We can do better at the ballot box

The first-past-the-post (FPTP) system is neither fair to the parties nor voters

Editor, The Times:

I am disappointed that a poll conducted by Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo Conservative MP Cathy McLeod showed a majority of voters do not want to change our electoral system and, that if the government were to propose a new system, the majority of voters would like to put it to a referendum.

At the expense of sounding patronizing, I suggest many of these voters who want to continue with the current system have not taken time to study its limitations.

Also, a referendum would be an inappropriate waste of money.

We have representatives in Parliament to introduce appropriate legislation — and the subject of electoral reform has been reviewed numerous times over the years.

The first-past-the-post (FPTP), or single-member plurality (SMP) system as it is officially called, is neither fair to the parties nor voters.

In the 2015 federal election, the Bloc Quebecois won 10 seats with 4.7 per cent of total votes cast in the country, while the Green party won only one seat with 3.4 per cent of  votes cast.

A party can get, say, 10 per cent of total votes cast across the country and yet not have a single seat in Parliament. In other words, votes received by a party do not reflect that party’s seats in Parliament.

In the 2015 federal election, for example, the Liberals won every seat across the four Atlantic provinces, even though 37 per cent of the region’s voters voted for other parties.

In the FPTP system, votes are also wasted.

Since a candidate only needs one more vote than his or her opponents, the winner’s votes beyond that number are wasted.

A voter may have a second preference of which he or she is not asked.

Proportional representation (PR) tries to minimize these anomalies.

There are different PR systems.

Some appear complex at first sight and require larger ridings with multiple seats. Also, multiple vote counts are often needed to appropriately redistribute the ballots  if there is no immediate winner.

All this was time-consuming before the computer era, but this is no longer the case.

One potential disadvantage of some PR systems, with enlarged ridings with multiple seats, is the geographic location of elected representative may not be as close to voters’ home as in the current system of small ridings with one seat.

It may be possible to compromise on this and other potential issues to develop a system suitable for Canada, with its uniquely large area and sparsely distributed population.

Let us look at our current electoral system closely.

We can do better.

Max Zahir

 

Kamloops, B.C.