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EDITORIAL – Prop rep could rear its head federally again very soon

(Image: Mel Rothenburger)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

WITH THE WRIT FOR THE FEDERAL ELECTION bound to be dropped any day now — the deadline is Sunday — campaigning will become official.

Latest poll numbers confirm it’s a horse race. CBC’s Poll Tracker has the Conservatives oh-so-slightly in the lead with 33.8 per cent compared to the Liberals with 33.5 per cent.

The 338Canada.ca site, which does a similar aggregation of polls, shows very similar results — 34.3 per cent for the Conservatives, 33.7 per cent for the Liberals.

What’s fascinating about these numbers are the projections for who will win the most seats. Both Poll Tracker and 338 suggest the Liberals could very likely win more seats than the Conservatives, forming either a minority or a majority government. They don’t rule out the possibility of the Conservatives winning government, but as things stand the Liberals have much to be optimistic about.

Sooooo….. We could have another situation in this country where the party that wins the most popular support loses the election. I can anticipate the outrage from supporters of proportional representation if this happens, reminding us of Justin Trudeau’s broken promise that 2015 would be the last election fought with first-past-the-post.

If he’d kept his promise, they’ll say, 2019 could have been much different — in their view, much more fair.

But that is not necessarily the case, not by a long shot. The fallacy of proportional representation is that the percentage of votes should always equal percentage of seats.

That ignores the importance of recognizing localized wishes on representation. We live in a very diverse country, and first-past-the post understands that. So while the party that wins the most votes in this election might not win the most seats, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

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About Mel Rothenburger (6879 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

2 Comments on EDITORIAL – Prop rep could rear its head federally again very soon

  1. You are quite right, that the party which wins the most votes could very well lose the election this time. Ain’t first-past-the-post grand?

    A tiny number of voters in a few swing ridings across the country will determine whether Trudeau will retain his (false) majority, or whether Scheer will head a new (false) majority government of his own. First-past-the-post is the only electoral system that hands 100% of the power to a party with less than even 40% support. Are we having fun yet?

    There is a reason why only the UK, the US, and Canada are major western democracies that still this use this dinosaur of a voting system. Apart from blatantly unrepresentative Parliaments, it tends to lead to massive policy swings every few years, with each new government undoing the work of the last one. This explains why countries using first-past-the-post have been unable to effectively tackle the big issues of our time, for example climate change. In contrast, countries using PR have much more progress to show.

    FPTP worked just fine when there were only two parties — but we haven’t had that situation in Canada for about 100 years. It’s long past time for our electoral system to catch up.

  2. Ian M MacKenzie // September 10, 2019 at 8:36 AM // Reply

    Certainly there are a large number of voters who feel betrayed by Trudeau’s backtracking, enough to hope that the issue of electoral reform becomes a major issue in this election.

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