Backtracking on electoral reform makes another Harper-style government possible

"It's unfortunate, now that the Liberals have their own artificial majority with only 39.5 per cent of the vote, they seem to be backtracking on their commitment to electoral reform." — Larry Brown, NUPGE President

Ottawa (21 Oct. 2016) —What upset most Canadians about Stephen Harper’s government almost as much as its policies is that most of us voted for a very different Canada. Only 39.6 per cent of Canadians voted for Harper’s Conservatives in 2011, but our electoral system gave him most of the seats in the House of Commons. An artificial majority.

In the last federal election, the Liberals, NDP and Green Party all recognized that an electoral system that gave a majority of seats to a party opposed by over 60 per cent of Canadians was unfair. All 3 parties promised to change the electoral system to make it fairer. Parties supporting electoral reform got 63 per cent of the vote.

Gap between 2015 Liberal platform and recent comments disappointing

The Liberal Platform promised to “Make every vote count.” The platform went on to say, “We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.”

"It's unfortunate, now that the Liberals have their own artificial majority with only 39.5 per cent of the vote, they seem to be backtracking on their commitment to electoral reform," said Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). "That would leave Canadians with an electoral system that routinely gives 100 per cent of the power to political parties with less than half the votes."

“As long as we are stuck with the current electoral system, there is a danger that a political party can make decisions that most Canadians strongly oppose, even though only a minority of voters supported them,” said Brown.

Ranked ballots less fair than current system

One of the systems being considered as an alternative to first past the post is ranked ballots. Like our current electoral system, ranked ballots create artificial majorities. The only difference is that the artificial majorities can be even larger.

In the last federal election, the Liberals won 54.4 per cent of the seats with 39.5 percent of the vote. It’s estimated that using ranked ballots would have given them 66 per cent of the seats, even though they were the first preference of less than half the voters.

Ranked ballots would be very bad news for Canadians hoping to see a government that reflects what a real majority of Canadians supported.

Electoral reform that works for Canadians

A paper adopted at the last NUPGE Convention, Electoral Reform in Canada: The Shape of Things to Come, looked at the goals Canadians want their electoral system to meet. These include community representation and making sure that the number of seats a party wins in an election reflects its real level of support. The paper also looks at which electoral systems come closest to meeting all of those goals and which ones fail.

“Last election, a majority of Canadians voted for parties calling for electoral systems that ‘make every vote count’,” said Brown. “Now it’s time for the government to act on its commitment.”

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE