If the federal Liberal government wants to bring in a new electoral system for Canada, it should hold a referendum on it, according to M.P. Cathy McLeod.
A parliamentary committee is presently looking into several alternative ways of voting for our representatives in Ottawa, the member of parliament for Kamloops-Thompson-Caribou told a public meeting in Clearwater on Thursday, Aug. 25.
A mail-in survey she conducted recently resulted in 800 responses, she said. Of those, 78 per cent felt that the committee’s recommendation, when it comes out, should go to a nationwide referendum before it becomes law.
This was consistent with an Ipsos Reid survey done last spring that found 73 per cent of Canadians think the federal government should not make electoral change without a national referendum, she said.
British Columbia took a better approach about 10 years ago when it looked at replacing the present first-past-the-post (FPTP) system. Then, rather than using a parliamentary committee, the government appointed a citizens assembly selected by lottery. The assembly’s recommendation of replacing FPTP with a version of the single-transferrable vote system then went to referendum (where it achieved nearly 60 per cent of the votes but not quite enough to pass the minimum the government had set).
At least five alternatives are being looked at by the parliamentary commitee, McLeod reported.
These are FPTP, alternative vote, single tranferrable vote, list proportional representation (closed and open), and mixed member proportional.
All have their advantages and disadvantages, the M.P. said.
Under FPTP, our present system, the candidate in each riding with the most votes wins, whether or not he or she gets a majority. It is simple to operate but smaller parties are often under-represented in Parliament. Occasionally, a political party can win an election even though another party got more votes overall.
An alternative vote system would see voters rank the candidates in order of preference. If a candidate does not achieve a majority in a riding, then the bottom candidate is eliminated and that candidate’s second choices are counted. The process continues until a majority is reached.
Under closed list proportional representation, parties would prepare lists of candidates before the election. People would vote for the party, not the candidate. After the election, the parties would be assigned seats in Parliament based on the number of votes they got.
McLeod noted that such a system, which is used in several European countries, gives the political parties considerable power over the candidates.
Under the open list system, people would vote for their preferred candidates on the party lists. The number of votes each candidate receives would determine his or her position on the list and so whether or not he or she would sit in Parliament.
Mixed member proportional would see the parties nominate candidates to run in each electoral district before election day. They would also create party lists. People would vote for both a local representative and for a political party.
Seats would be held by a combination of directly elected MPs and candidates from party lists.