Do you feel that your vote counts?
You’re not the only one who wonders. The harsh reality is that with our outdated, old-fashioned “first-past-the-post” electoral system, most votes don’t count.
Let me explain, using our last federal election as an example. The federal Green Party received approximately 4% of the vote nationwide. Yet, that translated to only one MP, or 0.0032% of parliament. So if you voted Green in the last federal election, your vote fell well short of the power it should have had.
In a system that respected the value of your vote, a party that received 4% of the nation’s vote would also receive a corresponding 4% of representation in parliament.
Now take a look for a moment at what happened to the federal Liberal party in the last election. They received 40% of the popular vote, but were allocated 60% of our parliament’s seats, with 184 Liberal MPs.
A proportional representation system would not only fix the problem outlined above but, as icing on the cake, it would also have a profoundly positive effect on how our MPs work with one another. Under our current system, which almost always results in a majority parliament, there’s very little, if any, incentive for the governing party to listen to or consider the views of other parties.
I think it’s fair to say that our current federal government under Justin Trudeau has, in fact, been much more open to the views and input of MPs from other parties — something very rare. Typically, this is not the case because the majority party doesn’t need the support of MPs from other parties even if it received far less than the majority of votes. (Majority parties rarely, if ever, receive a majority of votes.)
A pro rep electoral system would almost certainly not give any one party a majority of seats in our parliament. This would actually be a positive. It would create a collaborative approach within parliament, where the views of all MPs were important in the crafting of legislation that governs us all. A good idea that attracted the support of parties across political lines would now have a much better chance of being passed into law.
Canada is one of the only western democracies that still uses the antiquated “first-past-the-post” system. Most western European nations use one form or another of pro rep.
The challenge for pro rep advocates here in Canada is to not allow ourselves to be divided amongst the myriad different “flavours” of pro rep. Each flavour or variant has its strengths and weaknesses, but I’m sad to say that too often in the past the pro rep community has allowed itself to get bogged down in internecine squabbles over which flavour to support.
Let’s put our differences aside and get behind the concept as a whole. That’s the only way we’re going to see meaningful electoral reform.
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You can have your say about proportional representation. As they promised, the federal Liberals have set up an all-party electoral reform committee to hear what Canadians have to say, now through mid-October. I will be hosting a dialogue session to gather input, so I welcome your thoughts and views on this important topic. Please send them to me at timlouis~AT~timlouislaw~DOT~com.