Author: elisabeth sahlmueller – contributor
Shortly after Justin Trudeau became our new Prime Minister, he announced his plans to reform Canada’s electoral system by getting rid of the current ‘First Past the Post’ and ‘Winner Takes All’ system. Our current system allows a leader of a political party to win an election even if they don’t necessarily win a majority of the votes. This is an easy method when counting up votes and although it has been this way since Canada’s first federal election, I strongly believe that it is time for some significant change.
Not only would reform make our electoral system more effective, but it would also likely encourage more Canadians to vote. Lately, there has been a lot of apathy and disinterest in Canadians towards voting. In our last federal election in 2011, 61.1 per cent of Canadians voted and the turnout this year increased to 68.5 per cent. It is good to see that more people are engaged in our country’s political system, but there are still a large number of people who don’t take part. If our electoral system did a better job of accurately representing people’s voices, more people would surely get involved. Not only would this make our electoral system more effective, but it would also likely encourage more Canadians to vote.
In terms of reform, Trudeau is leaning towards preferential ballots, but he is also considering some type of mandatory voting, as well as proportional representation. The only reform I am not in favour of is mandatory voting. It’s important for Canadians to vote, but forcing them won’t likely get the best results.
In a preferential ballot system, each voter would get a list of candidates to rank from #1 being their first choice, all the way down to their last choice. The candidate with the least amount of votes is removed from the list, until someone is chosen with a majority. If this past election had been decided this way, it has been estimated that the Liberals may only have won 134 seats out of 338 in the House of Commons, rather than 184 they did win. However, even though a preferential ballot system will change the structure within the House of Commons and would require a lot more work, it’s a step towards giving Canadians more of a voice in our federal political system.
Another type of electoral reform that is being considered is proportional representation. With this system, the percentage of votes a party receives, is the same percentage of seats they would get in the House of Commons. Canadians vote for parties that they believe most likely will win, but 51.8 per cent of Canadians end up voting for a losing candidate within their riding, making their vote useless. A proportional based system would accurately represent the vote because it is a collective vote that reflects what we want to see within our government and it’s estimated that less than five per cent of Canadians would have wasted votes.
I realize that some people disagree with electoral reform of any type, especially proportional representation, because they are worried that small fringe parties would be able to win seats in the House of Commons. However, I think that this is unlikely because not many Canadians would vote for them. Also, they are not a major political party and don’t have candidates in all the ridings. Even if they did win a very small amount of seats, radical decisions would not get passed by the rest of the Members of Parliament.
Electoral Reform is something that needs to be seriously considered, and I hope that Justin Trudeau will take the steps towards initiating some type of reform that will improve our current electoral system. If our Canadian Parliament was accurately represented, real change would be possible.