Mr. Speaker, I should start by saying that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent.
This motion is intended to put our parliamentary democracy on the right track by fixing what is an extremely unfair electoral system. Every voter counts equally, from a philosophical perspective, so every vote should count equally within our electoral system. Unfortunately, the current system does not do that.
Allow me to quote a former highly respected MP who everyone knows has the health of our parliamentary democracy at heart and first in mind:
Why not turn the theory of representative government into reality? Legislatures that reflect citizens' values, in proportion to how we vote in elections, can help make balance, moderation, diversity, inclusiveness, and maturity the refreshing new hallmarks of Canadian [parliamentary] democracy.
That was from J. Patrick Boyer, Progressive Conservative MP for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, 1984 to 1993.
Paragraph (a) in the motion says:
...the next federal election should be the last conducted under the current first-past-the-post electoral system which has repeatedly delivered a majority of seats to parties supported by a minority of voters, or under any other winner-take-all electoral system;
Paragraph (a) is designed to attract a consensus of MPs affirming that our current system, a winner-take-all system of first past the post, must go.
Many, if not most, Canadians do not actually know that our system produces huge distortions.
There are three kinds of majorities that emerge from an election in Canada: false ones, arbitrary ones, and inflated ones.
The false majority is the biggest concern. A party may receive well less than 50% of the vote but end up with well over 50% of the seats. When Canadians hear about a landslide victory or a government getting a majority government, many, if not the majority of Canadians, do not know that this means only seat count. It does not mean that the governing party received 50% of support. In 2011, the current government, not the first but probably the 20th since Confederation, came into power on these terms: it had 39.5% of the national popular vote and 54% of the seats. Another example is the Progressive Conservatives in 1988, who with 57% of the seats had only 43% of the votes. Those were the Mulroney years. The next year, the Liberals came in. They had 60% of the seats with 41% of the vote. Do members know what happened? The Progressive Conservatives went from 169 seats to two seats. They received 16% of the national vote and received less than 1% of the seats in the House of Commons.
This is not a partisan thing. NDP governments across the country in provincial governments have also benefited from our wonky system. The NDP under former premier Bob Rae received 57% of the seats with under 38% of the vote.
It can get arbitrary, as well. For example, in Quebec, in 1998, the PQ won 60% of the seats with 43% of the vote, despite the Liberals actually getting 43.5% of the vote.
Inflated majorities are common. Even in the situation where a party manages to get over 50% of the vote in a province, usually where there are only two parties, it can end with the ridiculous result that a party gets all or almost all of the seats. In 1987, under our system, 60% of the votes for the Liberals in New Brunswick produced 100% of the seats; 58 out of 58 seats for that entire period were in the hands of one party. Forty per cent of the electorate was shut out from representation in that legislature. In B.C., in 2001, 58% of the vote produced, for another Liberal Party, 77 out of 79 seats: 97%.
This is fundamentally unfair, quite obviously, not to mention, frankly, absurd. However, this unfairness is not the only consequence. Our voting system has knock-on effects, what I would call pathologies, that undermine the health of our entire democracy, from how Parliament works to citizen engagement.
I would simply like to go through a few of those problems. I will list them, because in debate, I can go into them in more detail.
Here are eight problems.
One, our system produces a false sense and exacerbation of regional differences. We almost get, for decades and decades, only Conservative MPs from Alberta. It creates the idea that somehow Alberta is monolithically a Conservative province. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Two, it diminishes the diversity of viewpoints in Parliament, especially from different areas of the country. We never hear from a rich range of voices from many provinces because of that problem of regional exacerbation.
Three, it promotes majorities in the House of Commons such that, because of our system in which the Prime Minister has so much power in an executive embedded in the legislature, if the Prime Minister and the government are of a mind, the views of 60% of the electorate, having elected only 40% of the opposition MPs, do not have to be taken into account. Legislation can be rammed through if a government is so minded.
Four, there is an under-representation of women in our system.
Five, adversarialism and hyperpartisanship are emphasized over co-operation and compromise in legislative activity.
Six, the chances of poor legislation because tunnel vision and single ideologies, which do not have to grapple with other points of view on the floor of the House and in committees, also can dominate.
Seven, citizen frustration goes through the roof, and it is one of the contributions to lower voter turnout.
Eight, the role of MPs is undermined due to the fact that in our system, voters have to choose, with one vote, the local representative they would like to have representing their constituency and the party they would like to see with the most seats in the House of Commons, and quite often, they are choosing one other factor, which is which party leader they prefer.
All of these things, under a properly structured proportional representation system, would be dealt with.
What is the NDP advocating? Let me start by quoting from Tom Mulcair, the leader of the official opposition, the member for Outremont, who said a year and a half ago:
Electoral reform is an important way to reinvigorate our democracy, and in 2015 New Democrats will be seeking a mandate to introduce a proportional-representation voting system that better reflects the true political preferences of Canadians. We are committed to ensuring that 2015 is the last unfair election.
Only last week, we deepened that commitment by explaining how we would form a special all-party task force upon becoming government and then would legislate to a deadline that would produce a proportional-representation system of a mixed sort by 2019.
It is important to note that NDP conventions over the years have emphasized “that mixed-member proporational representation must be adapted to Canada”. The fact is that we have examples. New Zealand, Germany, and Scotland are three healthy democracies we will be borrowing from. The fact of the matter is that the lessons they have learned have to be applied in a way that takes into account Canadian realities.
It is important as well to note that we are intent on not reinventing the wheel. Here in Canada, much work has been done over the decades on mixed-proportional representation as the best proportional representation system for Canada. Eight out of nine commissions or citizen assemblies created by governments in the last dozen years in Canada have not only advocated getting rid of our first-past-the-post system but have advocated adopting MMP, or mixed-member-proportional representation.
What is mixed-member proportional representation? The way I like to talk about it is as three pairs that are married into a rather harmonious whole. It is much simpler than people think.
I would start by saying that two principles are merged. One is the principle that voters in each local constituency or riding should be able to elect a single MP directly accountable to them. That is our current system. The second is that voters in each constituency should also have their party preference directly count so that party representation in the House of Commons, that is the seats, the number of MPs, is proportionate to the degree of support the party actually received in the national vote.
Let me now take the voter into the voting booth. This is how voters will understand how easy this is.
These two principles are merged by giving voters two votes. Let us call it a one ballot, two votes approach. Under the first vote, on a single ballot, citizens elect a single local MP to represent their riding. With the second vote, they vote for a candidate, on a list, of the party they prefer. It is this second vote that tells us the number of seats each party should get in the House of Commons, and then from the list, MPs go to the House of Commons, join their local MPs, and voilà, we have a much-reformed system that would get rid of all of the pathologies I listed that are part of our current system.