Support Electoral Reform

In 2015, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau committed to replacing Canada’s existing first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system as an election campaign promise. His campaign’s first speech promised action on electoral reform, promising that 2015 would be the last federal election under the FPTP electoral system. An all-party Parliamentary committee completed a national consultation in Dec. 2016 and published its findings in “The Report of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform.” The committee found that among Canadians who wanted electoral reform, the majority preferred “proportional representation” (PR) – a system allocating Parliamentary seats based on overall vote percentages. The committee also recommended that no new system be implemented without a national referendum. As such, Canada should abandon its existing FPTP system for electing Parliamentarians and work towards an electoral system that ensures better representation of all voters.

Overview

In 2015, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau committed to replacing Canada’s existing first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system as an election campaign promise. His campaign’s first speech promised action on electoral reform, promising that 2015 would be the last federal election under the FPTP electoral system. The 2016 Federal budget provided up to $10.7 million over four years to conduct outreach, raise awareness and encourage the participation of Canadians in consultations on voting system reform.[i]

An all-party Parliamentary committee completed a national consultation in Dec. 2016 and published its findings in “The Report of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform.”[ii]  In the end, each party represented in the committee preferred a different type of electoral system.  However, the committee found that among Canadians who wanted electoral reform, the majority preferred “proportional representation” (PR) – a system allocating Parliamentary seats based on overall vote percentages. The committee also recommended that no new system be implemented without a national referendum.

To the consternation of many, however, the Liberal government dropped its initiative on electoral reform in February 2017.[iii] Trudeau’s explanation for dropping the initiative was that he felt there was not a clear preference for a new electoral system.  Nevertheless, opponents pointed out that there was broad support for electoral reform across Canada as a whole.  In fact, a December 2015 survey indicated that 83% of Canadians wanted to change the way Parliament is elected[iv].  Of those who wanted change, about half of them wanted either a major change or a complete overhaul.

In February 2018, Trudeau announced that he has no plans to resurrect the campaign promise on electoral reform unless other political parties agree to a system other than PR.[v]

Questions for Federal Candidates

  • Do you believe Canada’s Parliament should be reflective of the wishes of voters as per the relative vote percentages in an election?
  • Do you believe that it is fair that a party can win a majority government with only 40% of the votes?
  • Do you believe that the electoral system needs to be reformed to reflect the wishes of Canadians?

If elected:

  • Will you work within your caucus to support an electoral reform system that ensures that votes are not effectively ignored?
  • Will you work in Parliament to support changes to our federal elections process that bring improved representation?
  • Will you work within your riding to engage citizens in the discussion on alternatives to our current FPTP system?

Supporting Points

  • Academic Studies. In December 2015, the Broadbent Institute published the results of a survey on Canadian Electoral Reform, “Public Opinion on Possible Alternatives.” According to the survey, most Canadians think that Canada’s voting system needs to be changed by almost a two to one margin.[vi] In addition, those who want change are more likely to favour a system that produces more proportional results. This would result in a system that ensures that the number of seats held by a party more closely represents their actual level of support throughout the country.
  • EKOS Survey. In Nov. 2016 EKOS published the results of a survey entitled, “Public Outlook on Electoral Reform and Democratic Renewal.” One of the questions asked was on the fairness of FPTP electoral system where 61% felt “it is unfair that a party can hold a majority of the seats in the House of Commons with less than 40% of the vote.”[vii] The survey also revealed that 47% of Canadians would want any electoral change to be subject to a national referendum.[viii]

Recommendations for Canada

  • Canada should abandon its existing FPTP system for electing Parliamentarians and work toward an electoral system that ensures better representation of all voters.
  • Canada ought to have an electoral system that respects the wishes of voters; one that is confirmed via a national referendum.

 

[i] End first-past-the-post voting system and explore alternative electoral reform options. Retrieved from https://trudeaumetre.polimeter.org/promise/4201

[ii] House of Commons. (Dec. 2016). Strengthening Democracy in Canada: Principles, Process and Public Engagement for Electoral Reform. Retrieved from https://www.ourcommons.ca/Content/Committee/421/ERRE/Reports/RP8655791/errerp03/errerp03-e.pdf

[iii] Wherry, A. (2017, February 01). Opposition cry 'betrayal' as Liberals abandon electoral reform | CBC News. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-electoral-reform-mandate-1.3961736

[iv] Broadbent Institute. (Dec. 2015). Canadian Electoral Reform Public Opinion on Possible Alternatives. Retrieved from https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/broadbent/pages/4770/attachments/original/1448994262/Canadian_Electoral_Reform_-_Report.pdf?1448994262

[v] Scheel, E. V. (2018, February 01). One year later, Trudeau stands by decision to drop electoral reform | CBC News. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-electoral-reform-january-2018-1.4511902ps://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-electoral-reform-january-2018-1.4511902

[vi] Broadbent Institute. (Dec. 2015). Canadian Electoral Reform Public Opinion on Possible Alternatives. Retrieved from https://www.broadbentinstitute.ca/canadian_electoral_reform

[vii] The Public Outlook on Electoral Reform and Democratic Renewal. (Nov. 2016). Retrieved from http://www.ekospolitics.com/index.php/2016/11/the-public-outlook-on-electoral-reform-and-democratic-renewal/

[viii] The Public Outlook on Electoral Reform and Democratic Renewal. (Nov. 2016). Retrieved from http://www.ekospolitics.com/index.php/2016/11/the-public-outlook-on-electoral-reform-and-democratic-renewal/

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