Ending Conservative Rule

Stephen HarperWhat if voters could permanently end conservative dominance in Canadian politics? It’s not that hard to do. All it requires is two simple steps.

First, voters will need to defeat Stephen Harper in this fall’s election. That should not be hard to do.

Harper’s Conservatives won the 2011 election with only 39.6% of the vote. By contrast, the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party of Canada each received 30.6% and 18.9% of the vote respectively.

EKOS Poll 6:15The most recent EKOS poll (conducted at the end of June 2015) shows just 27.3% intending to vote for the Conservatives this time around while 30.9% say they will vote for the NDP and 25.6% say they will vote for the Liberals. That’s more than a 2 to 1 advantage for the combined NDP/Liberal forces over the Conservatives.

Last week 308.com reported a further slide for the Conservative Party with it receiving 28.4% of the popular vote compared to 32.1% for the NDP and 27.3% for the Liberals.

308 ProjectionThe projection of parliamentary seats to be won by each party is the most interesting feature of this poll. It shows (even on the high end of the projection) no party having any chance of winning a clear majority; instead, a minority government is virtually assured. Low, high, and median projections all show the NDP winning the most seats, followed by the Conservatives and the Liberals.

The most likely outcome to this fall’s election: An NDP-Liberal coalition government with the Conservatives sitting in opposition.

First step accomplished

Next the coalition government will need to introduce legislation to revise the Canada Elections Act to change from the present “first-part the post” system (in which each candidate with the most votes receives a seat in parliament) to one of proportional representation.

With proportional representation, registered parties that receive a minimum threshold of votes nationally (say 3 or 5%) would receive an allotment of parliamentary seats proportional to the percentage that party received in the popular vote. Following recent voting trends, the Conservative Party would be relegated to minority status in all future elections until some time in the indefinite future when it can improve its appeal to the majority of voters in Canada. We should note that this has happened only once in the last 50 years – when Brian Mulroney’s Conservatives won 50.03% of the vote in 1984.

Election by proportional representation is not a far-fetched idea. As Jeffrey Simpson reported earlier this year in the Globe and Mail,

Throughout Western Europe, proportional representation systems predominate.

The electoral systems in Germany and New Zealand provide ready, proven models for Canada to use.

A system of proportional representation makes the exercise of government more democratic and responsible. In encouraging consensus it leads to reduced partisanship. In relying on negotiation rather than confrontation it leads to greater cooperation among elected representatives.

Attempts to introduce proportional representation elections have recently been attempted in British Columbia and Ontario. Both New Brunswick and Québec have established commissions recommending proportional representation in those provinces.

A poll conducted by Environics in 2013 showed that a majority of Canadians (70 per cent) support moving toward some form of proportional representation.

More importantly, both the NDP and the Liberals have officially endorsed this concept.

Making It Happen

Thomas MulcairIn January of this year NDP leader Thomas Mulcair promised he would enact proportional representation if his party forms the next government. The NDP even has an on-line petition for people to sign calling

on Parliament to adopt a proportional representation voting system so that the House of Commons better reflects the diversity and political preferences of all Canadians.

Justin TrudeauSomewhat more cautiously, the Liberal Party under Justin Trudeau has also passed a resolution (”Restoring Trust in Canada’s Democracy”) pledging that

immediately after the next election, an all-Party process be instituted, involving expert assistance and citizen participation, to report to Parliament within 12 months with recommendations for electoral reforms including, without limitation, a preferential ballot and/or a form of proportional representation, to represent Canadians more fairly and serve Canada better.

The Bloc Québécois and the Green Party have also endorsed the principle of proportional representation. Only the Conservative Party has officially voted against it.

Proportional representation is coming to Canada. And when it does, the conservatives will no longer exert absolute control over parliament.

Fair Vote Canada-8You can add your voice to the campaign for a fairer system of parliamentary representation by signing the Fair Vote Canada petition found here.

Photo credits: Andrew Burton / Reuters; Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press; Ashton Patis

About politspectator
Edward Clayton grew up in the US but has lived in Canada for the last 4 decades. He is a long time peace activist and committed to issues of social justice and good government. He reports on Canadian, American, and global politics from a Canadian perspective.

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