Election aftermath why the voting system needs an overhaul

Once again the nineteenth century first past the post British electoral system has done its awful work. The system which was designed to keep the riff-raff out of Parliament and if not possible at least out of government has been an albatross around the neck of Canadian democracy for more than a century. Needless to say the old contempt for the unwashed masses and their uncouth representatives lives on in contemporary society among some of the elite, but the vast majority of Canadians yearn for a fairer and more representative version of democracy. Just look at the results of this last election.

Conservatives  obtained 167 seats with 39.62 % of the vote and a total of 5.832 million votes an increase of 1.97 percentage points above their vote from the 2008 election. Their seat total went up by 24 seats i.e. by 16.7 %.

Their fair share in a proportional voting system 122 seats

The New Democrats obtained 102 seats with 30.62 % of the vote or 4.508 million votes and increase of 13.14 percentage points in their vote from 2008. Their seat total went up by 65 seats or 175 %.

Their fair share in a proportional voting system  94 seats

The Liberals obtained 34 seats 18.9 % of the vote or 2.783 million votes a decline of 8.7 percentage points in their vote from last time. Their seat total declined by 33 seats or 42.8%.

Their share in a proportional voting system  58 seats

The Bloc won 4 seats with 889,788 votes a decline of 3.93 percentage points in their vote and a loss of 45 seats from their 49 they held after the last election.In percentage terms this was a decline of 91.8% in their number of seats. Their fair share in a proportional voting system 18 seats.

The Greens won one seat up from 0 last time despite a decline in their vote from 937, 613 to 576,221. Their decline in votes in percentage terms  38.6% .

Their share in a proportional voting system 12 seats . This leaves 4 additional seats to be distributed among the parties depending on the rounding system used in the calculation.

With these results in view just look at the anomalies the system has produced. The Conservatives are seriously over represented in the first past the post system by  a total of  some 45 seats. Furthermore, this over representation has enabled them to capture a clear majority of the seats in the House of Commons, despite the fact that 3 federalist parties who share many things in common in terms of their values and ecological, economic and human concerns and policies won a total of 7.847 million votes as opposed to the Conservatives 5.832 million votes. Indeed if one adds to this total the votes of the left of centre but sovereigntist  Bloc the left of centre majority increases by 889 thousand votes to 8.7 million votes versus the 5.8 million votes won by the Conservatives. This lop sided distorted result undermines democracy in the long run because it bestows the powers of a majority upon what is in reality a clear minority of public opinion.

Other absurd aspects of the results include the facts that in Saskatchewan, the NDP got 32 % of the vote but 0 seats and the Liberals 1 seat with 9 % of the vote. The Conservatives won the 13 others with 56 % of the vote in the province. In Alberta  the two main opposition parties with 26 % of the vote only won 1 of the 28 seats. The other 27 went to the Conservative party with 67 % of the vote. In PEI the Conservatives had 41 % of the vote but only won 1 seat while the Liberals won three seats with exact same percentage of the vote. In New Brunswick the Conservatives won 8 of the ten seats with 44 % of the total vote. The opposition parties with 56 % of the vote only won 2 seats.

Electoral reform to produce a democratic system in keeping with a modern 21st century democracy is an urgent necessity. A good approach to consider would be to adopt a modified mixed system which could combine constituency representatives with a partially proportionally elected House. The AV system proposed in Britain is another possibility. But political realities being what they are this issue will not be addressed for another 4 years.


About haroldchorneyeconomist

I am Professor of political economy at Concordia university in Montréal, Québec, Canada. I received my B.A.Hons (econ.&poli sci) from the University of Manitoba. I also completed my M.A. degree in economics there. Went on to spend two years at the London School of Economics as a Ph.D. student in economics and then completed my Ph.D. in political economy at the University of Toronto. Was named a John W.Dafoe fellow, a CMHC fellow and a Canada Council fellow. I also was named a Woodrow Wilson fellow in 1968 after completing my first class honours undergraduate degree. Worked as an economist in the area of education, labour economics and as the senior economist with the Manitoba Housing and Renewal Corporation for the Government of Manitoba from 1972 to 1978. I also have worked as an economic consultant for MDT socio-economic consultants and have been consulted on urban planning, health policy, linguistic duality and public sector finance questions by the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan,the cities of Regina and Saskatoon, Ontario and the Federal government of Canada. I have also been consulted by senior leaders of the British Labour party, MPs from the Progressive Conservative party, the Liberal party and the New Democrats on economic policy questions. Members of the Government of France under the Presidency of Francois Mitterand discussed my work on public sector deficits. I have also run for elected office at the municipal level. I first began to write about quantitative easing as a useful policy option during the early 1980s.
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