Leaking Words


19:13 30/12/11

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Canada’s electoral system, to say the least, is a piece of work. The first-past-the-post (FPTP) system divides Canada’s provinces into electoral districts termed constituencies (and in informal language, ridings). Each constituency elects a single representative to the House of Commons, with the candidate who recieves the most votes in that geographic area winning the constituency’s seat and becomes the sitting Member of Parliament for the riding, regardless of the proportion of the vote the candidate recieved.

Many Canadians are familiar with the system, considering how it is the system that in the last election allowed a party to win 53.89% of the seats in the House of Commons with 39.62% of the vote. The FPTP system distorts what Canadians actually voted for (especially in our multiparty system) and causes the election of most governments without the support of the majority of the Canadian electorate. The representation of one’s views in the federal legislature and executive and the value of one’s vote are based significantly on the geographical area in which one resides.

Supporters of the FPTP system argue that constituencies give local areas a direct voice to the federal government and holds elected MPs more accountable to the electorate. Further, it gives the constituents an official to serve them. These points, however, ignore the fact that in Canada’s modern political environment, representation and a voice directly to the federal legislature only comes if the MP agrees with the one’s political views and the legitimacy of the issue. These points are further discredited by the FPTP system itself, which allows MPs to be elected without a majority of the constituents support.

Something needs to be changed. Most western, democratic countries have adopted a system that aims to result in greater proportional representation to the results of the votes. Canada needs to move forward with electoral reform and adopt a system of proportional representation. The debate within Canada is opening up. However, the means to achieve a more just electoral system is even more controversial. The NDP and Green Party already adopted clauses within each parties’ platform in support of proportional representation, while the Liberal Party will be debating a couple resolutions on supporting a preferential balloting system (although one policy resolution explicitly calls on the Liberals to support preferential voting and to oppose proportional representation).

Determining the composition of our Parliament’s lower house through proportionality with the party list’s share of votes, in my own opinion, is the most just method to electing the legislature, and thus our executive and government. Canada has been built as a bicultural nation, and despite what oppents say, a party list proportional representation system can be created to suit Canada’s needs in providing a balance between representing regions and identities, and the political beliefs of individuals. Belgium, for example, is one western nation with two major identities (the Dutch/Flemish community, with about 59% of the population, and the French community, with about 40% of the population). Belgium has developed an electoral system that stills gives regions and identities a voice in the federal legislature, but also allows proportionality to the votes.

By creating multimember electoral districts that corrispond to each province and territory that allocate seats proportionally based on the votes to the party lists within the individual province or territory, Canada could gain greater proportional representation while balancing the need to represent regions and identities. Further, the electoral system will make it preferable for parties to form coalition goverments in which a greater number of views are represented in the formation of policy, laws and the governance of our nation.