In a democracy the size of Canada, or really any size bigger than about fifty people, it doesn’t make sense for every single person to get an actual vote very often. So instead of all going to Ottawa to cast our vote on every decision about every thing, we get into groups and each group chooses one person they trust to make a good decision for the whole group. That way the rest of us can go about our business and all the people we chose can go make the decisions that affect everyone. Works in theory, right?
The problem is the way we choose our groups. They’re chosen according to geography. Now, if I had to choose someone to go represent me in making decisions that would affect my life and my children’s lives, I would want to choose someone who thinks like me. And if I had to share that person with someone else, I wouldn’t just turn to the person next to me and say, “Hey, you want my guy to speak for you, too?” because maybe the person standing next to me doesn’t think the same things I do, and then our guy is going to have to choose which one of us he wants to speak for. And if he’s smart, the person standing next to me would recognize that and say, “No, thanks, I’ll go find a guy who thinks like I do.”
So instead, I’d go find someone with whom I was like-minded and I’d say, “Hey, my guy thinks much the same way we do. Wanna share my guy?” And a bunch of us who think that way would get together and share him and he’d go vote for us. Doesn’t that make more sense? That’s the simplified version of proportional representation. Essentially, it amounts to organizing us into groups based on what we think instead of where we live.
Instead, we organize ourselves into geographical groups, and because we don’t all think the same things, we hold elections to decide who should go represent us, based on the idea that the person who gets elected will at least represent most of the people in that area. Which kinda sounds like it should work in theory, too, but we’re supposed to all get a say about actual decisions, via these elected representatives, and invariably, large numbers of Canadians end up having to forfeit their say when it comes to actual decisions being made in Ottawa.
In Favour of Proportional Representation
A Case Study of Canada on May 3, 2011
So, here’s how it shook it in our last election – the basic facts as to the number of seats earned by grouping us geographically, the percentage of seats that is out of the 308 available, the amount of the Popular Vote they received (that is, the actual percentage of people in all of Canada who voted for someone in that party, even if that person didn’t win), and the number of seats that the party would have in a world of perfect democracy.
/ 308 = 54.2
Popular Vote: 39.6
In a Perfect World: 122
/308 = 33.1
Popular Vote: 30.6
In a Perfect World: 94
/ 308 = 11
Popular Vote: 18.9
In a Perfect World: 58
/ 308 = 1.3
Popular Vote: 6
In a Perfect World: 18
/ 308 = 0.3
Popular Vote: 3.9
In a Perfect World: 12
Popular Vote: 0.4
In a Perfect World: 1
Popular Vote: 0.5
In a Perfect World: 1
Now, consider that every seat in the House should represent the wishes of ~3.25% of Canadians (1 seat out of 308) or about 77, 830 electors, based on the number of people eligible to vote in this past election. If we just count the people who actually bothered to vote, each MP is essentially representing 47,794 voters.
5,832,401 people voted for a Conservative candidate–effectively saying “Those are the people I want to vote for me when we make decisions in this country.” With their 167 seats, the Conservative party is actually representing and voting for 7,981,598 voters. So, basically, according to the principles of proportional representation, there are 45 people in Parliament representing Canadians who simply don’t exist, according to what we actually think and not where we live.
And, the flip-side, there are 2,150,734 Canadians who took the time to vote but are not represented.
The problem is clear to everyone–the solution is not. There are a lot of different ways to implement proportional representation, so I’m going to keep researching that and once I’ve wrapped my head around it, I’ll get back here.