Monday, February 13, 2006

Proportional voting provides better voice

editorial from the York Region Era Banner - Newmarket,Ontario,Canada

Jan 19, 2006

Name a local priority on which you would concentrate if you are sent to Ottawa Jan. 23, a voter asked hopefuls in Thornhill during an all-candidates meeting last week.

It wasn't as much a question as a plea that came after 90 minutes of candidates regurgitating party lines, interspersed with shots at opponents and their leaders.

Let's face it, with few exceptions, most voters cast their ballots for a party or its leader. Local candidates are most often viewed as the embodiment of national party policy.

There's nothing wrong with casting your ballot for the party, rather than the candidate.

The problem is with our electoral system.

And despite a grassroots campaign that appears to be gaining momentum, no one is rushing to fix it.

The solution is proportional representation.

Politicians always seem to support the concept in principle but, like Senate reform, no one ever seems to act on it.

In a nutshell, parties win seats in legislature in proportion to their share of the votes cast. A party that receives 25 per cent of the national vote should occupy 25 per cent of the seats in Parliament.

It's a proven system that has been in use in European nations and others around the globe since the beginning of the last century. New Zealand switched to mixed member proportional representation in 1993.

The idea is being promoted by groups across Canada, including Fair Vote Canada, a multi-partisan citizens' campaign for voting system reform.

The organization makes a good case, referring to June 2004 federal election in which more than 500,000 votes were cast for Green Party candidates across the country yet not one was elected. Meanwhile, fewer Liberal voters in Atlantic Canada alone elected 22 MPs.

Also during the last election:

· The Liberals garnered just 7 per cent more of the popular vote than the Conservatives -- 36.7 per cent versus 29.6 per cent -- but ended up with 35 per cent more seats in the House.

· Even though the NDP recorded more of the popular vote than the Bloc QuÈbÈcois, they won just 19 seats versus the Bloc's 54.

It's similar to what prompted the move toward change in New Zealand: back-to-back elections in which the National Party retained power by winning more seats in Parliament despite the opposition Labour Party earning more votes across the nation.

Backed by a committee of prominent Canadians, including former Ontario Lieutenant Governor Lincoln Alexander and York Region Newspaper Group columnist David Suzuki, Fair Vote Canada last week called on our next government to initiate a public consultation process on government reform and hold a referendum, allowing Canadians to decide on the best voting system.

"It's time to stop dodging the issue," said Wayne Smith, president of Fair Vote Canada. "The 60 per cent of the electorate who still vote are about to go to the polls again. We will try to elect a representative Parliament and we will fail because the voting system will distort what we say."

If we're voting along party lines anyway, let's adopt a purer system that better reflects what voters really want.

Proportional representation would lead to a House of Commons that's more in line with the way Canadians vote than does our current first-past-the-post system.

It would also drive up voter turnout, experts say, as it means a vote for a party other than the big three would no longer be considered a protest vote. It would count as much as one cast for the Conservative, Liberal or NDP would.

We choose the way we are governed. It's time we chose a better way to elect those who represent us.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The body unpolitic

The Globe and Mail, January 27, 2006


From my leftish viewpoint, I'd say this new Parliament presents a great opportunity --and I don't t just mean the opportunity to avoid disaster.

When Paul Martin began whanging that guitar on Sunday night before the election, I couldn't imagine anyone voting for him or his party next day. He had the manic look in his eye of Richard Reed, the shoe bomber: 'Look, I'm blowing myself up, and everyone around me, too.' It isn't over till the jittery guy strums, and this was over. Yet voters saw past it and other distractions. They delivered what seemed like a unified message from a single mind: You- go sit in the corner. You-you're in charge, but only by default. The rest of you - act nice.

People keep talking about the eerily co-ordinated quality of the result, as if voters found away to act as appendages of the same body. Hmm, the body politic. Environics pollster Michael Adams sort of takes credit for it on behalf of his profession, saying pollsters provided ongoing feedback by which people could adjust their votes. Polls as a self-non-fulfilling prophecy. I'm dubious, but it's charming how everyone finds a way to make themselves the hero of the movie.

And in democratic terms, it wasn't nearly as bad as most elections. The Conservatives, with 36 per cent of the votes, got "only" 40 per cent of seats. The Liberals, with 30 per cent of votes, got 33 per cent of seats. The NDP, with 17 per cent of the vote, got 9 per cent of seats (better than last time, when they got 6 per cent of seats for 16 per cent of votes). And the Bloc Québécois, happily, got 16 per cent of seats for just 10 percent of votes. The Greens, with 4.5 per cent of the vote, got, um, well, too bad.

But it could have been worse. If the Tories gleaned just 2 per cent, more of the vote, reaching 38 per cent, they might have won the "solid majority" of seats with which Chrétien Liberals were rewarded in 1997. Have you noticed how majority has been defined down to 38 per cent from the fusty old mark of 50-per-cent-plus-one? When did that happen? These kinds of stats have been available for the entire history of our estimable, British-based electoral system, described by Churchill and innumerable others quoting him, as "the worst form of government except all those other forms. . ." Yet, they were rarely cited in election reporting in the past, as if it was unseemly, like mentioning child poverty too loudly or spitting in the punchbowl. Now, at least it's acceptable.

But hopeful? Opportunities? I'm saying this Parliament has more potential for creative, democratic compromise than all those sclerotic bodies that had a majority elected by a minority that then got to do all the damage it wanted, unimpeded, for four or five years. Normally you don't even talk about the potential of a Parliament. Everyone focuses on the government. That changes when there is a fractured, minority situation.

Take democratic reform itself. The Harper conservatives, i.e. the old Reform Party, put democratic change on the national agenda long before other parties. But they were not keen on proportional representation (PR), where the number of reps actually jibes with votes cast. That's because they were from the West, which "wanted in." PR might have meant even less power, in terms of members elected, than they had. So they demanded Senate reform instead, to give more power to less-populous provinces like Alberta. But now they're morphing into a national party, and PR may seem less of a threat. (I grant a wishful quality is seeping in here.) Now, what if other parties take the lead on PR? Could Stephen Harper and his government buy in? Especially if they proposed and got in return, Senate reform to solidify the role of the regions and provinces?

Or take a national child-care program, in my view the biggest loss in the Liberal downfall. What if the losing parties, who all favour it, impose it? They have the votes to do so. But rather than let his government fall on the matter, what if Mr. Harper agreed to it, on condition that his own child-care subsidy, or tax benefit, be enacted, too - the one (beer and popcorn) meant to help people who want to keep their young kids at home?

I agree that this Parliament is rife with possibility. Remember, this is not the outcome we expected, lo, those many weeks ago when the election was called.

Where are the deals to be made? Since the situation is unimaginable, we may as well think the unthinkable.

The opposition has the power to outvote the government, or even to take it over. But to do it, they must cooperate. Darn.

Only the Liberals hold the balance of power with the government. But the NDP and the Bloc Québécois may be better off than they seem.

True, the NDP and the Liberals together don't make it.

The Liberals and the Bloc, together with the Independent, hold a bare majority of seats, but that's a hard deal to make and harder to keep together.

The Bloc and the NDP are a much better match. They are both Social Democratic parties, and they agree on most things, including daycare and healthcare.

The NDP and the Bloc together could deal with either the Liberals or Harper. They might even be able to play them off against each other.

Duceppe is well respected in English Canada. He is an old hand, and always performs well in the leaders' debates. Although resolute in promoting his party's line, he seems neither agressive nor unreasonable.

The problem, of course is that the Bloc have this foible - they want to take apart the country. That makes them coalition poison, and they themselves have never been interested in coalition. Greasing the wheels of confederation is not what they are there for.

At least that's what they claim. Their bottom line is they "will do what's in the best interests of Quebeckers." That's as admirable as it is vague.

We would have to agree to disagree about all that for a while, so no change on the unity front.

Looking ahead, the Bloc may decide it's a good time to deal, and may want to hedge their bets. When your polls are trending down, proportional representation starts to look mighty fine.

The game's afoot.

The prize is democracy.


P.S. We can love the Senate because it is harmless, like the Queen. A slightly elected Senate could start taking itself way too seriously and become a democratic nightmare.

Changing the Senate means changing the Constitution, or you're cheating. If Harper is going to open up that bag of bees, it will have to be done right, with a complete restructuring and re-imagining of the Upper House - by the people of Canada.

A proportionally elected Senate would be lovely, but no substitute for a fair voting system in the House of Commons. That's where the government is.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

More PR in the local press

Editorial in Northumberland Today (Cobourg and Port Hope):

Majority rules? Not in Canada - pity

"In Canada, under our present electoral system, each citizen does not have an equal say in federal and provincial elections.

The web site for Fair Vote Canada offers food for thought: "In the (2004) federal election, more than a half-million Green Party voters across the country elected no one. Meanwhile, fewer than a half-million Liberal voters in Atlantic Canada alone elected 22 MPs. Saskatchewan voters elected 13 Conservative MPs and Quebec elected none, even though almost twice as many voted Conservative in Quebec.

“In the Prairie Provinces, Liberals cast half as many votes as Conservatives, but elected only one-seventh as many MPs."

This proves that every party suffers from the skewing effect of the "first past the post" system we now have.

Canada is one of only three leading democratic nations that still uses this antiquated means of electing "representatives." The others are the U.S. and Britain.

Proportional representation is not representation by population. In a country where huge sections largely because of their inhospitable weather patterns are sparsely inhabited, that would not work, since even more power would be vested in large cities at the expense of those who live in rural or remote parts of the country.

It’s not clear at this time just how the politics of proportional representation would work at the constituency level, but it would be wonderful if our newly elected federal government would set up a committee to study this system so that Canadians could feel that every vote counts and that the government they elect truly reflects the opinions and priorities of the electorate.

column in the Sherwood Park News (Alberta)

Between the Lines - Dave S. Clark
Was the Christmas election really that bad?

Wednesday January 25, 2006

Sherwood Park News — If you have been paying attention to the election this year, you have probably heard a lot about proportional representation, as both the Green Party and the NDP have made numerous mentions of it.

But with all the talk of it, I haven’t seen or heard too many explanations of how the system actually works.

When we elect one candidate from each riding all the votes for every other candidates are basically useless. They don’t count towards anything. Popular votes are used as statistics by the media as a gauge for how much support each party has gained or lost, but that’s about it.

Under a proportional representation system, a voter chooses the party rather than a candidate. There are several different versions of this system, but one also has the voter select candidates from a list in priority of who they would like to see in office.

[Every proportional system proposed for Canada allows voters to vote for individual local candidates. - Wayne]

The number of seats each party receives is based directly on the number of votes the entire public gives them.

For example, in Alberta, we are now represented completely by Conservative MPs. There were many people in the province that voted Liberal, NDP and Green, yet those parties were awarded no seats.

Under PR, each of those parties would have a number of MPs elected from Alberta.

A possible downside is fringe parties may be able to sneak in a seat or two with enough support. It may not be a bad thing, but who knows what parties would come out of the woodwork if they knew there was a chance at winning a seat or two.

Many European democratic countries already have a system like this in place.

If you want more information on how it all works, visit and read up on it.

letter to the editor of the Brockville Recorder & Times

Dear Editor:

Elections, at all three levels, frustrate me to no end, and Monday’s federal election was no different. Your editorial, "Canada Needs a Conservative government", R&T Jan.20/06 didn’t help much to make me feel any better about voting on election day. Your main reason for supporting the Conservatives is "Our democracy needs renewal" or "change is needed in Ottawa". At the same time, you state, "Patronage and pork-barreling are messy, but they will always be part of political life". Does this mean that the Conservatives will be no different than the Liberals in the future? You give credit to Steve Armstrong, and David Lee for having "run spirited campaigns" and "running for a party that has no chance of winning". Does this mean that the 7,945 NDP voters and 3,008 Green voters in Leeds and Grenville supported losers and might as well have stayed home?

All parties, during the campaign, had platforms on democratic reform, which includes electoral reform, which was rarely mentioned by the two main parties. Why would they? The current system works for the large parties, but it doesn’t work for most voters. Gordon Gibson writes "We need a system that encourages people to vote for the candidates they love, instead of against the candidates they hate. But the current system tends to produce majorities, and winning politicians love that because majorities deliver absolute power." G&M Jan.24/06.

Our present system, first-past-the-post, worked for Canada in the past, but we are an entirely different country today, made up of many different regions, highly educated, a very diverse people, etc., who would like to have their ideas debated in Parliament. Is this asking too much? Is it too much to ask to have my vote count? With some sort of proportional representation in this last election, the Conservatives would have had 113 seats, not 124, the Liberals 93 seats, not 103, the NDP 59 seats, not 29, the Bloc 31, not 51, and the Greens 12, not 0. Most countries use systems that have a degree of proportionality, so why not Canada? Harper and the Conservatives have 36.3% of the popular vote, and that does not give them a mandate to forge ahead with their program. It’s high time that Canada as a country moves towards electoral reforms. I just hope that our MP, Gord Brown, who is also a member of Fair Vote Canada like yours truly, will promote democratic reform in parliament.

Bill Borger
Charleston Lake

article from the Clinton News-Record (Ontario)

"Wow. Pretty close."
Liberal candidate is re-elected in a squeaker

Mark Nonkes, Cheryl Heath, Susan Hundertmark
Wednesday January 25, 2006

Saying the NDP were victims of a “reverse strategic vote” because “a lot of people wanted to teach the Liberals a lesson,” Huron-Bruce NDP candidate Grant Robertson urged party faithful to build membership for the next federal election.

“We increased our raw vote and we increased our percentage vote. There are a lot of people -- thousands in Huron-Bruce -- who want us to speak for them,” he said.

While a close race between the Liberals and Conservatives flip-flopped the lead back and forth until past midnight in Huron-Bruce, Robertson trailed but he saw a four per cent increase in riding support.

“We were all expecting a little bit better tonight. The results are no where reflective of the campaign,” he said.

Robertson said he thought electoral reform to proportional representation would “see a lot more people who can vote for the NDP securely.”

“The main vote was a vote for change and to express disapproval for the Liberals. I saw a great deal of anger in the farm community,” he said.

With a minority Conservative government elected, Robertson predicted an election “sooner than later.”

Read the whole article

column in

Current electoral system isn't fair
Proportional representation would have every vote count

by Danielle Milley
Jan 26, 2006

An election was called, candidates ran, Canadians voted, but did all the votes count?

With every election comes the inevitable discussion about proportional representation (PR). And for good reason too - our current first-past-the-post system simply isn't fair. Parties receive majorities without the majority of the popular vote and the Green Party gets four per cent of the vote and receives no seats.

Based on the popular vote cast Monday, the Conservatives should have 112 seats (not 124) and the Liberals 93 (not 102). These results don't really scream unfair, but those of the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP do.

The Bloc now has 51 seats, when its 10.5 per cent of the popular vote would equal 32 seats. It's worse for the NDP, which has just 29 seats despite 17.5 per cent of the vote working out to 54 members.

The problem with changing to some form of PR nationally is that it would actually hurt the two parties that have formed governments (the Conservatives and Liberals), so neither party is likely to make it part of its mandate. This is why the people of Pickering, Durham and Canada need to get involved and lobby their elected officials to make this an important issue.

Some provinces, including Ontario, are starting to look at electoral reform, including proportional representation.

Under proportional representation (and there are different kinds) our elected bodies would more accurately represent the will of Canadians. Many other western nations have recently changed to some form of PR, including Scotland and New Zealand.

