Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thoughts on the Canadian Elections

Here are seven of my thoughts on Tuesday's Canadian election results.

1) I am disappointed that the Conservatives did as well as they did, and that the NDP and the Greens did not do better.

2) It could have been worse.

3) More than a Conservative win, this was a Liberal loss.

The liberals are now reduced to the party of Canada's big cities - or maybe just Toronto! Out of 76 Liberal seats, 32 are in the GTA - that 43% of their seats!, 12 more are in Montreal, 4 in Vancouver, two in Halifax and two in Ottawa That's 52 out of 76, or 75%. The other seats are scattered around Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

The Liberals are now, more than ever, a party of the "east". They got 1 seat in Manitoba (of 14), 1 seat in Saskatchewan (of 14), zero seats in Alberta (of 28), and only 5 in B.C. (out of 36). In the western half of the country the standings now are: Conservatives: 71, NDP 14, Liberals 7. In the west, the Liberals are now the third party "also rans". In every western province the NDP got more of the popular vote than the Liberals - by 5 - 10%!

4) On the other hand, even with such a lousy Liberal showing the Conservatives only increased their popular vote by 1.3%, and only have support of 37% of the people who voted. And because it was the lowest turn out ever in Canadian history, the Conservatives actually got less votes this election than they did in 2006! It is hard to call this a strong Conservative trend - despite their big increase in seats. One might conclude that many disillusioned Liberals simply stayed home rather than vote Conservative (or NDP or Green for that matter.)

5) The NDP and Greens failed to make their anticipated big break-through. The NDP gained 22% in seats but only increased its popular vote by 6%. It still got only 18.6% overall. The Greens disappointed even more, getting only 6.8% of the vote and zero seats (despite having polled as high as 12% at one time.) Part of the reason for this is structural (see below), and part is that many Canadians really are "risk averse" and very cautious of trying anything new.

6) The Canadian electoral system is broken. If the seats allocation actually reflected the popular vote, the standings would be Conservatives 117, Liberals 82, NDP 57, BQ 31, and Greens 21. The actual result was Conservatives 143, Liberals 76, BQ 50, NDP 37, Greens 0. Instead of facing a Conservative minority government, we would be having a majority coalition government of Liberals, NDP, and Greens.

The unfairness of the current system is even more apparent on the provincial scale. In Newfoundland the NDP got 33% of the vote and only 1 seat(out of 7.) In Saskatchewan they got zero seats, despite getting a quarter of the votes.

In addition riding sizes are configured to disadvantage urban areas, which vote more "progressively", and to the advantage rural and small town areas that vote more conservatively. 5.2 million Conservative votes resulted in 142 seats: that's about 36,000 votes per seat. At the same time the Liberals needs 47,000 votes to get a seat, the NDP needed nearly 68,000 to get a seat, and the almost 1 million votes the Green Party got resulted in zero seats!

No wonder the NDP and the Greens did so much worse than the polls predicted. People either despaired and stayed home, or held their nose and voted "strategically" for their second or third choice. No wonder this was that lowest turn out ever in Canadian history. A "first past the post" system cannot work, with five viable parties. The people are not fools. The system is unfair and undemocratic and many votes simply don't count. The people sense this, and vote with their feet.

Let hope that somehow someday this changes.

7) I kept my perfect voting record! I have never yet voted for a winning candidate in a Canadian election.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The strange thing is first past the post ended up expressing the wishes for a result, of most Canadians.

1)That Harper not get a majority even if it meant Quebec went bloc.

2) That the Liberals be reduced as punishment for their bad management and worse leader.

3) That the NDP increase but not be too big a force.

4)That the Greens should get more votes but that are not yet mature enough as a party to get seats.

It is the case of broken system giving the right result some of the time.

6:02 pm  
Blogger Sydney Nestel said...

I don't know how you know the wishes of most Canadians.

Seems to me 5.2 million people wanted the Conservatives, while 7.1 million would have preferred a Liberal, NDP, Green coalition, and that 9.2 million voted NONE OF THE ABOVE - either because they truly don't care, or more likely because they think their vote will not count - and they are partly right in that assessment.

To the extent that a majority of Candians did hope for a Conservative minority, that is because the media told them that that was the best they could hope for - given the polls and our distorting electoral system.

I urge any reader who agrees with me that the system is broken to look at and to write their MP urging a change.

9:59 am  

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