Thursday, September 25, 2008

Rant Against FPTP

Well, since we're in an election year, now would be the perfect time to bring this up.

I have long had a problem with the way in which Members of Parliament and Members of the Legislative Assembly have been elected. Now, I know there are some people who are asking, 'Is he about to rant against democratic choice?' No, rather, I'm about to rant against the undemocratic method Canada currently uses in determining who becomes our elected representatives.

Currently, our voting system operates in a system that is known as First Past the Post (FPTP) in which a plurality (or majority) of votes is needed by a single candidate to be elected. In my current federal riding of Saskatoon-Humboldt a clear example of how this system is broken can be found. Our current MP is Conservative Brad Trost.

In the last election, Mr. Trost captured 49.07% of the vote within the riding, according to the CBC. (Saskatoon-Humboldt 2006 Results) Now, what this effectively means is that 50.93% of the riding voted against having a Conservative represent us in Ottawa. So, the majority didn't want Mr. Trost as our MP. Yet due to him getting the single largest number of votes, the will of the majority was ignored and he was ushered into office.

Now, I can hear some people saying; 'but the majority was listened to, he got the most out of all them...So that's the true majority!' Well, that's not true, to be brutally honest.

So, what is the solution? A scary term almost every Canadian has heard at some point: Proportional Representation (PR.)

As some of you may be aware, Ontario in their last election included a public referrendum on the idea of PR which was rejected by the electorate. Given the circumstances of the PR System, I'm not surprised. I'm working towards a degree in political science, have done a paper on PR, and not even I understood the system they were proposing.

Now, I can hear people saying; 'If PR is such a complicated issue that YOU don't understand, why are you proposing it?' To that I say; there are numerous forms of PR, some of which are far less complicated.

The seemingly popular, but not a good idea, system of PR is known as a Party List System. Under this system, a party captures the total number of seats based on how many votes they received throughout the country. Under this system a party usually needs to hit a specific quota in order to receive a seat. Generally, the quota is around 5% nationally with seats assigned as such.

In addition to the quota system; the party list functions on the basis of 'a who's who' within a political party. This means that popular party members are higher on the list. (Start with the Leader, then popular party members.) This increases the likelihood of an increased number of MPs from one part of the country rather than being truly representive of the entire nation.

You can see the headache that a system like that would cause for most Canadians, myself included.

Rather, the best system of PR is what is known as a Single-Transferable Vote system. This system is rather easy for anyone to understand and wouldn't require a massive change to the way our political system works presently.

A single-transferable vote functions by having an elector number the candidates on the ballot from 1 - 4, or however many candidates are on the ballot. So, if the Conservatives were your first choice, you'd number the Con. Candidate as 1 and then the other candidates in sequential order until all have a number or you have no other choice.

As such, this is what happens when the votes are counted.

If your first choice finishes last in terms of overall votes, they are removed from the election and your ballot is transferred to your second choice. So, if your first choice was Liberal but they finished last in your riding, your vote would be transferred to your second choice (which for fun, let's say is the NDP.) So, the votes are recounted with all the Liberal votes transferred to the second choice on the ballot.

This process continues until no more votes can be transferred and a candidate has a clear majority of 50% in the riding. By using a STV system, fewer votes are 'wasted' and the idea of 'vote splitting' disappears as votes are transferred.

The system isn't completely perfect, but it is by far a much better choice than our current electoral system.

As far as I currently know, only the NDP and Green Party current support electoral reform to a PR system. I'm not sure which PR system the parties are advocating, but hopefully it would be one based on a STV model.

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