Proportional Voting Would Create a Different Dynamic for Voters

Imagine you support one of the three main parties and would like to vote for that party.  In your riding, one candidate has been chosen to run for that party.  Maybe you like that candidate and maybe you don’t like them that much, but that’s your only choice.  So you go ahead and vote for the candidate that represents your party of choice.

Now it’s time to count the votes.  Say your party of choice does not win.  So you are now represented by an MLA for a party you did not choose.  That means that you and your riding are providing support in the form of a seat in the legislature to a party that you do not want to support.  It also means that you and your riding are not represented in the caucus of your preferred party.

Now imagine we had a proportional voting system.  Although there are a number of voting systems that are proportional, they usually provide voters with the opportunity to have a say over candidate selection beyond the single nominated candidate that we’re familiar with.  More importantly, when the votes are counted, it’s done in such a way that the overall seats in each region match up with the party vote count.

A voting system like this would create a different dynamic for voters.  Instead of the pressure that many voters feel to “vote for a party that can win”, voters would truly be able to vote for the party they prefer.  The result would be greater levels of support for more parties.  It’s likely that the Greens would achieve higher levels of support than they currently do in the election, and it’s possible that other parties like the Conservatives would as well.  It would also be much less likely for any party to win a number of seats that was much different from its actual level of support.  So in the 2013 election, the 44% of the vote that the Liberals received would have translated into roughly 44% of the seats as opposed to the 58% they won with the current voting system.

Vote for Proportional Representation to Get Rid of Strategic Voting

Voters who support a particular party should be able to vote freely for that party and expect to have their vote count.

Right now in BC there is a public debate about strategic voting, particularly related to the Green Party.  In many ridings the Greens are running third, with little chance that they will win the seat (according to polls).  So one of the other two main parties see the Green vote as a potential spoiler.

In particular, where the second plus third place parties could easily overturn the top placed party, this plays out as NDP candidates wishing out loud that Green voters would help them win agains the Liberals instead of voting for a Green candidate who won’t win anyway.  The Green Party naturally objects strenuously to this attitude.

The Green objection is absolutely warranted. 

The problem is entirely a result of our voting system.  It is completely fixable just by choosing a voting system that works proportionally, and there are plenty to choose from. This is a problem that should be fixed!

What we need to do is choose a voting system that counts every vote towards electing a representative.  If a party gets 20% of the vote, it is not a spoiler vote, it is a positive vote, and that party should fairly receive its 20% of the seats. 

This is in contrast to our system, which counts every vote against the others in the same riding to choose a winner in that riding.  The result is that large numbers of voters for one party or another end up represented by a third party that none of them may have wanted.

The purpose of an election is to choose the MLAs who will sit in the legislature.  Different voting systems do this in different ways.  Our voting system does it in a way that leaves about half of all voters represented by MLAs they didn’t vote for and that’s what leads to the pressure to vote strategically, or in some safe seats even persuades people that there’s no point in voting at all.

Surely we want to ensure that the political makeup of the legislature is a good reflection of the political wishes of the electorate.  The fact that our system doesn’t do that most basic function of voting systems should disqualify it from use altogether.

2013 vs. 2017 – What outcome do you expect?

The 2013 Election Resulted in a False Majority

As usual, the 2013 BC Election resulted in a majority government on the basis of a minority of the vote.

The BC Liberals received 44% of the overall vote which translated into 58% of the seats.  That boost in seats over the actual vote gave the Liberals a majority government and total power to decide on policy.

All their so called majority decisions were made on the basis of 44% support from voters.

We can predict with certainty that the 2017 election results will have a similar mismatch between votes and seats.

How can we be so sure?  Because our current voting system is not designed to work that way.  It does not assign seats in a way that is related to the percentage of the vote.  The facts back it up:  there has never been an election in BC or Canadian history using first past the post where the outcome has been anywhere close to a match between votes and seats.

The latest CBC poll tracker predicts an NDP victory of 56% of the seats based on 43% of the vote.  Liberals 39% of seats on 35% of the vote.  The Greens are expected to receive under 5% of the seats on 20% of the vote.


Report on Annual General Meeting

We would like to thank all members and supporters who attended the 2016 AGM and a special thank you to all those who worked on our various events over the past year.   We had a great turnout again this year for the AGM.  We elected a new board and set up three new action teams in Vancouver – one each for the downtown, east side, and west side.  Please get in touch with us at if you’d like to organize an action team or join an existing one.

Our activities over the past year included two very well attended town halls: one at Burnaby Metrotown Library and one at the Vancouver downtown library.  We also attended Car Free Day, the Vancouver Pride Parade, and several other public events.

Our goals for the coming year are centred primarily on the federal government’s promise to make every vote count in the 2019 election.  To that end, we are trying to mobilize as many volunteers as possible and expand our network of supporters so that we’re ready to engage with  whatever decision-making process the new government puts in place.

