Declaration of Voter's Rights

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Executive Meets in Craik

The Saskatchewan Chapter of Fair Vote Canada Executive met May 9th at the Eco Centre in Craik from 10:30 until 1:40.

Because of the large distances members have to travel to such meetings these events are usually held by conference call so this was the first face to face meeting the executive has been able to have for some time.

There was wide ranging discussion on several issues and a planning session helped to map out acitvities for the rest of the year.

To read the minutes of the Executive meeting please follow the link on the right hand side of the page.

UK Election Prompts Canadians to Take a Look at FPTP

In an odd way the kerfuffle over the "hung parliament" may actually cause Canadians to take a look at our own system. Minority governments are nothing new here in Canada but, they are a big deal in the UK. I good deal is being written about the stupidity of the first past the post system our governments fight do hard to hang on to.

I particularly like this letter by Geoff Rytell printed in the Toronto Star.

Thomas Walkom notes that now, because no party has earned a majority in England, there is going to be a “fierce fight over who will govern.” In the first-past-the-post electoral system, a system that Canada shares with Great Britain, it’s all about winning the seat but not so much about representing all the voters. FPTP is good for horses. But unlike horses, voters pay taxes and deserve to be equally represented in parliament. First-past-the-post fails to recognize that voters who choose to vote for someone who doesn’t take a seat are just as important as those who choose to vote for a winning candidate. British Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg wants to fix that with proportional representation so that the “who will govern” fight becomes instead an amicable sharing of governance.

Let's keep this discussion going.

Ludicrous election results in U.K. match those in Canada

But unlike Canada, Britain may move on electoral reform

Yesterday’s British parliamentary election provided yet another breath-taking example of how an antiquated winner-take-all voting system distorts election results.

With 626 of the 650 seats declared as of this posting anyway, things might shift a bit, the Conservatives won about 47% of the seats with just 36% of the votes. Labour received an equivalent windfall of undeserved seats: 40% of the seats with just 29% of the votes.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats won only 8% of the seats, despite winning about 23% of the votes. As Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said, it is “abundantly clear the electoral system is broken.”

“As ludicrous as Britain’s election results are, they are no worse than what we experience in Canada,” said Bronwen Bruch, President of Fair Vote Canada, a multi-partisan citizens’ campaign for voting system reform in Canada.

“The big difference is that Britain may well move forward on electoral reform, since both Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who together represent a majority of voters, are prepared to scrap the discredited first-past-the-post system. The Liberal Democrats are expected to demand action on proportional representation.”

Yesterday’s election in the U.K. follows the 2005 election in which Tony Blair’s Labour Party won a majority of seats with a mere 35% of the popular vote.

How bad are Canadian elections in comparison?

“In recent years we have had three provincial majority governments formed by parties that came in second place in the popular vote,” said Larry Gordon, Executive Director of Fair Vote Canada. “The current Liberal government in New Brunswick is an example – the New Brunswick Conservatives actually won more votes in the last election.”

Fair Vote Canada also pointed to these examples of electoral dysfunction in Canada:

  • In 1997, Jean Chretien’s Liberals won a majority of seats with just 39% of the votes.
  • In 1990, Bob Rae’s New Democrats won a majority in Ontario with less than 38% of the votes.
  • In the 2008 federal election, 940,000 Greens elected no one, while 813,000 Conservative voters in Alberta alone sent 27 MPs to Parliament.
“Pressure for electoral reform has been slowly building in Britain and then the MPs’ spending scandal blew the lid,” said Gordon. “Plus, Nick Clegg, the third party leader has said electoral reform is a condition for supporting a new government. A similar mix of conditions may be building in Canada – we can only hope since Canadian voter turnout is dropping as people walk away in disgust from our dysfunctional system.”

For more information contact Fair Vote Canada's Executive Director, Larry Gordon at 647-519-7585