We need proportional representation

Ttoo many people are deciding that if voting doesn’t reflect their intentions, why vote at all


Jean Crowder

NDP Member of parliament

As we head into another federal election year, I often hear from constituents who are concerned about fewer and fewer Canadians choosing to vote.

While there is no one reason why people are not showing up at the polls, I know anecdotally that many people feel our current system of first-past-the-post-wins-all does not fairly represent the intention of voters. And so too many people are deciding that if voting doesn’t reflect their intentions, why vote at all?

That’s why I was pleased to speak to an NDP motion on Dec. 3 on making 2015 the last election under the old system and committing to a form of mixed-member proportional representation for all future federal elections.

Here is an edited version of my speech:

“Mr. Speaker, the Law Commission of Canada identified problems with the first-past-the-post system. It said:

‘For many Canadians, this system is inherently unfair — more likely to frustrate or distort the wishes of the voters than to translate them fairly into representation and influence in the legislature.

It has been criticized as: being overly generous to the party that wins a plurality of the vote, rewarding it with a legislative majority disproportionate to its share of the vote; allowing the governing party, with its artificially swollen legislative majority, to dominate the political agenda; promoting parties formed along regional lines, thus exacerbating Canada’s regional divisions; leaving large areas of the country without adequate representatives in the governing party caucus; disregarding a large number of votes in that voters who do not vote for the winning candidate have no connection to the elected representative, nor to the eventual make-up of the House of Commons; contributing to the under-representation of women, minority groups, and Aboriginal peoples; preventing a diversity of ideas from entering the House of Commons; and favouring an adversarial style of politics.’

Ninety per cent of the world’s democracies, including Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, have abandoned or significantly modified the pre-democratic British system that still prevails in Ottawa.

British Columbia unfortunately had a failed referendum with regard to a single transferrable vote. Part of the reason it lost was that people wanted change, but many people did not understand the proposed system.

What we need is a very clear proposal for Canadians, outlining how it would affect them in their riding, in their district, and how their access to a parliamentary procedure would improve under a system of proportional representation.

We should all be very concerned in this House about the lack of participation in the electoral process.

We should all take a hard look at how we operate in this House.

Our objective here should be to increase voter participation.

Our objective should be to ensure that the values of Canadians are adequately represented in this House.”