Last time, we discussed why first past the post was not the ideal system, but we barely touched on what FPTP is. Today, we’ll take a closer look at this set up. The FPTP system is one which works very well on a small scale. Things like high school student council elections, town and county council elections, and many other locally impacting elections. The reason that this works for these types of elections is because it only impacts the people in the high school, town, county, etc. In the big picture, this becomes problematic due to the expansiveness of our country. There are currently 338 seats in the House of Commons, all of which are held by the person who garnered the most votes in the last election. Sounds perfect, right? Wrong.
The flaw with the system we currently have is that it is only the local level which guarantees to be the will of the people reflected in the government. This is because at the level of each riding, the single MP elected is chosen by the majority of the voters, but the government is formed by whichever party is elected in the most seats. Given our current system, it is entirely possible, and indeed frequently reality, for a single party to have the majority of seats in the House of Commons handed to them by a minority of Canadians. In fact, in the 2011 election, Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party had secured a majority from 39.6% of the voting public. In case you think that’s a one off, and not the status quo, I’ll remind you that in the 2015 election, Justin Trudeau and the Liberals were handed the controls to our country with a majority government from 39.5% of the voting public. It might interest you to know that the last time that we had a government that was actually elected by the majority of voting Canadians was 1984, and before that, 1958.
The reason this system continuously fails to elect a true majority, or reflect the will of the people in the House of Commons is because we are a vast nation, and within our land, there are a large number of differing opinions and outlooks. This means the real issue is that with a first past the post system, on a national level, we very rarely have a representative government that people can support. The reason this is an issue, is because we are a country of 36 million people and counting, yet our government is routinely selected by only five to six million voters, not a majority.