Opinion-Policy Nexus

It is a fair observation that the federal Liberals' discussion of a ranked preferential ballot to replace the current plurality electoral system, popularly known as first-past-the-post, is a proposal that likely favours their party. What should also be acknowledged is that the other parties are also pushing proposals that favour their interests, too.

The current system was inherited from the British at Confederation, and dates back to a time when there were only two significant political party alternatives in most districts. In such a world, the system made a good deal of sense and typically elected members with a majority of the votes cast.

However, with the rise of sustaining third party movements during the 1930s circumstances changed, and over the past 70 years (since 1945) the 23 federal elections in Canada have produced only two instances — in 1958 and 1984 — when any party cleared 50 per cent nationally, and then only barely.

That the system still artificially produces parliamentary majorities more often than not (in 14 of the 23 elections) is a source of consternation for many who consider it a distortion of the public will. However, we should recognize that every electoral system is subject to criticism and that none is without flaws in the eyes of many.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016 - 14:56

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