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Democracy and Voting Systems Developed for Ontario Grade 10 Civics By Fair Vote Canada Volunteers
Canada is a representational democracy. What does that mean? We elect people to represent our views in parliament and they vote on important policies and decisions about things like health, education, environment, finances, relations with other countries, and more. Political parties are groups that have similar views and policies about these things. Canada has five major parties – Bloc Quebecois, Conservative, Green, Liberal, and New Democratic Party. Voting systems are different ways we elect our members of parliament.
A Mock Vote An exercise for exploring how our voting systems work. Follow the instructions and have fun with it! Look at the results and think about how fair it is. Did your vote help you feel represented?
All the classes will vote to determine what genre of music will be played in the cafeteria during lunch period. Each class will vote to determine its choice. The genre played will be the genre chosen by the largest number of classes. The choices are: • Alternative • Country • Hip-hop/rap • Pop • Rock
1500 students, 60 classes # of % of Genre students classes 490 33% 31 52% 425 28% 20 33% 225 15% 5 8% 210 14% 4 7% 150 10% 0 0%
Was this a fair way to decide on music in the caf? Did your vote help represent your views? Is there a fairer way to decide on music in the caf?
Voting Systems: FPTP In Canada our voting system is called “First Past the Post”. What is “First Past the Post”?
Voting Systems: FPTP “First Past the Post” gets its name from horse racing, when the first horse “past the post” won the race. The winner gets the prize and the other candidates get nothing. That’s why FPTP is also called a “winner take all” system. Whichever candidate gets the most votes is elected. The winning candidate doesn’t have to have a majority (half the votes) to win.
Voting Systems: FPTP In Canada, all the major elections (including federal and all provincial elections) use the FPTP system. Canada did not actively choose to use FPTP. It was inherited from the days of the British Empire. FPTP is used mostly in the United Kingdom and by countries which are former British colonies. FPTP was only intended to work in a 2 party system (Canada now has more than 2 parties that represent a number of differing views on different issues)
Voting Systems: PR In democratic countries, there are two major types of voting systems: winner-take-all systems (like FPTP) and proportional systems. There are several types of proportional systems. Together these are usually referred to as “proportional representation” or PR. About 90% of democratic nations use some form of PR for their electoral system. Only 10% use FPTP.
Voting Systems: PR is based on a simple principle: The percentage of seats a party earns in government is equal to the percentage of people that voted for that party. If 30% of voters vote for Party A, Party A gets 30% of the seats in the government. If 10% vote for party B, Party B gets 10% of the seats, etc. In a proportional system, everyone casts a ballot that helps elect someone from the party they most want to represent them. Everyone’s vote counts.
FPTP in Canada “First Past the Post” is technically called a Single Member Plurality system. Single member means that in every electoral division (usually called “ridings”) there can only be one winner to represent the entire constituency. Plurality means that the person with the most votes wins, no matter what percentage of people voted for him or her. The winner does not need a majority of votes.
FPTP in Canada is divided up into 338 (formerly 308) federal ridings. In each riding, an election is conducted on a winner-take-all basis. The candidate with the most votes (though often not a majority) in that riding gets a seat in Parliament. The party with the most seats usually forms the government, no matter what percentage of voters cast ballots for that party. If a party wins over half of the seats in Parliament, there will be a “majority” government. If less than half, a “minority” government.
Issues with Canada’s Elections Low voter turn-out / apathy (2008 lowest ever - 58%) Many young people don’t vote (18 -24 only 37%) Strategic or tactical voting vs. sincere voting “Tight races”, “safe seats”, “splitting the vote” Negative campaigns & questionable tactics Number of seats does not reflect party support Tends to reduce number of women and minorities Produces “false” majorities – more than 50% of seats with less than 50% of the votes Distorted election results and wasted votes
First Past the Pizza http: //www. youtube. com/watch? v=o. YTE 3 dt. CLw. Y
2008 Canadian Election Results 13 million out of 22 million eligible voters cast votes. Were votes equal and effective? Did all Canadians get fair representation? Could some Canadians say their votes were “wasted”? What about the 9 million who didn’t vote? Party Conservative Liberal Bloc Quebecois New Democratic Party Green Votes 4. 8 million 3. 6 million 1. 2 million 2. 4 million 1. 0 million Seats 143 77 49 37 0
“wasted votes” In 2008, 51% of votes in the Canadian federal election did not help elect anyone and so those voters did not gain representation in parliament – wasted votes. In countries like Ireland, Sweden, Germany and New Zealand that have PR systems, virtually all votes help elect someone and so those voters gain representation in parliament – i. e. no wasted votes.
