Representative democracy is a simple concept. Citizens elect their representatives. The majority win the right to make decisions.
But do Canadians actually have representative democracy?
In the 2006 federal election, more than 650,000 Green Party voters across the country elected no one. Meanwhile, fewer than a half-million Liberal voters in Atlantic Canada alone elected 20 MPs. In the prairie provinces, Conservatives won three times as many votes as the Liberals, but were given nearly ten times as many seats. But more than 400,000 Conservative voters in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver couldn't elect a single MP. The NDP attracted a million more votes than the Bloc, but the voting system gave the Bloc 51 seats and the NDP 29.
What about majority rule? Canadians are usually ruled by majority governments that the majority voted against. In some provincial elections, parties coming in second in the popular vote have won majority control of the legislature. In other cases, the opposition is sometimes reduced to a seat or two (and in one case, none at all) despite representing forty percent of the electorate.
For a short summary of the problems with Canada's first-past-the-post voting system, see This is Democracy?. For an introduction to the alternatives, see Voting Systems - We Have Choices!.
For those seeking more detailed information on voting systems, we recommend the following.
The Mt. Holyoke College online proportional representation library provides an intermediate level overview of voting systems, with more detail, sample ballots, and pros and cons for each system.
The British Columbia Citizens' Assembly site has documents with extensive descriptions and comparative evaluations of the major voting systems. See "Learning Materials", Weeks 3 and 4.
In Fall 2006, the Ontario Citizens' Assembly site will also be adding learning materials on voting systems to be used by the Assembly members.
Courtesy of: fairvotecanada.org