Canada’s election: Last call for First Past the Post?

Sabine McGinley,

Posted on the 23rd October 2019

It looks like Justin Trudeau has narrowly secured his second term as Canada’s Prime Minister. But his party lost out on a majority of seats as well as the popular vote.

It was a tough election for the party, but under First Past the Post the  Liberals managed to come close to a majority with just 33% of the vote. he party is 13 seats short of the 170 needed for a parliamentary majority, meaning Trudeau  will work with smaller parties in a minority government.

[bctt tweet=”There was considerable criticism of Trudeau for abandoning a commitment to electoral reform during the last Parliament.” username=”electoralreform”]

Back in 2015, Trudeau vowed to overhaul the existing voting system and declared that the federal election of that year would be the final one conducted under the a winner-takes-all system.

However, in what could be good news for those who support a fair, proportional voting system, the Liberal leader will now have to rely heavily on smaller, pro-PR parties such as the New Democratic Party (NDP) and Greens to pass legislation in Canada’s House of Commons.

The NDP led by Jagmeet Singh had a surge in polls in the final weeks of the campaign but were unable to transfer this into electoral success. The NDP have previously noted that First Past the Post politics ‘allows a party to win more than half the seats in parliament’ with fewer than half the votes.

Singh has voiced that one of his key commitments is to change the voting system to proportional representation (PR). Fair Vote Canada – an activist group pushing for PR for nearly 20 years have highlighted Singh’s comments:“Bringing in a proportional system with adequate local representation will be central to our work in our 2019 campaign”. Singh added “I believe in giving power to the people” and “the first past the post system creates false majorities which is wrong”.

Given the NDP’s new position in the hung parliament, Singh could try to push for electoral reform and make it a necessary condition for alliance or support in a minority government. Polling from Angus Reid also shows that a large proportion of Canadians support a move towards proportional representation, and believe Trudeau was wrong to break his previous pledge.

If the NDP followed through with their commitment for both local and proportional representation under a ‘Mixed-Member’ system. It would not be put to a referendum but passed into law before the next election. After two consecutive elections under this new system, a referendum would be held for Canadians vote on whether stick to the proportional model or go back to the old system.

Canada is one of the last countries among advanced democracies to still use FPTP for its main elections – a legacy of British rule. There is now hope for positive reform, if other parties co-operate on implementing proportional representation. Is this the last call for FPTP in Canada?

Sabine McGinley is a Communications Placement Student for the ERS, from the University of Nottingham. 

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