In a superb piece for the Globe and Mail, Ed Broadbent, Alex Himelfarb and Hugh Segal argue that Canada needs true proportional representation. Nothing else will do:
The central problem with our winner-take-all system is that the composition of our elected parliament does not reflect how we actually voted. A candidate who receives a plurality of the votes wins, even if a majority of the voters chose others. The majority of the votes in such a case have no impact on the outcome of the election.That means a party that receives only a minority of votes, say less than 40 per cent, can form a majority government, taking full control of the policy agenda. In fact, this is the norm in Canada. But this cannot continue. In a representative democracy, representativeness surely should matter.
The Liberals claim that the new system will be guided by eight principles. The authors write:
We note, nonetheless, that only a proportional system can meet the government’s first principle: To ensure that votes are fairly translated into elected results.No more staying at home because our preferred candidate cannot win. No more so-called strategic voting in which we vote to stop a party we like the least rather than choose the candidate or party that best reflects our views.Not surprisingly, countries with some form of proportional representation – and that is the majority of advanced democracies and 85 per cent of OECD countries – elect more women, more members of minority communities and more diverse legislatures.
Proportional Representation is not a vague theory:
Given that most democracies have opted for greater proportionality, there’s a good deal of evidence on how it’s working. And it is working.Voter participation and trust in government are higher. There has been some increase but no proliferation of parties. It does become harder – though not impossible – for single parties to get a majority so these countries are often governed by coalitions. But coalitions in fact provide good, stable government. Elections are no more frequent and politics tend to be less polarized because parties know they may have to work together.
They warn that preferential ballots won't bring about these changes. Only a genuinely proportional system will do that.
The fat is in the fire.