Proponents of PR also argue it could help increase the number of women and minorities elected, which can only benefit our democracy. It might also help to increase voter turnout.

In looking over election statistics leading up to the big day, the province where the national results seemed the most skewed was Saskatchewan. After Monday's vote the Conservatives now have 12 seats and the Liberals two. However the Conservatives received only 48.9 per cent of the popular vote and the Liberals received 22.4 per cent. The 24 per cent for the NDP garnered no seats.

Before Canadians head to the polls again, there needs to be a serious discussion about electoral reform in this country. It seems the only fair thing to do.

Danielle Milley's column appears every third Friday. E-mail

article from Community Press Online (Ontario)

Belleville - Joseph Sahadat announces project following through

Joseph Sahadat, The Green Party of Canada candidate in the Prince Edward-Hastings Riding, celebrated the election results at The Boathouse Restaurant in Belleville.


Monday night, January 23, as Canadians’ decisions unfolded, Joseph announced that the Green Party for the Prince Edward-Hastings riding will continue to promote, and even pressure our MP, Daryl Kramp, to follow through with policies announced during the election that the Green Party supports. Ideas and programs in the Green Party platform that were virtually ignored by the other parties will be continuously presented, and hopefully, discussed.

"We want to announce our 'in between election platform'; Following Through.


To the winner specifically, Joseph said, "We will continue to pursue proportional representation, so expect to hear from us on that issue as well."

Read the whole article

column in the Georgia Straight (Vancouver)

Pro rep coming?
By Matthew Burrows
Publish Date: 26-Jan-2006

Electoral-reform advocate Julian West says he believes “there is an appetite for changing the system”.

“This is the first time since 1988 that a Conservative government has been elected,” West, a member of the national council of Fair Vote Canada, told the Straight. “There’s a lot at stake for them. To stabilize that [minority government], they’re going to want to do something both the Conservatives and the NDP can agree on. Electoral reform is the most obvious thing. They can’t attempt to agree on anything to do with the financial side of things. So, basically, democratic reform of some description is on the table now, because it’s a way for the Conservatives to extend an olive branch to the NDP.”

According to a January 24 news release, Fair Vote Canada highlights several “victims” of the latest federal election. The Conservative party swept Alberta, yet 500,000 Albertans cast their votes elsewhere and “elected no one”, according to Fair Vote president Wayne Smith. In Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, no Conservative MPs were elected despite 400,000 voters voting for them in those centres.

A resurgent NDP attracted one million more votes than the Bloc Québécois, but the voting system gave the Bloc 51 seats and the NDP 29, even though almost 18 percent of Canadians voted NDP. In another anomaly, more than 650,000 Green party voters across the country elected no one, whereas 475,000 Liberal voters in Atlantic Canada elected 20 MPs.

Kennedy Stewart, an SFU political-science instructor and a former NDP candidate, told the Straight that “the current electoral system highlights and enhances separatism” and left many voters who contributed to the popular vote of smaller parties “unrewarded”.

“There is a Balkanization of Parliament,” Stewart said.

He added that the Greens should have 12 seats but have none and are shut out as they were in June 2004. They get $1.75 per vote through Canada’s publicly financed electoral-funding system, but Stewart said “that doesn’t mean much with no voice in Parliament.”

Reelected Vancouver Quadra Liberal MP Stephen Owen told the Straight he finds the current electoral system “bizarre”.

“I’m an advocate of electoral reform,” Owen said. “The parliamentary committee was ready to consider it, but then we had this unnecessary election. But I will be in a position to advocate strongly for this, especially given the fact there are seven jurisdictions in Canada now considering some kind of electoral reform.”

Both West and Stewart believe a federal system could be implemented by a simple act of Parliament, as long as the number of seats each province is allocated is not altered.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Why would a Conservative support proportional representation?

Sure, the NDP and the Green party get screwed under first-past-the-post. Who cares? Why would a Conservative party, or the Liberal party for that matter, support a proportional voting system?

Canada held seven general elections between 1980 and 2004. The results were two majority Progressive Conservative governments (including the 'landslide' of 1984 in which Brian Mulroney's party received a bare majority of the popular vote, the only modern-era government to do so), four majority Liberal governments under Trudeau and Chrétien, and the Liberal minority government of Paul Martin.

Let's take a look at the numbers.

'Wasted votes' here means votes for candidates who were not elected. (The concept could be expanded to include surplus votes for candidates who were elected.)

The percentages are indeed horrendous for the NDP. Almost four out of five NDP votes went down the drain. The contrast between the nationally-dispersed NDP and the regionally-concentrated Bloc is striking. The Bloc has elected more MPs than the NDP, with fewer than half the votes.

The Green Party is in a transition state. Although they have emerged from 'fringe party' status, they have not yet elected anyone. Their wasted vote total will go up by about 650,000 with the results from the 2006 election.

But what is immediately clear from this chart is that most wasted votes are cast for the major parties, and the largest group of unrepresented voters are conservative party supporters.

Interestingly, conservative parties received more votes than the Liberals during this period, but lost five elections to two. This had something to do with the fracture of the right into PC and Reform elements, but mostly had to do with the greater efficiency of the Liberal vote in producing seats, and also with regional ghettoization of the parties caused by the voting system.

Let's look at that more closely. Here is the regional breakdown for Ontario.

Here we see why the Liberals are the 'natural governing party'. They captured almost all the seats in Canada's largest regional block, with half the votes. Millions of conservative voters were robbed of representation, while the news analysts explained patiently how the Reform Party and Canadian Alliance just couldn’t get any support in Ontario.

Although small parties are devastated by our winner-take-all voting system, we can see that major party voters are also ripped off, and conservative voters are the largest group of victims.

Looking at these charts, another striking point is that even the Liberals and Bloc Québécois, who were strongly over-represented in Parliament, still had significant numbers of wasted votes.

This brings up a central point. Proportional representation and fair voting reform are not about what is good or bad for any political party. They are about what is good for voters. Each of the 40,000,000 wasted votes listed above means a voter who was 'represented' in Parliament by someone they voted against.

Under proportional representation, almost every vote cast actually helps to elect someone. So, the real answer to the question, "Why support proportional representation?", is, "Because it's the right thing to do for Canadian voters."

Wayne Smith, President
Fair Vote Canada

The separatist curve ball - Walrus, February 2006

To the editors of The Walrus;

Joan Bryden correctly points out that it is the voting system, not the voters, that gave the Bloc Québécois its "formidable presence" as a spoiler in Canadian politics. According to the votes cast by Quebeckers, the Bloc should have 32 seats, not 51, in the new Parliament. Stephen Harper is delighted to have 10 seats in Québec, but he would have 18 if every vote counted. Federalist voters in Québec were also robbed of three Liberal MPs, six New Democrats, and three Greens by our obsolete, first-past-the-post voting system.

But Bryden falls off the rails when she suggests that proportional representation would not be good for stability because it produces "minority governments in perpetuity". Leaving aside the fact that Canada has done very well under minority governments, achieving Medicare, the Canada Pension Plan and our new flag, for example, during the minority-rule days of Lester Pearson, a quick glance at the 80 or so modern industrial democracies around the world that have been using proportional voting systems for most of the last century, including all the best-run countries in the world, countries such as Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Holland, will reveal that they invariably have effective, stable, coalition governments that represent a true majority of the voters.

This can be seen clearly in the case of New Zealand, which changed a decade ago from a system like ours to the type of mixed member proportional system developed in Germany after WWII. They were prompted to make the change after two elections in a row where the party with the most votes lost the election, not an uncommon occurrence under first-past-the-post. Under proportional representation, New Zealand immediately went to coalition government. They also started electing more women, more Maori people, and more minorities of all sorts, so that their Parliament now much better represents the diversity of their society. This is a not-inconsiderable side benefit of proportional representation, and one that is peculiarly relevant to Canada.

