Every Voice Heard: The Case For Proportional Representation

2584 words - 10 pages

There is a fundamental problem with democracy in Canada. The problem is rooted within our federal parliamentary voting-system. However, there is a promising solution to this issue. Canada should adopt the proportional representation system, known as the party list format (party-list PR), at the federal level if we wish to promote the expansion of democracy. If Canada embraces proportional representation in the battle for electoral reform then we will see beneficial results. Party-list PR will increase voter participation, which in turn will create more accurate representation in the parliament and ultimately a positive shift away from our disturbingly partisan dominated political culture.
The current federal parliamentary voting-system is referred to as a single-member plurality (SMP), or first-past-the-post (FPTP). The structure is fairly simple, the candidate whom gains the largest amount of votes in their riding is awarded one-hundred percent of the representation in the constituency (Pilon 20)1. The percentage of the votes that they receive is irrelevant, as long as they have one more vote than any of their opponents the winner takes all. Conversely the party-list PR voting-system is based on votes for parties instead of individuals. Seats are awarded based on the proportion of total votes won by each party (Milner 17)2. For example, in Canada’s House of Commons there are a total of three-hundred and eight seats (Milner 18)3. With a party-list PR voting-system if Party A wins 40% of the popular vote then they would be awarded 123 seats.
Canada remains one of the only three major western countries that are still opting to use the plurality style voting-system (Gallagher 5)4. The two other countries accompanying them on that list are the United States and the United Kingdom . With the exception of two other western countries using majority voting-systems, (France and Australia), most western democracies use some form of proportional representation at the federal level (Gallagher 43)5. But, why should we change the system that has served us so faithfully for so many years? Dennis Pilon argues,
It is not merely that different voting systems count votes differently, but that different voting-system arrangements alter the incentives that voters and parties face to do certain things: to vote for one party over another, to try to appeal to one group of voters over another, and so on (Pilon 12)6.

One of the main benefits that countries which have opted for proportional representation have noticed is an undeniable increase in voter turnout. In a political democracy citizen engagement is incredibly important. In situations where a plurality voting-system has been abandoned in favour of a system utilizing proportional representation the rise in voter turnout averages 7 to 8% (Pilon 155)7. There is no reason to believe that Party-list PR would have any different effect on Canadian parliamentary democracy.
A possible reason...

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