Electoral Reform 101 – What you need to Know

August 16, 2016

As you know, the Liberal Government is moving forward on what they are calling “Electoral Reform” by attempting to displace the current “First Past the Post” election system that has served Canada extremely well for the previous 149 years.  Under the current system, Canada is one of the most successful democracies in the world having survived numerous constitutional, societal and economic challenges over our Nation’s history. 

The reality is that changing our electoral system to a different method could very well impact the social fabric of our great Country, and therefore it is the position of the Conservative Party of Canada that Canadians must be consulted via referendum before any changes can be made by the Federal Government. This is in line with the actions of Provincial governments that have wanted to enact electoral reform in the past. 

In Ontario for example, the most recent attempt to change the First Past the Post system in 2007 resulted in a resounding 63% of those who voted being opposed to changing their provincial Electoral System.  The current Liberal Government clearly plans to ignore the numerous calls for a referendum as of the time of this publication, despite many constitutional experts calling for a Federal referendum before such changes are made. 

A parliamentary committee has been formed whereby the Liberals hold a majority of members and who are working in concert with other parties that want to see the First Past the Post system changed to benefit their own poor electoral results from the last election.  This is not a fair or due process, and I am very concerned with the undemocratic process put forward by the Liberal Party of Canada, as well as the lack of public outcry on this urgent issue. 

With this in mind, I seek the perspective of Sarnia-Lambton on this matter, and am sharing the following information to educate Constituents on the three main systems that the Electoral Reform committee is looking at as options (although they don’t truly consider “First Past the Post” as an option, they have said we will no longer have elections under this model.)

By looking at the different models and the most recent election results, we can see how the 2015 Election might have turned out under different Electoral Reform options. The results of the 2015 Federal election were: 

 

Liberal

Conservative

NDP

Bloc Quebecois

Green

Seats in House of Commons

184

99

44

10

1

Percentage of Actual Votes Won

39.5%

31.9%

19.7%

4.7%

3.5%

  

First Past the Post

Canada’s current system, “First Past the Post” voting has been Canadian tradition since Confederation in 1867. In every one of the current 338 ridings across Canada, the candidate that obtains the most votes is declared winner and represents their riding in the House of Commons. In this system, a candidate can win with less than 50% of the votes and ridings are only represented in the House of Commons by one Member of Parliament, and therefore by one Party.

First Past the Post, also known as “Plurality” systems, can encourage tactical voting, where one votes not for whom they want to win but for the candidate that has the best chance to beat your least favorite candidate. First Past the Post tends to create more stable, often majority, governments in Canada as opposed to other regions using different systems.

(The official 2015 Federal Election results, under the “First Past the Post” system) 

Proportional Representation

Although we cannot be sure exactly what a Proportional Representation system in Canada would look like, we can refer ourselves to other countries who have adopted this electoral system. Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland all use forms of Proportional Representations to create their governments. Proportional Representation centers on the concept that every party obtains the percentage of representatives, or seats in the House of Commons, that matches the percentage of votes they received across the country.

For example, if a party received 42% of the national vote during an election, they will therefor represent 42% of the seats in the House of Commons. This ensures proportional representation for all Canadians regardless of region but can alter our idea of ridings as we know them now. It is reflected in other countries that Proportional Representation tends to lead to unstable minority governments and, as a result, in more coalition governments. There also is a possibility that local representation will be impacted since the party chooses which representatives make up their proportion. This means your vote doesn’t count, as Party officials end up choosing who represents you – this is not democratic at all!

(How the 2015 Federal Election results would look under a Proportional Representation system)

Preferential Ballot—Ranked Ballot

Preferential Ranked Ballot is the system preferred by our Prime Minister, and the fact that he has already hired a consultant who specializes in this type of voting should be of concern. Preferential Ranked Voting would likely ensure that the Liberal Party would continue to win, no matter who you vote for.

The reasoning behind this is simple: All parties in our system would be ranked, with those receiving less than 10 % of the vote having their votes re-distributed to whoever they voted as their second choice. In the case of the Green Party, this tends towards a Liberal vote. Then the third ranking party votes are re-distributed to their second choice. The third party is typically the NDP, whose second choice is usually Liberal. This then will ensure that the Liberal vote would always be favored, and the current Government is very aware of this reality. Constitutional experts are also now openly discussing this simple fact as well. This method will allow greater representation of fringe parties, as would Ranked balloting under the next system we will review.   This form is used in Australia, Ireland and New Zealand. 

(How the 2015 Federal Election results would look under a Preferential Balloting system)

As you can see, the changes being proposed clearly demonstrate an “advantage” to certain Political parties in terms of promoting one particular system (either Proportional representation or preferential balloting) over the current system.  Further to this, whatever decision the Special Committee comes with will be decided by the Liberal cabinet, unless Canadians demand a referendum.

The possibility of a referendum on electoral reform should be offered to Canadians. Our electoral system is central to our democratic system and Canadians should have an informed say on how Canada moves forward.

I strongly urge all constituents to write me at Marilyn.gladu@parl.gc.ca with your position on electoral reform.  I ask that if you are seeking to change from our current system, please voice your full reasoning as to why you think Canada needs to change from our current system, so that if I am called to vote on this matter I am fully apprised of the different perspectives from constituents.

In the News - Important Articles to Consider:

Australia no role model for electoral reform – The Canadian Press
http://blackburnnews.com/bri-national/2016/08/15/australia-no-role-model-for-electoral-reform/ 

Liberals' Electoral Reform Debate Denies Canadians Their Say – Huffington Post:
http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/erin-otoole/electoral-reform_b_11531196.html

Why a referendum on electoral reform? Because this isn’t ordinary legislation – The Globe and Mail
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/why-a-referendum-on-electoral-reform-because-this-isnt-ordinary-legislation/article31205599/