In this recent federal election, the real losers are the Canadian electors. How can a government presume to have a strong mandate with only 38% support across the country?
The culprit in this failure of democracy is the voting system that we call First-Past-The-Post (FPTP). It was designed over two centuries ago when voters had a clear choice between two parties. But today, Canada celebrates great social and political diversity. We see five major political parties on the federal scene. For that reason, no new democracy in the world has implemented FPTP in the last 100 years.
As the vote spreads over several parties in each riding, FPTP usually fails to provide 50% support to a clear winner and makes the leading loser a winner with a false mandate. FPTP causes vote splitting in the crowded political spectrum, forces parties into mergers of political convenience as the Reform, Alliance and Progressive Conservative did a few years ago. Jean Chrétien and the Liberals enjoyed three majorities partly because the right wing vote was split. Currently, Stephen Harper won two elections while the progressive vote is split.
Because a candidate only needs one more vote than any another candidate, FPTP encourages parties to drive wedges among the electorate. The response by voters to this distortion of democracy is strategic voting and vote swapping, As a result, too many voters hold their nose and vote against the worst choice instead of voting for their favourite choice.
All Canadian political parties, both federal and provincial, use a preferential ranking method, either by multiple run-off votes or a single ranked preferential ballot to select their leaders and their candidates with a final winner achieving at least 50% majority support. If preferential ranking is good enough for all our political parties, then it is good enough for the rest of us. We would not want multiple run-off elections as it would be too expensive to return to the polls multiple times.
Let's implement preferential ranking on our ballot, otherwise called the single transferable vote (STV). We would directly elect our representative while maintaining the current single-member ridings and the current method of selecting the government from the party winning the most ridings. STV will allow voters to select their preferred candidate/party as first choice while indicating subsequent ranked choices in the event their candidate is last. The ballots of the last candidate are re-counted to distribute them to the voter's next choice and so on until a candidate receives over 50% support.
STV will eliminate vote splitting and the need to merge parties, let the vote merge on the ballot, avoid strategic voting and vote swapping, and select a truly representative candidate with over 50% support in each riding.