Politics - Federal

Proportionate Representation for a Working Democracy

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 23, 2007

Want to know why the mainstream political parties (chiefly, the Liberals and Conservatives) oppose a move from Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system (where the party that wins a plurality in a given constiituency wins the constituency) to a proportionate representation (PR) electoral system (where each party wins a number of seats proportionate to their share of the popular vote)?

Look no further than the following table, which compares the number of seats each party won under the current system with the number of seats each party would win under PR:

Proportionate Representation, 2006 Federal Election
Party % Votes Seats PR Seats
CPC 36.20% 124 111
Liberal 30.17% 103 93
Bloc 10.46% 51 32
NDP 17.44% 29 54
Green 4.49% 0 14

This also helps to explain why the smaller parties (at least, the national rather than regional ones) support PR - it would give them a voice in Parliament. It would also encourage voters to cast their vote for the party they actually support, rather than "strategically" voting for the least-bad party that has a chance of winning.

In short, Parliament would reflect what Canadians actually believe and support, rather than the distorted system that currently gives major parties political influence out of all proportion to their popular support.

Also, with minority governments becoming the norm, politicians would be forced to listen to each other, form coalitions based on shared goals, and govern pragmatically instead of dogmatically or opportunistically.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Al Rathbone (anonymous) | Posted May 23, 2007 at 21:43:36

There are benefits to both system. FPTP leads to less Tail Wag Dog syndrome and gives a more local connection while PR provides a much more accurate representation.

I prefer a split. Something like 200 FPTP seats and 100 PR seats. This gives the big party slightly stronger voices then their vote share for stability while giving smaller parties a voice in government.

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By adam1 (anonymous) | Posted October 15, 2008 at 22:08:57

PR makes a lot of sense in our internet age. The country is a lot "smaller" than it was even 20 years ago.

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