Minority government as we know it is not a feature of proportional representation, but a product of our current, winner-take-all voting system, as are distorted regionalism and phony-majority, single-party monopoly governments that breed arrogance and corruption. Our antiquated voting system still serves the interests of some politicians, but it no longer serves the interests of Canada and Canadians, and it must go. Modern, fair, proportional voting is coming to Canada, because Canadian voters are beginning to demand it.

Wayne Smith, President
Fair Vote Canada

Thursday, January 26, 2006

look at the maps

The only way I've found so far to see the Conservatives' remarkable urban problem is to look at the maps:

Go to Ontario - Toronto. The only Conservative seats in the GTA are on its fringes. A solid red block. Remarkable.

Go to Quebec - Montreal. Not one Conservative. Zoom out. Still none, except eastern Ontario. Zoom out again. Not a one between Pontiac and Mégantic--L'Érable. Truly remarkable.

The Vancouver map, however, shows no problem.

Wilfred A. Day

some numbers

'just ran a script on the preliminary data (tab-delimited file) available
from Elections Canada... 'thought you'd be interested:

Total number of votes: 14,811,325
Votes that elected an M.P: 7,226,709 (48.79%)
Votes that didn't elect anyone: 7,584,616 (51.21%)

Also posted more info to my own Blog:
Keep up the good work.


Tories win in “unfair” election

Monday Magazine
26 Jan-1 Feb 2006
Victoria, BC

The non-partisan group Fair Vote Canada points out that a million more Canadians voted for the New Democratic Party than voted for the Bloc Quebecois. But under our first-past-the-post system, the NDP only wins 29 seats, compared to the Bloc’s 51. And voters for the Green Party, which got over 650,000 votes, will continue to be unrepresented in the Parliament.

Seats 2006

If we had voted under a different electoral system that better reflects the popular vote – such as a Single Transferable Vote or a Mixed Member Proportional system – Stephen Harper would still be the country’s new prime minister, but his Conservative party would hold significantly fewer seats. The NDP would pick up another 30 seats, giving them the balance of power, and the Bloc would have 20 fewer. And the house would have 12 Greens.

Of course, under a different system, there would be less incentive to vote strategically and the outcome might be even more different.

“We’re not getting the Parliament we vote for,” say Wendy Bergerud, an alumnus of B. C.’s citizen’s [sic] assembly, the group that recommended adopting the STV for provincial election, and a member of the Victoria chapter of Fair Vote Canada. “I think there’s a real danger if we continue with our current system because it encourages regionalism. I think it encourages our country to break up.”

A proportional system would likely result in more parties entering politics and more minority governments, she says. Minority governments are sometimes seen as unstable in the short run, she says, but they make it harder to make radical changes, which will give the country more long-term stability.

“Stephen Harper’s no dummy,” says Wayne Smith, the president of Fair Vote Canada. “He knows the system’s unfair.” It may not, however, be in Harper’s interest (or the interest of anyone else who has a shot at forming a majority government with fewer than 50 percent of the votes) to change the system.

NDP Leader Jack Layton said before the election his party won’t support another party in the Parliament unless they back reforming the electoral system. Without the balance of power, however, he won’t be in a position to set that condition. “He’s not in as strong a position as he ought to be,” says Smith.

Despite the setback, he adds, the system is ripe for change and it will happen eventually. “We’ll get a [better] voting system when people demand it,” he says. “In the long run we’re extremely optimistic. We think this is something whose time has come.”

Wayne replies.


Thank you for your article on the problems with our obsolete voting system, and for mentioning the work of Fair Vote Canada.

As you correctly point out, the NDP and Green party got shafted again as usual in this election. Lest your readers think that proportional representation is all about helping small parties, though, let me hasten to add that winner-take-all voting is bad for every party, and bad for our country.

The Conservatives took every seat in Alberta this time with 65% of the votes, so 500,000 mostly Liberal voters in Alberta got nothing for their vote. Another half-million Conservative voters elected no one at all in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. There will be no one from these cities in the government caucus, let alone the cabinet. A new deal for cities, indeed!

But electoral reform isn't about what's good for political parties. It's about what's good for voters. Under the current system, most of us vote for people who don't get elected, so we end up with a government that most of us didn't vote for.

Thanks for spreading the word that a better way is possible, and the time for change has come!

Wayne Smith, President
Fair Vote Canada

What if Canada had a different way of electing MPs?

By Robert Sheppard, Reality Check Team | January 24, 2006 | More Reality Check

Take one look at the new electoral map and you realize right away that it is not only jarringly colour-coded but also politically misleading.

Great swaths of NDP orange, Liberal red and Conservative blue fairly jump out of our lonely northern terrain as if they were part of some medieval war plan. At first glance you have NDP orange shooting right up the left coast and Liberal red, flowing in a huge majestic line from Nunavut in the central Arctic down through middle Manitoba and along the northern shores of Superior and Georgian Bay into the Ontario heartland. The two together look like they have the blue Conservative beast encircled in its Prairie stronghold. While in Quebec the teal blue of the Bloc Québécois rises up from its base along the Ottawa River like a stylized fleur-de-lis.

The imagery is all wrong, of course (way too much geography). The reality is, Stephen Harper's Conservatives scored a paper-thin minority albeit with impressive national representation across the country. In fact, they hold key ridings in every province but P.E.I. and have no shortage of regional cabinet material to choose from. The underlying reality, however, is also misleading.

As the non-partisan group Fair Vote Canada likes to point out, our first-past-the-post electoral system, in which we like to revel in all those close three-way races on election night, tends to provide enough distortions all on its own. Consider the fact that, in the current election, the NDP won about a million more votes than the Bloc but took only 29 seats to the BQ's 51. Or that the Green party attracted more than 650,000 voters and won no seats while the Liberals' 475,000 voters in Atlantic Canada produced 20 MPs.

Just wasteful politicking you say? Get the Greens to concentrate, Bloc-like, on only a relative handful of ridings instead of all 308 and perhaps they will achieve electoral success on their own. Well, maybe. But is it right that the Conservatives win three times as many votes as the Liberals in the Prairies and take nearly 10 times the seats? Or that the Conservatives earn nearly half a million votes in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver and yet are totally shut out of the big three urban centres?

Fair Vote's solution is some form of proportional representation, or PR, a system in place in New Zealand, Israel and some big European countries like Germany. It's an idea that bubbled to the surface in the 2004 election and kind of did again this time. The NDP's Jack Layton is a big PR guy and even suggested back in December it would be the price of his party's support in a minority Parliament. The problem is he doesn't quite have the numbers now to hold that balance of power. (The math: 124 Conservatives and 29 NDP are two votes short of a majority.) But there could be defections or resignations on the Liberal or Bloc side that will end up giving the NDP more minority clout - and Harper did say at least once during the campaign he'd be open to having some discussion on PR with Layton.

Read the whole article

Wayne's reply posted to

Thank you for your attention to the critical issue of electoral reform for Canada, and for mentioning the work of Fair Vote Canada.

As Robert Sheppard points out, our current voting system distorts the message that voters send at election time, and in particular, it exaggerates and distorts the regional distribution of our votes. As Sheppard says, "The imagery is all wrong."

This is a serious matter for national unity. The inability of the Liberals to elect western MPs for the last decade, in spite of the fact that they get a quarter of the votes in the west, even in Alberta, has contributed greatly to western dissatisfaction with Canada, and has lead to cries of "The West wants in!" Meanwhile, the significant over-representation of the Bloc Québécois has meant that federalist voices have been stifled in Québec.

Sheppard is right again when he says, "The underlying reality, however, is also misleading." Our winner-take-all system leaves huge blocks of voters unrepresented. In this election, the Conservatives took every seat in Alberta with 65% of the votes. The 500,000 Alberta voters who voted otherwise are unrepresented in Parliament.

