Federal Election 2011

First-Past-The-Post Is Unfair

Our current voting system ensures that Canadians do not have governments that reflect what the public actually wants.

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 04, 2011

Once again, the results of Canada's federal election have highlighted the problems with our first-past-the-post (FPTP) system of voting.

In FPTP, each riding is won by the candidate who receives the most votes, even if that candidate receives less than half of the total.

As a result, it is possible for a party to win a majority of seats in the House of Commons even if it wins less than half of the total votes, if the candidate for that party wins more seats than any other candidate, but less than half, in a majority of ridings.

A common effect of FPTP vote counting is that a small advantage in the number of votes a party's candidates receive translates into a large absolute advantage in the number of seats that party's candidates win. This election was no exception.

Election Results, 2011
Party % Votes % Seats Prop. Seats Actual Seats Difference
Conservative 39.62 54.22 122 167 +45
NDP 30.63 33.12 94 102 +8
Liberal 18.91 11.04 58 34 -24
Bloc 6.04 1.30 19 4 -15
Green 3.91 0.32 12 1 -11

The Conservative Party received 39.62% of the total votes cast but won 54% of the seats in the House of Commons. If they had won a number of seats that was proportionate to the number of votes they received, the Conservatives would have won 122 seats instead of 167. That's a difference of 45 seats.

Similarly, the NDP received 30.63% of the votes cast but won 33.12% of the seats in the House of Commons. If they had won a number of seats proportionate to the number of votes they received, the NDP would have won 94 seats instead of 102. That's a difference of 8 seats.

Interestingly, the NDP were traditionally on the losing end of the unbalanced FPTP equation, winning a number of seats that was much smaller than the proportionate share of votes cast.

For example, in the 2008 equation, the NDP received 18.18% of the votes cast but only 12% of the seats in the House of Commons.

The Liberals were particularly hard-hit. Their share of the popular vote fell from 26.26% in 2008 to 18.91% in 2011, but their number of seats collapsed from 77 to 34. If they had won seats in proportion to their share of the popular vote, they would have had 81 seats and 58 seats, respectively.

In previous elections, the FPTP equation strongly benefited the Liberals. In the 1993 election, the Liberals received 41% of the votes cast but won 60% of the seats. Four years later, they won 51% of the seats with 38% of the votes. Then, in 2000, they won 57% of the seats with 40% of the votes cast.

Smaller Parties

Smaller parties are hit even harder by FPTP calculus, if their votes are distributed geographically across the country.

In this election, the Green Party received 3.91% of the votes but only one seat, or 0.32% of the total. With proportional representation, the Green Party would have won 12 seats.

Votes for the Green Party fell significantly over the 2008 election, in which they received 6.78% of the votes. In that election, proportionate representation would have given them 21 seats instead of the zero they actually won.

On the other hand, FPTP can give big benefits to small parties whose support is clustered geographically. In 2008, the Bloc Quebec, which only fields candidates in Quebec, won 49 out of that province's 75 seats. With proportionate representation, they would have won only 31 seats.

This time around, the scales tipped to the NDP, who won 59 seats and all but wiped out the Bloc, whose share of the national popular vote fell from 9.98% in 2008 to 6.04% in 2011.

Election Results, 2008
Party % Votes % Seats Prop. Seats Actual Seats Difference
Conservative 37.65 46.43% 116 143 +27
NDP 18.18 12.01% 56 37 -19
Liberal 26.26 25.00% 81 77 -4
Bloc 9.98 16.56% 31 49 +18
Green 6.78 0.00% 21 0 -21

Unfair System

FPTP simply isn't fair. It isn't fair when a slight advantage in a party's share of the popular vote translates into a huge advantage in the party's number of seats in the House of Commons.

It isn't fair when a party that has significant support across the country has no or almost no representation in the House of Commons because that support is distributed among a large number of ridings.

It isn't fair when as much as two-thirds of the votes cast in a given riding are effectively discarded simply because they were not cast for a winning candidate.

It isn't fair when a party can win a majority of seats with only 40% of votes cast and then act as though the electorate has given that party a "mandate" to carry out a platform which more than half of Canadians voted to oppose.

It wasn't fair when the Mulroney Conservatives did it in the 1980s or when the Chretien Liberals did it in the 1990s, and it still isn't fair today.

Representative Government

FPTP ensures that Canadians do not have governments that reflect what the public actually wants.

A party that has a minority of votes should have a minority of seats and should have to find ways to work with other parties representing other Canadian voters to develop and enact policies that truly reflect what Canadians want from our government.

This is not about which party won the election. It would have been just as outrageous if the Liberals or the NDP had won a majority with only a plurality of votes.

The problem is the system itself. It is past due for that system to change.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. Ryan also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 04, 2011 at 18:38:39

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 05, 2011 at 09:33:41 in reply to Comment 63064

A nineteen year old and a woman who spent the campaign on vacation in Vegas got elected because they happened to have an (NDP) after their name.

In our current culture, electing local reps is a farce.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted May 04, 2011 at 20:16:15 in reply to Comment 63064

So in your world around 40% equates to a true majority? Interesting...

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 04, 2011 at 21:11:28 in reply to Comment 63066

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted May 04, 2011 at 21:43:57 in reply to Comment 63067

I disagree with the entire concept that FPTP is unfair or doesn't represent the wishes of the electorite.

