Over the years, our first past the post electoral system has given us some bizarre results. In 1957 the Liberals received 40.5% of the vote, compared to the Progressive Conservatives (PCs) 38.5%, but won fewer seats and the PCs formed a minority government despite their lower results. The same thing happened again in 1979, when Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals received 40.1% of the vote while Joe Clark’s PCs took only 35.9%. However the PC.s won 136 seats to the Liberals 114 and formed a minority government.
The 1993 election was even stranger. Jean Chretien’s Liberals won a majority government with 41% of the vote and 177 seats, but the PCs lost party status and were reduced to two seats with 16% of the vote while the separatist Bloc Quebecois became the Official Opposition with only 13.5% of the vote (and 54 seats), eclipsing Preston Manning’s Reform Party, which received 18.7% of the vote and 52 seats. In fact looking back over the last 50 years of elections we find that over those 16 federal elections, more people have voted for the Conservatives/PCs and Reform candidates than for Liberal candidates, yet the Liberals have formed the government 10 times (7 majority and 3 minority), while the Conservatives/PC’s and Reform have only held power six times (three majority and three minority).
No wonder so many people feel that their vote makes no difference. No wonder so many people just don’t bother to vote. We need a system that makes every vote count.
Only once, did a winning government receive more than 50% of the popular vote (50.035% to Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives in 1984). In the last two elections, for every two votes to the winning party, three voters went to other parties. The result was that first we had four years of Conservative ideology and now we have four years of Liberal ideology even though less than four voters in 10 supported either of them.
If none of this makes sense to you, then you’re in good company because all the major parties except the Conservatives fought the last election on the promise to reform our electoral system to make it fairer. The problem is, that in our system, it’s all about getting one vote more than any other candidate. Win by a larger margin, and those extra votes count for nothing. Get one vote less than the winning candidate, and all those votes count for nothing. No wonder so many people feel that their vote makes no difference. No wonder so many people just don’t bother to vote. We need a system that makes every vote count.
Fortunately there are alternatives to our present system and the government wants to know what we think about them. The Special Committee on Electoral Reform is asking Canadians for their opinions on how we can make our system fairer and more reflective of the diversity of Canadian opinions. For more information visit the Committee’s website or complete their survey by clicking HERE.