Did you know that the possibility of a better democracy in Canada is close at hand? It’s called Proportional Representation, and every day we are getting closer and closer to finally having fair and proportional voting systems in Canada.
Most Canadians don’t know it but, three provinces are on the verge of adopting proportional voting systems: British Columbia, Québec, and Prince Edward Island. And every day, more and more reasons are compelling us to move away from the distorted results of the current first-past-the-post system.
In 2005, British Columbia held a referendum to change their voting system that resulted in a definite ‘Yes’ vote of 58%, an unmistakable majority. However, an arbitrary (and undemocratic) super-majority was set at 60% by the Liberal government which absolved them of respecting the voters’ clear wishes. The government set the same 60% threshold for the referendum again in 2009.
Fortunately, British Columbia is now taking a 3rd crack at it, this time with fair rules that include a democratic 50% + 1 threshold. They are again holding a referendum from Oct. 22nd to Nov. 30 to change to a proportional voting system. If you want to help start a cascade of voting reform in Canada, help BC fight the deep pockets of the NO side to win this referendum and make history. Donate to VotePRBC and Fair Vote Canada BC.
In May, the three opposition parties in Québec (at the time), promised to enact electoral reform within the first year of their mandate if any of them won the next election. Now, post-election, the new Premier, François Legault of the CAQ still intends to keep that promise.
Prince Edward Island
In Prince Edward Island, a plebiscite was held in 2016 to change the voting system to Mixed Member Proportional, resulting in a 52% vote for change. Unfortunately, as in BC, the majority vote was not recognized. It was decided that because of unusually low voter participation in the referendum, the results could not constitute a ‘clear expression of the will of Prince Edward Islanders’ even though there was no threshold set. Due to political pressure, however, the government will hold another referendum in conjunction with the 2019 election, and will require a minimum threshold of voter participation.
Ontario is very clearly illustrating almost all of the negative aspects of first-past-the-post that we want to eliminate including:
- Another false majority government, where a party with only 40% of the vote has 100% of the power, leaving the actual majority of 60% with no say.
- The ruthless slashing of previous policy without accountability to voters.
- The authoritarian leadership of the Premier.
- The polarization of a party’s viewpoints.
- The rise to the ultimate position of power of someone with extreme views.
Pretty scary stuff, and all preventable with a proportional voting system.
New Brunswick’s recent distorted election results add even more fuel to the fire to ditch our current voting system. In the September election, the Liberals, on winning the most votes at 37.8%, placed second with 21 seats, while the PC’s with only 31.9% placed first with 22 seats. That’s a significant 6% difference. (Neither reached a majority of 25 seats.) This strange math is a clear reminder that First-Past-the-Post has resulted in wrong-winners more often than we’d like to think.
Thanks for the worms, Justin Trudeau
Finally, although Justin Trudeau broke his promise to make 2015 the last federal election under First-Past-the-Post, we have him to thank for putting electoral reform on the map nationally, more than ever before. Whether his promise was sincere or a just ploy to grab votes, he put the issue at the forefront of Canadian minds, and now we can’t stop talking about it. More often than not, when I talk to people about the voting issue, they immediately remember and express their disappointment in Trudeau’s broken promise. He opened a can of worms that he now cannot close, no matter what misleading statements he makes about PR being harmful to Canadians.
Having three provinces in this country tackling the issue of voting reform in a very short amount of time speaks a lot to how this issue has become a growing concern for Canadians. Whether any or all of these provinces succeed in their attempts to change their voting systems this time around, the issue is definitely not going away. Increasingly, more and more of us are unhappy with the status quo. I believe that change is inevitable and the possibility of a better democracy is realistically close at hand.
I invite you to join me in taking small but powerful actions to make that change happen sooner rather than later.