The only way that I can interpret this is that you feel that it represents the wish of the electorate. 40% of the electorate spoke for Conservative representation, yet they have 54% of the seats. To me, that isn't the wish of the electorate. YMMV.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 04, 2011 at 21:53:33 in reply to Comment 63070

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 04, 2011 at 21:57:57 in reply to Comment 63071

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted May 04, 2011 at 19:52:50 in reply to Comment 63064

For the first time ever, I agree with Say What!

I'm a big fan of Instant Runoff Voting. I think having a system like that would greatly reduce the amount of "strategic voting" that happens in this country.

In fact, tomorrow the UK is having a legally binding referendum for an IRV system.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 05, 2011 at 09:40:00 in reply to Comment 63065

IRV would eliminate Canada's wonderfully-simple vote-counting system.

Here's my platform for electoral reform:

1) Approval-based voting for representatives in the House of Commons. That's enough to end our vote-splitting problems and allow Canada to support a diverse field of parties, while still preserving our simple hand-counting system.

2) Add a party-vote box to the ballot in the Federal Election. This vote is used to proportionally dole out senate seats to the parties. If you want to preserve the provincial-representation concept of the Senate, then require that only former MPs or MPPs from the province the seat ostensibly represents can be appointed to the Senate. Oh, and fixed 20-year terms for senate seats - a party can replace a senator without an election when if the Senator retires before his term is up.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 05, 2011 at 11:48:37 in reply to Comment 63093

Oops, forgot part 3)

After an election, the GG is elected by a run-off vote in the House, similar to how the Speaker is elected (but not secret ballot).

The GG will then select the PM's office as he or she sees fit.

In this way, the GG (and, in turn, the PM's office) will become a position selected by the majority of Parliament instead of being appointed by the PM and the PM in turn being the leader of the party with the most seats. Coalitions will then be the default arrangement instead of aberrations.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted May 04, 2011 at 21:23:19

I prefer a blended system, where half the MPs are elected by first past the post (so you have someone in your local riding who is accountable to you) and then "floater" seats are granted based on proportional of the vote.

It's not perfect, as someone mentioned no system is, but I like the idea.

BTW, didn't we have a referendum on electoral reform a few elections ago, and it was defeated? That was unfortunate...

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 04, 2011 at 22:11:17 in reply to Comment 63068

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted May 04, 2011 at 23:18:15 in reply to Comment 63075

Although there is no way to know for certain, I wonder how many of the voters understood what they were voting for.

Given the choice of "the existing electoral system" or the "alternative electoral system...", I'm willing to bet that the people who had little to no idea what they were reading, chose the one they were familiar with only because they didn't know anything about the alternative.

If/when we vote on this again, there should be a quiz on the ballot. Only those who answer the question(s) accurately should have their vote counted.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 04, 2011 at 23:40:40 in reply to Comment 63078

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By highwater (registered) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 08:44:44 in reply to Comment 63079

Oh please. You know what else is part of democracy? Ensuring that every vote is weighted equally so that every citizen has an equal say in choosing their leaders. That is not what we have now. On top of the inherent unfairness of FPTP, the enormous discrepancies in the sizes of ridings quite literally ensures that some citizens in this country are more equal than others. Even if you accept FPTP, doesn't it bother you that someone in PEI has three times as much power as you?

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted May 06, 2011 at 23:24:37 in reply to Comment 63085

Every vote is weighted equally. Show me how any one vote carries more weight than any other. There are winners and there are losers and I think that is at the root of this article. Many on this site are unhappy about the results and rather than just accepting the results as the will of the people the whining about the system starts. Remember all the whining about the Toronto municipal election results when Ford won?

There are constant comments on this site and others that the system we have is not fair and also numerous comments about how many people do not know how the system works. Do you really think making it more complicated will help? The system we have is not perfect but then no system is. I bet if the results had been different we would hear a lot less whining about how unfair our system is.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted May 06, 2011 at 23:41:37 in reply to Comment 63183

Every vote is weighted equally. Show me how any one vote carries more weight than any other.

Seriously?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 05, 2011 at 11:26:51 in reply to Comment 63085

I never thought I'd see the day where "one man, one vote" had become a controversial statement.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 09:35:36 in reply to Comment 63085

>> doesn't it bother you that someone in PEI has three times as much power as you?

As measured by what? The ability to become dependent on government transfer payments.

That's not power, that's bondage.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 04, 2011 at 22:06:47 in reply to Comment 63068

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 09:39:35 in reply to Comment 63074

There is no "unelected half" there is a half that was elected based on proportional representation.

Many Canadians are just as concerned, if not moreseo, by what "party" or "leader" they are voting for - and completely ignore local candidates in any event.

By having half the parliament elected by proportional representation, and half elected by fptp, you can allow voters to support their "leader" or their "party" without forcing them to support a local candidate they dislike.

This is the advantage of a blended system over a pure FPTP system - and one that I'm trying to incoprorate into FPTP.

Yes, you might end up with that same "rejected" candidates getting one of those "proportional" seats, but at least you won't have to deal with them as your local representative.

The "check" would be at the next election, where if you feel the party you supported has been appointing individuals who weren't competent, you can choose to support a different party.

We seem to disagree somewhat on what is the most important aspect of elections. You feel voters being able to "accept or reject" each specific MP is most important. Other people feel that the overall results reflecting the overall support in the country is most important. I feel both are important

I'm advocating a blended solution which attempts to keep what I see as the strenght of FPTP (having a local representative accountable to you) and proportional representation (which is having a parliament that reflects the overall support in the country). My suggestion isn't perfect either - but I think that it's a good start.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 10:48:10 in reply to Comment 63092

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 05, 2011 at 12:09:26 in reply to Comment 63098

If you don't like who your party appoints for the list-based positions, don't vote for that party.

Quebecers elected college students, non-residents, and a teenager because they had NDP after their name.

As far as I'm concerned, that's functionally the same as what you just described.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 12:26:02 in reply to Comment 63111

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted May 06, 2011 at 13:24:20 in reply to Comment 63112

Based on the exit poles that have been in the media recently, they've found that Canadians overwhelmingly voted for parties, and few if any voted for their local candidates. That's what was behind the orange crush, and seems to reflect the thought process of over 90% of Canadian voters.

Given this, I think it's hard to argue that FPTP is the best of all possible system for Canada to have.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted May 04, 2011 at 21:30:28

No more political parties. All independent candidates.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 05, 2011 at 11:17:44 in reply to Comment 63069

With the small budgets people have for running local elections, that's a recipe for the same problem we have with our Hamilton municipal elections - public office becomes the field of local celebrities just because they've got the name recognition.

I'm already annoyed by the revolving door between CH/Cable14 and city council. I don't want that in parliament.

Parties allow candidates to pool their resources to advertise their common platform.

The only way I'd support voting for a person instead of a party would be if we did it nation wide and gave that person power proportional to their votes... so instead of the Conservative party having 160ish seats in the house, you fire all those MPs and directly give Harper 40% of the power in the House.

And that kind of system would be a little crazy.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 19:09:15 in reply to Comment 63100

The problem is the common platform is bullshit. One platform can't possibly best represent the needs of constituents in all ridings. The success of no parties is in people finding common ground and giving up some wants to get some others.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 04, 2011 at 22:20:57

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By JonC (registered) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 19:01:45 in reply to Comment 63076

Do remember the way the question was worded, because it was proposed to fail.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 08:13:28 in reply to Comment 63076

So in a hypothetical environment where you have a conservative, a left-leaning liberal and an ndp, 36% of the people vote conservative and the vote for the two lefties is split 32% each, the conservative gets elected. Given that 64% of the electorate voted left, how was the will of the electorate represented?

One could make the same argument going to the right back when there were the PCs and the Reform.

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted May 05, 2011 at 03:27:46

How about first past the post for the parliament and representational for the senate? That way the senate could be filled with experienced people of the party's choice (cronies). And We could then focus on voting for the best candidate in our riding. Ignoring the pseudo executive system (strategically voting for harper or baldassaro) that we have now. This could be called senate reform. Parliament does not have to change, and the embarrassment that the senate has become is resolved.

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By Zot (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 08:47:02

My primary difficulty with the existing system is that no matter what I do a government winds up getting elected... O.K. I'm an Anarchist and that's a topic for another day it seems, let's leave that aside and consider how to improve "fairness" in a representative democratic system.

A solution that has not yet been mentioned here yet, probably because I suspect it is not well known, is what has been called "Lottery voting". Works like this: No change to the existing system of ridings; a large number of them with (more or less) equal population, candidates run in a particular riding, as they do now (unlike some proportional representation systems where a nationwide slate is run). Candidates can run as independents, or members of a party. What distinguishes lottery based voting is what is done with the ballots. They are not counted, but rather one of them is selected at random and the candidate on that ballot wins the election in that riding.

A more detailed explanation of the merits of this sytem can be found here:
http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1963&context=fss_papers&sei-redir=1#search=%22lottery+voiting%22

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By highwater (registered) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 09:11:11

Even the Calgary Herald is calling Harper's victory a 'warped' majority.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 09:19:38

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By Zot (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 11:18:55 in reply to Comment 63088

I assume you were referring to my suggestion "say what". The short answer is yes, I would accept those Baldesaro and green results. Here is why: Remember that the lottery vote method just decides who gets elected. Votes within the house of commons i.e. the elected members voting on legislation, would continue to be decided on the basis of a simple majority the way they are now.

So, in the case of Baldesaro having 5% support within his riding his chances of being elected would indeed be 1 in 20. But in the case of the Green Party having 5% support in each riding and a member running in every riding it's chances of getting the 155 seats needed to form a majority would be vastly smaller than 5%.
This result might not be obvious to those unfamiliar with probability theory.

I wrote a little Monte Carlo simulation of 1 million elections given these assumptions.

In those one million simulated elections the smallest number of the 308 possible seats in the house won by the Greens was 1, and the largest was 35. The average was 15.3974. This agrees well with the 15.4 seat average you would expect if the greens got exactly 5% of the vote.

