Posts Tagged ‘proportional representation’

Once again, the results of yesterday’s federal election demonstrate the unrepresentative nature of our Parliament. It also illustrates why the Liberals, who came second in votes but first in seats, were so willing to backtrack on their 2015 promise to bring in a system of proportional representation. The chart further illustrates how ludicrously unfair the first-past-the-post system is when the Bloc Quebecois, with 7.7 per cent of the popular vote can elect 32 MPs while the Greens, with 6.5 per cent, seated only three.

You can get all the numbers at Elections Canada. After that, you may want to check out Fair Vote Canada.

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In his new job as Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, Jack Layton has pledged to “fix Ottawa.” I’ve taken this to mean he will lead by example in hope of teaching the children to play nicely. I wish him luck.

The problem with our democracy goes far beyond Stephen Harper’s well documented contempt for Parliament. Fundamentally, our democracy is undemocratic. The “first-past-the-post” system of electing MPs always means that the wishes of great numbers of Canadians are unrepresented in Parliament. In a multiparty system, few MPs garner a majority of votes. But even in a 2-way race, substantial numbers of citizens find themselves unrepresented after the votes are counted.

This is not news. But it bears repeating – until we dump the FPTP system and adopt some form of proportional representation (PR) method of electing MPs – we are doomed to unrepresentative Parliaments and endless repeats of dubious strategic voting exercises.

What would a representative Parliament look like? Here’s what we have now.

Party Elected % of Seats % of Vote
Conservative 167 54.2 39.6
NDP 102 33.1 30.6
Liberal 34 11 18.9
BQ 4 1.3 6
Green 1 0.3 3.9

Source: http://www.sfu.ca/~aheard/elections/results.html. (Note, percentages to not add up to 100, probably because of some rounding in the original data. But you get the idea.)

The top two parties clearly have more MPs than their share of the popular vote would justify. It looks like this.

Now, look what happens when MPs are elected in proportion to their party’s share of the popular vote.

Party FPTP PR
Conservative 167 122
NDP 102 95
Liberal 34 59
BQ 4 19
Green 1 13

(Note: the above chart needed some rounding to make it work – but it’s close enough.) It would look like this.

As things stand now, Stephen Harper has an undeserved majority in Parliament – one he will use to impose his minority, right wing agenda on the majority of Canadians who voted for other visions of Canada. Under the current rules, he can do what he wants without reference to the other parties.

In a PR Parliament, Harper would be compelled to negotiate with some or all of the other parties in order to keep his job. Parliament would be representative and this, I believe, is a necessary first step in fixing our broken democracy.

Electoral reform must become a priority for all who call themselves democrats. In the past, both the Greens and the NDP have said they favour PR. We have to encourage them to make it their priority. At the same time, if we leave it up to any political party, we will be disappointed. It’s up to us to make it happen.