Let Us Notify the Government that we are ready for Proportional Representation
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Ever since I learnt about our undemocratic voting system during grade school, I have longed for this subject to be taken seriously and for change to finally arise. As a nation, perhaps you haven’t been waiting as long for this tremendous, potentially empowering change. However, you’ve probably heard of Justin Trudeau’s announcement that the 2015 election would be the last election won using the First Past the Post system. In fact, the NDP and Green Party had promised the same change, if they had won the election instead. More importantly, for the past 100 years, Canadians have been creating committees and conducting research on the effects of introducing a proportional system of voting. With the end goal and in hopes that one day, we would adopt a PR system. Such a system would reflect our one of a kind diversity, and the wisdom that comes with such a vast multicultural nation.
To quote the Report of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform called “Strengthening Democracy In Canada: Principles, Process and Public Engagement for Electoral Reform” to explain our current system and possible alternatives.
"Our Current Electoral System: Single-Member Plurality, aka First-Past-the-Post ,Canada’s single-member plurality electoral system, commonly called first-past-the post (FPTP), the winning candidate is the individual who garners the most votes (though not necessarily a majority) in an electoral district. A political party has as many seats in the legislature as it has candidates elected. In other words, its seat share in the legislature is the result, the total, of the individual contests that take place across the country. With regard to forming government, the leader of the party that secures the largest number of seats in the House, and can therefore hold its confidence, is generally invited by the Governor General to be the prime minister and form government.155
1. FPTP’s Perceived Strengths
a. FPTP is efficient and simple for both voters and election administrators:
b. FPTP focuses on local representation
c. FPTP tends to produce majority governments:
2. FPTP’s Perceived Shortcomings
a. FPTP in a Multi-Candidate, Multi-Party Context
b. FPTP, Voter Apathy, Strategic Voting, Policy Reversal, and Lack of
As for Proportional Representation
1.Proportionality: Perceived Strengths
The primary argument raised in favour of proportional electoral systems is that they more fairly translate votes cast for political parties into seats in the legislature.
Professor Carty added that “strong, identifiable, local representation” and “more choice on the ballot” were the other two values most highly regarded by individuals who participated in provincial electoral reform initiatives over the past 15 years.257
-Increased likelihood of coalition governments:
2. Proportionality: Perceived Shortcomings
As discussed above, the primary shortcoming of highly proportional electoral systems is the diminution of local representation, which is why such options are not being considered by the Committee. As well, some witnesses raised the end of majority governments and the prospect of coalition governments as being more complicated: Indeed, the increased likelihood of coalition governments in proportional systems would be a significant change that would require both adaptation and education.
And some variations of proportional representation
§The Alternative Vote and other ranked ballot variants within the majoritarian system family (note that most individuals who engaged with the Committee and discussed this option were against it);
§ The Single Transferable Vote and other candidate-focused multiple member riding proportional options;
§ Mixed Member Proportional Representation (note that most individuals who favoured reform expressed support for this system); and
§ Variations between the above to account for the significantly different geographical realities found across the country (such as the use of ranked ballots with a mix of both single-member and multiple-member constituencies, depending on population concentration).204
Our current democracy fails to give voters equal votes, fails to represent us, fails to create Parliaments that represent our diversity, and above all fails to give particularly young people a reason to vote in a broken system. Just to touch a bit on a few of the noted advantages to the FPTP system above.
1. It is simple and efficient for voters; however, I believe that we, the people, are willing to fill out a more complex ballot if it means that we will be represented more appropriately in Parliament.
2. And while FPTP does focus on local representation, our MP’s spend less than 50% of their time in their ridings, and represent in my case, only 50% of the ridings population.
By showing how many of the votes cast were counted towards electing a representative, we can see why so many Canadians are apathetic towards our current system.
Of the approximately 17.7 million votes cast during the last election, how many votes do you think counted and were used to choose our current government? How many of us is the government actually representing? Well, the fact that I’m even asking this question shows that we do not possess a democratic government, where by definition, the power is vested in the people (or votes cast by the people). But in case you were wondering, this is how many votes didn’t count towards electing any representative in our Liberal majority government in the last election:
9,115,553 Total Votes Did Not Count (more than 50% of the votes cast)
Newfoundland and Labrador-91,086 votes
Prince Edward Island--36,482 votes
Nova Scotia-198,792 votes
New Brunswick-214,022 votes
British Columbia-1,335,685 votes
Northwest Territories-9,801 votes
Meaning just over 8.5 million votes chose our government as it stands. A little over 25% of the population of Canada.
*Obviously, there was no summary chart on the elections Canada website for this, so if someone is willing to recount and verify, post in the comments below.
As a first step, Prime Trudeau put together a bipartisan committee to search for answers to this complicated question. In fact, the committee, who did their job thoroughly, have been called “radical” and “hasty” after recommending a referendum on the issue. Now this petition is not for a referendum, because the fact of the matter is, no one party has chosen a type of PR system that they would want to replace the FPTP with. This petition is about reinforcing to the government that we want proportional representation and that they need to decide on a type of PR system before we can start talking about the consequences of said systems.
If you have read the entire report written by the Electoral Reform Committee, the message it most importantly contains is that no proportional system implemented was ever “perfect” in the country that it was introduced. Democracy, or at least a truer democracy would be the immediate affect; however, it took years to evolve and grow on each system to make it efficient and suited for each nations diversity and population distribution. Now although it may take us an election or two to modify a PR system to better reflect our vast nation, shouldn’t the government and all of us be willing to start the process, which even in its debut, would offer each of its citizens a more democratic voting process.
Liberals are now saying that it is “irresponsible” to go ahead with any changes before the next election, and Prime Minister Trudeau has already said that the countries motivation for change has waned since the loss of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. He may be right, but that is not his choice to make for us.
Recently, the Liberals had launched a website containing a survey and sent out a reported 14 million post cards to inform the population of www.mydemocracy.ca But the questions mostly pertained to;
· whether we should have greater diversity in Parliament (views and backgrounds)
· whether ballots should be easy, even if that means voters have fewer options to express their preferences.
· whether voters should be able to express multiple preferences on the ballot, even if it takes longer to count and announce the election result.
Feel free to fill out the survey to determine what I mean. There are, of course, other matters dealt with, but none which pertains directly to which specific proportional system, if any, you support. As I had said earlier, no party has chosen a system in which to support or present to the public. Without this first step, I don’t see any evolution or change to our electoral system.
This year is Canada’s 150th anniversary as a nation, and when we are reminded that for 100 of those years, generations of our families have been discussing this issue with no resolution. I urge that we remind the government that each of our voices count.
Are we willing to make the choice for our descendants that they be born into such an undemocratic system? Because if we do not demand for change, it will not be given. Or are we willing to accept change, and learn to grow and evolve into a country where we can say we are proud to vote for a party that represents our beliefs?
This petition is about telling the government that not only do we want change but also that we want each of our voices to be heard, that the government represents our diversity and that each of our votes counts. But primarily, that they decide on a specific PR system and let us begin the steps in evolving from there. That we are not afraid of change even if it risks the outcome of being represented democratically.
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