Trudeau pulls the plug on electoral reform

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is abandoning his long-held Liberal promise to change the way Canadians vote in federal elections.

In a mandate letter for newly appointed Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould, Trudeau says electoral reform is not on the agenda.

The letter says that consultations across the country make it clear Canadians are not clamouring for a new electoral system.

It also rejects the idea of holding a referendum on the matter due to the lack of a ``clear preference or a clear question'' on electoral reform.

Trudeau has repeatedly promised that the 2015 election would be the last under the current first-past-the-post voting system, but the Liberals have since said they would not go ahead without the broad support of Canadians.

The letter also tasks Gould with protecting the Canadian electoral system from cyberthreats and hackers, as well as developing stricter rules and more transparency for political fundraising.

HOW WE VOTE

FIRST PAST THE POST*
Under FPTP, an elector casts a single vote for a candidate to represent the electoral district in which the voter resides. Candidates must gain a plurality of votes to be elected.

ELECTORAL ALTERNATIVES

ALTERNATIVE VOTE*
Also used to elect a single candidate per electoral district, this system is often called preferential voting. On the ballot, voters rank the candidates running in their electoral district in order of their preference. To be elected, a candidate must receive a majority of the eligible votes cast. Should no candidate garner a majority on the first count, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes (lowest-ranked) is dropped, and the second-preference votes on the ballots where that candidate ranked first are assigned to the respective remaining candidates. This process continues until one candidate receives the necessary majority.

LIST PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION*
There are two main forms of List PR: closed-list and open-list. Both forms use a regional or national list of candidates in each constituency drawn up by each party before election day.

In closed-list PR, the party ranks the names on the list, and citizens vote for a party, not a specific candidate. Once all votes have been counted, each party is awarded seats in proportion to its share of the national vote. Individual seats are then allocated to candidates of each party in the order in which they are ranked on the party list.

In open-list PR, voters choose a preferred candidate (or candidates) from the list of the party for which they wish to vote. This means that voters effectively determine the order in which the candidates on the list will be awarded seats.

SINGLE TRANSFERABLE VOTE*
Citizens in multi-member electoral districts rank candidates on the ballot. They may rank as few or as many candidates as they wish. In most variations of this system, winners are declared by first determining the total number of valid votes cast, and then establishing a minimum number of votes that must be garnered based on the number of seats to be filled (the “vote quota”). Candidates who receive the number of first-preference votes needed to reach the quota are elected.

If there are still seats to be filled, a two-step count occurs. In the first step, any votes in excess of the quota for elected candidates are redistributed to the second choices indicated on the ballots of the elected candidates, using a weighted formula (this is called “excess transfer”). Candidates who then reach the quota are elected.

If no candidates reach the quota in this way, a second step takes place in which the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes (lowest-ranked) is dropped, and the second-preference votes on the ballots where that candidate ranked first are assigned to the respective remaining candidates.

MIXED ELECTORAL SYSTEM*
Mixed electoral systems combine elements of a plurality or majority system with proportional representation. Citizens in a constituency cast two votes: one to directly elect an individual member to serve as their representative, and a second for a party or parties to fill seats in the legislature allocated according to the proportion of the vote share they receive.

Mixed Member Majority Citizens in single-member electoral districts cast two votes: one for a candidate to represent their constituency according to the FPTP system, and one for a party. Each party presents a previously established list of candidates, similar to the List PR system. A predetermined portion of the legislature’s seats are filled using the plurality vote, while the remaining seats are filled by the party list vote. The two votes under MMM are fully independent of one another; the party seats will not compensate for any disproportionate result in the constituency elections.

Mixed Member Proportional This system operates in the same way as MMM, except that a citizen’s second vote, which allocates seats to parties according to List PR, is used to attempt to compensate for any disproportionate results in the FPTP constituency part of the election. Additional seats are awarded to qualifying parties18 where the number of constituency seats that they won fails to reflect voter support shown in both components of the election.

*Electoral Systems and Electoral Reform in Canada and Elsewhere: An Overview, Library of Parliament