Local MP Rachel Blaney says she often hears her constituents complain there’s no use in going to the polls because they feel their vote is meaningless.
“Just from knocking on doors I heard that a lot of people felt their voice was not going to be heard,” Blaney told a modest crowd gathered at the Community Centre Saturday afternoon. “And that’s a huge concern.”
Blaney, as part of the federal NDP’s commitment to public engagement, is one of several MPs hosting Town Hall meetings across the country to gather input on electoral reform.
The feedback from Canadians will be given to a Special Committee on Electoral Reform that has been appointed by the Liberal government to explore ways to make the country’s voting system more proportional.
Canada currently uses the First-Past-the-Post voting method in federal elections. In the winner-takes-all system, the candidate with the most votes is elected.
Blaney said the problem with that system is it distorts electoral outcomes and it can produce false majorities.
She said that in the 2015 federal election, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals formed a majority government although the party only received 39 per cent of the popular vote across Canada.
“In the 2015 election nine million votes were wasted, that is more than the populations of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Atlantic provinces combined,” Blaney said. “What that means is that once somebody wins, those other votes disappear.”
The committee on electoral reform is exploring whether some form of proportional representation could be a more fair system for Canada.
Blaney said the party she represents, the NDP, favours the Mixed Member Proportional system.
With that method, every elector gets two votes – one to elect a local MP and the other to elect an MP that would represent your region.
The Mixed Member Proportional system is a hybrid model; about 62 per cent of MPs would be local riding MPS elected by the current winner-takes-all system while about 38 per cent of the MPs would be elected as regional MPs, by an elector’s regional vote.
Votes for the regional MP would also count as a vote for the party which they represent and that party vote would determine what proportion of the seats each party should have in the region.
The Mixed Member Proportional systems has been recommended by the Law Commission of Canada but the BC Citizens’ Assembly is recommending a different proportional representation approach – the Single Transferable Vote.
Under that system, voters would elect a small team of MPs in a multi-member riding as opposed to voting for one MP in each single-member riding.
It is a candidate-centred system that allows voters to rank candidates based on the characteristics and values that are most important to them. It produces more proportional results than First-Past-the-Post and offers independents a better chance to be elected.
That system, however, is used nationally in Ireland, in two Australian territories, in Scotland for local elections and was used provincially in Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton for 30 years.
Blaney said the bottom line is there is never going to be a system that works for everybody, but federal political parties are attempting to improve the system for Canadians.
“There’s never going to be a perfect system because we are human beings,” Blaney said. “It’s about figuring out what’s the best system.”
Around the world, there are 94 countries using some form of proportional representation when it comes to holding elections. Canada is just one of a group of four that includes India, the U.S. and Britain, that still uses First-Past-the-Post.
But change may be on the horizon.
The Electoral Reform Committee must present all of its findings to Parliament by Dec. 1 of this year.
Elections Canada has told the Liberal government that if chooses to go the route of a referendum to decide on a new electoral system, that a decision must be made to do so by June, 2017.
In order to have a new system in place for the 2019 federal election, the new model would have to be implemented by the fall of 2017.
For more information and to fill out a questionnaire and have your say on electoral reform visit, www.parl.gc.ca/Committee/en/ERRE