About Fair Vote Canada
Fair Vote Canada is a national non-partisan citizens’ campaign for proportional representation. We are a grassroots advocacy organization as well as having extensive expertise in electoral reform. Incorporated as non-profit in 2001, we have volunteers across the country. Find our Statement of Purpose, national board and chapters.
Proportional representation is a principle: That seats in a legislature should match the popular vote. All models of proportional representation for Canada also retain strong local representation.
Electoral Reform Expert:
Associate Professor, York University
Books: “The Politics of Voting: Reforming Canada’s Electoral System”, “Wrestling with Democracy”
Analysis and Graphics
Recent media releases and blog
A National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform
Problems with winner-take-all voting
Alternative Vote (winner-take-all ranked ballot preferred by Justin Trudeau)
How first-past-the-post concentrates power
Pierre Trudeau on why we need proportional representation
False majority governments – federal and provincial
Policy lurch with winner-take-all voting
Benefits of proportional representation
Provincial election results: Seats vs popular vote, local contacts and news
Federal Election 2019
Political diversity exists in each province that is not reflected in the results with winner-take-all voting.
Another regional sweep with winner-take-all voting shuts out diversity.
Very similar numbers of voters voted for the Bloc and Greens, but the seats earned were wildly different: One group of voters got a strong voice, the others got hardly any voice.
Voters who helped to elect no representation with their ballots, by number and by percentage of voters for each party. In every election, it’s voters for the larger parties who cast the most “wasted” votes.
The total number of unrepresented voters is over 9 million – about 51% of voters cast votes that made no difference to the outcome.
In countries with proportional representation (about 80% of OECD countries), usually about 95% of voters cast ballots that elect representation and help shape makeup of the legislature.
Leger National Poll 2020
Alternative Vote (winner-take-all “ranked ballot”)
Picture: Comparing two winner-take-all systems: First-past-the-post and Alternative Vote (AV). AV is a winner-take-all voting system that uses a ranked ballot.
4% of the experts who testified to the federal electoral reform committee recommended AV. 88% of the experts recommended proportional representation (PR). In multiple simulations done for the Electoral Reform Committee at their request by expert Byron Weber Becker, AV was shown to be the only system that could produce more disproportional results than first-past-the-post.
Note: Proportional systems aim to make the popular vote closely match seats and “make every vote count”. They can also use a ranked ballot.
In 2017, the Liberals killed electoral reform when it became clear that the only system Justin Trudeau would permit — the “ranked ballot” – wasn’t going to fly. Trudeau meant the Alternative Vote (AV), the winner-take-all voting system used in Australia. (Proportional systems can also use a ranked ballot — but that wasn’t what he meant). What is the result of the Alternative Vote in Australia today?
How winner-take-all voting concentrates power
2015 election (picture left). First-past-the-post concentrates power with one party’s backroom. Read our press releases on how this played out in recent years with corruption in BC, the SNC Lavalin scandal and the WE scandal:
Pierre Trudeau advocating for proportional representation
Pierre Trudeau was acutely aware of the regional divisions created by winner-take-all voting and said the government would have trouble speaking for the nation until Canada adopted proportional representation. More from Pierre Trudeau on PR.
False majority governments
Most majority governments in Canada are false majorities, formed with far less than a majority of the vote. In 2011, Harper won a false majority with 39.6% of the popular vote. In 2015, Trudeau won a false majority with 39.5% of the popular vote. See all results identifying false majority governments since 1867 here.
Most of the provincial governments in Canada are false majority governments.
Global Satisfaction with Democracy Index
Cambridge University’s Centre for the Future of Democracy released a report sounding the alarm bells about the decline in faith in democracy. The seven countries where satisfaction with democracy has actually increased all use proportional representation.
Policy lurch with winner-take-all voting
Press release: Teck and White Pines Two Sides of the Same Coin
What does the withdrawal of the Frontier oil sands project have in common with the dismantling of Ontario windmills? Both are victims of an unstable policy climate that ought to give any energy company a reason to think twice. This kind of drastic policy lurch as one government is replaced by its opposite — and the uncertainty and instability it creates — is endemic to winner-take-all voting.