The 2016 elected board members are:

Iain Macanulty – President

Jana Rayne MacDonald – Vice President

Les Brown – Secretary/Treasurer

Zahara Baugh

Janet Hudgins

Jason McLaren

Keith Poore

Annual General Meeting – 2016

Come to our Annual General Meeting and join the campaign for PR in 2019!

Participate in the election of a new board for Fair Vote Vancouver or join a Local Action Team and get directly involved in the campaign for voting system reform.

Date: Thursday February 25th

Time: 7:00 – 9:00 pm

Place: Roundhouse Community Centre, Vancouver

Directions and Parking

Our newly elected government has promised to replace first-past-the-post in time for the 2019 election.  They plan to create an all-party committee that will consult with Canadians “widely and deeply” in order to decide what the replacement voting system should be.

It is more important than ever for us to continue to engage Canadians on this topic.  Public outreach and education will be a key to successful change.  As well, we need to make the committee aware that Mr. Trudeau’s promise to “make every vote count” is best met by introducing a system of proportional representation.

If you’ve been wondering how to become more involved in the campaign for voting reform, this is it.  Come out to our AGM to find out more about what joining the board or volunteering on a local action team.

Register here.


A referendum is beside the point

The debate we should be having on electoral reform has been sidetracked by the question of whether a referendum is needed to approve a change to the voting system.  Proponents of the referendum make the principled claim that the voting system should not be the plaything of any political party, and should only be changed with the explicit blessing of a majority given through a referendum.

It’s great to hear such strong support for the right of every voter to be heard.  Empower the voters! Don’t let the politicians pull a fast one on us!

However, I find the moral outrage to be hollow.  The most basic requirement of representative democracy is that the legislature is actually representative.  Ours is not.

The most basic principle of democracy is that every vote should count.  In Canada this is not the case.

When we go to vote, half of us get the MP we want, and the other half do not. Many voters accept the results with good grace, perhaps with the hope that next time might be different, so they will eventually get a turn.  In the meantime we suffer one majority after another that does not fairly represent the wishes of the Canadian electorate. This is plain wrong.  It is not democratic.

Other voting systems are far better in this regard.  Other parliamentary countries like New Zealand, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries use proportional voting systems where well over 90% of voters are represented directly in parliament.  Those countries are committed to the fundamental democratic principle that every vote should count.  We should be too.

Most of the commentary in support of a referendum has ignored the problems with our existing system.  In fact, most of the commentary explicitly supports first past the post “in spite of its problems”.  So the high dudgeon concerning the absolute need for all Canadians to be consulted on voting reform is not supported by an equal concern that all Canadian voters should actually be represented in the legislature.  That’s just hypocrisy.

The fact is that our current voting system fails some pretty basic democratic measures and we should change it. We all have a basic democratic right to have our votes count and that is not met by the current system.  A referendum is beside the point.

Be Part Of The Strategy


The Liberal Party campaign promise to “Make Every Vote Count” is very positive for the Fair Vote movement.  It’s a clear recognition of the core problem with our current winner-take-all voting system, which is that the outcome of our elections, i.e. parliament, is not a good representation of the true diversity of our opinion as voters.


In order to meet this promise, the government will strike an all-party parliamentary committee which will report back to parliament so that new legislation can be introduced within the first 18 months.  During that time, the committee will investigate ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting and online voting, as well as other issues that may come up.


This is a huge opportunity for proponents of proportional representation.  If things go well, we may just see our first ever federal election held with PR in 2019!


Of course, PR is not a fait accompli.  The committee’s recommendations could take many forms that do not include proportional representation.  So the question is, how do we help the process along?  What can you do?  What can we as the Vancouver Chapter of Fair Vote Canada do?


To come up with some answers, we have organized a strategy meeting. All supporters of proportional representation are invited to attend.  Please come and get involved.  Help to work towards changing our voting system to one that more effectively represents all Canadian voters.


Thursday Dec. 10th
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Mount Pleasant Community Centre, 1 Kingsway, Vancouver (map)


What does it mean to make every vote count?

First past the post is long past its prime. It is a system that was only ever intended to represent ridings, not voters.  But in an age when all citizens have the right to vote, we must also ensure that all those votes count by making sure that all voters are equally represented.

Continue reading

Vancouver Voters Need Fair Representation

As the longest federal election in recent history comes to a close, over 150 000 Vancouver residents find themselves without the elected representative that they wanted. Of course, some parties need to win more than others, but most Canadians should have a local representative who is able and willing to represent their interests in Parliament. Trudeau needs to follow through on his promise to provide citizens with a government that reflects who they voted for.

Continue reading

Polls and Electoral Reform

There’s a new Insights West poll out today and it shows that Canadians are divided on the topic of proportional representation. It asked people whether they support a switch at the federal level to Party-List Proportional Representation (41% in favour, 34% opposed) or Single-Transferable Vote (37% in favour, 37% opposed).

Here’s a few reasons why this shouldn’t discourage electoral reform advocates:

Continue reading