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Electoral Reform In Canada: An Examination Of Proportional Representation

2765 words - 11 pages

Democracy is often said to be a form of government in which the population as a whole chooses between public policies or among those who wish to handle the authority of the state. Therefore, the process by which the people of a society decide who will occupy political offices in a democracy is a central element in how their society will work. This process is known as the electoral system and because of their importance in liberal democracies, electoral systems have frequently been the focus of intense scholarly debate. Electoral reform in Canada has been a main focus of these debates and "proportional representation (PR) is currently proposed as a solution to a large number of the country's ills" (Fitzgerald, 2001, 49). There clearly are many advantages for a country to adopt a PR system, however, in Canada, the adoption of such a system could have potential negative consequences thus making it an unfavorable system to adopt. First, this essay will take a detailed look at Canada's electoral system today, illustrate the problems it has produced, and give a brief outline of the PR system. Secondly, the advantages of adopting such a system in Canada will follow. Finally, this paper will look at the arguments of those opposed to the PR system, and eventually determine whether or not such a system can work for Canada.1. Canada's Electoral System and the Need for Reform1.1 Canada's Electoral SystemThe first-past-the-post (FPTP), single member district electoral system is Canada's present electoral system, and is believed to have produced a startling record of distortion, misrepresentation, and impaired governance in Canadian federal elections. In an article written in 1968, Alan Cairns documented many of the distortions that the Canadian electoral system has produced over the period from 1921 to 1965, and argued that the cumulative effects of these on political parties and representation in Canada were very real and serious (Cairns, 1968). The system of elections in Canada is thought to have created a number of problems that may be contributing to the anger and distrust of government felt by many Canadians (Milner, 1999, 39). An alternative system, according to Michael Cassidy (1995) in his evaluation of electoral systems, "would have to achieve a greater degree of fairness in the composition of the legislature without abandoning traditional ideas of party representation and stable government in Canada" (p. 323).1.2 Proportional RepresentationIt is believed by many that the proportional representation system can overcome the problems in Canada's present electoral system. Under PR, representatives are elected from multi-seat districts in proportion to the number of votes received (Deverell, 1993). PR assures that political parties or candidates will have the percent of legislative seats that reflects their public support thus making the system fairer.2. Advantages of the Proportional Representation System2.1 Accuracy of the VoteThe concept of fairness...

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