Popular Improvement #1, Changing the Electoral System

TDG 24

Many democratic nations often contemplate changes to electoral and legislative procedures — even though such changes are difficult to implement because of the long process to reform constitutional laws coupled with the country’s need to deal with more immediate concerns. It is with such changes, many experts say, that the country will supposedly become more democratic.

One popular debate in Canada revolves around implementing proportional representation (PR) as the means for selecting politicians to the Canadian Parliament and provincial legislatures. Canada uses — more or less — the Westminster democratic system, in which the country is divided into constituencies and each constituency can send one representative. The political parties then compete within each constituency to convince the voters to send their candidate to parliament or legislature.

Since the 1930s, Canada has had at least three viable political parties — and sometimes five. This has meant that in many constituency elections, the successful candidate often wins with less than 50% of the vote. For example, the candidate for Party A may achieve 40% of the vote in a particular constituency; Party B 38%, and Party C 22%. Party A gets all the privileges despite being only 2% better than the candidate for Party B — who effectively gets nothing! And depending on how the votes are distributed within all the constituency elections, a governing party in Canada can have 75% of the national or provincial seats with only 40% of the popular vote.

To the advocates of PR, getting 40% of the vote is not a mandate for Party A to represent the constituency or form the government. Thus, in their minds, the votes for Party B and Party C have essentially been wasted in many constituency elections. The imbalance between the legislative power the governing party has and its actual electoral support contradicts the principle that each vote has equal value. Such citizens deem Canada’s “First-Past-The-Post” (FPTP) system undemocratic. Their solution is the PR system of governance, common in most European countries. If a party gets 40% of votes, it gets roughly 40% of the seats in the parliament.

I have to admit that these citizens have a valid point. But when we compare the PR systems and FPTP systems in light of how they transcend the 12 limitations, neither system has proven to have an advantage over the other. The 12 limitations are alive and well in both systems. To my thinking, PR may be more democratic, but it does not resolve any of the limitations. And same goes for other changes to electoral structures and legislative processes I have heard about over the years.



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Dave Volek

Dave Volek

Dave Volek is the inventor of “Tiered Democratic Governance”. Let’s get rid of all political parties! Visit http://www.tiereddemocraticgovernance.org/tdg.php