Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Is it time for proportional representation yet???

We all know, I think, that our chances of getting a PR system out of a majority government are two.... slim, and none.

But now we have our second minority parliament in a row. Is it possible we'll finally get electoral reform? The Liberals have always benefitted from our current system (and still do) but then again, so do the Conservatives. I know the old Reform Party used to talk about electoral reform all the time, but will the CPC actually do anything? I'm not so sure.

The Conservatives just won 36.3% of the popular vote, and low and behold they have 40% of the seats in the House. The Liberals 30.2% pop. vote, got them 33.4% of the seats. And the BQ, got only 10.5% of the popular vote, and they'll occupy 16.6% of the H of C seats (that's a different situation of course, so I'll mostly leave that aside for simplicity).

Add that all up, and 77% of the popular vote just filled over 90% of parliament's seats!!!

How is that possible? Well, of course, once again, the NDP and Greens don't get representation in the House anywhere NEAR their representation in the popular vote. The NDP received 17.5% of Canadians' votes, and will occupy only 9.4% of the Commons seats. And the Greens had better do something good with the money they'll receive based on the 4.5% of the vote they received, because they won't be represented in parliament at all.

Anyway, I'm interested in what people think about some form of PR generally, and I'd love to hear comments from both under-represented NDP/Green voters, and over-represented Liberal/Tory voters.

Just to give you some fuel for discussion, here's the breakdown of parliament if parties received seats in the House based solely on their popular vote...which isn't how PR would actually work, of course, but it is illustrative of what a poor job our current system does of representing the popular will of the nation as a whole (NB: The BQ are obviously a huge anomoly here, so I gave them all the "extra" seats from fractions of percentages, though this number is obviously still not reflective of their unique situation... let's leave them mostly aside for now...):

CPC: 111 seats
Liberals: 93 seats
NDP: 54 seats
BQ: 36 seats
Green Party: 13 seats

Interestingly (although, meaninglessly, since the BQ numbers are so wacky) in this parliament, a Liberal-NDP-Green coaltion has 160 votes... more than a majority.... which perhaps isn't so surprising given that those three parties combined received more than 50% of votes cast last night.

As an NDP voter, this always drives me nuts. I can certainly accept that 66.5% of Canadians have voted for what I see as centre to centre-right parties (Lib/CPC), and that's fine. And (leaving the BQ aside...), that only 22% of Canadians voted for centre-left parties is disappointing, but still, a slight improvement.

But giving 73% of the power to the 66% group, and 9.5% of the power to the 22% group just feels unfair somehow.

Now, maybe I'm just bitter that the Conservatives are about to form a government despite the fact that over 62% of Canadians voted for parties to the left of the CPC, but I don't think this is a left-right issue. When the Liberal were in first, and the Tories in second, the Liberals bennefitted from this phenomenon more than the Tories, and now that the Tories have reversed that, the magnifying effect helps THEM more.

Anyway, I'll continue to mull over the fact that winning 22% of the votes in Canada is sometimes only worth 9.5% of the power, and that 77% of the votes can fill 90% of parliament's seats, and I'm interested to hear from people on this, particularly any who don't see a problem with that.

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Halden said...

I see the good of PR as more fairly representing how the people vote in the House of Commons, I do however fear that PR might bring about a rise of small one issue parties that have a real chance of landing a seat or 2. Eventually the House would get bogged down by single issue MPs and the bigger picture could get fragmented.

ferrethouse said...

We can't even make our senate democratic let alone fundamentally change our electoral system.

Anonymous said...

PR is trotted out by those parties that can't win in a first-past-the-post system as a panacea for all the democratic ailments you can think when the only thing it solves is them getting more seats. There are a number of structural elements within a Westminster system that make PR an improbable solution. I think we should sit back and see how the next provincial election in BC goes when they use a Single Transferable Vote (preferential ballot) system, as it may be the compromise solution allowing greater impact for an individual vote while still maintaining single-member constituencies.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...


Please understand too that I'm not necessarily advocating any particular SOLUTION here, including any particular type of PR, or STV or any other acronym.

Just pointing out that a party that got 17.5% of the vote is getting 9.5% of the power (and if you add the Greens, two parties with 22% of the vote are getting 9.5% of the power). And it just seems to me that our system should do better than translating one in five votes into one in ten seats.