It’s time for Canada to adopt a fair voting system

By Nathan Cullen

Nathan Cullen
Nathan Cullen

Canada is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Our diversity is valued and reflected in nearly every

aspect of Canadian society.

Sadly, our outdated democratic system doesn’t reflect the diversity of voices in this country. In the last two consecutive Canadian elections, the Conservative and Liberal parties respectively won the majority of the seats and 100 per cent of the power in the House of Commons with less than 40 per cent of the vote.  During elections voters are often left feeling torn, unsure whether they should vote with their values, or cast a vote in hopes it will help throw out a particular government. We can do better.

The Prime Minister promised Canadians that the 2015 election would be the last unfair election, but now the Liberal government appears to be having second thoughts on that promise, even though almost 90 per cent of experts and ordinary Canadians told the parliamentary committee studying electoral reform that they support proportional representation. New Democrats are fighting to hold the Liberals to their promise and make sure every vote counts.

Canada’s current electoral system has been with us since before we drove cars, before penicillin was developed to treat illness, and even before lightbulbs lit our rooms. It’s called: “first-past-the-post”—a reference to horseracing where the first horse to reach the post wins. It’s also a 13th century system of electing local officials that implements a ‘winner-takes-all’ system. This system gave Stephen Harper—and

now the Liberals—100 per cent of the power in Ottawa with just 39.62 per cent of the vote. It also gave Justin Trudeau 100 per cent of the power with just 39.47 per cent of the vote.

Around the world, more countries are moving away from first-past-the-post voting systems. Hillary Clinton received 2 million more votes than Donald Trump, but he won the presidency because of the US’s outdated Electoral College model – the worst example of first-past-the-post systems in the world.

Under Canada’s current system, millions of votes effectively don’t count, and that must change. Canadians deserve a fairer voting system. The concept is pretty simple: under a proportional system, a political party would receive a number of seats that reflects the percentage of votes they received. If a party wins 30 per

cent of the seats, they would get 30 per cent of the votes.  Aside from preventing false majority governments,

proportional voting systems increase voter turnout and lead to more diverse and balanced governments.

That’s why over 90 countries around the world have adopted some form of proportional representation.

As a Canadian and a New Democrat, I am hopeful and optimistic about the task before us. The goals of making our voting system better reflect Canada and its people, and increasing the participation of Canadians in our civic conversations, are incredibly dear to me and essential for our country.

A majority of Canadians think it’s unfair that a party receiving only 39 per cent of the vote in a general election gets to govern with 100 per cent of the power in Ottawa—and New Democrats agree. It’s time for the Prime Minister to keep his word. It’s time for a modern voting system that reflects a diverse and inclusive Canada—where every vote counts, no matter which party you voted for.

( Nathan  Cullen is the NDP Member of  Parliament for Skeena-Bulkley Valley and  critic for democratic reform.)