Talking points

Trying to convince someone that PR is the way forward? Here are a few tips with what we find works.

  • Democracy should mean every vote matters.  Proportional Representation (PR) is about ensuring every vote is counted equally. It is about ensuring that every Canadian can directly impact the election result, and therefore the formation of our government.

  • Though majoritarian voting systems like our current first-past-the-post (FPTP) work well when there are only two candidates, in a country like Canada – where since the 1920s we have had a multi-party system with three to five national parties winning seats in Parliament – the FPTP system produces very perverse results.

  • Since the First World War, Canada has elected seventeen “majority” governments, but only four of those governments actually received more than half the popular vote. Only FPTP allows a minority of the voters to elect a majority of the seats.

  • The current Liberal majority is a false majority, with a popular vote of 39.47%. The previous Conservative majority was also a false majority, elected in 2011 with 39.62% of the vote. It is worrying to know that under FPTP every vote does not count equally -- in riding after riding, when an MP can win with 30% of the vote, that leaves 70% of the votes “orphaned.

  • When voters feel that their vote will make no difference to the outcome, they are less likely to vote. Indeed, countries with some form of proportional representation have, on average, 7% higher voter turnout than those voting with FPTP or ranked ballots (i.e. majoritarian voting systems).

  • PR will create a more fair, balanced, accountable, or representative government.

  • PR is a tested system – Many of the most prosperous and stable democracies in the world use PR (Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, etc.)

  • If your MP is a woman, you may want to mention that all countries with 30% or more women in the legislature have PR.

  • The category of proportional representation embraces a wide range of systems, with almost infinitely possible variations to meet national conditions. That is what makes it such an appealing solution; essentially, a proportional voting system can be “customized” to fit the unique requirements of any country, including Canada.

  • Any electoral reform should satisfy the following three conditions:

    • Any proposed voting system must be proportional. That is, it must ensure that the number of parliamentary seats assigned to each party roughly matches the proportion of the popular vote received by each party.

    • Any proposed voting system must maintain an element of local representation. It is critical that MPs remain responsible for, and accountable to, their communities and constituents.

    • Any proposed voting system must be tailored to Canada’s distinct geographic and demographic demands. That includes – but is not limited to – ensuring that people living in less populous and geographically isolated regions maintain adequate representation, and guaranteeing that First Nations rights remain protected.

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