Posted on June 12, 2009Tuesday saw voters in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia choosing to end six years of minority governments and ten years of center-right Progressive Conservative administrations; instead, they made history by handing victory to the New Democratic Party (NDP). A social-democratic party, the NDP has never before formed a government east of Ontario. Despite all the excitement and speculation concerning the meaning of this dramatic result, there are some troubling signs. While unquestionably a sweeping victory for the NDP, the election featured a prominent drawback common to plurality elections; the winning party received a notably higher percentage of seats than votes:
Results (52 Seats total)
NDP: 45.26% vote, 31 seats (59.6%)
Liberals: 27.22% vote, 11 seats (21.2%)
Progressive Conservatives: 24.52% vote, 10 (19.2%)
Green: 2.33% vote, 0 seats (0%)
These figures indicate the NDP won roughly 60% of the available seats with roughly 45% of the vote. Elections in Canada, which often feature four or five major parties contesting a riding (the Canadian term for district), frequently exhibit this problem. I find the fact that this empirically 'exciting' election attracted the lowest voter turnout in the province's history suggestively disturbing. Under Canada's parliamentary system a majority government is akin to an elective dictatorship, thus the NDP will have full control of the province with this minority mandate for the next four to five years. It is little wonder that voters were unmoved, little could be done to alter a distorted outcome. Nova Scotia, with its strong three-party system, should look into a fairer election system that will not unduly favor the winner; otherwise, further distortion and apathy will result, no matter how historic the election.