FPTP Distorted Election Results Quebec Provincial Election, 1998 The “wrong” result? Party # of Seats % of Vote Parti Quebecois 76 60. 8 42. 87 Liberal Party 48 38. 4 43. 55 Action-Democratique 1 0. 8 11. 81 Other 0 0 1. 77
FPTP Distorted Election Results The New Brunswick Liberal Sweep, 1987 The “missing” opposition! Party # of Seats % of Vote Liberal Party 58 100 60. 39 Progressive Conservative 0 0 28. 59 NDP 0 0 10. 55 Independent 0 0 0. 47
FPTP Distorted Election Results The 35 th General Election, 1993 Split Reform/PC vote led to “false” Liberal majority Party # of Seats % of Vote Liberal Party of Canada 177 60. 0 41. 2 Bloc Quebecois 54 18. 3 13. 52 Reform Party 52 17. 6 18. 69 New Democratic Party 9 3. 1 6. 88 Progressive Conservative 2 0. 7 16. 04 Other 1 0. 3 3. 67
FPTP Distorted Election Results The 41 st General Election, 2011 A false majority. Were all votes equal and effective? Did all Canadians get fair representation? Party # of Seats % of Votes Conservative Party of Canada 166 53. 9 39. 6 New Democratic Party 103 33. 4 30. 6 Liberal Party of Canada 34 11. 0 18. 9 Bloc Quebecois 4 1. 3 6. 1 Green Party 1 0. 3 3. 9
Distortions by province • Alberta – 66% voted Conservative and took 27 of 28 seats – 96% of seats • Saskatchewan – 56% voted Conservative and took 13 of 14 seats – 92% of seats • Ontario – 44% voted Conservative and took 73 of 106 seats – 69% of seats • Quebec – 43% voted NDP and took 59 of 75 seats – 79% of seats
Comparing FPTP & PR Distribution of seats based on the 2011 Federal Election results, under FPTP and PR Party FPTP PR Conservative Party of Canada 166 122 New Democratic Party 103 95 Liberal Party of Canada 34 59 Bloc Quebecois 4 19 Green Party 1 13
Comparing FPTP & PR Majority Threshold (155 seats)
Should Canada change its voting system? It’s a major change that must have public support. Several years ago, 3 provinces (BC, ON, PEI) held referendums to change to a PR system. None of the three succeeded. Why? Poor publicity. 50% of Ontarians had never heard of the referendum. Seemed complicated. 70% of Ontarians did not understand MMP. Many supporters of the major parties don’t want change that would give seats to smaller parties. Recently, public support for change is growing. Support from NDP and Green parties, many Liberals and some Conservatives, many journalists, Law Reform Commission, Democracy Watch, provincial commissions, and others.
Different PR Systems PR systems typically use multi-member regions or combined constituencies. List PR (most common) Voters cast ballots in multi-member regions for a party or for candidates from party lists (open if voters can rank candidates or closed if the order is pre-determined) Mixed Member Proportional MMP Voters cast two-sided ballots, one side for a party or for candidates from party lists (again open or closed) and the other side for local candidates in somewhat larger ridings (as usual). The party vote winners top up the overall results to make them proportional. Single Transferable Vote STV Voters cast ballots in multi-members regions ranking the candidates. A formula determines the number of votes required to be elected. Winners’ surplus votes and eliminated candidates’ votes are transferred to other candidates according to those voters’ second choices. Note – Alternative Vote AV is not a proportional system.
MMP Ballot, proposed for Ontario PARTY VOTE LOCAL CANDIDATE VOTE This vote will determine what share of seats each party will receive. This vote will determine which candidate will be elected to represent your riding. □ Party C Olive, Oliver C □ □ Party E Tangerine, Tony E □ Independent Turqoise, Therese □ □ Party B Violet, Veronica B □ □ Party A Yellow, Yasmin A □ □ Party F No local candidate
Electoral Systems in OECD and EU Countries Proportional Systems (32) 76% List PR (28) Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey Mixed Member Proportional MMP (3) Germany, Hungary, New Zealand Single Transferable Vote STV (1) Ireland Semi-Proportional Systems (6) 14% Australia, Scotland (AMS), Wales (AMS), Japan (Parallel), Korea (Parallel), Mexico (Parallel) First Past The Post or Two Round Runoff (4) 10% Canada. United States, United Kingdom, France Who else uses First Past The Post? India, Burma, Yemen, 11 African countries (mostly former British colonies), others
Facts about PR Systems • Votes are equal and every vote counts • Sincere voting, little need for strategic voting • Better job of reflecting the will of voters • Minority views are represented • Better voter engagement and turnout • More women and minorities • Stable governments • Coalition governments are common and work well or better
Top 10 Reasons To Say No To PR (partly joking, partly serious) 10. Our present system was good enough for my grandparents, so it’s good enough for me. 9. I don’t understand how the new system works. 8. I don’t want our parliament to become fractious and dysfunctional. 7. My party has the best policies so why should other parties take seats away from my party. 6. Canada is doing just fine with the system we have so why change it?
Top 10 Reasons To Say No To PR 5. If we have PR, my party can’t have 100% control with only 38% of the votes. 4. We already have real democracy – winner take all. 3. If 15% of Canadians who support party X can’t elect an MP, they don’t deserve representation. 2. The governing party will always listen to and consider the views of the other parties. 1. Minority and coalition governments depend on the 4 C’s – consultation, cooperation, compromise, and consensus – how un-Canadian!
Find out more about PR Visit the Fair Vote Canada web site (fairvote. ca) or Facebook page (facebook. com/Fair. Vote. Canada) Sign the Declaration of voters’ Rights. Learn about different types of PR systems. When you start voting, ask candidates about PR. It’s your country. Canada’s future belongs to you. Let’s make Canada a real democracy.