RAMPing up parliament--an alternative to electoral reform.

Author:Lambertson, Ross

Electoral reform is a complicated proposition, yet the current first-past-the-post (or single member plurality) system has been criticised for leading to "wasted votes" and "strategic voting," as well as often creating "false majorities." In this article, the author proposes a novel "Revised Additional Majority Parliamentary" (RAMP) system which could address some of these criticisms without fundamentally altering the way we elect our parliamentarians. He concludes by noting that RAMP is a democratic, inexpensive, and simple way to experiment and innovate if either the status quo or a completely new way of electing parliamentarians are deemed undesirable.


Canadian electoral reform involves a befuddling menu of alternatives--first-past-the-post (FPTP), different versions of proportional representation (PR), the alternative vote (AV), the single transferable vote (STV), some combination of different approaches (such as mixed member proportional representation, or MMP), as well as deciding whether the final decision should be determined by a national referendum (which, according to the Chief Electoral Officer, would cost about $300 million). To make things even more complicated, some pundits allege that certain choices will cause political indigestion for certain political parties, while others claim that many options would be unhealthy for the Canadian public. Finally, there has been debate about timing; whatever our choice, will we get served on time? In other words, will the government present Canadians, as promised, with a new voting system for the next election?

Maybe it is time to reject the menu altogether, or "think outside the box," and discuss an alternative to the alternatives--parliamentary reform rather than electoral reform. Let's consider making a party's percentage of power in the House of Common equal to its percentage of the national vote. We could do this by ensuring that a bill can pass the House only if, first, it has the support of a majority of MPs (as is the case today), and second, these same MPs were elected by a majority of the voting public in the most recent election.

This could be called a "double majority system," but this is a generic term for any approach employing two different criteria for what constitutes a majority. Also, the term has been used in pre-Confederation Canadian political history to describe the convention necessitating a majority vote from representatives in both Canada East and Canada West. My proposal could perhaps be called a "concurrent majority system," but that phrase has a particular meaning in the pre-Civil War politics of the American South. It could also be called a "supermajority," except this means something else today in the United States, and the term "qualified majority" is associated with voting in the EU Council. I am therefore calling the proposal the "Revised Additional Majority Parliamentary" (RAMP) system, since it would be a revision of the status quo, adding a second majority requirement to voting in the House of Commons.

To explain this, let's begin by looking at the results of the 2015 election:

* In 2015 the Liberals won just a bit less than 40 per cent of the national vote but just over 54 per cent of the seats (184 seats out of 338), a majority government.

* The Conservatives received almost 32 per cent of the national vote, and almost 30 per cent of the seats (99 seats).

* The NDP won close to 20 per cent of the national vote, but only 13 per cent of the seats (44 seats).

* The Bloc came in with a bit less than 5 per cent of the national vote, and about 3 per cent of the seats (10 seats).

* The Greens won almost 3.5 per cent of the national vote, but only about 0.3 per cent of the seats (1 seat).

Under the present system the Liberals have a majority government because the voters elected enough of their candidates to constitute what we can call Majority 1--MPs representing more than half of the 338 seats in the House of Commons. Yet if RAMP were in effect, the Liberals would not achieve what we can call Majority 2 because they won less than half (only 40 per cent) of the national vote in the 2015 election. With RAMP, the government could not pass legislation without either support from the NDP (40 per cent plus 20 per cent equals 60 per cent), or support from the Conservative Party (40 per cent plus 32 per cent equals 72 per cent). As with minority governments in the past, the government could, if necessary, rely on different parties for different votes.

The Liberals would not, of course, be able to achieve Majority 2 with support from either the Greens or the Bloc. Nor would it be able to reach Majority 2 with support of both parties (40 per cent plus...

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