Most striking in this election is the total exclusion of our largest cities from the government caucus. Almost half a million Conservative voters in and around Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver elected no one at all. There will be no cabinet minister from any of these cities in the new government. A new deal for cities indeed!

I could quibble with a few points in the article. Sheppard says, "Layton's idea is simpler. He'd keep the current first-past-the-post balloting and then just add 100 seats, which would be divvied up based on popular vote. You win 30 per cent of the vote, you get 30 extra seats which the party allocates as it sees fit."

Well, not quite. The Mixed Member Proportional system advocated by the NDP, and also by the Law Commission of Canada, an independent federal agency that recently conluded a two-year study of our voting system, is a fully proportional system based on the model developed in Germany after WWII, and recently adopted in New Zealand, Scotland and Wales. Although it retains the use of our familiar single-member ridings, it is a fully proportional system, so if a party gets 30% of the votes, they will end up with 30% of the seats.

More serious is the false implication that under this type of system a party will have the ability to "allocate" seats "as it sees fit." This common misunderstanding gives rise to concerns that political parties will have too much power under this form of PR, and voters will lose the ability to decide who goes to Parliament.

In fact, under this type of system, each party puts up a list of candidates, and voters get to decide which list to vote for, and in some cases, who will rise to the top of the list, as well as voting for their local riding member.

This illustrates the tremendous need for public education on this topic. Although Fair Vote Canada has been encouraged by the explosion of awareness of the need for fair voting reform that became evident during this election campaign, most Canadians are still unaware that there are other ways to vote, that proportional voting has been the normal way of doing things for most industrial democracies for most of the last century, and that the frustration we feel with politics and politicians is largely caused by the fact that we don't get the government we vote for.

Fair Vote Canada is not selling any particular voting system. We are calling for a process of public education and consultation leading to a referendum, so Canadians can choose a modern, fair, proportional voting system for Canada.

Thank you again for contributing to the dialogue! I hope you will continue to learn about this problem and promote discussion on this topic.

Wayne Smith, President
Fair Vote Canada

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

And NOW magazine

Op-ed in NOW magazine:


2006 election results show first-past-the-post has to go

By Larry Gordon

Did we really need to suffer yet another train wreck for democracy before realizing that first-past-the-post voting is a hazard to the very life of our country?

Voters should take a close look at the smoking ruins of this latest electoral disaster. It’s not a pretty sight—for example, seeing the NDP win one million more votes than the Bloc, but gain 22 fewer seats, or watching a growing host of Green Party supporters denied even a single MP in Ottawa.

The electoral system imposed on Canadians—it was never chosen by voters—simply doesn’t work, at least not as advertised. Every Canadian child is taught that we live in a democracy, with equal votes for everyone and majority rule. In fact, our government proudly sends advisors to developing nations to preach these democratic principles, which is rich, given that we don’t apply them to our own elections.

The lesson from January 23 is the same lesson from every prior election in Canadian history. Our antiquated winner-take-all voting system makes a complete hash of representative democracy. By design, only one party’s supporters in each riding can send an MP to Ottawa. Tough luck to everyone else.

Multiply that inequity by 308 ridings, with more than six million voters casting wasted votes that elect no one, and the resulting Parliament is a democratic farce.

Just how far have we drifted from the cherished principle of equal votes for all? Consider the following outcomes in this election.

More than 650,000 Canadians voted for the Green Party, but were not able to send a single MP to Parliament. Meanwhile, 475,000 Liberal voters in Atlantic Canada elected 20 MPs.

In the prairie provinces, Conservatives got three times as many votes as the Liberals, but won nearly ten times as many seats. In Alberta, the half million people who voted other than Conservative elected no one to Parliament.

Toronto will not have a single MP in the governing caucus, let along cabinet, even though a quarter-million Torontonians voted for the winning party. Neither will Montreal or Vancouver. Talk about a new deal for cities!

If our voting system treated voters equally, regardless of partisanship or place of residence, then every party would need about the same number of votes to elect an MP. That would be democracy, but this is what our system actually coughed up:

Bloc: 1 MP per 30,432 votes
Conservatives: 1 MP per 43,305 votes
Liberals: 1 MP per 43,457 votes
NDP: 1 MP per 89,333 votes
Greens: 0 MPs for 665,876 votes

These twisted results defy common sense, let alone democratic principles.

Let’s look at another part of the wreckage. Because of the huge portion of wasted votes that elect no one, some parties gain far more seats than deserved, while others get too few or none at all. The effect of these distorted results is that Canadians very rarely experience legitimate majority government, in fact only four times since World War One.

Had the same votes been cast under a fair voting system, based on proportional representation, Fair Vote Canada projected that the seat allocation would have been approximately as follows:

Conservatives (36.3% of the popular vote): 113 seats (not 124)
Liberals (30.1% of the popular vote): 93 seats (not 102)
NDP (17.5% of the popular vote): 59 seats (not 29)
Bloc (10.5% of the popular vote): 31 seats (not 51)
Greens: (4.5% of the popular vote): 12 seats (not 0)

Would fair results matter? This projection indicates that a Liberal, NDP, and Green coalition would have held a majority of seats. But keep in mind, with a different voting system, people will vote differently. Had Canadians actually used a fair voting system, voting patterns would have been different. The need for strategic voting would disappear and very likely more people would vote.

Does Canada have a terminal case of electoral dysfunction?

No, there is a cure—the introduction of a fair voting system, a Canadian version of proportional representation (PR)—and that cure is within reach.

Jack Layton could choose to be the electorate’s champion, put electoral reform at the top of his negotiation agenda with the Conservatives, and play hardball. He could hardly be expected to wring a concession to simply introduce a PR system, but there may be an opening—one that should be seized—to set up a citizen-driven reform process. In past years, the Alliance supported a national referendum on a new voting system. At one point, the current Conservative Party was prepared to support a national citizens’ assembly and referendum process for electoral reform. Stephen Harper has shown no recent indication of going that direction of his own volition. It remains to be seen whether Jack Layton is ready to give it a strong push.

Another scenario is unfolding right here in Ontario. The McGuinty government has promised an independent citizens’ assembly and referendum process for provincial voting reform. Very likely, that assembly will be sitting before the year is out, and Ontarians will have a referendum on a new voting system with the next provincial election in October 2007.

As the dust settles on the federal electoral disaster, Ontarians should turn their full attention this year to ensuring this province becomes the birthplace of Canadian PR and fair voting. That means watchdogging the provincial government in the coming months to ensure a fair, citizen-driven process. Once that process is secured, it’s up to us to press for a strong PR alternative and then win the expected 2007 referendum.

Despite the dismal and undemocratic results on Monday night, we now have an unprecedented opportunity. Democracy has always been a do-it-yourself project, and those who want it to happen must make electoral reform our number one project in the coming year.

The Star, The Globe, The Citizen, The National Post, The Straight Goods, The CBC,, and the Oakville Beaver

from The Toronto Star

Stacked vote creates some sure losers
Winner-take-all system also silences urban, left

Jan. 23, 2006. 01:00 AM


OTTAWA On at least one fundamental score, this is, once again, not going to be an election for the record books.

When the votes are counted tonight, women are unlikely to be any closer to achieving parity with men in the House of Commons. Today's vote could even result in fewer female MPs taking their seats in the next Parliament.

The Conservatives, who have enjoyed a lead in the polls since mid-campaign, have recruited fewer women to run in the election than the other parties. But they hardly bear the sole responsibility for the enduring federal gender gap. When it comes to achieving parity within their own ranks, the Liberals have little to brag about.

During the past 12 years of Liberal rule, the proportion of women in the Commons has barely increased, going from 18 per cent when Jean ChrŽtien first became prime minister to 21 per cent under his successor.

In 1993, the number of female candidates was actually higher than in the 2004 and 2006 elections. Back then, two of the five leaders, including the prime minister, were women. That gave every party a stronger incentive to recruit more female candidates. But that collective fervour was as short-lived as Kim Campbell's reign.