Increasing the number of elections held in the simulation to 10 million increased the number of Green seats in their best election to 43

Here is the source code for the simulation, written in the BASIC programming language:

'mote carlo simulation of minority party,
'"Greens", winning a majority using lottery voting
'assumes greens have a candidate in every riding
'and that percentage popular support is the same in every riding
'in this case 5%
'written in "FREEBasic"

'define variables:
Dim seats_in_the_house As Integer = 308
Dim needed_for_majority As Integer = 155
Dim green_percentage_support As Double = 5.0
Dim number_of_elections As Integer = 1000000

Dim As Integer greens_elected, election_count, seat_count
Dim As Integer max_greens, total_greens, green_majorities
Dim As Integer min_greens = seats_in_the_house

'Initialize random number generator with mersene twister algorithm
Randomize ,3

'Run the simulation
For election_count = 1 To number_of_elections ' do each election
greens_elected = 0
For seat_count = 1 To seats_in_the_house ' do a single seat
If (green_percentage_support / 100.0) >= rnd Then
greens_elected += 1
EndIf
Next
total_greens += greens_elected
If greens_elected >= needed_for_majority Then
green_majorities += 1
EndIf
If greens_elected > max_greens Then
max_greens = greens_elected
EndIf
If greens_elected < min_greens Then
min_greens = greens_elected
EndIf
Next
' print results:
Print "Elections in simulation:", number_of_elections
Print "Minimum Greens elected:", min_greens
Print "Maximum Greens elected:", max_greens
Print "Average Greens elected:", total_greens / number_of_elections
Print "Green Majorities:", green_majorities

'finish the program
sleep
End

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 11:37:08 in reply to Comment 63101

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By Zot (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 11:57:17 in reply to Comment 63105

Well, in the case we are discussing the probability of a Green Majority at 5% popular support nation wide are 2.18e-202. Since there have only been on the order of 10e18 seconds since the "Big Bang" 13 billion years ago I strongly suggest you avoid casinos :-)

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 12:28:03 in reply to Comment 63110

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 13:27:30 in reply to Comment 63113

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 11:30:47 in reply to Comment 63101

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 11:33:10 in reply to Comment 63103

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 10:15:50

Why is anyone arguing with Say What? He's so out to lunch on this issue it's hilarious.

Allan, that you think that being elected with less than 50% of the vote represents the wishes of the electorate is very worrying. I'd recommend a lesson in democracy, but you'd tune out what you don't want to hear anyway.

Look back at this statement and think about it for a second:

"So how does the electorate filter the unelected half. I could live with this if there was a way to reject appointed candidates by the voters, I just cannot see how it could be done."

How does FPTP guarantee this ability to reject an appointed candidate? If Party A drops in an appointed candidate (as all federal parties do from time to do), and voters vote for Party B and C because they're running home-grown candidates, how does this stop Party A's candidate from benefiting from split votes and winning with 36% of the vote?

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 10:39:58

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted May 06, 2011 at 08:58:09 in reply to Comment 63095

Chances are you're either Liberal or Conservative, as neither of those two parties have any interest in changing the status quo as they are the beneficiaries of it.

Your comment essentially amounts to "Meh" due to the fact that sooner or later, your government of choice will come back into power.

Those of us who support neither of those two parties would like greater (read "SOME") representation at the national level more often that just the occasional pendulum swing that we're experiencing now.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 10:42:45

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 10:44:21

Allan, what you just wrote there was a post-hoc justification for "the way things are", not a spirited defense of your position that FPTP represents the will of the electorate.

I'll assume that you know you are unable to defend your statements properly and move on. Thanks for making my point for me.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2011 at 10:51:40

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted May 05, 2011 at 11:56:57

The Conservatives picked up 2.3% of the popular vote in this election over 2008, giving them 24 new seats. In total, only about a sixth of Canada's population voted for them. Not really a "majority"....under any traditional sense of the word.

There's a difference between a system designed to be "efficient" and "effective" and one designed to be "democratic". Awarding all the decision-making power to whomever gains just-over-a-third of the vote is efficient, but not terribly democratic.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted May 05, 2011 at 16:40:20

When 40% of the electorate don't vote, the argument that the will of the people isn't represented by FPTP goes out the window. No one here can say that the 40% that didn't vote would have voted one way or the other. PR could end up just as scewed as FPTP if a significant number of those that didn't vote lean one way or the other.

Elections are not about "fairness". They are about winning. It's a competition. For 308 seats. You win the most seats, you form a government. Each party has the opportunity to win the most seats. Do do this you have to organize, establish a base, get out your message and get out your vote.

Thats it.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted May 06, 2011 at 09:16:00 in reply to Comment 63120

Those that don't vote choose to not care. Those that do vote should have their voice heard.

A system that's as close to ideal as I can imagine is a combination of Instant Runoff Voting and Proportional Representation.

Cut the ridings down to 225 or 250 and use IRV, then the rest of the seats to bring the numbers closer to the actual vote percentages each party gets on a national basis.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted May 08, 2011 at 09:49:32 in reply to Comment 63142

Then who represents me in Parliament? Someone from my community no matter the party? Or some syncophant like Ruth Ellen Brousseau who has never stepped foot in the riding she now represents? Who determines what ridings get eliminated?

Who do I call when I have a question for my MP?

So by your opening statement, those that don't vote should have no representation and the vocal minority should rule the day?

Because they bitched the most and got a protest vote out?

Thats fair?

So to sum up, you would like to

End representation by population Eliminate local representation by eliminating ridings Institute PR so in theory someone placed on a candidate list for a party who is from oh say Thunder Bay represents me in Ottawa Have run offs to try and cull out more candidates that a particular voting bloc doesn't like.

