Looking past this election

Canadian voters have spoken, and chosen to be represented by a parliament with 54 NDP and 12 Green Party MPs, plus 114 Conservatives and 96 Liberals. Unfortunately, our antiquated FPTP voting system allocated their votes to disproportionately favour whichever party was strongest in each individual riding, leaving us a Prime minister-designate with the support of a mere 23.5% of registered voters. The NDP had hoped for several more seats than they actually gained, but nevertheless, the party is poised to again hold almost a balance of power in the coming minority government, and hopefully will be able to wield even more influence in this session of parliament than they did in the last one.

A theorem in political science states that a democracy with regional representation by first-past-the-post plurality will over time result in only two parties strong enough to win a seat, unless a regional voting blocs upset the balance. This means we’re lucky here in Canada to have strong regional parties to help us avoid the election fiascoes we see in the U.S. It’s thanks to the Bloc that it’s difficult to win a majority government in this country, and that it’s often hard for a party to unilaterally push through legislation. Regional parties will always be overrepresented with a system like ours: for example, in the 1993 federal election, the Progressive Conservative party received 16.04% of the popular vote and won 2 seats, while the Reform party received 18.69% of the popular vote and won 52 seats for their Western Canadian base. My biggest hope for this election is that a string of minority governments will make Canadians realize they need a voting system that deliberately creates a parliament where each party must co-operate with the others to pass laws, and where party representation is proportional to their share of the popular vote. A stack of position papers on different schemes to do that was my bedside reading during my time in Ottawa, and I’ll post an analysis and summary before long. After a day of reading the news, they always gave me a sense of hope.

Just for fun, here’s one possible distribution of seats done proportionately by province:

Party Actual Seats Votes Seats Under PR
Bloc Québécois 51 16.6% 1,552,043 10.48% 31
Conservative 124 40.3% 5,370,903 36.25% 114
Green Party 0 0.0% 665,940 4.49% 12
Independent 1 0.3% 77,438 0.52% 1
Liberal 103 33.4% 4,477,217 30.22% 96
N.D.P. 29 9.4% 2,590,808 17.49% 54
308 14,734,349 308