Proportional Representation: frequently asked questions

September 14, 2016

Do we need a referendum?

We believe in a thorough consultation with Canadians. These consultations can take many forms including town halls, online and in-person consultations, civil society engagement. A plebiscite or referendum is one of many options to test Canadians’ views. At this point the Labour movement has not taken a position on a referendum.

How much would it cost to convert systems?

Improving our representation and the accountability of our government is paramount for Canadians. As for any costs, Elections Canada should be consulted. That being said, the infrastructure required by Elections Canada to run our elections would remain unchanged.

Why not alternative voting?

Our current systems means that a party can get a majority of seats in parliament without getting a majority of the votes. Alternative voting does not correct this failure and could possible compound it. It’s a system that is confusing, does not lead to proportionality, as people are not necessarily represented by their first choice, and promotes strategic voting, a problem many Canadians dislike with our current system.  

Do you think Canadians will be confused by a change?

Not at all. The majority of Canada’s peer nations have moved to some form of proportional voting in the last few decades. Many of those including Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, and Wales have similar history and culture to Canada. It’s not complicated. 

Is any form of proportionality ok with you?

Yes, our primary goal is to make every vote count and to ensure that no party gets a majority of seats in parliament without getting a majority of votes. That’s just fair. 

Won’t PR lead to regional divisions?

Quite the opposite, under our current system parties may be able to win all of the seats in a particular region, even though they don’t have close to majority support. With PR if a party wins 30% of the vote, they get 30% of the seats.  Votes would accurately reflect the will of the voters. It means that regions will no longer appear to only support one party.

Won’t PR dilute local representation?

Not at all, one of the great things about PR is that it means that Canadians could continue to elect a local riding MP like they do now. However, in addition to that local representation they get to choose the party that most reflects their views. Sometimes this may be the same party, but for many it may not.

How are the candidates selected when a party is allocated seats from votes they receive on the party vote side of the ballot?

There are a few options for this, but the one we prefer is called a regional open list. That means that parties would list their candidates, by region, that they have nominated on the ballot. The candidates will be listed in order of priority (i.e. If a party is allocated two seats, the top two on the list are elected) to ensure full accountability and ensure that voters know who they are electing. 

How will party list MPs be selected?

It would make sense for parties to select their lists as candidates the same what they so today—via a nomination meeting. However, it would be up to each party to decide the process that they use as set out in their democratically set bylaws.

Do you favour national or regional party lists?

We favour a model that results in party lists being regional. i.e. that constituents in Vancouver would vote for the party list comprised of candidates from Vancouver. It would mean that a voter will have always have elected MPs from their area.

Do you support open or closed party lists?

We support open lists as they mean that voters see who they would be electing. It’s transparent and accountable.

Do you think that there should be a minimum percentage of votes a party requires to get seats in parliament?

Yes. It would make sense for this committee to establish a reasonable threshold that parties would be required to garner of the popular vote, before they are allocated seats in parliament. For example, in New Zealand the threshold is 4%.