Over in the thread on the Canadian Election, the issue of “first past the post” elections versus proportional representation briefly came up. I think that the issue merits its own thread.
Here’s my position. The FPTP electoral system is detrimental to Canadian unity and should be replaced with a system that has elements of the current riding system, plus an element of proportional representation.
The FPTP system has the problem of electing majority governments that don’t have majority voter support, but that’s not the issue I want to address. My point is that it sends grossly lopsided provincial contingents to the Commons, which in turn aggravates regional antagonisms.
For example, during the Trudeau period, the Grits consistently swept Quebec, taking almost all the seats, even though there was always a substantial vote for other parties. Those election results magnified the influence of the Quebec MPs in Ottawa, and also triggered regional resentment out west, because the huge block of Quebec MPs gave the Liberals an almost insurmountable lead.
Similarly, for the past ten years, the Liberals have had a stranglehold on Ontario, with similar results.
And it works the other way as well, by magnifying the appearence of regional opposition. Alberta is the best example of this. It consistently sends a block of right-wing MPs to the Commons, giving the impression of almost unanimous opposition to the Liberal governments, increasing the popular impression that Alberta has nothing in common with the centre. Yet, as with Ontario and Quebec, in every election in Alberta there are respectable numbers of votes cast for the Liberals or the NDP, but never concentrated enough to elect more than one or two members.
On the other hand, I wouldn’t want a pure proportional representation system, like Israel, which grossly magnifies the political importance of small parties. The best approach would be to blend the two systems, along the German model. I understand that in Germany, each state is divided into individual ridings which elect members by FPTP, but there are also additional seats for members-at-large in each state. Those seats are allocated according to the vote ratios for each party in each state, so that the overall delegation of a state is closer to the the proprotion of votes cast.
If that system were in place in Canada, a party could almost never sweep the larger provinces and get a tremendous block of seats. Even if a party got the majority of the votes in a particular province, there would almost always be a some MPs from other parties. That would reduce the influence of individual provinces and force all the parties to try to attract support across the country.
So, waddya think?