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What if a Yukon election were held today? How the votes are counted determines the territory’s future.

If the Yukon territorial election were held today, 44% percent of the popular vote would hand the Yukon Party 63% of the seats and 100% of the power.

With first-past-the-post, the majority of Yukon voters would be shut out of decision-making for the next four years. 

With first-past-the-post, the Yukon Liberal Party would get zero seats despite getting 20% of the vote, meaning Yukon Liberal voters would be denied any representation in the Yukon legislature.

Grossly distorted results are commonplace with first-past-the-post in the Yukon, where every party’s voters have been severely underrepresented or overrepresented in the past.

However, if an election was held today, first-past-the-post could turn the Yukon into a two-party system.

What if the election were held today with proportional representation?

First, an important qualification: Since voters will vote differently with proportional representation, no one can say with certainty what the legislature would look like with PR.

All we have to go on is voters’ preferences under first-past-the-post. Based on recent levels of support for each party, the results of an election today with proportional representation are below. This projection uses a multi-member system tailored for the Yukon (Open List PR).

The most obvious difference is that, under a proportional system, Yukoners would get what they voted for. The Yukon Party would win just under half the seats, meaning they would need to compromise and find common ground with other parties in order to govern.

The percentage of seats each party would get in the legislature closely matches their popular support.

That’s fair. And it’s how most modern democracies run their elections.

With proportional representation, no matter where you live or who you vote for, your vote counts. Almost every voter matters to the outcome.

Voters who are now shut out of meaningful representation by first-past-the-post, such as Yukon Party voters in Whitehorse Centre and NDP voters in Lake Laberge, will consistently be able to elect MLAs to represent them. Having MLAs that better represent the diversity within each region may help mitigate the tensions from the rural-urban divide.

The final difference―the game changer―is that no party will have majority control with a minority of the vote.

This simply reflects what Yukoners are saying with their ballots. In fact, since 1978 there hasn’t been a single election in which over 50% of Yukon voters chose one party. Almost every “majority” government has been a false majority.

Although nobody can predict the future, since over 80% of OECD countries use proportional systems, we have decades of research to show us what changes we can expect when every vote counts. These include:

  • Who shows up to vote: Turnout in countries with PR is higher on average than in countries with first-past-the-post.

In an era when voter turnout is declining around the world, there is no guarantee that switching to proportional representation would increase voter turnout. However, the New Zealand experience gives some reason for optimism: after that country made the switch, turnout increased in formerly “safe seats” and among youth. That suggests that people who felt their votes were wasted in a first-past-the-post system were more empowered to participate with PR.

  • More voter choice: First-past-the-post can give a couple of parties a near-monopoly on representation and power. When voters for third and smaller parties can gain fairer representation, the system usually becomes more competitive.

    While PR systems for Canada aren’t likely to produce a large number of new parties, it’s reasonable to expect that voters will have more real choice.

    Under first-past-the-post, some of our “big tent” parties are marriages of convenience. The only thing holding them together is the lure of unbridled power with first-past-the-post.

  • A less polarized political culture: Research shows that proportional representation reduces partisan polarization.

    Canadians are becoming more polarized along party lines, whipped up by politicians into what journalist Justin Ling called “agitated clusters of comforting rage”. According to the Economist’s Democracy Unit, Canada’s politics are starting to look more like the United States.

    By strengthening our multi-party system and making cooperation between parties the norm, proportional representation could reverse this dangerous trend.

  • Better outcomes on a wide range of issues that Yukoners care about: From economic growth to health to environment, over the long run, places with proportional representation outperform those with winner-take-all voting systems while delivering more of what voters want.

The vast majority of people don’t trust politicians―for good reasons. Too much power in the hands of a few is a dangerous thing.

Yet we can only solve our long-term problems with political leadership.

We need our voices to be heard in the legislature. We need our MLAs to find common ground and to work together. 

First-past-the post fails voters on all these fronts. A fairer, more inclusive and more cooperative political system is critical.

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