Next Wednesday Ontario goes to the polls. It would seem the McGuinty Liberal government will be returned, with about 40 per cent of the popular vote, mainly because of Conservative leader John Tory’s controversial promise to extend public funding to religious minority schools.
But there is also a referendum on the ballot asking Ontarians whether they want to move to modified
The system Ontario (and the rest of Canada) has now is popularly called first- past- the- post (FPTP). This system leads to some remarkable anomolies. For example, suppose there are four candidates in your riding, and one gets 10 votes and the other three get nine votes each. The winner takes all, even though 73 per cent of the voters didn’t choose him. Put another way, 73 per cent of the citizens have the vote but they have no representative for the next five years.
Look at how this FPTP system plays out at the federal level. In 26 federal elections since 1921, there have been 16 “majority” governments elected but only two received a majority of the popular vote.
Small start-up parties like the Greens lose out badly in this system. In the last federal election the Greens obtained more than 660,000 votes, nearly five per cent of the popular vote, but they didn’t win a single seat. The majority of Quebeckers who voted for federalist parties since 1993 watched helplessly while the Bloc took the majority of the seats. Quebec anglophone ridings pile up huge majorities for federalist candidates but in a sense these excess votes are “wasted.” Incidentally, this first-past-post system now survives in only three countries: the United States, Britain and ourselves.
So what’s the answer? In their referendum Ontarians will be voting on a modified proportional system. This means there will be two ballots. On the first, the electorse vote for their local candidates the system we have now. On the second you vote for your preferred party. Each party would then be able to name members (30 in Ontario) in proportion to the number of votes it receives. In the event the Liberal party received 50 per cent of the vote on the second ballot, that party would be able to name 15 members (50 per cent of the 30 in Ontario).
It so happens that in Quebec at the moment the Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights has a suit in the courts to dump the first-past-the-post system and replace it with a modified proportional system.
Do you agree our first-past-the-post (FPTP) is really quite undemocratic?
Would you favour moving to a modified proportional system such as the one being proposed in Ontario?