Should the popular vote matter in Canada?

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

Victory for the Liberals

The Liberals won Monday’s election with 157 ridings even though they did not win the popular vote and had a low percentage of 33.1. The Conservatives were elected in 121 ridings and won a popular vote of 34.4%. Justin Trudeau will begin his second term, but this time under a minority government that will have to cooperate with the NDP to reach unanimous votes in the House of Commons, as they would have more than 170 seats together.

Is our Canadian system anti-democratic?

The contrast between the popular vote and the representation at the House of commons fueled a debate on our democracy’s efficiency. As the results of this election reflect, our electoral system is not representative of the popular will. This debate is not new, it’s a situation that has repeated itself in our country. During the 1926 election, the Liberals won the election while the Conservatives won the popular vote, in 1957, the Conservatives were elected while the Liberals won the popular vote. 

Nonetheless, similar results have not happened in the past 40 years. The last election where the government elected was not the one that won the popular vote was in 1979, when Joe Clark of the Progressive Conservative Party won the election despite Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s Liberal Party winning the popular vote.

Why those results?

Our electoral system is a first-past-the-post system. Under such a system, the elector votes for a candidate in his riding, and the candidate that obtains the most votes is elected a MP of the riding. The political party that wins the election is, therefore, not the one that has obtained the majority of the votes from all electors equally, but the one that has obtained the most elected MPs across the 338 ridings of the country (each MP has a seat at the House of Commons).

Towards a reform of the voting system in Canada

The NDP and the Green Party are inclined to reform the voting system towards a proportional one that would ensure a better representation of voters. Jagmeet Singh, leader of the NDP, said he plans to work in Parliament to obtain a proportional electoral system, that would not only take into account the elected MPs in each riding but also the popular vote, making the system more representative.

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