Elections / Opinions

Who Should I Vote For?

October 8th, 2015

Students get ready to vote

Our voting system is medieval.

No, really, it is. Our method of electing representatives to Parliament began centuries ago in England, and is often called “winner-take-all” or “first-past-the-post”. It is antiquated, unjust, and produces ridiculous results: Since World War I, three-quarters of Canada’s “majority” federal governments were actually elected by a minority of voters, including the present one. This can happen because only the most popular candidate in a riding is elected to represent that riding, even if they have less than 50% of all the votes, so long as all the other votes are split between other candidates.

Under our present system, if you vote for anyone other than the winner, your vote ends up electing nobody. You get no local representative who represents your political views in Parliament. That makes absolutely no sense!

The whole point of a democratic election is to select Members of Parliament who represent the viewpoint of virtually all Canadian voters. When a party (or group of parties) then forms the government, it should do so only because it genuinely represents a majority of Canadians. That is the central idea of representative democracy. An election’s purpose is not to choose winners and losers, where literally only half of the voters get someone they choose to represent them. What we have now is almost a mockery of democracy.

Our system seems familiar because it is traditional, and because it is also used in the U.S. and the U.K. But almost no other large advanced democracy in the world uses this idiotic way to elect representatives. Most use some form of what is called “proportional representation”, which is any kind of voting system designed to get a Parliament that actually represents the viewpoints of the voters. For example, in their 2011 election 97% of the voters in New Zealand cast a ballot that actually helped to elect a representative. But in the same year in Canada, only 51% of the voters did so. Our system is really, really backwards and out-of-date. It is time for us to finally catch up with the rest of the democratic world and join the 21st century.

And October 19th can be our chance to finally do so. Electoral reform is in the air and many people are pointing out the need for change. Every major party except the Conservatives has promised to bring about electoral reform in time for the next election. We need to elect representatives that will support changing to a modern voting system with proportional representation.

Some people say that you should vote for whoever best represents your values. That would make sense only if our voting system was truly representative. But since we are still stuck with our old system for this election, it makes no sense to decide to vote for your favourite party or candidate if they are just going to lose anyways, because then your vote does nothing. You don’t get moral brownie points for voting for the “best” candidate if they don’t win! We have to cooperate and vote strategically – with our minds rather than our hearts. For example, in the Kelowna-Lake Country riding, the Green party candidate has withdrawn from the race in order to support the Liberal candidate, Stephen Fuhr, who has promised to represent many Green party values if he is elected. This riding has traditionally been Conservative and the Conservative candidate has a lot of support. But the Conservative party has vowed to actually make electoral reform more difficult, so progressive voters need to vote together and bring about change.

I urge you to seriously consider how you will vote strategically so you can help end our broken, undemocratic system and make 2015 the last unfair election.

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