack Harris, are expected to speak at the event.
Demonstrations are planned in 17 cities and towns across Canada, with more being added every day. “Canadians are hitting the streets to show our Federal Government that we want electoral reform, that we want a government that reflects our diversity and that we will hold them to their promise,” says local organizer Caitlin Urquhart.
Urquhart is the Chair of the Women Lawyers Forum of Newfoundland and Labrador Branch, Canadian Bar Association, as well as a co-creator of an electoral reform Facebook group with over 10,000 members.
“Electoral reform is about more than holding our government accountable; it’s about living up to our Canadian values, and having a parliament that represents all Canadians,” says Urquhart.
She’s refering to the fact that FPTP is also notorious for disproportionate representation. Of 35 developed OECD countries, Canada ranks 23rd in terms of representation of women in national legislatures. Only 26% of our MPs are women.
Countries with FPTP systems are also plagued by poor voter turnout, because of “my vote won’t matter” apathy that is more true for FPTP systems than ones like STV.
In talking about Trudeau not following through on his promise of electoral reform, based on the results of the MyDemocracy.ca survey, Réal Lavergne, President of Fair Vote Canada says, “I don’t know if they will have the courage to admit that this was a mistake that needs to be fixed. I hope they do, and am prepared to forgive. But our role as citizens, is to make our voices heard. We are angry. We need to say so.”