Comparative Electoral Reform in Canada

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Electoral systems in a given country dictate the level of representation, voters’ experiences, and overall quality of quality. Numerous models of governance have emerged within the wider notion of democracy. In Canada, the First-Past-The-Pole (FPTP) remains in place and dictates the manner in which politicians are elected to occupy public offices. However, some dissatisfactions and gaps have emerged that affect the overall involvement in electoral processes and the relationships members of different political parties promote. The aim of this research paper is to answer this question: Is Proportional Representation (PR) electoral system the best alternative to the First-Past-The-Pole (FPTP) system in Canada? The PR electoral system is appropriate for Canada because it offers to address the challenges associated with FPTP, such as increased radicalization between the Conservative and Liberal parties, voter apathy, underrepresentation, increased marginalization, and failure to resonate with the changing demands of the electorate.


Canada borrows most of the attributes of its governance system from the United Kingdom’s electoral model. The parliamentary system presents a federal parliament whereby a governor general represents the sovereign (Nanos, 2020). The system creates room for the Senate or Upper House and the Lower House or House of Commons (Nanos, 2020). For the lower house, citizens engage in general elections whereby they chose their favorable leaders. The governor general receives recommendations from the ruling Prime Minister (PM) to appoint members of the Senate. Experts refer to this Canadian model as a FPTP system.

The Canadian system represents specific mechanisms that eventually promote a plurality government approach characterized by one party. After elections, a given contestant who gets more votes will become a member in the House of Commons, thereby representing his or her riding (Nanos, 2020). The country’s governor general guides candidates with more seats in this house to constitute the new government. Such a winner will be allowed to occupy the PM position. The runners up will be the country’s opposition leader. This model is designed in such a way that it allows only the top two parties to receive all the prestige and finances. Such a system, therefore, does not require the winning party meet a specific threshold for the total cast votes.

The implemented system in Canada has presented various challenges that call for a new approach. For example, Nanos (2020) indicates that FPTP is responsible for the wastage of votes since many parties are involved in the contest. Emmenegger and Walter (2019) go further to argue that the model can result in the formation of minority governments since there is no specified threshold for getting power. The system has remained non-progressive, thereby making it impossible for the government to formulate superior policies that could impact on the lives of the citizens positively. The country has witnessed a stagnant political landscape due to the promotion of this system (Nanos, 2020). Consequently, the level of radicalization between the Conservative and Liberal parties has remained high. Nanos (2020) argues that the last federal election, whereby Trudeau emerged the winner, promotes populism and shares similar flaws with most of the federal elections held in nations with FPTP electoral systems. This challenge has continued to discourage the electorate, thereby triggering an increasing level of voter apathy.

The best alternative to FPTP would be the PR electoral system. While the governance strategy can take different shapes, it still makes it possible for a nation to have fairly distributed political seats. The winners in the elections would offer a proportional representation of the recorded votes (Mngomezulu, 2019). The model has gained recognition and support since it allows smaller or emerging parties and marginalized populations to have a voice in governance affairs. Countries adopt their minimum thresholds to ensure that those in power are able to meet the demands of the electorate. Runoffs during elections are possible when such thresholds are not attained. The model appears to be more progressive and capable of promoting the unique attributes associated with the principles of democracy.

Arguments for PR Electoral System

The challenges outlined above indicate that the FPTP electoral system promoted in Canada could be replaced with a more progressive and inclusive governance model. Past scholars have offered concrete analyses and arguments to explain why such a paradigm shift in Canada would be appropriate. In their article, Chernykh et al. (2018) reveal that those in leadership and policymaking positions should not focus mainly on the superiority of the PR system. Instead, they need to encourage and guide more citizens to embrace the proposed reforms if the country is to have a better political system. Experts acknowledge that any form of change in governance can excite the electorate and ensure that they are willing to be more involved in leadership affairs (Emmenegger & Walter, 2019). This understanding can encourage more people to support this form of transition.

Some analysts have identified a number of advantages that make a strong for the PR electoral model. For instance, Emmenegger and Walter (2019) believe that this system is capable of translating most of the votes to seats in different houses. A sense of representation will emerge whereby citizens will be willing to elect individuals who can help them overcome most of the challenges they face. Another reason why the PR model is appropriate is because it has the potential to increase the level of participation among voters. The approach can address the gaps in the current system and allow more people to take interest in campaigns and seek assurance from the available contestants.

Since the FPTP system practiced in Canada has contributed to increased underrepresentation, the PR approach will change the scenario and ensure that independent or individuals from minority backgrounds have fair chances of winning. Mershon (2020) argues that PR remains practical and capable of ensuring that votes are not wasted. The model will take into consideration the preferences, expectations, and aims of all those who participate in the process (Mershon, 2020). In a study by Mngomezulu (2019), it occurred that PR systems were capable of reducing voter apathy and encouraging more people to remain involved. As outlined earlier, the PR system reduces chances of having an absolute minority in power. This means that a country adopting it will have higher chances of experiencing government continuity. Consequently, those in elective positions will be empowered to make timely decisions, support implemented projects, and address people’s demands.

The model could be redesigned depending on a number of factors a given country experiences. For example, some adjustments can be made in the number of votes candidates need to have before occupying the PM or presidency offices (Mershon, 2020). PR creates room for additional representation whereby the winning candidates find it easier to liaise with the electorate and implement desirable laws. The example of the United States reveals that the adoption of PR can allow parties to campaign and win positions in regions that would have remained “swing states” or marginal (Mngomezulu, 2019). With such attributes, it becomes quite clear that the government of Canada can focus on a paradigm shift aimed at reforming the current electoral system.


