In the debate about electoral reform, the government is so far refusing to give Canadians a vote over what system they will
propose impose. This is completely undemocratic.
But given the government doesn’t want to give Canadians a democratic vote over the fate of our democratic institutions, it becomes important to understand what changes they’re likely to bring in – and underscore the importance of signing our petition to demand a referendum before any changes are implemented to ensure the legitimacy of Canada’s democracy.
The Liberal Party has traditionally supported the use of a Preferential, or Ranked Ballot, system being used in Canada, which is (surely by coincidence) a system that greatly benefits the Liberals.
— Defend Democracy (@DefendDemoCA) December 29, 2015
With a Preferential system, a voter will put a number beside each candidate in their riding. Their first choice gets a 1, their second choice a 2, and so on.
When ballots are counted, a winner is not declared until a candidate reaches 50%. In order to achieve this, several rounds of counting may be necessary. In each round, the last place candidate is dropped from the ballot and the people who voted for that candidate have their votes redistributed to other candidates based on who their second, third, or fourth (etc.) choice candidates are. Since the Liberals are a disproportionate number of people’s second choice, this system works in their favour.
This is a valid electoral system to argue for. So is Proportional Representation. And First Past the Post. And Single Transferable Vote. And on, and on, and on. Every system has pros and cons, and the point of this is not to argue for or against any of them.
But it is vital to understand why Canadians must have the final say over electoral reform: the government is moving to usher in electoral “reforms” that would give the governing party a distinct advantage in future elections and fundamentally alter our democracy in their own favour. This is wholly undemocratic, and it is hard to contemplate that such a thing could happen in an advanced Western democracy such as Canada. Yet here we are.
Consider this: if the most recent federal election had taken place with a Preferential Ballot rather than the current system, the Liberals would have won an additional 40 seats – making their majority even bigger, without actually having any more popular support. (Source: CBC)
Whether or not this is a good thing is a fundamental decision that no government can be allowed to make for itself. Canadians must ultimately control the fate of our democratic institutions if they are to maintain legitimacy and fairness.