No thank you.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted May 08, 2011 at 14:39:14 in reply to Comment 63202

Then who represents me in Parliament? Someone from my community no matter the party? Or some syncophant like Ruth Ellen Brousseau who has never stepped foot in the riding she now represents? Who determines what ridings get eliminated?

Brousseau was voted in using they system that you're defending, I'm not sure what your problem there is.

The ridings wouldn't be "eliminated", they would be re-cast to better reflect population counts, but instead of 308 there would be fewer.

Who do I call when I have a question for my MP?

The same person you'd call now.

So by your opening statement, those that don't vote should have no representation and the vocal minority should rule the day?

Because they bitched the most and got a protest vote out?

Thats fair?

I have no idea what you're complaining about here. Tell me what representation they have now.

So to sum up, you would like to

End representation by population Eliminate local representation by eliminating ridings Institute PR so in theory someone placed on a candidate list for a party who is from oh say Thunder Bay represents me in Ottawa Have run offs to try and cull out more candidates that a particular voting bloc doesn't like.

If you're going to try and sum up what I wrote, at least try and read it first. I suggested a combination of direct representative voting using IRV methods, then PR to reflect the national will of the voters by giving voice to those who didn't have enough votes in any given riding to get elected.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted May 09, 2011 at 09:59:01 in reply to Comment 63205

Moving to a method you promote would ensure more Brousseau like results. I worded my point poorly.

Moving to fewer ridings destroys the notion of representation by population. The government is quickly moving to ADD 30 ridings not eliminate them. This is supported by the Mowatt Institute at U of T which recently did a study and concluded that BC, Alberta and Ontario are under represented in the Commons.

Why would you give seats to a party that didn't get enough votes to get elected?

That's watered down democracy. What would you call them? The Consolation Prize seats? The Participation Award Seaats?

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted May 09, 2011 at 16:45:05 in reply to Comment 63236

At least you aren't misrepresenting my position any more, but I see that you've given up on representing those who choose no representation?

I fully support the idea of more ridings.

I'd give seats to a party that has a significant representation across the country but not enough in any specific area.

What you call "watered down democracy" is what we have now. When one group can get a majority with <40% then that's not a true representative democracy. When 10% of the national vote gets 49 seats and 7% gets none there is a problem.

What I'm suggesting is slightly more complex but will offer a more accurate representation of the country in the House of Commons.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted May 09, 2011 at 17:31:26 in reply to Comment 63264

Who determines what is significant?

Elizabeth May won 1 seat. Hers. But she lost over 500,00 votes from the last election. That is SIGNIFICANTLY less representation, yet she has a seat. And she deserves it.... because she won the riding.

That is how our system works. It's about winning ridings not paper thin support across the whole country. With multi-party systems of government no single party can realistically expect to have a plurality.

Just because the " I wanna smoke pot Party" won 2%, the New Reform Marxist Lenninist Party won 4.5% and the Grumpy Old White Guy party won 11% doesn't mean they deserve seats in the House of Commons.

I don't expect to change your mind. I will end my side of this arguement.

I will however put forward that I suspect had the Conservatives not won a majority we would not be having this conversation, on this website.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted May 09, 2011 at 17:42:26 in reply to Comment 63268

Apparently you determine what is significant.

Elizabeth may deserves her seat for winning it, but the Green Party deserves more seats due to the fact that there is a significant national desire for Green Party representation.

Why is a plurality a goal? Coalitions need to be the way things are done as the nation is not well represented by having a single group with all the power.

Every time this argument has come up on this website the last few Liberal majorities were mentioned as well and I've frequently mentioned Kim Campbell's 2 seat fiasco. You can choose to try and pigeonhole my argument as being specifically against the Conservatives but you're wrong, it's against the system in general which, predictably, has elected a non-representative government.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2011 at 17:50:23 in reply to Comment 63271

>> Elizabeth may deserves her seat for winning it, but the Green Party deserves more seats due to the fact that there is a significant national desire for Green Party representation.

Do you deserve to get more in free health care and free education than you pay in taxes?

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted May 05, 2011 at 16:57:16

I think the Bloc representation alone shows fault with this system. A seperatist party only represented in one Province recieving 49 seats in our House of Commons is ludicrous.

Every possible issue under the sun is talked about come election/debate time, but wouldn't fixing FPTP be something that would engage more Canadians and restore faith in our democratic system?

It's great that the Greens finally have a seat in the House, but they should have more as this article outlines, based on sheer numbers of Canadians who believe in their policies; not by ridings won. Same thing with the NDP of course.

How does this get changed? Who can be approached to open this up for discussion? Would any party touch this policy? If not, why?

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted May 06, 2011 at 05:50:22

Please welcome Raise the Hammer's latest SpamBot yuping:

spam messages are not meant to be read by humans, but are instead posted to increase the number of hyperlinks to a particular web site, to boost its search engine ranking.

Staff had better start cleaning up now before this thing makes RTH virtually unusable. I also suspect this recent comment was the bot controller's initial test post. My apologies for being off-topic.

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2011-05-06 06:14:49

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By mb (registered) | Posted May 07, 2011 at 12:24:41

People do realize that 'getting a majority' doesn't mean 'majority of votes'. It means 'majority of seats'.

