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Lecture

POLSCI 1G06 Lecture Notes - Dalton Mcguinty, John Stuart Mill, Bob Rae


Department
Political Science
Course Code
POLSCI 1G06
Professor
Todd Alway

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3. In a 2007 referendum, voters in Ontario were given the opportunity to modify the Province’s existing
electoral system. The referendum question asked:
Which electoral system should Ontario use to elect members to the provincial legislature?
- The existing electoral system (First-Past-the-Post)
- The alternative electoral system proposed by the Citizens’ Assembly (Mixed Member Proportional)
Ultimately the referendum failed to pass.
Elections provide a forum upon which the public can input their position on issues of national
importance, however for the average Canadian citizen, the franchise is often neglected due to a
plethora of reasons. Principally, voters question their impact within the political system and cite
inconsistencies in election results as their justification. Through transitioning from a past the post
system to an alternative electoral, more direct, proportional representation system, such as a list
system, it can be argued that more consistent voter turnout, more accurate representation, and
more effective accountability will result. In this essay, I will argue that moving from the current
FPTP system to proportional MMP system would provide for electoral results which more accurately
reflect the popular vote, better representation at the local level, and would cause no more difficulty for the
voter.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the first-past-the-post system?
"First-past-the-post," or FPTP, is the current method of electing MPPs and is how Canadians have
traditionally chosen federal and provincial representatives. It is a winner-take-all system, where the
candidate with the most votes wins a riding. The political party that wins the most electoral districts forms
the government. Simplicity and familiarity are two of its greatest advantages. The system is in use in
countries around the world, including Britain and the United States, and has served Ontario and Canada
for generations.
Disadvantages: According to John Stuart Mill, who was the first important political thinker to popularize
proportional representation, he thought that the first-past the post system, which was widely used, gave too much
power to the triumphant majority. An evident disadvantage to this is that the triumphant majority would then use this
power to abuse the rights of minorities. Another disadvantage is that it may extinguish the smaller parties and leave
certain minorities permanently underrepresented.
Another disadvantage is that the winner-take-all nature of it means that the majority's voting intent may
not be honored. In recent history, most Ontario voters did not want Dalton McGuinty, Mike Harris or Bob
Rae as premier, yet all three were elected with majority governments. Canada’s first-past-the-post
voting system is notoriously unfair. The system is based on the winner-take-all principle,
which means votes and voters are not treated equally. The only voters who win political
representation are those who share the most popular partisan viewpoint in their riding, as
expressed at the ballot box. The other voters lose their right to political representation
(Gordon).
What are the advantages and disadvantages of alternative electoral mechanisms (like Proportional
Representation
Advantages:
Mills was a firm supporter in proportional representation because it precisely ensures that various minorities are
represented. Proportional representation ensures that representatives are elected in numbers proportional to the share
of votes that their parties receive in the balloting.
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