Electoral Reform in Canada The issue of electoral reform has become more important than ever in Canada in recent years as the general public has come to realize that our current first-past-the-post, winner-take-all system, formally known as single-member plurality (SMP) has produced majority governments of questionable legitimacy. Of the major democracies in the world, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom are the only countries that still have SMP systems in place. Interestingly enough, there has been enormous political tension and division in the last few years in these countries, culminating with the election results in Canada and the USA this year that polarized both countries. In the last year we have seen unprecedented progress towards electoral reform, with PEI establishing an electoral reform commissioner and New Brunswick appointing a nine-member Commission on Legislative Democracy in December 2003 to the groundbreaking decision by the British Columbia Citizen’s Assembly on October 24, 2004 that the province will have a referendum on May 17, 2005 to decide whether or not they will switch to a system of proportional representation.
Democracy is defined as government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system (Democracy, n.d.). Canadians generally pride themselves in being able to call this democratic nation home, however is our electoral system reflective of this belief? Canada is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy that has been adopted from the British system. Few amendments have been made since its creation, which has left our modern nation with an archaic system that fails to represent the opinions of citizens. Canada’s current “first-past-the-post” (FPTP) system continues to elect “false majorities” which are not representative of the actual percentage of votes cast. Upon closer examination of the current system, it appears that there are a number of discrepancies between our electoral system and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Other nations provide Canada with excellent examples of electoral systems that more accurately represent the opinions of voters, such as proportional representation. This is a system of voting that allocates seats to a political party based on the percentage of votes cast for that party nationwide. Canada’s current system of voting is undemocratic because it fails to accurately translate the percentage of votes cast to the number of seats won by each party, therefore we should adopt a mixed member proportional representation system to ensure our elections remain democratic.
The electoral system in Canada has been utilized for over a century, and although it has various strengths which have helped preserve the current system, it also has glaringly obvious weaknesses. In recent years, citizens and experts alike have questioned whether Canada’s current electoral system, known as First Past the Post (FPTP) or plurality, is the most effective system. Although FPTP is a relatively simple and easy to understand electoral system, it has been criticized for not representing the popular vote and favouring regions which are supportive of a particular party. FPTP does have many strengths such as simplicity and easy formation of majority governments, however, its biggest drawback is that it does not proportionally represent
Canada is a society built on the promise of democracy; democracy being defined as “government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.” In order to operate at full potential, the people of Canada must voice their opinions and participate fully in the political system. This is why it’s shocking to see that people are becoming less engaged in politics and the voter turnout has steadily been declining over the last 20 years. This lack of participation by Canadians is creating a government that is influenced by fewer people, which is detrimental to the democratic system Canada is built on.
This essay has argued that there are many limitations that the Prime Minister is subjected too. The three most important are federalism in Canadian society, the role of the Governor General, and the charter of rights and freedoms. I used two different views of federalism and illustrated how both of them put boundaries on the Prime Minister’s power. Next I explain the powers of the governor general, and explained the ability to dissolve parliament in greater detail. Last I analyzed how the charter of rights of freedoms has limited the Prime Minister’s power with respect to policy-making, interests groups and the courts. The Prime Minister does not have absolute power in Canadian society, there are many infringements on the power that they have to respect.
Milner, Henry. First Past the Post? Progress Report on Electoral Reform Initiatives in Canadian Provinces. Ottawa: Institute for Research and Public Policy, 5(9), 2004.
One may be surprised to learn that the turnout rate of individuals voting in Canada's federal elections has never reached 80% (Elections Canada). In fact, it has been decreasing since the middle of the twentieth century, as shown by an increase in voter apathy. An electoral system is designed to provide those who live in democratic governments with the opportunity to vote – in an election – for the candidate whose platform coincides with their political beliefs. This can be achieved through a direct democracy, where citizens are directly involved in the decision-making process, or through an indirect democracy, where citizens elect a delegate to act on their behalf. In a direct democracy, all citizens would be present during governmental meetings and have the opportunity to give verbal input. As one may expect, this would be extremely difficult to coordinate with Canada's population of 34.88 billion (Statistics Canada). Canada uses an indirect democracy, which allows for two basic forms of electoral systems in which representatives are elected. In the simple plurality electoral system, the candidate who receives the greatest number of votes is elected, regardless of a majority or not. It is commonly known as the “first-past-the-post” system, which alludes to a horse race; the winner passes the post with the highest number of votes, and only need to garner more votes than their opponents. The successful candidate wins all the seats in their riding or constituency while the candidates who places second or third will receive no seats, regardless of how many votes they lose by. Proportional representation is the second form of electoral system used in Canada; the percentage of the votes received by a party is proportionate to the numb...
Canada 's ineffective federal political system has gradually transformed into such a troubled political environment, becoming one of the most deadly threats to the very existence of Canada. Many citizens assume that the system in place is the best approach to democratic principles. However, a deeper analysis of the system says otherwise. In particular, the unjust first-past-the-post electoral system negatively impacts the representation of diverse populations in Canada. Moreover, the purpose and accountability of the Senate is questionable, for it misrepresents Canadian regions and minorities, as well as rewards loyalty, rather than knowledge through the patronage system. In addition, another one of Canada’s unfortunate realities is the appointment
Canada’s parliamentary system is designed to preclude the formation of absolute power. Critics and followers of Canadian politics argue that the Prime Minister of Canada stands alone from the rest of the government. The powers vested in the prime minister, along with the persistent media attention given to the position, reinforce the Prime Minister of Canada’s superior role both in the House of Commons and in the public. The result has led to concerns regarding the power of the prime minister. Hugh Mellon argues that the prime minister of Canada is indeed too powerful. Mellon refers to the prime minister’s control over Canada a prime-ministerial government, where the prime minister encounters few constraints on the usage of his powers. Contrary to Mellon’s view, Paul Barker disagrees with the idea of a prime-ministerial government in Canada. Both perspectives bring up solid points, but the idea of a prime-ministerial government leading to too much power in the hands of the prime minister is an exaggeration. Canada is a country that is too large and complex to be dominated by a single individual. The reality is, the Prime Minister of Canada has limitations from several venues. The Canadian Prime Minister is restricted internally by his other ministers, externally by the other levels of government, the media and globalization.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted under the Pierre Trudeau government on April 17, 1982. According to Phillip Bryden, “With the entrenchment of the Charter into the Canadian Constitution, Canadians were not only given an explicit definition of their rights, but the courts were empowered to rule on the constitutionality of government legislation” (101). Prior to 1982, Canada’s central constitutional document was the British North America Act of 1867. According to Kallen, “The BNA Act (the Constitution Act, 1867) makes no explicit reference to human rights” (240). The adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms significantly transformed the operation of Canada’s political system. Presently, Canadians define their needs and complaints in human rights terms. Bryden states, “More and more, interest groups and minorities are turning to the courts, rather than the usual political processes, to make their grievances heard” (101). Since it’s inception in 1982 the Charter has become a very debatable issue. A strong support for the Charter remains, but there also has been much criticism toward the Charter. Academic critics of the Charter such as Robert Martin believe that the Charter is doing more harm than good, and is essentially antidemocratic and UN-Canadian. I believe that Parliament’s involvement in implementing the Charter is antidemocratic, although, the Charter itself represents a democratic document. Parliament’s involvement in implementing the Charter is antidemocratic because the power of the executive is enhanced at the expense of Parliament, and the power of the judiciary is enhanced at the expense of elected officials, although, the notwithstanding clause continues to provide Parliament with a check on...