How the election results would change under Proportional Representation ~ Patrick Flanagan



Remember the Liberals’ 2015 promise to do away with the first-past-the-post electoral system? Do you wonder why that never happened? The latest election results might provide a clue.

One alternative to first-past-the-post is proportional representation (PR). That could be implemented in various ways, but in its simplest form, each party would get a number of seats that is proportional to its share of the popular vote. For example, if Party A got 20 per cent of the popular vote, then it would get 20 per cent of the seats.

Using data from the Elections Canada website, which is still unofficial, here is the distribution of seats based on the current system (Actual) and on the simple PR model (Proportional).

A switch to PR would hurt the Bloc and the Conservatives to a modest degree, but would hammer the Liberals. On the other hand, such a switch would be a huge benefit to the parties that have been pushing for a change – the NDP and the Greens – and would give a few seats to the fringe parties that generally are shut out by first-past-the-post. This assumes, of course, that people would have voted the same way under PR as they did under our current system, and that might not be the case.

A government needs 170 votes to get measures through the House, so it will be a challenge for the Liberals to keep a hold on power under the current system. If the seats were allocated by PR, the challenge would be much greater.

So why do the two biggest parties cling to first-past-the-post? Because it favours them. In the simple PR model, the Conservatives would have the most seats but would have difficulty finding common ground with other parties to get the necessary 170 votes. Same for the Liberals. And if the Liberals realize that a switch to PR would cut their number of seats, why would they bring that problem upon themselves?

Patrick Flanagan is a retired actuary, currently enjoying life in the Huntsville area.

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  1. There are many compelling arguments often made for PR. Personally I do not like it for a variety of reasons.
    1. While working together is an admirable goal, In many cases it means someone (or many people) have to compromise on their or their party’s principles. Given the stated positions in the past election, it will be difficult for some to do with the limited fracturing we have now let alone with a PR distribution. This is certainly born out by the experience in other countries.
    2. Exactly how does one vote – do we vote nationally for the parties (Liberal, Conservative, NDP, etc.) and then just divide up the spoils among a bunch of people nominated by the parties with no local candidates? Do we still vote for our own local candidate, and then even though he/she may win they may not get a seat due to the need to “deselect” a number of candidates to fulfill the requirements? (see the numbers for the NDP in Patrick’s example – 30 ridings where the NDP did not get the most votes would have to be named NDP winners, knocking off the person whom a majority of voters chose). The converse is also true in the case of the Liberals – 45 ridings where the Liberal was the “winner” would not gain a seat but would be replaced by someone else who possibly garnered a fraction of the support but needed that seat to meet their requirement.
    3. Who actually chooses the people who will sit in parliament?
    4. We certainly given the above 2 possibilities would lose local representation – something those who have accessed an MP value highly.
    I am sure there are other ways to elect our representatives than FPP. I am not the one to suggest them – I will leave that to others – but FPP has served us well for many years now. Just remember – once the genie is out of the bottle it is almost impossible to put it back. This would be such a seismic change to our electoral process it would change our government forever, and requires much more than a knee jerk reaction to a couple of election results.

    • Thanks Patrick for opening the discussion. The option is a mixed scenario where a half or third are selected on a popular vote basis by province and the balance by traditional ridings, albeit reconfigured. A caveat might be that unless you received a minimum of 3-5% nationally you would not qualify. The only problem is that explaining this to the population would be next to impossible. Witness the 3 attempts at doing so in B.C. Alas, I feel we are stuck with what we have although not entirely fair.

  2. Jim Logagianes on

    I think it’s time we as a nation band together. What if all spending by government was controlled through a referendum. Our elected officials would be responsible for allocating funds to the appropriate ministries and overseeing spending. Then and only then would Canadians have the opportunity to decide how are money is being spent. Is it wrong for me to think that our current system falls far short of addressing the needs of this vast nation? I for one am sick and tired of being lied to in order to persuade my decision. Or we put in place a mechanism where we can dispose of and elected official if they do not adhere to their election platform (accountability). The only thing Trudeau did not lie about was legalizing Marijuana. If we all start smoking up we won’t realize how bad they are screwing up. And Canadians gave this charlatan who believes that taxation is the only option another mandate.
    As the cost to elect someone in Canada escalates we should all be concerned. Because when people give you money they have expectations. (SNC Lavalin is a good example of a government honouring a commitment to a donor) Trudeau would have caved into their demands, but thankfully his own Attorney General thwarted his efforts. If we limit their ability to manipulate Canadians as they have in the past we may have a chance to prosper as a nation and eliminate the division that this country now faces.
    Ask yourself this, if all spending was put to a referendum would business subsidies and Corporate tax cuts be a priority? Over the last 25 years they have slowly shifted the tax burden onto individuals while corporations receive tax cuts. So now we spend more on taxes than food clothing and shelter combined. This is how you increase poverty in a country not prevent it.

  3. Peter R. Dirks on

    All of the suggestions, at this point, are dealing with the political structure of our country!
    In order to run a country, you need to have the finances to work with. Where the money is coming from is one subject? How to control our finances is quite another responsibility, that has not been put forward by any Party. I think that this should be the priority of any Party to take on the responsibility to manage our Country!

    Here is my suggestion to make this happen.

    First, every Ministry gets a budget to work with. The Minister will be held responsible for the performance of his or her Ministry, performing within the budget. It would be a job function responsibility with a job loss position .
    Second, when you add up all the Ministry budgets, it should come to 95% of the total money available to the Government .
    Third, the remaining 5% should be the Government emergency fund . If this fund is not fully used at the end of the Year, it should be applied to pay off our debt .

    We have NOT yet found to hold a Party or a Government responsible for there actions , this is one way.

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