How votes matter

MMP Voting sample via
MMP Voting sample via

A question of representation

By Chandler Walter, Humour Editor

This may be the federal election that Canadians of the future look back on as the last to use the “old” system of voting.

Electoral reform has been a hot-button issue for two of the three leading political parties in Canada, with the Conservatives holding back on advocating for any sort of change in the way we decide who runs the country.

The party voted into power this October would be done so by the Single Plurality system, also known to many as first-past-the-post. To change that system once in power would seem controversial to the elected party’s best interests, though Antony Hodgson, the President of Fair Voting BC, explained the demerits of Single Plurality Voting.

“You can have the majority of the population opposed to the current government and they still have complete control over what happens,” said Hodgson.

Hodgson stated that the current federal government was voted in with only 39.6 per cent of the federal vote, though those votes managed to elect a majority government into power.

Section Three of The Charter of Rights and Freedoms states: “Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.”

Hodgson explained that this is not merely the right to cast a ballot, but is, as the courts have interpreted it, the right to effective representation.

The issue is that with only one representative for any given riding, a person and their neighbour could have differing views, with only one of them ultimately being represented.

Proportional representation systems aim to work around that. One way is by combining ridings together, and having an assortment of elected members of parliament (or team) for each. Another is by voting for a specific party, from which the number of MPs is proportional to the percentage of votes cast in favour for that party.

According to Fair Vote Canada, the NDP has backed the mixed-member proportional style of voting. This is a two-tier system in which you can vote first for the candidate of your choice, and then use a second vote towards another party. The Liberals have not stated which system of voting they would be favouring, though promise to evaluate the different systems and begin enacting electoral reform within 18 months of forming government.