Bunch of bleedin' hearts. Get over it!

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted May 07, 2011 at 15:06:20

Every time we have an election and a candidate or party wins that the RTH faithful do not like the whining starts. Here we go again right on schedule. I wager dollars to donuts that if the Green Party had somehow won, even a minority government, there would be no whining just celebrating.

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By mb (registered) | Posted May 09, 2011 at 00:14:08 in reply to Comment 63193

Agreed. Mr. McGreal claims that he was just as unhappy with Chretien's 'unfair' majority. However, I believe Mr. McGreal's allegiance is not with the Lie-beral party, but with the NDP or Greens (even though the Greens are fiscal conservatives with an environmental focus). Had Layton, May, or one of the small, loser parties had won a majority with 40% of the vote, McGreal, and the other RTHers would be celebrating in the streets.

Comment edited by mb on 2011-05-09 00:14:50

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted May 09, 2011 at 07:41:13 in reply to Comment 63224

I suspect that there would be celebrating, but only because someone would now do something about the FPTP system as the major benefactors from it over the years would be out of power.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted May 07, 2011 at 18:12:25

Fascinating.

I can't help but shake my head at the tendency of some to take a conversation and while perhaps not 'hijacking' it, certainly inject a large dose of their own priorities and biases enough to effectively dismiss it out of hand. Oh, and paint all who annoy them with a convenient brush.

It sure does remind me of a certain mindset down here, south of the border. Where the consideration of facts and concepts doesn't hold as much cachet as bull-headed sentiment.

What is it about reasonable discussion and discourse that seems to upset some people?

And are they the same in-person? Shouting people down, telling them to shut the hell up?

When's RTH going to start having their own 'town halls', anyway...?

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted May 08, 2011 at 09:38:59

Proportional representation is the refuge of the also rans. It's like giving electoral seats for showing up and putting your name on a ballot. The concept completely ignores the rationale and methodology of FPTP. When the writ is dropped in an election, each party has the opportunity to win a seat in every riding they intend to contest. Demographics, past tendencies of course can influence the outcomes. But as we have seen in this just past election, change can happen. In the case of the NDP, the charisma of their leader translated into a sea change in Quebec. Whether that remains long term is up to the work the NDP will be required to do there to solidify it. In the case of the Conservatives, their gains have been strategic and over 10 years in the making. Less than a decade ago the Liberal Party of Canada elected over 100 MPs in Ontario. Now they have less than 35 nationally. This wasn't an accident.

If you don't like the results, work to change them. Not the method in which they were achieved.

PR seems to be the panacea offered up by the politically impatient and intolerant in the instant gratification society we live in today. It's the equivalent of a precocious and impatient child stomping his feet and holding his breath until he gets what he wants. Be careful what you wish for.

Comment edited by Shempatolla on 2011-05-08 09:39:32

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By FTE (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2011 at 16:33:53 in reply to Comment 63200

insult spam deleted

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted May 09, 2011 at 17:55:24 in reply to Comment 63262

Actually, what the voting public voted for was a minority government as only 40% of people voted Conservative, not 54%.

See, this might confuse you guys because it's what is commonly referred to as a "non-partisan" stance.

In a way it should also make the Conservatives happy as it will significantly reduce the power of the dreaded "separatists".

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 09, 2011 at 16:53:35

It's like giving electoral seats for showing up and putting your name on a ballot and getting a substantial portion of the Canadian populace to vote for you.

FTFY.

Proportional representation isn't about the candidates, it's about the voters. Specifically, its' about all the voters that are not getting any representation in the government.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2011-05-09 16:53:56

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted May 09, 2011 at 17:41:48 in reply to Comment 63265

I'm sorry but it isn't about the voters. It's about the people that know they will never hold influence in government without it, convincing the voters its about the voters.

It's a phenomena of the world we live in where we teach our kids that it doesn't matter who wins, we don't have to keep score, life is fair, you get trophies for attendance and participation.

It's held up as a torch for democracy when in fact its a crutch for mediocrity and marginal points of view that represent largely narrow interests and niche issues.

It's a hobbling and neutering of democracy that hides behind the illusion it promotes consensus when in fact it creates indecision, watered down ineffective policies, and see's governments come under the sway of special interests that become king makers in flaccid directionless parliaments.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted May 10, 2011 at 10:05:17 in reply to Comment 63270

I'm sorry but it isn't about the voters. It's about the people that know they will never hold influence in government without it, convincing the voters its about the voters.

Imagine that, democracy not being about the voters. You don't work for Diebold, do you?

It's a phenomena of the world we live in where we teach our kids that it doesn't matter who wins, we don't have to keep score, life is fair, you get trophies for attendance and participation.

And that's a lousy way of doing things. It also has nothing to do with what we're discussing.

It's held up as a torch for democracy when in fact its a crutch for mediocrity and marginal points of view that represent largely narrow interests and niche issues.

Marginal views deserve marginal representation, but if a million people support an idea, is it truly what you're referring to as "marginal"?

It's a hobbling and neutering of democracy that hides behind the illusion it promotes consensus when in fact it creates indecision, watered down ineffective policies, and see's governments come under the sway of special interests that become king makers in flaccid directionless parliaments.

As opposed to minorities acting as if they have a majority mandate. Because that's so much more democratic.

