A better electoral system for Canada: moderate proportional representation with ranked ballots.

Author:Derriennic, Jean-Pierre

Canada's current plurality vote system can create false majorities, lead to strategic voting and exacerbate regional cleavages, despite often bringing the stability of a coherent parliamentary majority government. Although proponents of reform may agree that the current system should be changed, they are often divided about what type of system should replace it. In this article, author Jean-Pierre Derriennic suggests two prominent reform models--a preferential/ranked ballot system and a moderate-form of proportional representation--could be combined to create a system that allows voters to cast ballots sincerely, reduces partisan regional polarization, and ensures stable coalition governments made up of parties that have broad popular appeal.


Electoral reform is needed in Canada to correct the major flaws in the voting system we have been using to date. It is not a majority system, as it is often called, but rather a plurality vote system, since a candidate can be elected with the support of less than half of the voters in that riding. Candidates simply need to get more than their opponents, which is sometimes called a "plurality". This leads to the one positive aspect of this voting system, but also its main flaws.

The plurality vote system makes it easier to form coherent parliamentary majorities by granting, most often to the party that won the most support, a higher proportion of elected members than their share of the popular vote. This is the main argument made by proponents of this system. However, it can also allow false majorities to form, when one party gets more elected members than a rival party that won more of the popular vote. It exaggerates the conflicts that exist between the different regions of Canada, by preventing either the government majority or the opposition from having any representation in certain provinces. Quite often it forces voters to vote strategically rather than sincerely, and creates enormous disparities in the political influence enjoyed by people depending on the number of electors in their riding, and especially between ridings in which the gaps between candidates are narrow and those in which the gaps are quite wide.

It is possible to rectify those flaws while preserving the only advantage of the current system, that is, the possibility of forming coherent parliamentary majorities. To do so, two methods must be used: moderate proportional representation and ranked ballots. Ranked ballots can be applied in single-member ridings, which is what we have now, or in ridings electing several members proportionately among the parties. These two methods are therefore not mutually exclusive, as I explained in a short book published recently by Les Presses de l'Universite Laval entitled Un meilleur Systeme electoral pour le Canada / A Better Electoral System for Canada.

Ranked ballots are highly recommended because it puts voters in a much better moral and intellectual position than the current single-choice...

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