by Tom Mulcair
In 2015, Canadians will have a choice. Not only will they have the opportunity to elect a new government, but they will also have the opportunity to elect a government that is committed to proportional representation.
We’re very clear on this – an NDP government would introduce proportional representation by the next election. Early in December 2014, we introduced a motion to the House of Commons to reform the system before then, but were disappointed that Justin Trudeau voted with Stephen Harper and the Conservatives to defeat the motion. However, the fact that our motion attracted the support of Greens, independent MPs and several members of the Liberal Party who voted contrary to their leader shows we are making progress in our campaign to change Canada’s unfair electoral system.
In the last election, Conservatives formed a majority government with only 39% of the vote. In our current first-past-the-post system, they govern as if they have the support of all Canadians, but the fact is 61% of voters wanted someone else in government.
Around the world, advanced democracies have recognized the flaws of this winner-take-all system and have adopted a better model that works.
Democracies such as Germany and New Zealand have embraced proportional representation and realized improvements since moving away from first-past-the-post. In a study that looked at 36 countries with proportional representation, countries that reformed their systems saw increased voter turnout, more women and minorities elected and an overall higher satisfaction with democracy.
Furthermore, countries with proportional representation also score higher on indicators of health, education and standards of living. They are more likely to enjoy fiscal surpluses and have healthier environmental policies, economic growth and decreased income inequality.
It may seem shocking that a change in electoral system can fuel such dramatic changes, but when you empower people, it’s incredible what can be achieved.
By responding to and reflecting a broader pool of interests and people, proportional elections lead to governments that are not based on one single partisan worldview or a narrow segment of society. Proportional governments represent a broader cross-section of society; as a result, the policies they pass tend to be more credible, stable and based on the common good.
For years, governing parties in Canada have talked about electoral reform, but have failed to make it a priority. More often than not, those in government are afforded a majority without a plurality of the votes so there is little incentive to change.
That is one of the ways a New Democrat government will be different. Had the 2011 election used proportional representation, despite the NDP’s electoral gains, New Democrats would have actually had fewer seats in Parliament. Even still, we believe that democratic reform is critical to improving the health of Canada’s democracy. For New Democrats, it’s a matter of principle. Proportional representation would better represent Canadians across the country.
Liberals would have seen better representation in the Prairies and even the Conservatives would have been better represented in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. The NDP would have done better in Saskatchewan and the Green Party would have made gains in many places, electing more than just one Member of Parliament.
While Liberals and Conservatives defeated the NDP’s motion to bring forward a proportional system this time, the fight is not over. An election is coming. Now it’s up to Canadians to get involved, voice their support for better, fairer representation and ultimately exercise their right to vote.
Now it’s up to Canadians to make the next election the last unfair election.
Complete text of NDP Motion on Proportional Representation:
“That, in the opinion of the House: (a) the next federal election should be the last conducted under the current first-past-the-post electoral system which has repeatedly delivered a majority of seats to parties supported by a minority of voters, or under any other winner-take-all electoral system; and (b) a form of mixed-member proportional representation would be the best electoral system for Canada.”
Information about how each leader and party voted can be found at: http://www.parl.gc.ca/HouseChamberBusiness/ChamberVoteDetail.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=41&Ses=2&FltrParl=41&FltrSes=2&Vote=291