Despite the strengths and possible gains that might arise from the implementation of PR, some skeptics have presented powerful counterarguments to challenge it. The model had the potential to discourage members in the House of Commons or parliament from addressing local challenges and issues. This problem could be as a result of a wider electorate and the desire to appeal to voters in other areas considered as “swing” (Mershon, 2020). The FP system has received criticism since it has the potential to create room for extremists and eventually allow them to get electoral positions (Mershon, 2020). This problem would be unthinkable under the current FPTP electoral system promoted in Canada.

In the developing world, the PR model has made it impossible for smaller parties to have a national outlook and eventually win elections. This challenge arises from the fact that the PR system encourages people to come up with parties and hold campaigns across the country. This gap has resulted in weak governments characterized by coalitions and mergers between two or more parties. This reality means that it has become impossible for some countries to get strong governments formed by majority members (Leemann & Mares, 2014). The possible issues that could arise include legislative shutdown or paralysis, indecision, and sometimes increased levels of compromise (Mershon, 2020). These arguments, therefore, discourage policymakers in Canada from pursuing this form of system.

Voters play a crucial role in the selection of government and formulation of policy. Under PR, most of these stakeholders lose their bargaining power throughout the process. This outcome is usually possible when ousted leaders and their respective parties collaborate with other partners to win the next elections. Additionally, Mngomezulu (2019) observed that PR was capable of weakening the level of coordination between the electorate and the Member of Parliament. This problem could affect the number of projects and policies delivered to improve people’s experiences and economic attainments. Most of these weaknesses have continued to feature prominently in most of the discussions aimed at unearthing the dangers of the PR electoral system.

Responses to Counterarguments

Nations need to have a stable electoral system that will support the election of competent leaders capable of addressing the predicaments their followers face. Both the FPTP and PR models have their unique strengths and weaknesses that make them desirable choices in different countries. It is also evident that most of the counterarguments against PR are valid and evident in countries that have adopted the system. However, the above discussion and analysis has revealed that the PR model appears to offer numerous benefits in comparison with other electoral approaches, such as the FPTP (Nanos, 2020). In any given electoral process, stakeholders should be involved in such a way that the emerging decisions and policies are able to transform their life experiences in a positive manner. This understanding supports the FP system because it has the potential to increase representation and take more citizens closer to their goals.

In Canada, the problem of discrimination has remained persistent and capable of affecting the livelihoods and outcomes of underserved populations. The current electoral system has made it hard for most of these citizens from marginalized regions or ridings to get proper political representation. The introduction of a progressive model will ensure that such individuals will experience greater representation and be involved in political decision-making. The individuals will be willing to support their favorite candidates and be involved in the process. Those seeking elective political positions can rely on the new model to appeal to supporters from different parts of the country (Dickerson et al., 2014). The system will make it possible for the country to have politicians from minority parties or ethnic groups. Such an approach will compel such leaders to focus on the unique challenges affecting the people.

Despite the challenges associated with PR, it emerges as the most appropriate system for Canada. The framework has the potential to address most of the issues associated with the FPTP model (Mershon, 2020). It will go further to give minorities a voice, help minimize wastage of votes, and ensure that most of the elected leaders are accountable. Such politicians will, therefore, engage in activities that are in tandem with the expectations and needs of the electorate.


The above discussion has outlined the FPTP and PR as some of the dominant electoral systems in countries that embrace democracy. Canada’s experience with FPTP reveals that it has some challenges and gaps that affect the overall experiences of most of the citizens. The PR model appears more progressive, inclusive, and capable of allowing minorities to occupy elective positions. PR, therefore, offers unique opportunities for addressing these challenges associated with FPTP: radicalization between the Conservative and Liberal parties, voter apathy, underrepresentation, and increased marginalization.


Chernykh, S., Goldsmith, B. E., Huddy, L., Martin, A., & Ratcliff, S. (2018). Electoral reform and voters’ behaviour in Australia and New Zealand: Editors’ introduction to the special issue. Political Science, 70(2), 97-101. Web.

Dickerson, M. O., Flanagan, T., & O’Neill, B. (2014). An introduction to government & politics: A conceptual approach (9th ed.). Nelson.

Emmenegger, P., & Walter, A. (2019). When dominant parties adopt proportional representation: The mysterious case of Belgium. European Political Science Review, 11(4), 433-450. Web.

Leemann, L., & Mares, I. (2014). The adoption of proportional representation. The Journal of Politics, 76(2), 461-478. Web.

Mershon, C. (2020). Challenging the wisdom on preferential proportional representation. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 32(1), 168-182. Web.

Mngomezulu, B. R. (2019). Assessing the suitability of the proportional representation electoral system for Southern Africa. Journal of African Foreign Affairs, 6(2), 157-171. Web.

Nanos, N. (2020). From “sunny ways” to “dark days”: The 2019 Canadian Federal Election suggests that Canada is not a positive outlier to populist politics but gripped by feelings of declinism. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 26(2), 207-217. Web.

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DemoEssays. (2023) 'Comparative Electoral Reform in Canada'. 20 February.


DemoEssays. 2023. "Comparative Electoral Reform in Canada." February 20, 2023.

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DemoEssays. "Comparative Electoral Reform in Canada." February 20, 2023.