Op-ed

Proportional Misrepresentation: The Flaws of the Canadian Political Process

In all levels of government, ranging from municipally elected school boards to our federally elected members of parliament, all officials are tasked with the same mandate: to accurately represent the views of their constituents. Ideally speaking, this form of representation is what allows for the public to provide their input on decisions that are made using the voters’ money. This process and idea, however, is diluted with thanks to political parties. We no longer elect a candidate who can represent our views, but whose views we can best represent. Although it is naïve to believe that there would be a candidate who can embody the points of view of all constituents in the riding, the current system we have in place where a riding can be associated to a certain political party marginalizes the views of so many Canadians.

In the last federal election 39.5% of voters from a 66.1% overall voter turnout voted Liberal, while 31.9% went Conservative and 19.7% NDP. The Liberal Party of Canada, through the single election of each MP from their specific ridings, now possess 54.4% of the 338 seats in the House of Commons: a majority government. For those who voted Liberal, they can rest assured knowing that their most aligned political ideology will be accurately represented in governmental decisions. For anybody who voted otherwise, however, their ideologies will have a tougher time being represented in terms of affecting decisions, as this now 39.5 turned 54.4 percent majority government could make all decisions regardless of the support they do or do not receive from their political “neighbours” as the Prime Minister puts it.

If you take in the recent budget, based on the responses from the other political parties and as you might expect from a majority government, this budget was developed unilaterally by the Liberals as they control the vote. Had it been a minority government, however, for the budget to pass the government would have had to collaborate with other parties and members of parliament to gather the votes they needed, because if the budget vote fails, a general election would have been called. The government, regardless of the party that is in power, tends to forget the explicit meaning of representation in addition to the very basic role of an elected member of parliament. If we are to look down the ladder to forms of municipal governments such as city councils or elected school boards, we tend to notice that the campaigns are run on the councillor or trustee’s ability to accurately and adequately represent the voices of their constituents.

As this discussion begins to take the turn to the debate surrounding whether it may be the size of government that affects its functionality, I believe that the establishment of cliques known as political parties is what stagnates government, and disenfranchises the views of many Canadians when party policy is put before the general tone and views of your constituency. We no longer have a system that allows government to act based on what Canadians say, but for Canadians to act based on what government says. All we can do is hope that caucus confidentiality allows for much more rich and heated debate to develop party policy positions based on the input of constituents; but even then, it is sufficed to say that the Canadian government no longer serves Canadians, but that it serves 39.5% of eligible and present voters from 2015.

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