Do we have it all wrong?

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Allyson Beauregard
Rédacteur / Managing Editor
editor@journalpontiac.com

Another federal election has come and gone – two years early. With 158 seats, the Liberals formed the old-but-new national government, with the Conservatives coming in second with 119, and Bloc Quebecois in third with 34.

Allyson Beauregard
Rédacteur / Managing Editor
editor@journalpontiac.com

Another federal election has come and gone – two years early. With 158 seats, the Liberals formed the old-but-new national government, with the Conservatives coming in second with 119, and Bloc Quebecois in third with 34.
But here’s the thing: arguably our current electoral system elected the Liberals, not the people. With 33.8% of the popular vote, the Conservatives came in second behind the Liberals, who only obtained 32.4% of votes but more seats.
This is common in first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral systems. “In most elections with FPTP, about half of voters cast a ballot which has no impact on the election result … sometimes FPTP even produces a ‘wrong winner’ election – when one party receives more popular support, but another gets to govern with a majority!,” says Fair Vote Canada.
One of Justin Trudeau’s 2015 election promises was to drop the FPTP system, but it was abandoned due to a claimed lack of consensus. Days before the last election, he said he’s open to taking a second look, but he won’t entertain proportional representation – parties gain seats in proportion to the percentage of votes they receive – because it gives more weight to small, potentially fringe parties.
Quebec Premier François Legault also campaigned on the promise of changing to a mixed-member proportional representation system before the 2022 election, but the deadline has been pushed until after the election and a referendum condition added.
This is no surprise; FPTP serves the big players. Proportional representation involves giving up a bigger chunk of the pie and cooperating/negotiating with more parties. Why would big parties want to change the system that elects them?
But just as the federal election ended, Quebec’s municipalities began yet another political marathon – municipal elections – which are also in some ways problematic.  
The current process of running for a specific seat may result in the loss of talented candidates. Ex: if three talented candidates run for the same seat, two lose, although they could have garnered more votes than the winner of another seat.
Running for a specific seat can be viewed as adversarial, so some may shy away to avoid confrontation, especially in small communities. Family and friend ties can further limit candidates.  
One solution is a system where councilors simply run for council. Those with the most votes assume a position on council and the mayor determines what functions they’re assigned. The mindset would be, ‘I’m not running against you, I’m running for council’.
As election after election passes by, it’s time to seriously commit to overhauling the entire electoral system, from the ground up, so every vote does in fact count (encouraging higher participation), all parties are fairly represented, and processes are more democratic. But reform is only effective if it involves real change, not simply promises or another version of the same problem.
*Written in collaboration with James Croghan.