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UPDATE: Council of Canadians supports proportional representation

Fair Vote Canada held its annual general meeting on May 25-26 at Ryerson University in Toronto. Council of Canadians Board member Rick Sawa was present at this gathering. The Council of Canadians has consistently stated over the years that proportional representation is more democratic than our current first-past-the-post electoral system. It ensures a fairer representation of votes cast, and prevents a governing party from holding total power after earning only a small percentage of the popular vote.

In a speech given on the steps of Parliament Hill during a January 2010 anti-prorogation rally, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow stated, “It is time for electoral reform and proportional representation in Canada…” In September 2011, Postmedia News reported, “Barlow said she found it ‘appalling’ that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was able to form a majority government with the support of a small percentage of Canadians who actually voted for the Conservative party. ‘We have to find a way, either through proportional representation or alliance of progressive forces, to form a government that truly represents the views of the majority of Canadians,’…” And in a major speech in Vancouver in November 2011, Barlow highlighted, “Now Stephen Harper and his Conservatives – the most right wing government we have ever had in this country have a so-called majority. I say so-called because if we add the number of people who did not vote for him and combine it with the number who did not vote at all, he has the support of less that one quarter of Canadians.”

In the May 2011 federal election, the Conservatives received 39.62 percent of the popular vote. But with voter turnout at 61.4 percent, that means that just under 25 percent of eligible voters actually voted for the Harper Conservatives in the last election. Despite receiving just 39.62 percent of vote, our skewed electoral system gave the Harper Conservatives a majority with 54.22 percent of the seats in the House of Commons. But if the seats were won in proportion to the votes cast, they would have 122 seats, that’s 45 fewer seats and not a parliamentary majority.

As the Harper agenda steamrollers forward, it may be that proportional representation will be a bigger issue in the October 2015 federal election. In a March 24, 2012 media release, Fair Vote Canada congratulated “Thomas Mulcair, a proponent of proportional representation, on winning the leadership of the federal New Democratic Party. …Mulcair has said that moving to a mixed-member proportional system will be a fundamental plank of the New Democratic Party’s platform next election…” Several years ago, now-Liberal leader Bob Rae stated in a Globe and Mail interview, “I have long been a supporter of some PR ‘add-ons’ to our current system…” And Green Party leader Elizabeth May has stated, “We desperately need a renewal of democracy in this country. This may mean forging ahead with proportional representation and taking lessons learned by other countries who have done the same to come up with an electoral process that is truly meaningful and engages all Canadian voters.”

For past Council of Canadians commentary on proportional representation, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?p=10434 and http://canadians.org/blog/?p=1600.