Winner-take-all voting can mean drastic policy shifts after an election. Majority governments are often formed with about 40% of the vote. In many cases parties run on a platform of reversing what the previous government has done. Proportional representation provides more continuity and stability, even when governments change. Policies will always have the support of more than one party, representing a majority of voters.
A National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform
In June 2021, the Liberals, NDP and Bloc MPs on the Procedures and House Affairs Committee voted to do a study of a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. The motion was put forward by NDP Democratic Reform Critic Daniel Blaikie. (The Green Party supports this but did not have a seat on that committee).
Many politicians inevitably have trouble overcoming their personal or partisan self-interest – making it difficult for them to design a fairer electoral system for Canada. It’s a bit like expecting the turkeys to plan Thanksgiving. Almost every process in Canada that has looked at electoral reform has recommended a change – except the ones led by committees of politicians.
A Citizens’ Assembly is a deep and meaningful citizen involvement through a demographically representative, fully informed, independent group – basically a mini-public. Citizens’ Assemblies and processes following the same model are on the cutting edge of better democracy and are being used to deal with complex and challenging issues around the world. Read the OECD report.
Proportional Representation in other countries
Data from 2018. Most countries with Parliamentary systems in the OECD are governed by parties working together.
From the timing of the election, to media coverage, to government formation – the differences between first-past-the-post and proportional representation are substantial. PR has changed the political culture of NZ.
Denmark just passed a trailblazing law for climate action. Almost every party in the Parliament worked together for months to write the law, including the conservative parties, that would ensure Denmark’s success far into the future. As BBC reports, it’s now almost “illegal” for a government to drag its feet on climate action.
One hundred years of rivalry between Ireland’s two main parties – ninety-seven years after the two sides ended the civil war – is ending with an historic grand coalition agreement. It is cooperation on an unprecedented scale in Ireland, even with the country’s long history of proportional representation.
Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party got 37% of the vote in 2017. They formed a coalition with the NZ First Party and a supply and confidence agreement with the Greens. All three parties had Ministers. All parties in NZ, including the opposition party, National, worked in close cooperations in the legislature to deliver a top-notch repsonse to COVID-19.
Proportional Representation Matters: Research
Strengthening our democracy, making it more fair, stable and inclusive, is fundamental to meeting the challenges ahead. Research shows that citizens in countries with PR enjoy better health, longer lives, lower income equality, stronger economies, better environmental protection and more.
Provinces and Yukon – Results, Local news/contacts
Press release: First-past-the-post leaves voters with phantom MLA
In another glaring first-past-the-post fail, the town council in Slave Lake Alberta is so fed up with their invisible MLA, Pat Rehn, they’ve demanded his resignation. With proportional representation, there would be more than one MLA working to represent those constituents. A little competition is good for everyone. How would voters in Northern Alberta, including Lesser Slave Lake, be represented with PR?
Press release: Ford rams through bills that shut out MPPs, public
In June, 2017, Ford’s PCs were elected to a majority government with only 41% of the popular vote. Today Doug Ford rammed through two wildly unpopular bills: Bill 195 and Bill 197. The opposition MPs were easily outvoted by the PCs. The PCs used time allocation to shut down debate quickly. Both new bills make it harder for MPPs and the public to have their say in decisions.
At this critical juncture, it is incumbent upon the government to ensure that perspectives from all political stripes are represented in their decision-making, rather than bolster their own ability to control the agenda. Concentration of power within the minority, an unfortunate side-effect of our antiquated first-past-the-post voting system, is further exacerbated by this move.
Following a strong rebuke to the government from the Ontario Superior Court, Ontarians are on the hook for $126,000 in wasteful spending. The courts minced no words about the quality of government decision-making: “not reasonable,” and lacking in “transparency, justification, and intelligibility.” With winner-take-all voting, abrupt policy lurches―often driven by nothing more than ideology―are par for the course.
Doug Ford’s plan to plaster stickers opposing the federal government’s carbon tax on gas pumps across Ontario – and fine gas stations who fail to comply up to $10,000 – starkly illustrates the need to regulate political advertising in Canada.
Note: A 2020 by-election in PEI delivered another seat to the PCs, moving them from a minority government into a false majority.