Which voting system should Canada use?

Response to The Metro’s Face Off feature October 31 – November 1

‘Which voting system should Canada use?’


Canada needs electoral reform. Our current system (First-Past-The-Post or FPTP) was designed for a two party system - one clear winner with a majority and one clear loser with the minority. With three parties FPTP begins to break down. In these days of four or more parties FPTP no longer works at all (some Federal ridings in the recent election had 10 candidates!). So articles such as this are important to start the debate on electoral reform.

An ideal electoral system must fulfill these four criteria:

  1. We must preserve the ancient link between the potential representative and the voter
  2. Seats counts must reflect vote counts
  3. While I give the voter more credit than some commentators who fret about ‘a learning curve’ we must avoid a system requiring more than a paragraph of explanation.
  4. Representatives must be elected with a majority in a riding, how else can they claim to represent the riding?

Professor Koop’s support for the status-quo may be refuted on first democratic principles; voters should have the final say. The Professor argues having the ‘system’ overrule voters and manufacturing a majority when none exists is a somehow a good thing.

Both Professor Koop and Professor Blaise stray off topic by arguing for and against majority/minority governments to support their choice. Concern for the outcome when considering method is irrelevant as long as voters get what they ordered; if voters want a majority they will vote in a majority, if they want a minority they will vote in a minority. Incidentally majorities do not guarantee ‘big visionary’ activity, politics here in Nova Scotia is proof. Neither do minority governments struggle; it all comes down to leadership.

 So how to the four options presented stack up?

  •  Option 4 (FPTP) violates Criterion 2 of course.


  • Option 2 is some form of Proportional Representation (PR). Unspoken by Professor Blaise is the fact most PR systems while allowing voters to pick the number of seats they also allow the parties get to pick the representatives. This violates Criterion 1 and attempts at ad-hoc fixes (a ‘mixed system’) will almost certainly violate Criterion 3.


  • On the surface Option 3 Alternative Vote (AV) seems to fit the bill, it satisfies Criteria 1, 3 & 4. But it suffers a fatal flaw as it is a winner-takes-all approach so although an improvement on FPTP it does not produce proportional representation and violates Criterion 2.


  • Option 1 Single Transferable Vote (STV) satisfies all four Criteria. Almost as old as FPTP it is used widely in the English-speaking world in various locales for local, regional and national electoral systems and private associations. The only drawback is the potential re-jigging of electoral boundaries as each riding elects more than one representative.


However STV fits the bill.