The quickest way to a majority


Independent MP Bruce Hyer is unimpressed with the latest Quebec election projections.


The quickest way to a majority

  1. In Canada,the quickest way to a majority is to be the party that people support more than any other in each riding. And this system, known as first past post, has brought centuries of stability while countries that try other voting systems experience constant turmoil.

    • “centuries of stability” – presumably you mean somewhere other than Canada, as we have yet to hit a century and a half.

      FPTP works fine in a two-party system, or where any other than the two leading parties are in single-digit support range. But all it does in Canada is set up dictatorships by the party with the largest minority of support; we have not had a true majority government (in the sense of 50% voter support) in a very long time.

      It’s not truly democratic when nearly two thirds of the voters voted for someone other than the party in power. It’s true now; it was true when the Liberals were last in power; it will likely be true for the “victor” whenever the CPC get turfed.

      We deserve better.

    • And this system, known as first past post, has brought centuries of stability while countries that try other voting systems experience constant turmoil.

      First, I think that’s much too simple of a framing of our “stability” and the “turmoil” of other countries (also, plenty of countries have some sort of proportional system, and no more turmoil than we ever have).

      Second, I’d argue that Canadian politics could use a little more “turmoil”. Stability is all well and good, but I’d personally take a less stable system that better represents the will of the citizenry than a “stable” system in which 35% of the voters are technically capable of giving their preferred political party, essentially, 100% of the power. The disparity between popular support and electoral support hasn’t yet caused us many problems in Canada, but still. I can certainly envision a scenario in which 65% of the citizenry wants the country to move in direction X, but we move in direction Y nonetheless because the 35% of the citizenry who prefer direction Y all vote for one party. We’re not there yet, but one could certainly see a scenario in which we end up with a “stable” majority government which nonetheless has a serious problem with democratic legitimacy.

      I’d certainly be interested (/mildly terrified) to see what a majority PQ government might try to get away with despite getting only 35% of the vote. Majority governments can get a bit uppity from a “mandate” perspective, and imho this could lead to a lot more “turmoil” than minority governments are likely to.

      • And to compound the inequities of the FPtP model as it exists in Canada, this tyranny of the minority is further concentrated by the fact that the caucus of the resulting government is beholden to its leader for nominations, appointments, etc, as compared to some other parliamentary democracies where the leader is selected and can be removed by his/her caucus.

        So, we have a de facto autocracy, where virtually all the levers of government machinery are manipulated by one person and his/her coterie of inner advisers/acolytes.

    • I over torqued glories of first past post, should have written Westminster Parliament. Westminster worst form of government except when compared to anything else humans have tried. Anglo countries with Westminster have experienced significantly more stability and prosperity than anywhere else.

      The proof is in pudding – please provide real world examples of governments that are better than what Canada has experienced over past couple of hundred years.

      • please provide real world examples of governments that are better than what Canada has experienced over past couple of hundred years

        “Better” is pretty subjective (and not to be pedantic, but Canada has less than 200 years of experience with truly democratic local government), but more countries by far use some sort of proportional representation than use first past the post, including many countries based on the Westminster system. As I’ve implied, I don’t think it’s easy to come up with a subjective list of who has received “better” government than other countries, not without doing a pretty serious research project. Is a government that is stable and can pass a lot of legislation, but tends to pass a lot of legislation that the majority of the citizenry disagrees with “better” than a less “stable” government that is forced by a strong opposition to hue more closely to the will of the majority, but consequently can’t get as much legislation passed? And regardless, I do believe that the notion that FPTP is some major factor in our success with good government is kinda silly, frankly, and I’d certainly sacrifice some “quality”, however that is defined, in favour of a government that was more representative of the popular will.

        That said, countries that use some form of proportional representation include Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, Wales and Australia (for their senate only). I admit, it’s difficult to understand how all of these countries have avoided falling into the anarchy of a post-apocalyptic hellscape without the “stability” of a winner take all FPTP system, but I’d be willing to bet that Canada could somehow make it work too.

        • From Fair Vote Canada:

          81 countries use some form of proportional representation to elect their national assembly, including most long-term democracies, most European countries, and most of the major nations of the Americas. Most of these have used it for decades. New countries almost never opt for a system like Canada’s when setting up their first democratic voting system.

    • Walter Russell Mead ~

      1) The current Egyptian system in many ways has overstayed its welcome and the economic, political and social development of the country has been seriously affected. Revolutions, though, however thoroughly justified, have their drawbacks. Both the major revolutions of the English speaking world, the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the American Revolution of 1776, ended unusually well. Those revolutions, however, were the exception that proves the rule. The outcome of other revolutions has been less unambiguously good.

      The French Revolution, for example, quickly degenerated into the Reign of Terror and culminated in the military dictatorship of the “Emperor” Napoleon and a generation of brutal war. The liberals of the February Revolution in Russia lost out to the mindlessly bloody and destructive Bolsheviks ten months later, and Russia plunged into an unspeakable civil war and the genocidal horrors of Leninist/Stalinist rule. China’s revolutionary communists killed scores of millions of people through their grotesque mixture of brutality, fanaticism and incompetence. The clergy of Iran turned on their allies, leading the country into the horrifying and pointless war with Iraq and establishing a regime worse than anything the Shah could have dreamed of.


      2) The history of the world over most of the past four centuries has been shaped decisively by the exploits of English-speaking people. First English then British then American power has been more economically productive and militarily and strategically successful than any other. A decisive factor in this history of success is that both the British and the Americans came from a culture that was uniquely well positioned to harness the titanic forces of capitalism as they emerged on the world scene. The British and Americans have proved better able than others to tolerate the stress, uncertainty and inequality associated with free-market forms of capitalism, and have been consistently among the best performers at creating a favorable institutional and social climate in which capitalism can thrive.


  2. First past the [lobster] pot.

  3. Barring any further information, I will give him the benefit of the doubt and accept he feels that a 35% PQ minority is a horror while the 39% CPC victory is the very picture of legitimacy and a justifiable mandate for any policy the PM may choose, even if it was never spoken of until after the election. part of me suspects, however, that if the line were 35.777779 and 35.777778, he’d say exactly the same thing. Hell, after Chris Alexander’s shenanigans, I could easily see a CPCer whining about the legitimacy of a government with a greater share of the popular vote than the harper one.

    • I’m sure plenty did during the Chretien years, when very few Liberals gave electoral reform a second thought. Losers tend to whine.

  4. While PR is often called the voting system preferred by the losers, FPTP could similarly be called the voting system preferred by cheaters, those who know they could not achieve power without the crutch of FPTP.

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