Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Hi Wayne,

Sure you’re very busy right now what with this election lark, but thought you might be interested in what the UK Electoral Reform Society had to say about it, available here:

All the best,
Paul Davies


January 2006

The Canadian general election of 23 January 2006 failed to produce an overall majority in Parliament. The Conservatives under Stephen Harper replaced Paul Martin's Liberals as the largest single party but they will need the support of other parties in order to get legislation through parliament.

Votes (%) Seats Seats (%)
Conservative 36.3 124 40.3
Liberal 30.2 103 33.4
New Democrat 17.5 29 9.4
Bloc Québécois 10.5 51 16.6
Independent/ Other 5.5 1 0.3

Source: Elections Canada provisional results.

Turnout at this election was 64.9 per cent, up from 60.9 per cent in the previous election.

Minority government is not unusual in Canada. Despite the claims of FPTP supporters that the system produces stable government, of the 16 elections that have taken place in Canada since 1957, 8 have produced majority government (though on only 2 occasions did the party command a majority of votes) and 8 have produced parliaments with no overall majority.

The average life span of a minority government is about 18 months, and the Conservative Party's position in parliament in 2006 is weaker than any of these predecessor governments - it commands a smaller proportion of seats and has no natural allies among the minority parties. The election result, like that in 2004, may lead to a period of instability and the political parties jockeying for electoral advantage in the hope of winning a majority. The chances are that a reluctant Canadian electorate will have to go back to the polls before the end of 2007, for the third time since 2004.

British media and political discussion of the German election in September 2005 saw a great deal of unfair criticism of proportional representation in Germany - although the result reflected the wishes of the electorate and a broad based government has now been formed. Can we look forward to discussion of the chronic instability of FPTP in Canada after two indecisive elections in a row?

The national result was not particularly disproportional between the two largest parties, but the Bloc Québécois won a disproportionately large share of seats because its vote was confined to only one province, where its 42.1 per cent vote share won it 68 per cent of seats. In contrast, the New Democratic Party, which polled over a million more votes than the Bloc, won only 29 seats because its vote was more evenly distributed.

The Bloc's disproportionate success in Quebec was not the only result that distorted how votes were cast in the Canadian provinces. In Alberta the Conservatives won all 28 seats, leaving the 35 per cent who voted for other parties unrepresented; in the smaller province of Prince Edward Island the Liberals monopolised representation on 53 per cent of the vote. Tensions between the different regions are a significant problem in Canadian politics, which the distortions of First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) exacerbate. Representation of the Conservatives is skewed to the western provinces, and of Liberals to the Atlantic coast.


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