In the 2015 election, the Liberal Party committed to a platform they called “Make Every Vote Count.” Now, they are poised to embark on a process that could make Canada fairer and more inclusive for all voters. The stakes couldn’t be higher for democracy. So what’s the problem we’re trying to fix? On October 19, over 9,000,000 voters (51.8 per cent) were unable to make their vote count and elect a representative to bring their voices to Ottawa. The country elected a majority Liberal government, but as usual did so with less than a majority of the vote (39.5 per cent). Most Liberals in Alberta and Saskatchewan, New Democrats and Conservatives in Toronto and Atlantic Canada— and Greens nearly everywhere— elected no representation to Parliament. That’s a big problem. When your vote means nothing, it disempowers citizens and breeds disdain for democracy— and widespread apathy.
And problems with majoritarian systems like first-past-the-post (FPTP) don’t end on election day. When parties can easily win 100 per cent of the power with as little as 39 per cent of the popular vote, they can lose their majority just as quickly. To say the least, this undermines stable solutions. FPTP voting creates an endless cycle of policy lurch, where the new government reverses the policies of the previous government at a huge cost to citizens.
Stephen Harper spent his term undoing Liberal policy and infrastructure and now the Trudeau Government will start over and rebuild what was lost: Canada Post, the long form census, pulling troops out of Syria, rebuilding our Coast Guard, unmuzzling scientists, rebuilding our criminal law system, restoring healthcare for refugees… you get the point.
Thus “winner-take-all” electoral systems force parties to focus policy decisions on four-year cycles, with constant campaigning aimed at winning another 39 per cent majority. Long-term solutions on issues Canadians care about are sidelined in favour of inaction, pandering, or quick fixes that don’t always last.