What you fail to realize is that the country doesn't support moving rapidly in any given direction. If it did, there would be >50% voting for a specific party. I don't see that, do you?

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted May 10, 2011 at 11:28:05 in reply to Comment 63311

PR isn't about the voters. Maybe reread the post. Those vested in obtaining PR claim its about the voters. When really its about them obtaining what they want by changing the game because they can't get it playing the one we have.

Marginal views don't deserve any representation if they can't win a seat in parliament. Again, PR is simply a consolation prize. A million people voting across the whole country but NOT getting enough votes in any one riding to win a seat, isn't broad based support. All it means is that not enough people in any one area support that party enough to make it successful. Elizabeth May got it right. She concentrated resources in one area to win a seat. Thats a place to start. It's no different than what Preston Manning did with Reform. They started off in a region, built the party and now it has progressed, transformed, merged with the PCs and now governs.

Explain to me exactly how a minority acts or governs as if they have a majority? They don't get anything accomplished unless they have the support of one or more of the other parties. We have had the longest running minority government in history. So obviously consensus was achieved numerous times and regularly.

The country hasn't moved rapidly in any direction. We haven't had a majority Conservative government in a generation. This one was 10 years in the making. By the way the last majority government in this country to have a greater than 50% plurality was Brian Mulroney's. It doesn't happen very often, particularly in multi-party systems. That doesn't mean governments don't receive mandates to govern.

Just because the results of the election don't mesh with your sensibilities or world view, doesn't invalidate them. It also doesn't mean that the millions of Canadians who did vote for the government are wrong, backward, regressive, or ill informed.

We have a system of government that largely works. There are some things that have to happen to make it work better.

Vote. If you don't vote don't bitch.

Realize that if you don't like the results, you get a chance to change them next time. Thats the beauty of democracy.

Just because the result doesn't turn out the way you want doesn't mean the system is broken. Grow some thicker skin.

Comment edited by Shempatolla on 2011-05-10 11:28:55

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted May 10, 2011 at 16:43:20 in reply to Comment 63325

PR isn't about the voters. Maybe reread the post. Those vested in obtaining PR claim its about the voters. When really its about them obtaining what they want by changing the game because they can't get it playing the one we have.

How is PR not about the voters? It's about those who don't vote for one of the four main parties getting the representation that they deserve. You are choosing to support suppressing their voice.

Marginal views don't deserve any representation if they can't win a seat in parliament. Again, PR is simply a consolation prize. A million people voting across the whole country but NOT getting enough votes in any one riding to win a seat, isn't broad based support. All it means is that not enough people in any one area support that party enough to make it successful. Elizabeth May got it right. She concentrated resources in one area to win a seat. Thats a place to start. It's no different than what Preston Manning did with Reform. They started off in a region, built the party and now it has progressed, transformed, merged with the PCs and now governs.

Again, you're choosing to suppress millions of voices and seem to be comfortable with that.

Explain to me exactly how a minority acts or governs as if they have a majority? They don't get anything accomplished unless they have the support of one or more of the other parties. We have had the longest running minority government in history. So obviously consensus was achieved numerous times and regularly.

You obviously didn't understand my point. The Conservatives got less than 40% of the vote. By any rational view, that's a minority. Due to the failings of our current system, they have a majority. You are choosing to believe that I feel this way due to the conservatives being the victors. It's wrong, but it's your choice.

The country hasn't moved rapidly in any direction. We haven't had a majority Conservative government in a generation. This one was 10 years in the making. By the way the last majority government in this country to have a greater than 50% plurality was Brian Mulroney's. It doesn't happen very often, particularly in multi-party systems. That doesn't mean governments don't receive mandates to govern.

A mandate that this government doesn't have based on the actual vote count yet can act as if they do due to the failings of our system.

Just because the results of the election don't mesh with your sensibilities or world view, doesn't invalidate them. It also doesn't mean that the millions of Canadians who did vote for the government are wrong, backward, regressive, or ill informed.

You are the one claiming that it represents the will of the voters. I'm looking at what the voters actually said and seeing a disparity between what they asked for and what they got. You don't see the difference between the two.

We have a system of government that largely works. There are some things that have to happen to make it work better.

And that's what I'm trying to do and you're telling me I'm wrong. It won't change because those who benefit from the system being what it is are those who would have to make the change.

Vote. If you don't vote don't bitch.

You really think after all this that I didn't?

Realize that if you don't like the results, you get a chance to change them next time. Thats the beauty of democracy.

And I'm working towards a true representative democracy. You're happy with a the current system.

Just because the result doesn't turn out the way you want doesn't mean the system is broken. Grow some thicker skin.

Based on the results, the system is thoroughly broken. You just like the results so refuse to see it.

Comment edited by Brandon on 2011-05-10 16:48:59

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted May 10, 2011 at 21:41:07 in reply to Comment 63337

If you don't vote for one of the four main parties in this country your views could be considered on the fringe. What possible productive outcome could come from rewarding that fringe with a seat in parliament? They have every opportunity to make their voice heard by lobbying their elected representative whether they voted for him or not. The person I voted for in the last 3 elections has lost every time. I'm not whining about it. I still have an elected representative, even though I didn't vote for him. He represents me and everyone else in the riding. I can call his office anytime with any concern I have, and expect that he will address it to the best of his ability and capacity to do so. This is the point that those clamoring for PR conveniently omit from any of their arguments.

