The Globe and Mail
July 9, 2004
Summary: Although the effort to switch to proportional
representation in Canada at a national level may be blocked, five provinces,
British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, are
considering the adoption of proportional representation.
The Globe and Mail
5 Provinces Consider Voting Changes
By Noah Love
July 9, 2004
Though NDP Leader Jack Layton won't have much clout to push voting changes on
a federal level, they may be on the way in five provinces, and British Columbia
could have a new system by May of 2005.
The B.C. government has convened the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform,
a group of men and women chosen by random draw to decide in the fall whether to
stick to the current electoral formula, or switch to another system, most likely
some form of proportional representation.
If the group decides the current system needs to be replaced, the issue will
be put to a province-wide referendum during the next B.C. election, which takes
place on May 15, 2005. The new system would take effect in the 2009 vote.
Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are also considering
some type of voting changes.
"B.C. has set the bar very high for other provinces in terms of how to
do a public consultation and decision-making process," said Larry Gordon,
executive director of Fair Vote Canada. "None of the other four have gone
so far as to turn it over to the public entirely."
Proportional representation basically means that the popular vote in a given
election reflects the number of seats the party will receive in the legislature.
About 50 countries use one of the many forms of this voting system.
Fair Vote Canada was established in 2000, after the federal election returned
Jean Chrą©tien's Liberals to Parliament with a sweeping majority. Its goal was
to push a system that would more accurately represent the voters, proportional
"The questions we tended to get were, well, this is a really interesting
idea, but you don't think anybody would allow this to happen, do you," Mr.
"Every government of any political stripe once they're in power tend to
think that the voting system is just fine."
Mr. Layton favours the proportional representation system. If it had been
used to determine the outcome of the latest federal election, his New Democrats
would have received 47 seats.
The B.C. initiative was started by Premier Gordon Campbell, who was at one
point the most prominent victim of the current system. In the 1996 B.C.
election, his Liberals captured the popular vote, but ended up with 33 seats,
six less than the NDP, which ended up controlling the House.
Mr. Campbell promised during his next campaign that he would form a citizens
group to look for a better system. When the Liberals were elected with 98 per
cent of the province's seats, the new Premier came through on his promise,
slowly but surely.
But just what type of proportional representation will be used?
In the Netherlands, 150 representatives are responsible for all regions of
the nation. In Ireland, representatives are assigned districts. In some
countries, candidates are voted in through primary processes, others are picked
directly by the party leaders.