“The chief victims of the January 23 federal election were:
Western Liberals: In the prairie provinces, Conservatives got three times as many votes as Liberals did, but won nearly ten times as many seats. In Alberta, the Conservative Party won 100% of the seats with 65% of the votes. The 500,000 Albertans who voted otherwise elected no one.
Urban Conservatives: The 400,000-plus Conservative voters in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver should have been able to elect about nine MPs, but instead elected no one. The three cities together will not have a single MP in the governing caucus, let alone the cabinet.
New Democrats: The NDP attracted a million more votes than the Bloc, but the voting system gave the Bloc 51 seats, the NDP 29. Nearly 18% of Canadians voted NDP, but the party won less than 10% of the seats and does not hold the balance of power, unlike the Liberals and the Bloc.
Green Party: More than 650,000 Green Party voters across the country elected no one, while 475,000 Liberal voters in Atlantic Canada elected 20 MPs. “
-taken from Fair Vote Canada
“Don’t these people ever give up?” -Colonel Kilgore from Apocalypse Now
Boy, I’m apparently not so sick of this argument as to prevent me from discussing it. Lets start at the beginning. Since we are picking a government, at some scale, a majority is desired otherwise no bill would pass in the house. It becomes a question of scale then where this majority should be located. Across the country? Just in Parliament? As an aggregate of ridings? Obviously, the current system is one where the base unit is the riding and the party with the most base units forms government. This ‘first past the post’ system does create some mathematical curiosities as noted by the authors above. They present several of these but for example I will talk about the 1/2 million Green party votes but no Green party seats example. The authors interpret this discrepancy as an absence of representation, but there is a slight of hand here when dealing with Green Party votes in the aggregate. In any given riding, it does not follow that the hundreds of people who voted for the Green party are not represented. By the same logic, if you don’t vote for the winner, you are not represented. As a matter of fact, you are represented by the winner whether you voted for them or not. In fact even if you didn’t vote at all you are still represented by them! The slight of hand in their argument is really ridiculous: “Urban Conservatives should have been able to elect…” They speak of this group as though it were a riding, as though by virtue of being able to speak of them as an aggregate it ought to have a representative. But the aggregate boundaries have been already established. Urban Conservatives come and go but Calgary Centre is a real thing with a real representative who was most people from Calgary Centre first choice!
By inspection, the fact that a single issue (and frankly utterly myopic to the complexities of real governance) party does not easily win seats tells me that the system works quite well! It would be stereotypically Canadian somehow to actually have a party holding seats in parliament that was virtually every riding’s last choice!
The current system picks people to represent small groups of people. The authors above want the system to pick small groups of ideas. This is supposed to be miraculously better. Accountability is hard enough in an apathetic culture, but at least a person from the community is accountable to their community and is seen as the best candidate by the most people possible in that community. A system that picks ideas and platforms and then somehow attaches a person to it (the proportional representation advocated by the authors) seems like one that is not in our best interest.