The 2015 federal election is just around the corner, and its proximity has sparked some serious discussion about our current electoral system. NDP leader Tom Mulcair claims that if elected, our current first-past-the-post system (FPTP) will be replaced by mixed-member proportional representation (MMP). This will allow citizens to vote twice: once for a local MP, and once directly for the party of their choice.
While skeptics argue that the switch to MMP will evoke havoc and mark the end of a decisive government, the pros of proportional representation outweigh the cons. MMP will give voters more power in their decisions as well as create the kind of democratic government Canada is in dire need of.
In our current system, voters are given one vote to elect the MP of their choosing. This vote is not only used to elect an MP, but is also considered a reflection of the voter’s support for a specific party. This is a problem because a voter’s favourite local MP does not necessarily belong to their favourite party. Often, voters are faced with the difficult choice of supporting their favourite MP or voting for a less ideal candidate who belongs to their preferred party.
In a mixed-member system, voters are not forced to compromise. In addition to their first vote that elects a local MP, they are also given the chance to elect a party that they would like to see in the House of Commons. This creates a mix of MPs that were voted in through local constituencies and MPs that represent a voter’s party preferences.
In a mixed-member system, voters are not forced to compromise.
The ability to separate MP and party preferences is not only beneficial to the voter, but also to MPs, who can be recognized for their individual platform instead of merely the party to which they belong. This gives MPs a level of autonomy and support that they can bring into the House of Commons, which allows them to stand up for what they believe in and better represent the people that voted them into parliament.
MMP also eliminates false majorities. In our last election, Conservatives won a majority government with merely 39 per cent of the vote, since FPTP merely sums up the individual constituency results without truly reflecting the majority’s choices. This leads to a government that runs the show with an inflated ego and an undeserving amount of power. While Conservatives govern as a majority government that is supposed to represent all Canadians, 61 per cent of voters wanted someone else for the job.
MMP is a true reflection of Canadians’ governing choices. Critics of proportional representation argue that radicals will slip into parliament and create conflict, but this problem can be tackled by setting a minimum threshold that excludes any parties that do not meet the minimum amount of supporters.
Should a party meet the minimum requirements, why shouldn’t they have a say in Parliament? Conflicting opinions in the House of Commons are not a bad thing if they are representing the views of a relatively large group of people.
I understand that people don’t like change; FPTP has been used as Canada’s electoral system for an incredibly long time, and is comfortable and familiar to us.
MMP offers Canada an opportunity to empower voters and provide Canadians with a truly democratic government. What’s the point of a conflict-free House of Commons if it’s not properly representing Canadian values?