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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Explanation of reasons for electoral reform by Minister Monsef

The following is excerpted from remarks by Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef to the House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform Wednesday, the first day the committee has heard from public witnesses:
There have been some who have pointed out that Canada is a mature, successful democracy whose citizens enjoy a standard of living and a level of political freedom which is the envy of the world. They question why we would consider changing such a successful democracy.
Although I accept the premise of that thought, I do not agree with the conclusion. Simply pointing out that something works is not a reason not to try to make it better.
First Past the Post is an antiquated system, designed to meet the realities of the 19th-century Canada, and not designed to operate within our multiparty parliamentary democracy. We require an electoral system that provides a stronger link between the democratic will of Canadians and election results.
As pointed out by the Institute for Public Policy Research, during the course of the 20th century, a number of countries have opted to move away from First Past the Post, from Australia in 1918 through to New Zealand in 1993. More tellingly, few democracies in the modern era have gone the other way and adopted First Past the Post as their electoral model.
And there are good reasons for this: 
– First Past the Post is a voting system that generates disparities between votes gained and the number of seats secured. Since 1960, we have had 10 elections that resulted in majority governments but in only one case (1984) did the winning party receive more than 50 per cent of the vote.
– Under First Past the Post, parties achieving similar or the same percentage of the vote may not garner a similar number of seats.
Look at 1997 as an example. The Reform Party garnered 18.7 per cent of the vote and received 60 seats, whereas the Progressive Conservatives garnered 18.8 per cent of the vote, virtually the same, but received only 20 seats. This system tends to favour parties with regional, rather than national appeal.
And in the election previous to that one, in 1993, the Progressive Conservatives won 16 per cent of the popular vote but only two seats. Meanwhile, the Bloc Québécois received 13.5 per cent of the popular vote and won 54 seats.
– First Past the Post also regularly elects MPs where the majority of their constituents did not vote for them. In the most recent election, less than 40 per cent  of those elected were supported by a majority of their constituents, including me.
Beyond this, Canadians have indicated they want change in the electoral system. In the last election, 63 per cent of Canadians voted for parties who clearly stated they wanted an alternative to First Past the Post, and Canadians expect us to keep our promises.
I have said in the House on many occasions as the Minister of Democratic Institutions, we come to this process with an open mind, prepared to be convinced by persuasive and respectful argument on what type of electoral system would best replace First Past the Post, recognizing that no system is perfect.

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