Counting on it

In the 1972 federal election, the Liberal Party and the Progressive Conservative Party (as it was then known) were a couple of percentage points apart in the popular vote. So, too, in the number of seats won, 109-107, in favour of the Liberals. In this most recent election, the popular vote was even tighter. The Conservative Party of Canada (as it is now known) was one percentage point ahead of the Liberal Party and won 121 seats. The “loser” Liberals got 157 seats. A close-run thing on that earlier occasion resulted in a near tie in seats; an even closer result in the recent election yielded a 36-seat differential. Please explain to me how that happened without making my head hurt.

Now you know why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau never brought in proportional representation as he promised he would during the 2015 election. The current “first past the post” system works just fine as far as he’s concerned. In this most recent election, the NDP and the Green Party suffered most by following the traditional methodology. The NDP had 16 percent of the popular vote but ended up with only 7 percent of the seats. The Greens had 7 percent of the popular vote but got a slim-pickings 1 percent of the seats.

If there had been proportional representation, the election results would have looked something like this (with actual numbers in brackets): Conservatives 115 (121), Liberals 112 (157), NDP 54 (24), Bloc 27 (32), and Green 24 (3). Would proportional representation make running this minority parliament any easier? No, but what it might have done is help defuse such problems as Western alienation and Quebec nationalism by permitting MPs to represent ridings in Quebec and the West from parties otherwise not represented. As it is, we have returned to the same regional divisions as existed thirty years ago.

Most European countries have some form of proportional representation. The notable exceptions are the United Kingdom and France but no one would point to either as exemplary forms of government. Canada needs to change its ways so that all views are represented in the House of Commons at the same partisan strength as they are found across the country. Over to you, Mr. Prime Minister.

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