Making every vote count – why proportional representation is better for Canada

By: Brynne Sinclair-Waters (Recording Secretary)

Following up on the Liberals’ 2015 election promise, the federal government is reviewing our voting system. The Special Committee on electoral reform – appointed to study alternate voting systems, mandatory voting and online voting – has travelled the country to hear from Canadians.

On September 21, I presented at the committee’s stop in Toronto. In addition to hearing from expert witnesses, they had also allotted time to hear from members of the public. I chose to focus on the need for a proportional system, echoing CUPE’s position that Mixed Member Proportional Representation is the best option.

Growing inequality is feeding disaffection with both our economic and political system. I believe that democracy must act as a counter against these trends, but today’s electoral system is not serving us well in this regard.

In my experience, many people who care deeply about growing inequality and are actively involved in making the economy more fair – for example, by advocating for a $15 minimum wage – even these politically engaged people, often do not feel that engaging in electoral politics is worthwhile. That’s a problem.

A proportional system can help overcome this lack of engagement, and support building a fair society where political and economic power is less concentrated.

Research shows that countries with proportional systems have considerably lower levels of inequality, and that when systems become more proportional, inequality actually decreases. This is because when the system is more representative, more people participate, and the government becomes responsive to the demands of a wider range of voters.

Guided by values of fairness and equality, I encouraged the Committee to recommend Mixed Member Proportional representation, which could significantly improve engagement and representation, while also providing elected representatives with a personal connection to their ridings.

This article was published in the November 2016 edition of the CUPE 1281 newsletter. Click here for a PDF of the full newsletter or here to browse the website for other articles in the newsletter.