Should Canada Adopt Proportional Representation?
The purpose of an election is to provide a routine mechanism for selecting the individuals who will occupy seats in representative institutions. They provide citizens with periodic opportunities to review the government's record, assess its mandate, and possibly replace it with an alternative. There is a great variety of electoral systems, and they can engender radically different government compositions between them. Canada, Great Britain, and the United States use single-member plurality, while continental European liberal democracies generally use proportional representation (PR). To ensure increased fairness and as a step in reducing western alienation, Canada should shift from the plurality system to PR.
The single-member plurality system, sometimes called "first past the post (FPTP)," is the simplest of designs. A country is divided into separate constituencies, and each constituency chooses one legislative representative. In an election, the winner of a plurality, that is, the largest number of votes in each constituency, becomes the representative.
The candidate does not need an absolute majority of votes--just more than any other candidate receives. This system has come under increased scrutiny in recent years because while it may cheap, quick, and simple, it is not always fair. Despite the fact that it favours a two-party system, there are some distortions with this electoral system. For example, relatively small swings of votes often result in large numbers of seats changing hands. Perhaps the most revealing example of this in Canada occurred in the 1935 general election when the Liberals swept back to power. Their share of the popular vote increased by less than 1%, but their number of seats nearly doubled, from 91 to 173. (5, 271)
FPTP severely penalizes parties that have their votes spread out across the country and cannot obtain the largest number of votes...