Welcome to Voting Reform Canada!


Voting Reform Canada is a wiki for those who think our electoral system should represent us better.


Wait! What's wrong with our voting system in Canada?

Well... Where to start...?

Let’s focus on federal elections, although the same could certainly be said of provincial elections.

Spoiling my ballot…

I have one ballot. When I stand in the voting booth, pencil poised above paper, I find myself paralysed. Why? The reason is similar to the paralysis of a goat tethered between two equally enticing bales of hay. The animal starves to death because it cannot decide which bale to eat. Voting is like that. I really like the local candidate for Party A. I want to vote for this person, but I cannot stand the leader (and perhaps the policies) of the party s/he belongs to. I really like the leader (or policies) or Party B, but I cannot stand the local candidate for that party. I cannot decide. Voting either way sends a confusing message. My interests and wishes as a voter are simultaneously confirmed and denied by my vote. Whichever wins, I both win and lose at the same time. So I scribble over my ballot and leave the booth.

Bewildered and baffled…

I suppose I could have voted for a smaller party that has no chance of winning, but the message I would be sending encounters the same problem. Am I endorsing the local candidate, the party leader, or the party platform? If I am happy with all three then at least my message will not be confused. This is a course of action I’m personally comfortable taking, but many people are not. If there is no chance the local candidate can win, many people see this as a wasted vote.

The majority of ballots are wasted anyway…

Of course, many ridings are considered “safe” in that only one person has a real chance of winning. In these situations, the majority of the people in the riding may as well not even bother to show up to vote if they care about their ballot actually having any genuine weight.

For example:

Party A’s local candidate is projected to get (and gets) 45% of the vote.
Party B gets 20% of the vote.
Party C gets 15% of the vote.
Party D gets 10% of the vote.
Party E gets 10% of the vote.

Although usually it’s much worse…

What often happens, although perhaps not quite as starkly, is that we are represented by someone who enjoys far less than the minority level of support shown above.

For example:

Party A’s local candidate is projected to get (and gets) 24% of the vote.
Party B’s gets 22% of the vote.
Party C’s gets 23% of the vote.
Party D’s gets21% of the vote.
Party E’s gets 10% of the vote.

This means that I am going to be represented by someone who earned the support of less than a quarter of the voters in my riding, and that’s a best case scenario. Realistically, around 40% of eligible voters will not even show up to vote, so that 24% is actually closer to 12%. So, the person who will represent me for the next four years* in the House of Commons has only around one person in nine supporting him or her. And we call this a democratic system?

(*Maybe not so often nowadays. The one argument that people thought was strongly in favour of our current system was that it produced stable governments. Obviously it does not, but it’s also not structured to make working together easy. Are there options? Yes. Why then are we sticking with a system designed for the days of horseback (on which one might cross the Riding in a day)? Good question. Better question… If you were the party in power, and hence with the power to change the system, would you do so when the system is what got you into power in the first place?)

But what’s a couple of million people more or less?

What about Party E, with only 10% of the vote? Now using the logic above we can call this 5%, since half of the country doesn’t bother to vote (admittedly we don’t know why, and it’s possible that that 40% would run out and vote for Party A if they were the voting type, although it strikes me as more likely that they would vote for Party E and are not voting because they think voting for Party E is just wasting their ballot since there’s no chance Party E will get in). Perhaps this doesn’t seem like very much. It’s only 5% after all. In a country of 30 million people that’s only 1.5 million people, so it’s only as if Edmonton, or Calgary, or Ottawa, or a good portion of Vancouver or Toronto or Montreal had no representation. Oh, wait, maybe that’s quite a lot… Except that those people are spread out thinly across the country, unlike the people in the cities, so their views shouldn’t count, right? After all, we’re really only a collection of city states, not a country, right?

Well…

Personally, if my views are going to remain unrepresented by our electoral system, I would at least like to do away with the pretence and hypocrisy of calling ourselves a democracy. We’re not a dictatorship, and there’s due process and rule of law, but to say we live in a representative system is to interpret the word “representative” so loosely that it’s virtually unrecognisable.

So, what kind of system do we have, and what are the alternatives?
Please see the links on the left…



Why this Wiki?

Specifically, this wiki seeks to compile information and build ideas to answer questions in two main areas:

1. The Reform Process: How should electoral change happen? If we are going to change our federal (or provincial) electoral system, what would be the best way to go about this?

2. The Electoral System: What types of electoral system are there? Which one would best suit the needs of Canadians (or the members of a given province)?


Additionally...

1. To provide information on possible voting systems from a Canadian perspective.

2. To provide a forum for Canadians to register their agreement with or opposition to these various voting systems.

(3. Eventually, when there is sufficient content, to provide survey tools for participants to rank their preferences for the various systems.)



And finally...


To begin exploring the idea of starting a political party oriented to changing the system into one that can actually reasonably claim to represent Canadians generally, rather than just the 25% or so who voted for whichever party gained power this time around.



Why not Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, which strives to present factual information. While Voting Reform Canada aims to provide a factual grounding on which discussions can be based, the main purpose of this site is to provide a place where various opinions can be aired. In short, it aims to be a repository of communally created arguments, rather than communally explicated facts.



Please participate!

If you have an idea for how electoral systems might be improved, knowledge of a particular type of voting system, or cogent arguments for the status quo, come on in and help make this a useful resource for discussions about if or how our electoral systems might be changed in the interests of a more vital and engaging Canadian democracy.


To contribute your thoughts, click on "Join this Wiki" in the left margin.