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Harper government rejects calls to make voting system fairer

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The Council of Canadians has long supported proportional representation.

We have consistently stated over the years that proportional representation is more democratic than our current first-past-the-post electoral system. It ensures a fairer representation of votes cast and prevents a governing party from holding total power after earning only a small percentage of the popular vote.

The Globe and Mail now reports, "Pressure is growing to change Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system, in which candidates can win their ridings -- and parties can form government -- with fewer than 50 per cent of the votes. Both of Canada's major opposition parties [the New Democrats and Liberals] say that if they win the Oct. 19 election under the current system, they will change the electoral process before the next ballot. ...[But] the Conservative Party said it would fight to keep the current system, stating voters have already laid out their opposition to different forms of proportional representation, including in referendums in Ontario and British Columbia."

In the May 2011 federal election under the first-past-the-post electoral system, the Conservatives won 39.62 per cent of the vote, 54.22 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons, and 100 per cent of the power. If proportional representation had been in place at that time, the Conservatives would have won 122 seats, 45 fewer seats than what they did secure and below what is required to form a majority government.

NDP MP Peter Julian says, "[October 19] would be the last unfair election. We'd be looking at consulting with Canadians. How we consult with Canadians, how we consult the provinces, how we put that into place is something that will be part of the discussions once we get the mandate." And Liberal leader Justin Trudeau says, "Our current system is not valuing the vote and input of far too many Canadians. ...We are fully committed to serious, in-depth consultation with Canadians, drawing on an all-party committee to study the forms of governance and of elections that will serve Canadians' interest not just in the short term, but in many elections to come."

Green Party leader Elizabeth May has previously commented, "[Democratic renewal] may mean forging ahead with proportional representation and taking lessons learned by other countries who have done the same to come up with an electoral process that is truly meaningful and engages all Canadian voters."

Given our current electoral system produces an unfair reflection of the overall vote, many people feel their vote doesn't count and so don't vote. This is a major concern of ours. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has commented, "We have to find a way, either through proportional representation or an alliance of progressive forces, to form a government that truly represents the views of the majority of Canadians." In April 2010, the Council of Canadians commissioned an Environics poll that found that 62 per cent of Canadians support moving towards a system of proportional representation in Canadian elections.

The Council of Canadians encourages its supporters to state their support for proportional representation when candidates knock on your door for your vote. As noted in our Voter's Guide you can ask them, "Will you commit to introducing electoral reform to ensure every vote counts in future elections?" We also encourage you to sign Fair Vote Canada's Declaration of Voters' Rights. The Declaration calls on federal parties and candidates to commit to conducting a citizen-led consultation process immediately following the next federal election and implementing a suitable form of proportional representation in time for the following election.

To add your name to this Declaration, please click here.

For more on our democracy campaign, which is focused on increasing voter turnout and ensuring that the Harper government's so-called 'Fair Elections Act' doesn't impede the right to vote, please click here.

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