New Zealand switched from the FPTP system of voting in 1996. Should Canada do the same for 2015?


In the May 2011 Canadian Federal election, the Progressive Conservatives got 39.62% of the total votes cast and the NDP won 30.63%. The Liberals came in at 18.91%, the Bloc Quebecois at 6.04%, and the Green Party received 3.91%. This gave the Conservatives a majority, allowing them to basically ram whatever bill they want through legislature and they have taken every opportunity to do just that.

In October, 2012, the Harper Government  tabled another omnibus bill similar to the one it passed in March although this time the bundle of bills has 457 pages. The problem with this style of passing legislation is that there is no chance to discuss each individual amendment and a lot of topics don’t get covered.

Because the Conservatives have a majority, they were able to dismiss the numerous concerns raised about this omnibus, Bill C 45, like protecting our lakes and rivers with environmental assessments. There is not much we can do about the current administration who won by the total amount of seats instead of total amount of votes. However there  is another federal election coming in 2015 and if we were to be using a more popular system of voting such as the Mixed Member Proportional System like New Zealand switched to, then more voices would be accounted for.

New Zealand was in a similar scenario as Canada in the 1970s in the sense that the people were losing faith in their government’s ability to hold fair elections. In the 1990s they voted for electoral reform and chose the MMP instead of the previously used FPTP. The problem with the FPTP system is that it tends to produce larger majorities and less accountable governments. Since 1921, Canada has had 15 majority governments and yet only two of these received a majority of the popular vote.

Canada is one of the last democracies in the world to be using the First Past the Post system of voting and it’s past time we start a conversation among policy makers on the federal level to re-evaluate whether this electoral process is working for Canadians.

To date, pure First Past the Post (FPTP) systems are found in the United Kingdom and those countries historically influenced by Britain. Along with the United Kingdom, the most analyzed cases are Canada, India, New Zealand, and the United States of America. However, New Zealand switched to a MMP system of Proportional Representation in 1993 (see New Zealand: A Westminster Democracy Switches to PR). Source

So what the heck is the differnce between MPP and FPP anyways?

Q: What is MMP?

A: MMP or mixed-member proportional representation is a political system used in places like New Zealand and Germany, where voters cast a two-part ballot, selecting both a preferred local candidate and a political party.

Q: What is “first past the post”?

A: “First-past-the-post,” or FPTP, is the current method of electing MPPs and is how Canadians have traditionally chosen federal and provincial representatives. It is a winner-take-all system, where the candidate with the most votes wins a riding. The political party that wins the most electoral districts forms the government. Source

Of course every system of voting has its downsides along with its strengths, including MPP. Where FPP is less fair to smaller, fringe parties; MPP may give them too much leeway. However this con pales in comparison to the damage an unchecked majority can wreak upon a nation.

For the full list of pros and cons of MPP and FPTP click here.

Many of Prime Minister Harper’s passed regulations have been criticized as being too-friendly to big business and not environmentally-protective enough and yet regardless of what occurs in the parliamentary debates he can proceed with pushing through legislation unheeded.

Now if only there were another Canadian political party that was interested in electoral reform that could take this debate to the federal level. Until then we wait.

Useful links on the switch in New Zealand.–pros-and-cons-of-mmp

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