The Current

Electoral reform: Moving beyond first-past-the-post voting system

Electoral reform was a key promise of the Trudeau Liberals as they swept to power last fall. The deadline to introduce new legislation is December 1st. Today, The Current explores what might replace the first-past-the-post system.

What do you know about our electoral system?

7 years ago
Duration 1:36
What do you know about our electoral system?

Read story transcript

When the Trudeau Liberals swept to power last fall, they vowed the 2015 election would be the last time Canadians would vote using first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system. Trudeau's government has set a deadline of December 1st to introduce electoral reform legislation.

An all-party commons committee has been spending the summer listening to Canadians, probing the big question of how we should change the way we vote.

What's the Liberals' election reform plan?

7 years ago
Duration 2:39
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised 2015 was the last election to be fought on first-past-the-post. What shape could electoral reform take?

Arend Lijphart has spent two decades researching the relationship between a country's voting system and its wider social and political culture — not to mention the strength of its democracy. 

Lijphart a professor emeritus of political science at the University of California, is also the author of a definitive study on on the relationship and patterns of effective voting systems. On Aug. 22, he advised Ottawa's special committee looking into electoral reform that proportional representation was the best system for Canada.

"What I have found in my research is that systems of proportional representation tend to lead to better outcomes, certainly more democratic outcomes," Lijphart tells The Current's summer host Robyn Bresnahan.

One of the difficulties I think will be to choose which form of proportional representation.-Arend Lijphart

Lijphart's study looked at 36 different countries and concluded that "the more countries [that] tend to have proportional election outcomes, the better the effectiveness of government." He points to "control of inflation, control of employment, budget balance" as clear indicators supporting why this model of voting works so well.

"Also the degree of democracy tends to be better — think in terms of voter turnout to the degree that minorities are adequately represented, women represented and so on."

A special committee is looking into electoral reform in response to the Liberal's promise that 2015 would be the last election where the government is chosen by first-past-the-post voting system. (Rogerio Barbosa/AFP/Getty Images)
 Lijphart stresses proportional representation is very effective in countries with significant cultural religious and other minority populations because they "get representatives elected that reflect their interests and their viewpoints much better than first-past-the-post where it's simply a majority,"

Lijphart hopes Canadians will agree proportional representation is the best way to vote in Canada but says there are still issues to consider.

"One of the difficulties I think will be to choose which form of proportional representation, and there are all kinds of details that need to be ironed out."

Listen to the full conversation including an analyst who pushes for ranked ballots.

This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson, Julian Uzielli and Marc Apollonio.