Put first-past-the-post out to pasture

So, now that this federal election is over, it’s time to revisit the first-past-the-post system.

Put very simply, the system allows voters to select a party representative in each riding. The individual with the highest number of votes wins a seat in the legislature, even if they do not receive the majority of votes. Once all the winners are tallied, the party that receives the most seats gets to hold power in government. Naturally then, one of the biggest complaints about the system is that a candidate doesn’t need more than 50 per cent approval to win a riding.

What did that mean on Monday night? According to Fairvote.ca, it means the Liberals have 34 more seats than the Conservatives, despite the Conservatives getting 1.5 per cent more votes than the Liberals.

Under proportional representation, the results would have been about 116 Liberals, 117 Conservatives, 57 NDP, 22 Greens and 26 Bloc, rather than 156, 122, 24, 3 and 32 respectively.

It can be argued the winners are the major parties, the Liberals and Conservatives. The losers are the NDP, casting 16 per cent of the vote but only getting seven per cent of MPs. Even worse for the Greens, casting six per cent of the vote, but only having three MPs. Regions also suffer, particularly out west but also the Atlantic provinces.

It’s past time for first-past-the-post to be put out to pasture.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau made electoral reform one of his election issues in 2015. However, he abandoned it. In 2018, he told CBC news he’d look into it again if other federal party leaders agreed to an alternative.

Under preferential voting, or the ranked ballot system, options on the ballot are ranked and they must have more than 50 per cent of the vote to win. First preference votes are counted and if no option has exceeded 50 per cent, the last place option’s votes are redistributed based on their second choice. The process is repeated until one option has more than 50 per cent of the votes.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has said he likes a mixed-member proportional representation system. A bit more complex, it allows voters to select a party they support and a second vote for a candidate in their riding. With this system, there is usually a threshold of support that has to be achieved in order to get a seat.

According to Fairvote.ca, the country voted 34.4 per cent Conservative and got 36 per cent seat of the seats. Not bad. The Bloc got 7.7 per cent of the vote and nine per cent representation. Also, not bad. The nation voted 33 per cent Liberal but got 46 per cent of the seats. Suspect. It voted 15.9 per cent NDP to only get seven per cent of representation in the House. Not good. The Greens got 6.5 per cent of voter support and one per cent House representation. Scandalous.

Now that we have a Liberal minority government, it’s expected that the parties have to play in the sandpit much better than they did over the past four years. This would be a perfect time to strike an allparty, non partisan, committee to look into electoral reform in the county. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the fair thing to do. And it should be done in time for the next election.

Stay Connected

Get TheHighlander delivered to your inbox for FREE every Thursday!
*