Canada Prof lobbies for electoral change
Published January 23rd 2003 in CBC New Brunswick

FREDERICTON — A move to overhaul Canada's voting rules is gaining ground in New Brunswick.

A professor at the University of New Brunswick is one of 103 political scientists endorsing an organization called Fair Vote Canada , that wants to replace the country's voting system.

Under the system of voting used in Canada, a party can win a majority of seats even if it gets less than 50 per cent of the total vote.

But Fair Vote Canada wants a new system, one that would give parties a percentage of seats based on their percentage of votes. It's called proportional representation.

UNB professor Paul Howe is backing the concept. "If they get 10 or 15 per cent of the voters they get 10 or 15 per cent of the seats. So fairness is one of the key elements."

The idea is attracting the attention of some politicians, too. Jean Dube is a Conservative MLA and a former federal MP. When he was elected to the House of Commons in 1997 the Tories and the Reform Party each got 19 per cent of the vote across Canada, but Reform won 60 seats and the Tories got 20. Dube says he would have preferred proportional representation.

"It would have probably translated into more seats for us as the opposition."

A change would benefit smaller parties and work against those in power, so convincing governments to adopt the idea won't be easy. But British Columbia, Quebec and Prince Edward Island are all studying whether to adopt a form of proportional representation in provincial elections.