Fundamentally, it’s a matter of our civil rights – Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees us effective representation, but fewer than half of us have an MP we voted for.
MPs Can’t Represent All Voters
Even though Canadians have a Charter right to be represented in government, our voting system hearkens back to the days of the earliest parliaments in England where each local baron came to Parliament to speak for his own interests, and it was taken for granted that the interests of those under his dominion were identical to his own. In our modern era, we now recognize that each person has their own distinct interests and is entitled to effective representation of those interests, but our voting system is not designed to provide this. As a consequence, fully half of the voters in Canada have no voice in Parliament – in fact, these voters have explicitly tried to prevent their current MP being elected, so the one supposedly ‘representing’ them is actually opposing their interests.
Exclusion Has Consequences
This failure to properly represent the actual diversity in each region across Canada has many significant consequences, perhaps the most obvious of which are the regional sweeps by one party or the other (think of how the Conservative Party has historically swept the Prairies, the Liberals Ontario and the Bloc Quebecois Quebec) and the significant discrepancies between a party’s vote share and the resulting seat share, which often delivers near-monopolistic powers to a party whose candidates have almost always only won a plurality of the vote (often with well under 40% popular support). When political minorities elected in this way win virtually unfettered power to overrule the majority will, it creates significant societal tension and increases public cynicism.
Unanimous Recommendations for Change
Things needn’t be this way. Canada has had considerable experience with fairer ways of voting in the past (mainly in the western provinces), and most developed nations now use one form of proportional representation (PR) or another. Over a dozen formal review processes in Canada have consistently recommended changing how we vote, and politicians from all political parties have at one time or another recognized the unfairness inherent in how we vote and have called for change (including Justin Trudeau, Stephen Harper, Stephane Dion, Jean Chretien, Tom Mulcair, Elizabeth May, among many others).