I Oppose Proportional Representation

Pressure to change our electoral system from first-past-the-post to proportional representation grows immediately after each election. And it easy to see why those with a hierarchical bent complain.

  • In the last Federal election, the Liberals scored 40% of the vote but gained 54% of the seats, while the Greens took 3.4% of the vote and were rewarded with just 0.3% of the seats;
  • In 2011, the Tories achieved 40% of the vote and they too took 54% of the seats.  The Liberals, with 19% of the vote, received only 11% of the seats. In that year, though, the NDP got 30% of the vote but 33% of the seats.

Those in favour of proportional representation argue that the number of seats in the Federal parliament should be, more or less, equal to the proportion of votes received. The results under such a system would have been as follows:

  • 2015 (338 total seats):
    • LPC 135 seats (184 taken):
    • CPC 108 seats (99):
    • NDP 67 seats (44):
    • GPC  11 seats (1)

So long as one is not opposed to coalitions (which I certainly am not), these results — which could be repeated for all the elections  we have had — seem to cry out for proportional representation to make the system “fair”.  But wait. There is no such thing as a free lunch, so what are giving up to create “fairness” in a Federal parliament?

What we give up — and the key reason I oppose PR — is the right to choose our own local representative. And here’s why.  Under a Federal PR system, each party (party not electors) creates a list of 338 candidates (one for each available seat), numbered from 1 to 338.  When the votes are cast as in 2015, the top 40% of the Liberal list are declared elected, along with the top 32% of the Tory list, the top 20% of the NDP list, and the top 3.4% of the Green list.  Note that none — repeat NONE — of these candidates is attached to a riding.

It is probable that regional (or provincial) lists would be part of any PR system chosen. In other words, my vote in Vancouver East would be combined with all similar votes in the region or province, and seats are then allocated on the basis of the parties’ regional or provincial lists.  Still, once again, there is no local representation.

This is OK only if you believe the abstract Federal level is the most important. However, if you believe like me that true democracy is being able to choose the actual person you want to represent your neighbourhood, then your rights are stripped completely away by PR. Thus I oppose it.

The creation of party lists takes power away from the individual voter and puts it ALL into the hands of party executives; their friends and cronies will always appear at the top of the lists, and the risk of corruption (say, getting a high number on the list due to one’s wealth rather than one’s desire for public service or ability) will always be just around the corner. Thus I oppose it.

I believe that the first-past-the-post system (with all its faults) more closely matches local opinion to representation. I also believe that many of the issues with the current system would be resolved or mitigated by introducing a preferential voting system. In other words, no-one can be elected without achieving 50% of the vote in the riding. This would be achieved by allowing voters to label candidates with first and second preferences.  If a majority is not reached on a first ballot, the lowest vote getter is eliminated and his/her second choices are distributed. This continues until one candidate reached 50%+1.

So, let’s amend the current system to fix errors, but keep the fully local basis of election,

9 Responses to I Oppose Proportional Representation

  1. Can understand your view but it seems to depend on the state. In Texas it’s republican so the majority get their choice but if you take California, which is a lot more diverse, 49.9% of the population don’t get who they vote for. Choosing who represents your community is a good thing but shouldn’t people be able to be represented by the party they feel comfortable with?

  2. jakking says:

    Different Parliamentary system in Canada than in the States, with multiple parties and no direct vote of the leader. No idea how PR would work in the US to be frank.

  3. Tom says:

    ” Under a Federal PR system, each party (party not electors) creates a list of 338 candidates (one for each available seat), numbered from 1 to 338.”
    This is not the only way of accomplishing proportional representation. Single Transferable Vote systems still include local representation.

  4. jakking says:

    STV is essentially what I suggested above, but without the very large multi-,member constituencies.

    • activist2014 says:

      No-one has ever recommended a PR system that you describe for Canada. In fact, Holland is one of the few countries in the world that has no electoral districts at all.

      Under all recommended PR systems for Canada, all candidates directly face the voter. All MPs are directly tied to ridngs whether as a local MP or regional MP.

      AV (ranked ballots in single-member ridings) does not guarantee a majority in a riding – only that the winner will have 50% of the vote left after many votes are discarded (not 50% of the votes cast). AV is still a plurality system. http://electionresults.govt.nz/2015_flag_referendum1/results-by-count-report.html

      You might want to check on the Fair Vote Canada website to find out what has been proposed in the 10 Cdn studies on electoral reform and how voting systems compare. http://campaign2015.fairvote.ca/reports/

  5. Tom says:

    So…does that mean you’ve reconsidered your opposition to PR?

  6. Tom says:

    That’s true – you did.
    But a ranked ballot in a single-member riding still doesn’t help: if party A has 39% support province-wide they could still sweep the province even if party B has 35%. If you had larger 3 member ridings (combining 3 smaller single member ridings) then party B supporters ( and likely party C & D supporters) would also be represented. The candidates could still be chosen locally.
    I too would oppose the pure-proportional party-selected list scenario you described, but I would hope no one would seriously propose such a system for Canada.

  7. activist2014 says:

    There are many misconceptions about alternative vote (ranked ballots in single-member ridings). One of them is that they always produce a majority winner in a riding. That is not true. The winner only has to have 50% after many votes are discarded (not 50% of votes cast). AV is still a plurality voting system.

    Secondly, riding boundaries become silos that lock up many votes which never elect anyone. In the last Cdn federal election, 51% of all votes cast elected no-one. Adding a ranked ballot to a single-member riding only improves that number marginally. However, many proportional voting systems reduce that number to 2%.

    Electoral results under AV are the same as FPTP about 90% of the time except that AV results in more unaccountable majorities.

    The only benefit of AV is that it reduces vote-splitting. But that benefit accrues to the largest political parties as smaller parties are squeezed out. Smaller parties get more votes but not more seats.

    AV is not about making individual votes count or giving the voter more choice. AV is about eliminating vote-splitting so that some political parties become more powerful. The only place where AV is used for comparable parliamentary elections is Australia.

    AV was implemented in OZ almost 100 years ago because the Labour Party kept winning when the vote split between two right-wing parties. OZ is now effectively a duopoly that has many majority governments.

    The only thing that saves Aussies is that they also have a very powerful, elected, proportional Senate that often blocks legislation from the AV majority in the House of Reps. The AV Reps cannot pass legislation that does not pass muster with the proportional Senate.

    Canada has no such protection against the potential 1-party rule under majority governments. Nor do we want the US-style gridlock that OZ experiences.

    For this reason, AV would like be worse than FPTP for Canadians.

    Only a well-designed proportional voting system will provide the foundation and catalyst for the badly needed democratic reforms that Canada needs. Canadians deserve equal and effective votes.

    Ranked ballots can be effectively used in most proportional voting systems. You can see some models here: http://campaign2015.fairvote.ca/suggested-videos/

    Click to access TheAlternativeVoteBriefingPaper.pdf



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