There are fewer women on the election ballots and there are precious few future female contenders in sight for federal leadership positions and that is hardly a coincidence.

No party establishment is using this election to groom a female candidate for a future leadership post to the degree that some Liberal powerbrokers have promoted political rookie Michael Ignatieff as a potential successor to Paul Martin.

At this point, the woman most likely to be headed for the federal leadership fast track is ... a Conservative. Chances are there will be plenty of time to see Alberta's Rona Ambrose in action after today.

Quebec federalists are hardly underrepresented in the election itself. For every sovereignist candidate, there are usually at least four federalists contenders in the running. But that is no guarantee of parliamentary representation down the line.

From all indications, at least half of Quebecers are set to vote for federalist candidates today. But that support is almost certain to translate into a seat deficit. The size of the gap between the votes cast for federalist parties in Quebec and the seats they actually earn is the only pending issue.

In the last election, the Bloc secured more than two-thirds of the 75 Quebec seats with less than half the vote, a discrepancy that could become more acute this year if a more even split in the federalist vote allows Gilles Duceppe's candidates to slip through the mesh.

A consequence of this distortion has been a monolithic Quebec parliamentary voice that is out of sync with the province's complex reality as well as a weaker presence at the centre. But the federalist-sovereignist gap in the Commons is hardly the only discrepancy of the current system.

Even if thousands of urban voters in the big cities of Central Canada support Stephen Harper today, they are still unlikely to have much of a voice within the Conservative caucus. A consequence of that could be the absence of significant representation from Montreal and Toronto within the next federal government.

Liberals from Alberta know the problem well. In 2004, 22 per cent of them supported Paul Martin, a vote that resulted in the Liberals taking only two of the province's 28 seats. After this election Liberal voters from Alberta might find themselves at least temporarily reduced to silence in the House of Commons.

And what of the Canadian left? It is ultimately the biggest loser of the current system. With more votes than the Bloc in 2004, the NDP earned one-third of the seats of its sovereignist counterpart. In the last federal election, one in five voters supported the NDP or the Green party, a score that saw a mere 6 per cent of the seats go to New Democrats.

When the votes are counted tonight, one certainty is that the winner-take-all slant of our electoral system will exaggerate fault lines, driving a needlessly bigger wedge between Quebec federalists and sovereignists, urban and rural Canada, the left and the right, and once again leaving Canadian women outside looking in at a male-dominated federal arena.

All that should give fresh ammunition to those who keep arguing it is time to start crafting an electoral system that is more respectful of Canadian political subtleties and less stacked against the advent of more inclusive governments.


I thought that this article from Chantal Hebert would be of particular interest to FVC and those whose primary focus is seeing more women elected. She touches on both in this article and makes it clear that the status why the status quo isn't acceptable.

David-Paul Sip

Mon pays, on thin ice
The Globe & Mail --- Clive Doucet:

“It will take a great deal more this election can deliver. We need real debates about real issues rooted in understanding the new Canada. That means governing with the Bloc Quebecois, not without, the creation of eco-cities, rebuilding a national rail infrastructure and. above all, an electoral system that recognizes we now live in 2006, not the 19th century. Democracy is more than “one person one vote.” One person’s vote has to be equal to another’s and Canadian federal democracy fails the basic text. Two out of three Canadians understand this, Why can’t the federal parties.”

Eleven key issues were selected by the Ottawa Citizen on 22 January to be followed in the election coverage tonight and one of these is 'Democratic Reform'.

This morning's National Post also listed the issue under the title Government/Electoral Reform as one of the key items to watch in this election.

Chantal Hebert's endorsement in the Toronto Star is the icing.

This is a tremendous tribute to our collective efforts over the past few years in staying on top of what has now finally been identified as important to the future we are building for the next generation.

Patricia Marsden-Dole

From: Straight Goods
Subject: E-Day Election Goods, Jan. 23

LET'S DUMP "MAJORITY RULES," by Richard Shillington. What Canada really
needs is electoral reform.

"Look at the 2004 election results. . . . The message here is, for electoral success, to concentrate your effort in ridings you could win and forget the rest. Be more regional. Balkanize the country. Be like the Bloc."

from the Star:

Voting system gives us what we want

Richard Gwyn suggests that our old and creaky voting system may just manage to produce the result Canadians want — a minority Conservative government with some representation in Quebec to weaken the separatist movement. I agree this is what Canadians want. What puzzles me is why Gwyn does not acknowledge a proportional representation system would much more assuredly yield this. Many of us fear our current system may flub up and transmute a 38 per cent Conservative vote into a majority in Parliament.

Jerry Ginsburg, Thornhill

from CBC Votes 2006 Election Day Analysis

Tonight is all about winners and losers. The winners will celebrate, the losers will put on a brave face, but under their breaths, some will be muttering “we wuz robbed”. That’s because in our “first past the post” electoral system, winners sometimes take home more of the spoils than they possibly deserve. The key to success is making every vote count. The party that wins the most seats tonight will be the party that is able to distribute its vote most efficiently. Look at this table from the 2004 election…

The Bloc Québécois elected one MP for every 31,113 votes.
The Liberals elected one MP for every 36,905 votes.
The Conservatives elected one MP for every 40,601 votes.
The NDP elected one MP for every 111,969 votes.
The Green party elected zero MPs for 582,247 votes.

After looking at that, it’s not surprising that smaller parties like the NDP and the Greens favour proportional representation, while “efficient” parties like the Liberals and Conservatives think the current system works just fine.

Of course, it doesn’t take much for the tables to turn. In 2004, the NDP lost twelve races by fewer than 1,000 votes; seven to the Conservatives, and five to the Liberals. Small swings in those ridings tonight, and the NDP seat total could improve considerably over last time when the party won 19 seats with 15.7% of the vote. In 1988, the NDP’s best year ever, it won 43 seats with 20.4%. That translates into a highly efficient rate of one seat for every 38,645 votes. Another result like that, and proportional representation could suddenly start looking a lot less attractive.


Our news release is the lead news item on


Below is a letter to the editor to our local paper.

I threw this together this morning, hoping that it would make the Wednesday Oakville Beaver's letters to the editor. Rod Jarred replied to me that he needed my phone number and address to publish it. So I hope that means he's considering publishing it. I will let you know.

He also was curious about who the 12 green party MPs would be; and how that would be determined and who determines it? I replied explaining how it would work with MMP and STV.

It's great that we are now getting those kinds of questions.

Here's hoping that the letter to the editor gets in the paper, and that the editor's curiosity will be a springboard for another article in the paper. Time will tell.

Thanks for all the statistics. It made my job easier, putting together a letter with an impending deadline.


As a followup to the article on January 14, 2006 - Youth opting out for vote is symptomatic.

Yet again, Canada's 12th century voting system brought in a House of Commons that was not reflective of Canadian voters. If a form of proportional representation was our voting system, the national results would have looked very different. The Conservatives would have still lead with 113 seats (not 124), the Liberals would have been the official opposition with 93 seats (not 103), but the other opposition parties numbers would be as follows NDP - 59 seats (not 29), Bloc - 31 seats (not 51), and the Green Party - 12 seats (not zero).

This antiquated First Past the Post system rewarded separatists, but punished Western Liberals, Urban Conservatives, New Democrats and Greens.

As expected, in both the Oakville riding and Halton riding, it was a very close race between the Liberal Party candidates and the Conservative Party candidates. Unfortunately some residents of Oakville felt that they were forced to vote strategically, and not with their heart. In a proportional representation voting system, there would be no necessity for strategic voting practices because all votes would count.

At my daughter's high school, the Green Party won, with the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP's in opposition. It tells you a little bit about what our young voters are thinking. However, their results were based on popularity votes. Unfortunately, they will enter the real world of voting and find that their vote will not count, just like millions of other Canadian voters.

