Canada’s electoral system

Look like a slightly stronger Conservative minority government on the way.  I’m OK with that.

But I’m looking once again at the popular vote statistics and the numbers are out of whack.  I know I do this every election, but bear with me.

Currently a party wins seats in the house of commons based on the number of ridings won by its candidates, regardless of relative populations of those ridings.

So, hypothetical worst-case scenario: there are 3 ridings in Saskanada, Riding 1 has a population of 100,000; Riding 2 has a population of 10,000; and Riding 3 has a population of 5,000.  The Marc Party could form Saskanada’s government by getting 51% of the vote in Ridings 2 and 3, even if the Dixie party won 100% of the popular vote in Riding 1.  It’s more nuanced than that, I’m sure, but that’s the problem in an nutshell.

The problem is strongly evident in the division of seats between the Bloc Quebecois (which really only represents the interests of Quebec and not the nation’s and runs only in Quebec) and the Green Party (which runs nationwide).  The Bloc won (or is currently at) 10% of the popular vote.  The Green Party is very close to the Bloc with 7% of the popular vote.

BUT…because of our electoral system, the Bloc has won 50 seats in the House of Commons and the Green Party has not won a single seat .  In other words, a 3% difference in popular vote but a 5000%+ difference in number of seats won (of course, you can’t really calculate a percentage difference between 0 and 50).

This is why I’m for electoral reform.

8 thoughts on “Canada’s electoral system

  1. Dixie

    I’m sorry Marc, but there is a flaw in your hypothetical situation. Because the Dixie Party would beat the Marc Party in EVERY riding.

  2. Maryanne

    Marc, I was making the same observation last night, while I was looking at the popular vote numbers. Seriously: popular vote needs to mean something. And maybe then people would feel like their votes meant something.

  3. Jay

    I agree PV or popular representation might have an impact on voter empathy but it would likely result in the formation of dozens of parties all split down cultural, religious or other dividing lines.

    I know this is how Europe does it & it results in governments needing to form massive coalitions. I’m not sure this is a bad thing, but it seems like political promises would be even less likely to be upheld if you government, formed of your party and four others, had to continually compromise just to retain power. Seems like it wouldn’t function very well, but then, I’ve never lived there so I cannot be sure.

  4. Gavin

    Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t popular vote make a difference when it comes to party funding?

    There are laws in place that dictate that the federal parties whose candidates achieve at least 2% of the vote nationwide will receive something like $1.75 per vote tallied in the previous election every year until the next election. Also, I think public monies are made available to candidates who achieve 10% of the popular vote in their riding to cover some percentage (60%?) of their campaign costs…. Something like this anyway….

    Obviously, incumbents have an advantage as they already enjoy media coverage, etc. And big parties get a bigger piece of the pie…. But all that to say, no vote is a throw away vote. Parties do benefit from your vote and voice, even if they don’t get a seat.

    (The attached problem with this system is that your tax dollars go towards supporting parties that you do not personally support…. That sucks. You know what? Screw democracy…. We want a King!)

  5. Marc

    I believe you’re right, Gavin. In fact, I think the Green Party got some funding after a fair popular showing in the last election. I had forgotten about that—I was thinking that a party needed to win a seat to receive funding.

    Plus, the participation of the Green Party in the national debate was a step ahead (it did happen, right? It almost didn’t. We have the debate recorded, but I guess there’s no point watching it now)

  6. Scott

    As well Marc, ridings are based as much as possible on population, so you would not have riding A with 100000 and riding B with 1000 people. Granted, I still think we need an elected senate based on geography, or some other geographical representation…

  7. Marc Vandersluys

    The difference may not be that harsh (it was a hypothetical for illustrative purposes), but clearly that division by population is wildly inaccurate, judging by the difference in Bloc vs. Green seats won.

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