Most want proportional representation: Council of Canadians poll

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For Immediate Release
April 15, 2010

New hard-hitting report details Prime Minister's ‘assault on Democracy'

Accompanying poll shows majority of Canadians want proportional representation

Ottawa - A major poll, conducted by Environics Research for the Council of Canadians, has found that 62 per cent of Canadians support "moving towards a system of proportional representation (PR) in Canadian elections."

The poll accompanies a report prepared for the Council of Canadians by Murray Dobbin on the "concerted attack on democracy" by the Harper government. The report, Harper's Hitlist: Power, Process and the Assault on Democracy, is available The report details the two recent prorogations, Harper's influence on the Senate, and his attacks on women's rights, democracy and political advocacy.

A key finding of the Environics Research poll is that 36 perc ent of Canadians are more supportive of PR based on the view that such a system could make it more difficult for prime ministers to arbitrarily prorogue Parliament to avoid accountability. Harper's Hitlist makes the case that this latter figure suggests that the anger over Harper's actions has resulted in a determination by voters to deal with the situation permanently: by changing the system itself. To help build on this momentum for PR, the Council of Canadians is encouraging voters to sign the Declaration of Voters' Rights.

In addition, the strong support for PR is consistent across the country -- from a low of 59 per cent in Alberta to a high of 65 per cent in Quebec. Young voters -- prominent at the anti-prorogation demonstrations in January -- were the strongest supporters, with 71 percent favouring a change to PR.

As Dobbin explains in the opening paragraphs of the report, "This study is intended to examine the most serious violations of democracy committed by the prime minister and his government. Some are clearly more serious than others. But taken as a whole they add up to a dangerous undermining of our democratic traditions, institutions and precedents -- and politics."

"These violations are not accidental, they are not incidental, and they are not oversights or simply the sign of an impatient government or ‘decisive' leadership," says Dobbin. "They are a fundamental part of Harper's iron-fisted determination to remake Canada, whether Canadians like it or not."

Murray Dobbin is an author, columnist, and former board member of the Council of Canadians. He is also the author of Word Warriors, an on-line activist tool hosted on the Council's website.

The poll on proportional representation was conducted by Environics Research between February 22 and 24, 2010. The results represent the findings of a telephone survey conducted among a national random sample of 1,001 adults comprising 501 males and 500 females 18 years of age and older, living in Canada. The margin of error for a sample of this size is +/- 3.10 percent, 19 times out of 20.


For More Information:

Dylan Penner, Media Officer, Council of Canadians, 613-795-8685,


Question #1 asked in the Environics Research poll

There has been some discussion about reforming the electoral system in Canada. Some people favour bringing in a form of proportional representation, which means that seats in parliament would be apportioned according to the popular vote won by each party, instead of the current system of electing mps from single-member ridings. Would you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose moving towards a system of proportional representation in Canadian elections?

Strongly support: 23 per cent
Somewhat support: 38 per cent
Somewhat oppose: 15 per cent
Strongly oppose: 13 per cent
Don't know: 10 per cent

Question #2 asked in the Environics Research poll

Recently, Stephen Harper prorogued parliament until March. Some people say that if Canada had a system of proportional representation it could make it more difficult for prime ministers to take these kinds of actions and that it could also make parties cooperate more and be more responsive to public opinion. Does this argument make you more supportive of proportional representation, less supportive or does it make no difference to you?

More supportive: 36 per cent
Less supportive: 8 per cent
Makes no difference: 53 per cent
Don't know: 3 per cent

Do BC and Ontario referendums mean Canadians have rejected PR?

Polling results indicate support for PR reform is still strong, despite some specific referendum proposals being defeated. For example:

1) In the first BC referendum in 2005, 58 per cent voted in favour of a PR system. When a party receives that level of support, it's called a landslide. But the BC government refused to act, saying 60 per cent support was needed.

2) In the 2007 Ontario referendum, the PR option lost, but extensive polling by political scientists Fred Cutler and Patrick Fournier concluded that was largely because of a failed public awareness and education program by the govt. Had the public been adequately informed "the result would have been 63 per cent for MMP and 37 per cent for the existing system -- exactly the mirror image of the actual outcome". [Source: Cutler and Fournier, Globe and Mail comment article, Oct. 25, 2007)

3) In the 2009 BC referendum, only 39 per cent voted in favour of the PR option, but in a post-election survey of 1,000 B.C. residents, conducted by Vancouver polling firm Strategic Communications, 44.3 per cent of those who voted for first-past-the-post in the referendum responded they are in "favour of replacing first-past-the-post with a voting system in which the percentage of seats a party gets in the legislature is more in line with their percentage of the popular vote". For younger voters, those in the 18-34 age range, 52.8 per cent who voted for first-past-the-post in the referendum said they support replacing it with a fairer and more proportional alternative.

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