Back in 2013, when Justin Trudeau and Joyce Murray were both running to become Liberal leader, the Leadership Debate was March 3, 2013. Joyce Murray says to Justin Trudeau “If you were actually listening to Canadians you would know that two-thirds of Canadians want proportional representation so that their vote counts, and so that we don’t have the divisive toxic system that we have today, so if you were listening to Canadians you would be going after proportional representation . . ."
Justin Trudeau replies "The problem with proportional representation is that every different model of proportional representation actually increases partisanship, not reduces it . . . I understand people want proportional representation, but too many people don’t understand the polarization and the micro-issues that come through proportional representation." (Watch the video at 43:30).
He was not the only Liberal worried about micro-issues and micro-parties. Liberal PR supporters like Stéphane Dion also wanted a “moderate“ PR model.
So when Fair Vote Canada made submissions to the ERRE (Special Committee on Electoral Reform), the MMP model we recommended, with open regional lists, had regions of only about eight MPs. That’s 42 moderately proportional regions across the country. We said “The aim in defining these top-up regions should be to ensure that all MPs are accountable to real communities, or as the Jenkins Commission put it, locally anchored to small areas.”
On the votes cast in 2021, would this have elected 17 MPs from the Peoples’ Party of Canada? Only 8, actually: 3 in Alberta, 3 in Ontario, 1 in New Brunswick, and 1 in Manitoba (the candidate who came second to Candice Bergen, which explains a lot.)
That’s a good thing. “The far-right has not taken power in Europe. What has been presented as a weakness of proportional representation is its strength. It does allow for far-right parties to win seats in parliaments, but that comes with consequences. These parties are then out in the open, no cover of silence, and exposed to the scrutiny of the public, media and other political parties. And we can learn without agreeing to the party intents, why some people support or join these kind of groups. Without knowing why, you can never address the circumstances why people do.” In Germany, the AfD party has seats in the federal parliament and 16 state legislatures. That’s 17 governing coalitions, and all 17 excluded the AfD.
Exaggerated regional differences
The Liberals in 2021 saw more than 350,000 Liberal voters in Alberta and Saskatchewan represented by only two MPs when they deserve seven.
The Conservatives saw more than 500,000 Conservative voters in the City of Toronto and Peel and Halton regions represented by no one but Liberal MPs when they deserved to elect 11 MPs.
And we all saw 1.3 million Bloc Quebecois voters elect 32 MPs while more than three million NDP voters elected only 25 MPs.