Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Post-Election Blues - Electoral Reform needed now more than ever

Last night I attended an election gathering at a friend's house. Of the seven of us gathered there, we had people who had voted for the Liberals, NDP and Greens. None of us wanted a Conservative government. And yet each of us, on our way to the polling booth, wrestled with the question of whether or not to vote for the Liberal candidate to ensure that the Conservative did not win.

Ultimately, Liberal Frank Valeriote won the riding with 32.2% of the vote, and about an 1800 vote margin over the Conservative. Ultimately, Green candidate Mike Nagy placed third with over 12,000 votes and 21% of the vote, and NDP candidate Tom King took 9700 votes, or 16.5% of the vote. For much of the night, it was a mere 200 votes separating the two leading candidates. On the one hand, it made those of us who had voted strategically feel a bit better about voting for a candidate other than their favorite. Conversely, when the race was at its tightest, I had a feeling of dread in my stomach that my decision to vote for my preferred candidate might lead to a Conservative victory in my riding. I imagine that this scenario played out in countless households across the country.

It seems to me that something is terribly wrong with an electoral system in which millions of voters feel that they should not vote for their preferred party because that vote will be wasted in terms of returning actual seats in Parliament (the financial subsidy that the party receives is hardly adequate solace). In my riding, it wasn't even a case of the other parties being fringe parties - the 3rd and 4th place candidates took more votes combined than the winner. It is deeply disturbing to me that 940,000 or more voters could vote for the Green party, and not elect a single MP. Or that down the road from me, a switch of 412 votes could have elected two Liberal MPs rather than two Conservative MPs in Kitchener- and that the victor in both cases would still only have attracted barely more than a third of the votes. If we're going to be consigned to an era of minority governments, it would be preferable if the distribution of MPs that make up those governments at least came closer to reflecting the intentions of the voters. I don't have strong opinions about whether proportional representation, MMP or single transferable vote is the way to go, but any of them seem better than the current system.

Of course, none of that would change the fact that the Conservative party clearly won the support of more Canadian voters than any other party. That speaks to an entirely different set of issues, and when I'm feeling less disheartened about last night's results (and my loss in my election pool), I'll address those in a separate post.

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At 2:58 pm, Blogger Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Hear, hear!

I said this morning that the biggest problem with yesterday's election is that is shows how terribly broken our electoral system still is.

At 3:12 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also noted that last night election was a clear indicator of the failure of FPTP.

At 5:25 pm, Blogger Catherine said...

Re: "It is deeply disturbing to me that 940,000 or more voters could vote for the Green party, and not elect a single MP."


At 7:50 pm, Anonymous Maurice said...

Hi Matt,

I've posted about this (again) on my blog (, from which I link to an MMP calculator I've devised with several past election results ( The Conservatives should not have gained as much as they have this time around, even though they've been kept to a minority.


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