Electoral Reform

electoral reform, Town Hall, Kingston, OntarioWhen the Liberals took office last fall, they promised that 2015 would be the last time Canadians would vote using the first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system. The Trudeau government has since set a deadline of December 1st 2016 to introduce electoral reform legislation. In our current system, voters choose one option and the candidate with the most votes is elected in their riding, and the party with the most candidates elected forms the government. The biggest concerns around this style of election (which is widely used in the United Kingdom and the United States) is that larger parties gain a disproportionately large share of seats, while smaller parties are left with an unbalanced share of seats. On the other hand, FPTP is easy to understand for voters and makes counting and processing votes fairly simple.

An all-party Parliamentary committee has been created to review a wide variety of voting methods such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting. Here is a brief description of each:

Ranked or preferential voting: Instead of voting for a single candidate, voters rank the list of candidates in order of preference.  The first choice votes are totaled up and if someone receives 50% or more of the votes, then they are declared the winner and the election is over. However, if nobody receives more than 50%, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated from the race. All of his or her votes move to the second choice on the ballot and the votes are counted up again. This process continues until a winner is chosen.

Proportional Representation: PR is designed to produce a representative body where the voters are represented in that body in proportion to how they voted. In our current system, when more than two candidates run in a riding, one can be elected with less than half of the votes leaving other voters unrepresented. In contrast, a PR voting system elects several MPs to represent a given geographic region so that most voters in that region have a voice in Parliament.

Mixed-member Proportional Representation: Similar to PR, MPR allows for more even representation in Parliament. Voters in this case would be given two votes: one for an MP and one for a party. This allows voters to chose an MP without regard for party affiliation. Seats are awarded to parties based on the percentage of votes they get.

This handy video created by CBC gives a good description of each option:

On Thursday, September 15th Kingston MP Mark Gerretsen will be holding a Town Hall from 6-8:30pm at Memorial Hall in Kingston City Hall. The public is invited to join in the discussion regarding voting systems, Mandatory Voting, in which all eligible voters are obliged to vote or be subject to a penalty such as fines or community service, and Online Voting.

In these early stages of the discussion on electoral reform, this week we want to know:

Which voting system are you in favour of?

  • Proportional Representation (44%, 347 Votes)
  • Mixed-Member Proportional Representation (42%, 333 Votes)
  • First-Past-The-Post (11%, 89 Votes)
  • Something else (2%, 16 Votes)

Total Voters: 785

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This is, of course, a complex topic that is traditionally something that only hardcore political followers spend time thinking about and discussing, however, the way we vote is incredibly important and something we should all take very seriously. If we are going to see changes that represent what we all want, now is the time to get informed. I myself didn’t know a whole lot about electoral reform in Canada before writing this post but I now feel more equipped to discuss it and to learn more. So, in a way, today’s post isn’t just a poll but also a mini challenge to share this information with your friends and family. Let’s all get informed so we can make sure we are fully represented by our elected officials.

Thanks to Michael Swan for today’s photo.

Danielle Lennon

Danielle Lennon is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. She was the Editor, Community Event Coordinator and Contributor at-large (2008-2018). She is otherwise employed as a section violinist with the Kingston Symphony, violin teacher, studio musician and cat lover. Learn more about Danielle...

5 thoughts on “Electoral Reform

  • MMP is one type of PR. There are STV and others. Why single out MMP as its own option in the poll? If we added ranked ballots with our FPTP system it would be called AV, which consolidates power to the traditional large parties and excludes all others from having representation.

    Reform to AV makes our system worse. Any PR system is an improvement in having party MPs represent us in the same as proportion as the voters supported each party.

  • No, Justin Trudeau has NOT had a preferred option since the Liberal caucus decided in early 2015 (and the party convention agreed) to include proportional representation as an option.
    And wrong description of MMP (although you're only copying the CBC's mistake): it's not "two votes: one for an MP and one for a party," it's "two votes: one for an MP and one for a party or one of its regional candidates." That's what the Law Commission of Canada recommended, and what half the Liberal caucus supported the last time Parliament voted on it.

  • I guess the creators of this poll didn't realize that MMP is a form of Proportional Representation (which actually includes a number of other options, including STV).

  • See? We're all learning. Thanks for the input. This is just the beginning and through various news sources and websites, these types of voting are the ones that have been highlighted thus far. I'm sure there will be much more to discuss as this develops and I hope more people will take the time to learn about this very important part of our democracy.

  • Which just goes to show that what Canada really needs is the process by which New Zealand changed its system (from FPTP to MMP, as it happens) – this involved several stages, with extensive public education adn discussion followed by a vote at each stage. It now has a system which is acknowledged as the most representative in the world, and also includes reserved seats for indigenous people, something Canada could, in addition, learn from.

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