It's NOT about the voters its about PR proponents disgruntled about their lack of ability to hold seats in parliament trying to rest some form of power to put forward their agenda. They can't do it within the current rules because they are not effective enough or can't garner enough support for their agenda so they want to change the game and have themselved awarded "discount" seats in parliament.

No one is suppressing anyone's voice. This again is what PR proponents don't get. An elected MP represents EVERYONE in the riding, not just those that voted for them. An elected government represents ALL Canadians not just those that voted for them. Sour grapes that the person or party you voted for didn't win doesn't change that fact. When you call an MPs riding office, they don't screen your call and ask you what party you voted for before deciding to help you or not.

I never suggested you did not vote, I was speaking generally.

I'm sorry to say, true representative democracy or PR is unworkable in any system where a geographic area or riding is supposed to be represented in parliament, particularly in a multiparty system. Thats why we have FPTP.

The system is not broken, unless you subscibe to the notion that parties that finish second, third, fourth in a riding deserve to have representation in the parliament. PR is a top down system. You count percentages then award seats. I would argue this is far more disenfranchising than FPTP. There is no practical way to represent ridings. FPTP is a bottom up system. It starts at the riding level, candidates are selected, campaigns run, the one with the most votes wins and represents the riding. It's not complicated.

I'm 45 years old and I'm not sure anyone I've voted for in a federal election has actually won the riding. I'm ok with that because I understand the system and how it works.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted May 11, 2011 at 11:03:02 in reply to Comment 63352

The problem is that my MP represents me, but he doesn't necessarily represent my voice or my opinion, nor do I expect him to if he isn't the person that I voted for. I expect him to attempt to resolve any issues that I may have, but don't expect him to vote the way that I think he should unless he's the one that I voted for.

As far as voting systems go, I'm not now, nor have I ever, suggested that a 100% PR system is the way to go for exactly the reasons that you have described. This is why a hybrid system is necessary.

Instead of FPTP, IRV would handle the physical representation, which is ironically how the house votes for the speaker position. It's not complicated, it just means that if my first choice is for the Marijuana party and my second is Conservative, if a group doesn't get more than 50% of the vote, the party with the least votes (let's assume Marijuana) gets eliminated and all their votes get transfered to the voters second choice. Repeat until a group has more than 50% of the votes.

This means that nationally my voice is heard as wanting Marijuana party representation, but that locally my vote isn't wasted. And this is why our voting turnout is so low these days, because people don't think that their vote means anything due to heavy riding bias towards a specific party.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted May 10, 2011 at 00:08:59 in reply to Comment 63270

Democracy isn't about "who wins", it's about "what we want".

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By mb (registered) | Posted May 09, 2011 at 23:54:42 in reply to Comment 63270

It's a phenomena of the world we live in where we teach our kids that it doesn't matter who wins, we don't have to keep score, life is fair, you get trophies for attendance and participation.

Hence the reason these left wing socialists want PR. Everything has to be fair to socialists, instead of the 'keep what you earn' rationale of good Conservatives.

Go ahead, hold your breath and stomp on the ground all you want. I don't think any electoral reform is coming soon.

Comment edited by mb on 2011-05-09 23:58:59

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted May 10, 2011 at 10:06:16 in reply to Comment 63288

And right now they're taking what they haven't earned, which is also the rationale of good conservatives, isn't it?

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By mb (registered) | Posted May 11, 2011 at 00:27:38

You obviously didn't understand my point. The Conservatives got less than 40% of the vote. By any rational view, that's a minority. Due to the failings of our current system, they have a majority. You are choosing to believe that I feel this way due to the conservatives being the victors. It's wrong, but it's your choice.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. 'Majority' does not mean 'majority of votes'. It means 'majority of seats'.

Again, you're choosing to suppress millions of voices and seem to be comfortable with that.

Is anyone removing the fringe parties from the ballot box? Are people not free to vote for the fringe parties? When you vote, you let your voice be heard. Whether the candidate that you voted for wins or not, your voice was heard.

You are the one claiming that it represents the will of the voters. I'm looking at what the voters actually said and seeing a disparity between what they asked for and what they got. You don't see the difference between the two.

Where is the disparity? The Conservatives got the most votes and therefore the most seats. The NDP got the second most votes and therefore the second most seats. And so on.

Funny, I seriously can't remember this being such a big deal when Chretien was racking up big majorities. A couple of disgruntled murmurs, but nothing like I'm hearing now. I guess Conservatives understand how the system works and how it is to be interepreted, and respond with class. Left wingers on the other hand, will cry til they get their way.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted May 11, 2011 at 11:06:18 in reply to Comment 63359

Funny, I seriously can't remember this being such a big deal when Chretien was racking up big majorities. A couple of disgruntled murmurs, but nothing like I'm hearing now. I guess Conservatives understand how the system works and how it is to be interepreted, and respond with class. Left wingers on the other hand, will cry til they get their way.

Conservatives don't worry about it because they know that the pendulum will swing back their way and a majority will come back to them eventually. Same reason Liberals don't worry about it.

If you benefit from a screwed up system, it's not likely that you'll want to change it. I can't say that I blame you for it, it's human nature after all.

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