Every decade or so, the idea of reforming Canada’s electoral system comes around, though all the attempts so far have pretty much failed.
After all, you might say, if it isn’t broken why fix it?
The problem is our electoral system — known as first past the post, where to win a candidate only needs one more vote than his rival — is broken, and has been since Canada was formed. In fact, first past the post has been broken since it was invented back in the mists of time, long before the first light bulb was hung inside a home or Henry Ford rattled along the road in his first car.
Its nickname describes one of the most serious problems. As many people find out when they cast their first vote, the majority of votes cast end up having no meaning — only the ones received by the winning candidate count. And they wonder why it is so hard to get more than about 60 per cent of the population out to vote.
If you voted for someone else, your vote goes no farther. That leads to a situation, as has happened many times in many ridings, where more people voted against the winning candidate than for. To win, he or she just needs one more vote than the next guy. Scale that up to the provincial or federal level, and itʼs quite possible — and often happens — for the ruling party to be elected with the support of less than half the population.
The problem is, voting under one of the many forms of proportional representation systems — mixed member proportional, single transferable vote and others — tends to be more complicated, both for the voter and the counter. But that confusion will soon pass, and isn’t having a more representative parliament worth a little more work to vote?
No electoral system is ever going to be perfect. Even FPTP has some good points — it’s quick, and it’s cheap — but we should constantly be working to eliminate flaws in the system, not celebrating them as traditional and unchangeable.