Last week, I heard yet another commentary on just how messed up the electoral system south of the border is, in particular the fact that no one gets to vote directly for President except for the 538 people in the Electoral College. After thinking “how can they keep using such an obviously flawed system” it dawned on me that ours isn’t much better.
It’s not about the popular vote here, either. It’s about how many MPs are elected, in some cases by just a handful of votes. It’s First-Past-The-Post
A party could get more votes overall and end up with less representation. Likewise, a party could form a majority government with less than 40% of people who voted voting for them.
This is not representative democracy. It’s a system that favours the parties with the deepest pockets and those who are good at gaming the system.
First-Past-The-Post is our Electoral College.
The electoral reform models proposed so far pretty much all involve tweaking the number of seats each party gets to better align with their share of the popular vote. While Proportional Representation models effectively get rid of the unfair advantage FPTP gives to status quo parties, there’s also a downside:
They’re confusing. Government by algorithm.
They also risk giving some actual power and legitimacy to truly undesirable people like fascists and racists. But enough about the People’s Party…
There is a new model that I think would work:
The Montreal Model
The best electoral system, by far, that I have encountered is the one Montreal uses for its municipal elections. Everyone gets one ballot for City Councillor and one for Mayor of Montreal, most get another for Borough Mayor and some get a fourth ballot for Borough Councillor.
A Federal version of this would have just two ballots: one for Member of Parliament and one for Prime Minister. We’d still use FPTP to determine the seats in the House of Commons, but the popular vote would elect the PM.
This eliminates any perceived advantage to strategic voting while still keeping out parties that have very little appeal for good reason (Hi Max). It also forces cooperation.
If we elect a Prime Minister of one party and a Parliament where another party has the most seats, the PM would have to sway some of the opposing MPs to get things passed. All the working together of a Minority Government without the headache of a new election in a year and a half.
Before you say that this would mean we would no longer be a parliamentary democracy, let me bring in another element from the Montreal municipal model:
Party leaders still run in a particular riding, with a running mate. If the leader is elected PM and the running mate wins the seat, then the running mate serves as an MP. If the leader loses the election but the running mate wins, the leader has the option to serve as an MP in that riding and lead the opposition if their party is, in fact, the opposition.
If a Prime Minister resigns mid-term, either the entire House of Commons, not just their party, could vote on a replacement, or there could be a special election just for PM. I don’t have all the answers, this is just a proposal.
But it’s one we should consider if Electoral Reform is on the table.