The Globe and Mail
June 24, 2004
Summary: The NDP party are pushing for the Canadian
government to adopt a full representation electoral system.
Proportional Representation Aids Democracy
By Jeff Sallot
June 24, 2004
-- The statement: "I think we are sending a strong message to the
Canadian people that Canadian democracy needs to be fixed." -- NDP
Leader Jack Layton, Charlottetown, June 23.
The message: The NDP wants a national referendum on proportional
representation, or PR.
The reality: Mr. Layton may be on to something.
In the last election, the NDP won about 8.5 per cent of the popular vote
nationally, yet took only about 4 per cent of the seats in the Commons.
Meanwhile, the Liberals won about 41 per cent of the popular vote yet took a
majority of 57 per cent of the seats in the Commons.
Mr. Layton sees an opportunity on the horizon. The NDP is showing stronger
support in the opinion polls than its numbers in the 2000 election. And a
minority government is a real possibility.
Thus Mr. Layton mused aloud yesterday about what the NDP's price might be for
propping up a minority government. His bottom line, it seems, is getting a
government promise to hold a referendum on PR.
In fact, Parliament itself can make some changes in the way we elect MPs
without amending the Constitution, says Peter Russell, an expert on
The Constitution requires that whatever system is adopted, representation
must be determined by population -- the one-person one-vote principle. (There
are a couple of minor wrinkles in the Constitution to make sure provinces don't
lose seats and there are MPs from the three sparsely populated northern
There might be a problem with certain types of PR systems, such as electing
MPs on the basis of party lists of candidates. This could run afoul of the
Constitution if it prevents the election of independents with no party
Advocates of electoral change, like Larry Gordon, the executive director of
Fair Vote Canada, say some models of proportional representation systems would
not squeeze out independents.
The Law Commission of Canada completed a study of proportional representation
this year, saying a change might break the "grip of a democratic
malaise" in Canada.
Look for a lot more talk about PR if a minority government is elected on