Electoral system needs changes
A couple weeks ago, I hosted a series of roundtables on potential changes to Canada’s electoral system. The Liberal government has said that they intend to change the way Canadians vote. The discussions that we are having here in Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan are hopefully going to influence the national discussion, so thank you to all those who attended and participated.
Two primary issues came out of this conversation — the issue of “proportionality” in our electoral system and the issue of putting any proposed changes to a referendum.
Different electoral systems around the world have different degrees of proportionality. (Proportionality being the degree to which the percentage of seats that each party gets in the legislature reflects national popular vote received by each party, instead of a more riding-based allocation). Some participants in our roundtables defended the current voting system, which is simple, and which focuses on electing individuals, as opposed to parties. Others suggested a somewhat more proportional system, generally recommending a mixed member proportional system (MMP).
There are potential pros and cons to an MMP system. This system would involve adding a few additional MPs to political parties who won a lower percentage of the seats compared to their overall percentage of the vote. This would make things more proportional. However, it would likely result in more frequent minority government and in larger ridings or more MPs.
Interestingly, only one person all day spoke in support of the Liberals’ preferred system, instant runoff voting. This system is actually less proportional. Under this system, a party could form a majority government with the support of 35 per cent or less of the voters. Instant runoff favours middle-of-the-road parties like the Liberals. If the last election had been run using instant runoff, the Liberals would likely have gotten about two-thirds of the seats, with less than 40 per cent of the vote.
While the debate I am hearing is between those who favour the status quo and those who favour a more proportional system, the Liberals are hoping to push through a less proportional system, which clearly advantages them, and which almost nobody wants.
At our roundtables, there was a lot of discussion about ensuring that we have a referendum before any fundamental change is implemented to the way Canadians vote. The government should not be able to change the way we vote, to its own advantage, without giving Canadians a say. While not unanimous, there was strong support for the idea of a referendum at the roundtables.
Now we are on to the next phase of our consultations. Over the next week or so, you will receive a mail-out about this issue, with an attached ballot, giving you the opportunity to tell Parliament whether you think we need a referendum. Please fill that out and send it back to me as soon as possible. I believe that Canadians should get to decide before we change the way we vote — but now it’s up to you to tell me what you think.
Garnett Genuis is the member of Parliament for Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 780-467-4944. His office is located in the Park Place Professional Centre, Unit No. 214. Genuis was first elected in October 2015.
Published: Thursday, September 22, 2016