We need to encourage our local MP's to support a citizen's assembly to look into proportional representation voting systems for our Canada. If brought in, it would make more of us feel that we live in a democracy.

Bronwen Bruch
Fair Vote Canada - Halton Chapter


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.

Wanna trade?

Hi Wayne,

Nice article today on the election results -- nice to know (even if it is wistfully) that we Greens could've achieved Party Status in Parliament under a proportional representation system. :-)

Would you be interested in trading links with our blog? We've got a nice little "Green Party rally" speech which speaks to the calm, hopeful idealism of activists supporting their cause, in spite of insurmountable odds...


Matthew Klippenstein


I'm writing to let you know I have put up a link to your website and Wayne Smith's weblog, I would appreciate if you could reciprocate:

Akeel Shah



Once again, Canada’s antiquated first-past-the-post system wasted millions of votes, distorted results, severely punished large blocks of voters, exaggerated regional differences, created an unrepresentative Parliament, and may possibly have even given us the wrong government.

The chief victims of the January 23 federal election were:

- Western Liberals: In the prairie provinces, Conservatives got three times as many votes as Liberals did, but won nearly ten times as many seats. In Alberta, the Conservative Party won 100% of the seats with 65% of the votes. The 500,000 Albertans who voted otherwise elected no one.

- Urban Conservatives: The 400,000-plus Conservative voters in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver should have been able to elect about nine MPs, but instead elected no one. The three cities together will not have a single MP in the governing caucus, let alone the cabinet.

- New Democrats: The NDP attracted a million more votes than the Bloc, but the voting system gave the Bloc 51 seats, the NDP 29. Nearly 18% of Canadians voted NDP, but the party won less than 10% of the seats and does not hold the balance of power, unlike the Liberals and the Bloc.

- Green Party: More than 650,000 Green Party voters across the country elected no one, while 475,000 Liberal voters in Atlantic Canada elected 20 MPs.

- Federalists and nationalists: As usual, the voting system turned entire regions of Canada into partisan fiefdoms, rather than allowing the diversity of views in all regions to be fairly represented in Parliament and within each national party.

“How can anyone continue to think that this voting system gives us good geographic representation,” said Wayne Smith, President of Fair Vote Canada, “when it fragments and divides our country like this?”

“Had results been fair, it is possible that we may have even seen a different government,” said Smith. “The Liberals, NDP, and Greens represent a majority, and together they would have held a majority of seats.”

Had the same votes been cast under a proportional voting system, Fair Vote Canada projected that the seats allocation would have been approximately as follows:

Conservatives - 36.3% of the popular vote: 113 seats (not 124)
Liberals - 30.1% of the popular vote: 93 seats (not 103)
NDP - 17.5% of the popular vote: 59 seats (not 29)
Bloc - 10.5% of the popular vote: 31 seats (not 51)
Greens - 4.5% of the popular vote: 12 seats (not 0)

However, Smith emphasized that speculation should be tempered.

“With a different voting system, people would have voted differently,” he said. “There would have been no need for strategic voting. We would likely have seen higher voter turnout. We would have had different candidates - more women, and more diversity of all kinds. We would have had more real choices.”

“The voting system really matters – a lot – and the system we have is simply not acceptable in a modern democracy.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ridings to Watch on Election Night

Equal Voice 2006 Election Analysis

Total Ridings: 7
Female Candidates: 8 in major parties plus Greens
Wins: 0
Close: 0
Long Shot: 0

Long Shot:
Siobhan Coady (Liberal) in St. John’s South Mount Pearl may have a chance against Conservative Loyola Hearn. New Democrat Peg Norman is running a strong campaign as well.

New Brunswick:
Total Ridings: 10
Female Candidates: 6
Wins: 0
Close: 0
Long Shot: 0

We predict that no women will win seats in New Brunswick

Nova Scotia:
Ridings: 11
Female Candidates: 7 (NDP and Green only)
Wins: 1
Close: 0
Long Shot: 0

Only One Predicted Win for a Woman:

Halifax: Alexa McDonough (NDP) - likely to win, but it may be close

Ridings: 4
Total Female Candidates: 3 (NDP and Green only)

We predict that no women will win seats in Prince Edward Island. All ridings are safe Liberal seats, and no Liberal women are running.

Ridings: 75
Female Candidates: 96
Wins: 18
Close: 6
Long Shots: none identified yet

Predicted Wins for Women:

Châteauguay Saint-Constant: Carole Freeman (Bloc)
Compton Stanstead: France Bonsat (Bloc)
Drummond: Pauline Picard (Bloc)
La Pointe-de-l'Île: Francine Lalonde (Bloc)
Laurentides Labelle: Johanne Deschamps (Bloc)
Laval: Nicole Demers (Bloc)
Longueuil Pierre-Boucher: Caroline St. Hilaire (Bloc)
Louis-Saint-Laurent: Josee Verner (Conservative)
Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine: Marlene Jennings (Liberal)
Papineau: Vivian Barbot (Bloc) is predicted to defeat Liberal cabinet Minister Pierre Pettigrew
Québec: Christiane Gagnon (Bloc)
Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques: Louise Thibault (Bloc)
Rivière-du-Nord: Monique Guay (Bloc)
Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert: Carole Lavallée (Bloc)
Terrebonne—Blainville: Diane Bourgeois (Bloc)
Trois-Rivières: Paule Brunelle (Bloc)
Vaudreuil-Soulanges: Meilie Faille (Bloc)
Westmount—Ville-Marie: Lucienne Robillard (Liberal)

Incumbent women who may lose seat:
Gatineau: Françoise Boivin (Liberal)
Jeanne-Le Ber: Liza Frulla (Liberal)

Ahuntsic: Incumbent Eleni Bakopanos (Liberal) and Maria Mourani (Bloc) are the front runners, with Mourani predicted to take the riding. Caroline Desrosiers of the NDP and Lynette Tremblay of the Greens are also running.

Women in Close Races

Christine Émond-Lapointe (BQ) is in a tight race with Conservative Lawrence Cannon and incumbent Liberal David Smith. Celine Breault of the NDP is also running a strong campaign.

Beauport Limoilou: Sylvie Boucher (Conservative) may defeat the Bloc incumbent.

Women running against women in close races:

Laval Les Îles: Raymonde Folco (Liberal) is in a tight race with BQ member Christiane Pichette, but so far is predicted to win.

Ridings: 106
Female Candidates: 88
Wins: 15
Close: 14
Long Shot: 2

Predicted Wins for Women:

Brampton West: Colleen Beaumier (Liberal)
Brampton Springdale: Ruby Dhalla (Liberal)
Don Valley East: Yasmin Ratsani (Liberal)
Durham: Bev Oda (Conservative)
Guelph: Brenda K. Chamberlain (Liberal)
Haldimand Norfolk: Diane Finley (Conservative)
Kitchener Centre: Karen Redman (Liberal)
London West: Sue Barnes (Liberal)
Mississauga East Cooksville: Albina Guarnieri (Liberal)
Oakville: Bonnie Brown (Liberal)
Renfrew Nipissing Pembroke: Cheryl Gallant (Conservative)
Simcoe Grey: Helena Guergis (Conservative)
Sudbury: Dianne Marleau (Liberal) - Close, but predicted to win
Thornhill: Susan Kadis (Liberal)
York West: Judy Sgro (Liberal)

Incumbent Women who may lose seat:
Aileen Carroll: Barrie
Carolyn Bennett: St. Paul’s
Diane Marleau: Sudbury
Belinda Stronach (Liberal): Newmarket Aurora
Paddy Torsney (Liberal): Burlington
Judi Longfield (Liberal): Whitby Oshawa

