Pressure on the government to respect its promise to reform our electoral system have come to a head in recent days, with a citizens’ rally on Parliament Hill organized by Fair Vote Canada on May 29, and an NDP motion in the House on May 31 calling for concurrence on the Special Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms’ recommendations.

All four opposition parties supported the motion, but the government whipped the Liberal vote to ensure the motion’s defeat. The final result had 146 MPs, including all opposition MPs and two Liberal MPs, voting Yea, and 159 Liberal MPs voting Nay. Ontario MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith and PEI’s Sean Casey were the two Liberal MPs voting for the motion.

The Liberals appear to be going very much against the wishes of Canadians, as evidenced by results from the public consultations process, the MyDemocracy.ca survey, and the results of recent surveys by Strategic Directions.

The Strategic Directions polls represent what is probably the largest stand-alone polling effort to date on proportional representation in Canada. Polling took place in two stages. The first stage involved 15,806 respondents in riding-by-riding polls in 20 Liberal-held ridings across the country. This was followed by a national poll released on June 1, 2017, covering 4,971 randomly selected residents from across the country to ensure a more representative sampling of voter responses.

Results from this polling exercise were remarkable for the extent of support for electoral reform that is observed in all regions of the country and across all political persuasions. The question was asked in four different ways to test if the result depended on the wording of the question, but all questions yielded approximately the same result. 

Summary Results, Strategic Directions National Survey

Question Yes No Unsure
Q1: Prefer an electoral system in which the percentage of seats matches the percentage of the vote? 62% 21% 17%
Q2: Prefer that Canada adopt a Proportional Representation system? 59% 25% 16%
Q3: Support a system in which every vote counts (whether you vote for the winning candidate or not)? 64% 22% 13%
Q4: Want their local MP to advocate for the Liberal Party to keep their campaign promise on electoral reform? 66% 23% 11%

Remarkably, the “Yes” response is particularly high for Question 3 when respondents are asked about if they want a system in which every vote counts, and highest of all for Question 4 on whether the Liberal Party should keep its promise on electoral reform.

The strongest results by region were in Quebec, with “Yes” responses averaging approximately 10 percentage points higher in Quebec than the rest of the country. Quebecers seem most particularly to appreciate what it means to have one’s vote count, win or lose. Fully 81% percent of Quebecers answered Yes to this question. Only 8% were unsure. This result is not surprising considering that there are more parties competing for votes in Quebec than elsewhere, and therefore more wasted votes. With support for PR this high in Quebec, it would not be surprising if Quebec were the first province to finally bring in PR following the upcoming provincial election in October 2018.

Also remarkable is that a 52% majority of participants who identified as Liberal supporters wanted the Liberal party to keep its campaign promise to replace the First-Past-The-Post electoral system with some form of PR. Only a third (34%) of self-identified Liberal supporters agreed with the party’s decision to go back on this campaign promise.

Results like this further challenge the Prime Minister’s justification for breaking his promise by saying that there was “no consensus” on electoral reform. While it is quite clear that the Liberal government was not prepared to lead on PR, citizens themselves evidently know what they want and have a good sense of what it means when asked if they want their vote to count.

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