Defending a “False Alternative”: Canada’s Electoral System and a Proposal for Reform

Title: Defending a “False Alternative”: Canada’s Electoral System and a Proposal for Reform
Authors: Sancton, Matthew
Date: 2013-09-10
Abstract: The single-member plurality voting system – where Members of Parliament are elected by winning a plurality of the vote in their respective constituencies – has been a fixture of Canada’s electoral system for generations. It has been credited for its simplicity, as well as for ensuring strong local representation and producing stable governments capable of advancing their legislative agendas. These features are desirable and worthy of protection. But as this essay argues, Canada’s voting system must also be seen as a contributor to outcomes that are detrimental to Canadian democracy. By drawing from Canada’s past experience with electoral reform, as well as case studies from British Columbia, Ontario, New Zealand and Scotland, this paper calls for the adoption of parallel voting system in Canada – with 80% of Members elected via first-past-the-post and 20% elected via party lists on the basis of the party vote in each province. It argues that implementing such a model would be consistent with constitutional constraints and would address the most serious shortcomings of the existing system. It would also provide political incumbents with an incentive to support reform, by offering their parties the prospect of seats in provinces where they are currently underrepresented, without undermining their ability to win a majority government in the future.
CollectionAffaires publiques et internationales - Mémoires // Public and International Affairs - Research Papers