“The last election under first-past-the-post.”

That statement by our new prime minister is likely to be the one to haunt him for years to come. It is like many such statements in the heat of an election campaign—effusive, rhetorical, quotable and foolish. And to give the promise a reality would be a disservice to Canadians. First-past-the-post voting will serve us well for many years to come.

The problem is that Canada has made first-past-the-post work. The system keeps us involved in how we are governed. It works at all levels of government. It is the simplest, least complicated, easiest form of voting ever devised. And it brings us closer to government in that we directly elect the people who represent us.

To change such an easily understood and connected method of electing municipal, provincial and federal governments would be causing confusion when there is no need. There is no reason to believe that there is a groundswell, consensus or need for change. British Columbia and Ontario voters have indicated their lack of interest in alternatives. They have also established the precedent of holding a referendum on change.

What is even more disturbing than the federal examination of how we vote is the proposed unilateral change in Canada’s largest city. The suggestion is that the city forego its current beauty-contest form of selecting councillors to embrace a method of electing the least obnoxious of the candidates. In a form of government desperate for political direction, they are trying to change to ranked voting that would ensure that the person selected is at least the second or third choice of people voting for the losing candidates. It is called preferential voting and what you do is number your preference of the candidates.

Ranked voting such as this is supposed to make campaigns friendlier, more accurate and solve all the problems—other than the main problem of producing results.

But what most of the people railing against first-past-the-post want is proportional representation. They want a party getting 20 per cent of the vote to get 20 per cent of the seats in parliament. There are some simple ways of doing that. You can just vote for a party and the party will choose the members. You can also have a huge riding, multiple candidates and transferable voting—which takes a lot of explanation.

Frankly, first-past-the-post is getting a bum rap. When people understand how easy it is to use Internet voting, we can have run-off elections if you really want the majority choice. Why not fix first-past-the-post instead of dumping it?


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

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