Canada’s electoral system of single-member parliamentary districts that are won with a simple plurality of votes has repeatedly failed Canadian voters, denying them fair representation at the federal level.
In 2019, the Liberal party won 33.12% of the vote and received 46% of parliamentary seats, while the Conservative party won 34.34% of the vote and received only 36% of seats. In this case, the electoral system allowed for the party with less votes to receive more seats in parliament.
In 2015, the Liberal party won just 39.47% of the vote yet managed to take a majority of seats. Plurality voting in single-member districts is largely at fault for creating a system where a governmental majority can be handed to a party that received less than 40% of the popular vote. And this was not a one-off election; between 1900 and 2004, only 10 of Canada’s 21 majority governments received over 50% of the popular vote, according to a study done at the University of Windsor.
The system also disadvantages third parties. In the 2004 elections, the Green Party won about 4% of the vote but received no seats in parliament, whereas major parties like the Liberals received a higher percentage of seats than their percentage of the popular vote.
Because only one candidate can win in each district, many voters feel pressured to vote strategically rather than voting their conscience. In fact, more than one third of Canadians reported voting strategically in the 2019 election, according to a poll for the Canadian Press.
Whether it is parties winning a majority of seats with a minority of the votes, a party with more votes than another receiving a lower share of the seats, or third parties losing out on representation, it is clear that Canadian voters are not being fairly represented. Canada deserves a proportional election system to fix these problems, much like the Fair Representation Act (FRA) that FairVote is advocating for in the United States.
A solution like the FRA would result in larger parliamentary districts that elect representatives of multiple parties in proportion to their level of support. The results of elections with proportional representation in multi-member districts would accurately reflect the left, right, and center within each district, making the skewed outcomes of the current system a thing of the past.
To contribute to the movement for fair representation in Canada, learn more about the work being done at FairVote Canada and get involved today!