Why Proportional Representation

The Lovely Lady and I watched a video the other day which I found quite interesting. It was about vote moving, and suggests that there may have been vote moving in the most recent federal election, which may account for the unexpected Conservative majority government. Now, this post is not about that, but it raised some very interesting conversation between us, and I wanted to go into the topic of Proportional Representation.

The video poses the question, “How did the Conservatives win 54.2% of the seats with only 39.6% of the vote?” and that really is an interesting question. I have long believed that a change to proportional representation was the only sensible solution to the problem that comes with our current system. To illustrate it, I’ll create a fictitious example.

Let’s say that Alberta had exactly 30,000 registered voters broken into three separate and equally sized ridings with two parties running in each, which we will lovingly call RIDING #1, RIDING #2, and RIDING C. Yeah, I did that on purpose. So we have an election, and when we count up our votes, we get the following results:

RIDING #1: Liberals win (9,970 to 30)
RIDING #2: Conservatives win (5089 to 4911)
RIDING C: Conservatives win (6000 to 4000)

In our current system, we have two ridings being won by Conservative voters and one being held by a Liberal, which means that the Conservatives win and the Liberals are the official opposition. But what happens when we do the math?

The Conservatives, who the previous way of looking at things are the majority leader, earn a total of 8941 votes. The Liberals emerge in distant second with only 18,881 votes. Wait a minute, that’s weird and ridiculous. If the Liberals got 63% of the votes, how is it that they only have 33% of the seats? And thereby hangs the problem. This clearly does not reflect the will of the people because it means that the Conservative voters in Riding #s 2 and C have more say than the rest of the citizenry.

This situation that we are presently in is called the First-past-the-post system. I didn’t name it. I’d have called it something way more cool, like Disproportionate Representation. This situation creates the potential for vote moving among other things, and ultimately weakens democracy. If I vote for a party that doesn’t win, my vote ceases to matter, even if I voted for the party desired by the majority of the electorate.

Now, I’m not saying that vote moving took place. I have no idea on the topic. I found the video interesting, but it does not (and should not) say that this is what happened, just that this is an interesting possibility that should be investigated.

If this interests you, you might want to look into Fair Vote Canada, a “multi-partisan citizens’ campaign for voting system reform”. The more I read about what actually happened with the 2008 federal election (and not just watching movies by people who may or may not have a valid argument), the more I am convinced that the First-past-the-post system is actually a threat to democracy. As I happen like democracy, let’s see what we can do to change the way this works, shall we?


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About biguglyjim

Like a caterpillar that spins a coccoon and emerges as a walrus with a mohawk, Big Ugly Jim has become something unexpected. Raised a fine young Christian boy in the city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Jim began to question his teachings, first evaluating the wisdom of other religions and eventually realizing that none of them seemed any more accurate than any other, and not a one of them made a lick of sense. Today, Big Ugly Jim is a musician, a Business Analyst with Large Oil Company Whose Name Is Not Important, a music promoter with the Calgary Beer Core, a writer of fiction and non-fiction, a prick, an atheist, a father, an ex-husband, a role model, a horrifying vision in a red speedo (or at least he would be, if ever that happened which IT WOULD NOT), an announcer, and soon to be an officiator of weddings. Also, he's nice and does dishes. Jim continues to live in Calgary, spreading his filthy doctrine of free, critical thinking and appreciation for music.

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