Democracy Hacks: Proportional Representation

This week we hear another suggestion of a small change that could make a big difference in the way democracy works in Canada.

This week we hear another suggestion of a small change that could make a big difference in the way democracy works in Canada.

After our call to action last week, we received a torrent of emails with bright, strange, funny, and insightful ideas.

But by far, the most frequent suggestion we've received so far, is to get rid of the First-Past-the-Post voting system.

In fact, an outright majority of the emails we received suggested moving to a system of proportional representation.

Currently in federal politics, a party can form a majority government with far fewer than a majority of the votes.

Kelly Carmichael, executive director of Fair Vote Canada, is not surprised so many people want a change.

"We're realizing that people are really disenfranchised with the whole system... usually over half of all voters don't cast effective votes. We call them wasted votes."

In Canada, there have been a few attempts to put a system of proportional representation in place. British Columbia held referenda in 2005 and 2009. P.E.I held one in 2005 as well, and Ontario held its plebiscite in 2007.

But each time, the proposals failed to pass.

Jake Cole, who wrote in to The 180, voted in Ontario's electoral reform referendum, but said it was too complicated a system.

"Conceptually I thought 'this is great! Surely people will see the wisdom of this and vote for it in great numbers!' Well, you know, the formula they used was so complicated, I'm pretty sure most people had no idea what it meant, and the nay-sayers could pick it apart, and rightfully so."

But Kelly Carmichael of Fair Vote Canada says it's not necessarily voters who need to be convinced, it's the politicians currently elected.

But there's a challenge: according to Carmichael, politicians and parties are more likely to support proportional representation when they lose elections, and less likely to support the idea once they're in power.

"That's been our experience. We're hoping that that's going to change. We're pushing really hard. Fair Vote works in the grass-roots... but we also work within the parties to help move policy forward. And there's huge support in the grass-roots, people get it."

We're still looking for your great ideas to improve Canadian democracy.

Do you have a simple, concrete change we could make, to make politics in Canada better? Send us an email at