Women in Close Races
Hamilton Mountain: Chris Charlton (NDP) - Close - predicted to win
Kenora: Susan Barclay (NDP) Close - Predicted to win
Ottawa West-Nepean: Lee Farnworth (Liberal) - not predicted to win. New Democrat Marlene Rivier also seeking seat but it will likely go to conservative John Baird.
London Fanshawe: Irene Mathyssen (NDP) - predicted to win
Peterborough: Diane Lloyd (Liberal) - predicted to win
Trinity Spadina : Olivia Chow (NDP) -predicted to win

Women running against Women in close races:
Beaches East York: Maria Minna (Liberal) and Marilyn Churley (NDP)
Parkdale High Park: Sarmite Bulte (Liberal) and Peggy Nash (NDP)
Newmarket Aurora: Belinda Stronach (Liberal) and Lois Brown (Conservative)

Long Shots:
Louise V. Parkes (Liberal): Oshawa
Patricia Davidson (Conservative): Sarnia Lambton

Ridings: 14
Female Candidates: 10
Win: 3
Close: 1
Long Shot: 0

Predicted Wins for Women:
Winnipeg North: Judy Wasylycia-Leis (NDP)
Winnipeg South Centre: Anita Neville (Liberal) (note: could be very close)
Kildonan St. Paul: Joy Smith (Conservative)

Incumbent women who may lose seat:
Bev Desjarlais (Independent): Churchill
possibly Anita Neville: Winnipeg South Centre

Women running against Women in close races:
Niki Ashton (NDP), Tina Keeper (Liberal), Bev Desjarlais (Independent) - Current prediction leans toward NDP

Ridings: 12
Female Candidates: 11
Win: 2
Close: 1
Long Shot: 1

Predicted Wins for Women:
Blackstrap: Lynne Yelich (Conservative)
Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar: Carol Skelton (Conservative) (May be a close race with New Democrat Nettie Wiebe)

Women in Close Races
Palliser: Joanne Dusel (NDP) in a close race with the Conservative incumbent Dave Batters.

Long Shot:
Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River: Anita Jackson (NDP)

Ridings: 28
Female Candidates: 27
Wins: 2
Close: 1
Long Shot: 1

Predicted Wins for Women:

Edmonton Spruce Grove: Rona Ambrose (Conservative)
Calgary Nose Hill: Diane Ablonczy (Conservative)

Incumbent women who may lose their seat:
Edmonton Centre: Anne McClellan (LIB) - in a close race with Conservative Candidate

Long Shot:
Edmonton Strathcona: Linda Duncan (NDP)

British Columbia
Ridings: 36
Female Candidates: 33
Wins: 6
Close: 7
Long shot: 1

Predicted Wins for Women:
Kamloops Thompson Cariboo: Betty Hinton (Conservative)
Fleetwood-Port Kells: Nina Grewal (Conservative)
Nanaimo Cowichan: Jean Crowder (NDP)
Surrey North: Penny Priddy (NDP)
Vancouver Centre: Hedy Fry (Liberal)
Vancouver East: Libby Davies (NDP)

Women in close races:
Burnaby New Westminster: Mary Pynenburg (Liberal) in a close three-way race with incumbent Peter Julian (NDP) and Conservative Mark Dalton
Newton North Delta: Nancy Clegg (NDP)
Victoria: Denise Savoie (NDP)(close, but predicted to win)
Vancouver Island North: Catherine Bell (NDP)

Women running against women in close races:
New Westminster Coquitlam: Joyce Murray (Liberal) and Dawn Black (NDP) running against Paul Forseth (Conservative). Predictions vary between NDP and Conservative
North Vancouver: Sherry Shaghagi (NDP) and Cindy Silver (Conservative) running against Liberal Don Bell
Saanich Gulf Islands: Sheila Orr (Liberal) and Jennifer Burgis (NDP) running against Conservative Gary Lunn

Long Shot:
West Vancouver Sunshine Coast Sea to Sky Country: Judith Wilson (NDP)

Ridings: 3
Female Candidates: 3
Win: 1
Close: 1
Long Shot: 1

Predicted Win for Women:
Nunavut: Nancy Karatek-Lindell (Liberal)

Incumbent women who may lose seat:
Ethel Blondin-Andrew (Liberal) is predicted to lose her seat to New Democrat Dennis Bevington

Long Shot:
Yukon: Pam Boyde (NDP)

National Totals:
Wins: 48
Close: 31

If all the close races were won by female candidates, we’ll end up with just over 25% of seats - a slight improvement, but still far from equality!

Stats from Equal Voice

National Totals:

63 Women elected (20.45%)

Conservative: 14 out of 124 seats
Liberal : 21 out of 103 seats
Bloc: 16 out of 51 seats
NDP: 12 out of 29 seats

Women elected in 2006 have dropped to 63 or 20.45% which means our listing world-wide is likely to drop from 42nd place to 45th.


While it is sad that the number of women elected to Parliament is going in the wrong direction, slightly, I think looking at the percentages by party is also revealing:

Conservative: 14 out of 124 seats = 11.3 %
Liberal : 21 out of 103 seats = 20.4 %
Bloc: 16 out of 51 seats = 31.4 %
NDP: 12 out of 29 seats = 41.4 %

It is clear that it is the Conservative Party, and to a lesser extent the Liberals, that are not woman friendly, while the Bloc and especially the NDP are up there with levels approaching the Scandinavian countries.

Ciao, Bruce.

Well, exactly. The most obvious fact about the election was that the number of Conservative seats increased substantially. Therefore it is even possible for *ALL* of the proportions listed above to *increase* while the overall number *decreases*.

Does anyone have the figures from last time to say whether that did in fact happen?


Last time:

Conservative: 12 out of 99 = 12.1%
Liberal: 34 out of 135 = 25.2%
Bloc: 14 out of 54 = 25.9%
NDP: 5 out of 19 = 26.3%

So mostly it was the Liberals who let the show down. Does this mean a lot of incumbent Liberal women were defeated? Or did some of them not run again?


We would need to compare the % elected vs % nominated in 2004 and 2006. Does anyone have these numbers?


2006 Nominations

Conservative: 38/308 = 12.3%
Liberal: 79/308 = 25.6%
Bloc: 23/75 = 30.6%
NDP: 108/308 = 35%
Green: 72/308 = 23%


And the relevance of all this to PR is???

Best regards


Better representation of women is one of the broad criteria that Fair Vote
Canada uses to assess electoral systems.



The relevance is that our current voting system throws up barriers to the election of women and minorities, while PR promotes diversity. Aside from Cuba, every country with at least 30% women in their legislature uses proportional voting.

That's why removing barriers to the election of women and minorities is contained in our Statement of Purpose.


Women elected in 2006

Women elected in 2006 have dropped to 63 or 20.45% which means our listing world wide is likely to drop from 42nd place to 45th.


Stats from Equal Voice

National Totals:

63 Women elected (20.45%)

Conservative: 14 out of 124 seats

Liberal : 21 out of 103 seats

Bloc: 16 out of 51 seats

NDP: 12 out of 29 seats


While it is sad that the number of women elected to Parliament is going in the wrong direction, slightly, I think looking at the percentages by party is also revealing:

Conservative: 14 out of 124 seats = 11.3 %

Liberal : 21 out of 103 seats = 20.4 %

Bloc: 16 out of 51 seats = 31.4 %

NDP: 12 out of 29 seats = 41.4 %

It is clear that it is the Conservative Party, and to a lesser extent the Liberals, that are not woman friendly while the Bloc and especially the NDP are up there with levels approaching the Scandinavian countries.

Ciao, Bruce.

And the relevance of all this to PR is???

Best regards

The relevance is that our current voting system throws up barriers to the election of women and minorities, while PR promotes diversity. Aside from Cuba, every country with at least 30% women in their legislature uses proportional voting.

That's why removing barriers to the election of women and minorities is contained in our Statement of Purpose.

Wayne Smith, President
Fair Vote Canada

Thanks Wayne

The prompting posting was intended just as a point of interest. It is amusing to sit back and watch a bunch of guys chatter away about women's representation.