Group offers voting alternative

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper talked about the clear show of support in the last election the reformers of Fair Vote Canada scoff. “Right now, the federal government talks about their strong mandate. But, in fact, it’s a weak mandate,” said Don Hepburn, one of a small group of organizers behind Fair Vote’s fledgling Red Deer Action Team.

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper talked about the clear show of support in the last election the reformers of Fair Vote Canada scoff.

“Right now, the federal government talks about their strong mandate. But, in fact, it’s a weak mandate,” said Don Hepburn, one of a small group of organizers behind Fair Vote’s fledgling Red Deer Action Team.

At just under 40 per cent of the popular vote voting for the Conservative Party, six out of 10 Canadians picked someone from another party, yet the Tories hold 163 of 308 seats.

“People get elected with 30 to 35 per cent of the vote, which means two-thirds of the people didn’t vote for them,” Hepburn said.

Fair Vote Canada wants to change our traditional first-past-the-post system to one in which political parties gain seats in close proportion to their popular support.

As a kick-off meeting for the new group on Tuesday evening, retired University of Alberta political scientist Paul Johnston was invited to discuss the merits and shortcomings of proportional representation versus our current electoral system.

Johnston makes it clear from the outset that changing the system won’t be easy. Polls have shown two out of three Canadians are fine with the status quo.

“So you’ve got a barrier there to start with when you talk about electoral reform,” said Johnston in his talk at the Red Deer Public Library’s Snell Auditorium that drew about 20 people.

Fairness is the biggest benefit of proportional representation.

If a party wins 40 per cent of the votes, it gets 40 per cent of the seats.

It also creates more exciting electoral races because smaller parties have a shot at winning seats.

Adding more parties to the mix also takes attention away from leaders of the big front-running parties and opens the field to more discussion on the policies of each party.

The knock on proportional representation is that it is complicated and hard to understand.

Johnston dismisses that as an insult to the intelligence of voters, noting the system works perfectly well in many countries.

World-wide, about 90 countries use some form of proportional representation.

However, it does make it harder for a party to attain an outright majority, he acknowledges.

Those who support the first-past-the-post system often argue it creates stable governments because it allows for “manufactured majorities,” in which a party doesn’t have to win more than 50 per cent of the votes to hold more than half the seats.

Since 1921, Canada has only had four natural majorities — two each for the Conservatives and the Liberals — when one party picked up more than half the votes.

There have been 14 manufactured majority and 10 minority governments in that span.

Johnston said the current system’s origins have little to do with stable government and much more to do with centuries of British tradition that simply got passed down to former colonies.

Hepburn said the local group hopes to spread the word that another electoral system is worth considering.

“We see this as an ongoing educational approach to help people understand what the possibilities are.”

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Erika Fetterly, owner of EFP Studios, recently launched the Let Them Have A Voice campaign. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta photographer’s campaign aims to give youths a voice

An Innisfail photographer is giving a platform to young central Albertans so… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels hosted the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first game of the shortened 2020-21 season on Friday. The two teams faced off again in Medicine Hat Saturday (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels fall to Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday

Tigers 7 Rebels 2 The Red Deer Rebels have lost two straight… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

More than 120,000 Albertans have signed up to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the first two days of appointment bookings. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta Health Services apologizes after seniors struggle to book vaccine appointments

The CEO and president of Alberta Health Services is apologizing after seniors… Continue reading

Red Deer’s Kyle Moore, 26, will be a houseguest on Season 9 of Big Brother Canada. (Photo courtesy Big Brother Canada)
Red Deer man will be a houseguest on Big Brother Canada

A Red Deer man will be a houseguest on the upcoming season… Continue reading

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is condemning alleged vandalism at the… Continue reading

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called "vaccine tourism" show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) battle in front as goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes the save during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, February 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
No Matthews, no problem: Minus NHL goal leader, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 4-0

Leafs 4 Oilers 0 EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs knew even with… Continue reading

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Pornhub policies reveal legal gaps and lack of enforcement around exploitive videos

OTTAWA — Serena Fleites was in seventh grade when a sexually explicit… Continue reading

Sean Hoskin stands on a neighbourhood street in Halifax on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Hoskin was diagnosed with COVID-19 almost a year ago with symptoms that still persist. Some provinces have established programs to deal with long-term sufferers but Atlantic Canada, with relatively low numbers of patients, has yet to provide a resource to assist them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
On East Coast, exhausted COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ hope specialized clinics will emerge

HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
From science to syringe: COVID-19 vaccines are miracles of science and supply chains

OTTAWA — A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough… Continue reading

Most Read