Canadas First Past the Post System

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In Canada Federal and Provincial First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) elections are based on single member districts or ridings. Each riding chooses one candidate to elect into parliament. In order to win a candidate must obtain the highest number of votes but not necessarily the majority of votes. The party that wins the most ridings is named the official government of Canada with the second place party becoming the official opposition. The (FPTP) system is also known as the 'winner-take-all' system, in which the candidate with the most votes gets elected. FPTP voting methods can be used for single and multiple member elections. In a single member election the candidate with the highest number, not necessarily a majority, of votes is elected. This system is used in Canada, UK, US, and India. Many Canadians are not happy with the current First Past the Post system currently in place for electing parliamentary officials provincially and federally. I think that Canada’s First Past the Post parliamentary electoral system should be changed because it favors tactical voting; it has a negative effect on smaller parties; and opens up the possibility of gerrymandering constituencies. A new electoral system that is more proportional is needed in order to address these problems.

There are a few problems that arise out of the FPTP system. One of the most important problems is the tendency for FPTP to favor tactical voting. Tactical voting happens when voters cast their votes for one of the two candidates that are most likely to win. This is done because it is perceived by the voter that their vote will be wasted if they were to choose to vote for a smaller party, which they would more prefer. This is an understandable feeling by the voter because only votes for the winning candidate actually count (Blais, 2008).

The position is sometimes summed up, in an extreme form, as "All votes for anyone other than the second place are votes for the winner"(Rosenbaum 2004), because by voting for other candidates, they have denied those votes to the second place candidate who could have won had they received them. Following the 2000 U.S. presidential election, some supporters of Democratic candidate Al Gore believed he lost the extremely close election to Republican George W. Bush because a portion of the electorate (2.7%) voted for Ralph Nader of the Green Party. Exit polls indicated that more of these voters would have preferred Gore (45%) to Bush (27%), with the rest not voting in Nader's absence (Rosenbaum 2004). The people, who voted for Ralph Nader despite of his staggering inability to win, effectively voted for Bush by depriving Gore of their votes even though they would have preferred Gore.

With tactical voting, voters, have to predict in advance who the top two candidates will be. This can distort results significantly. One factor that influences tactical voting is the Media. Substantial power is given to the media. Some voters will tend to believe the media's assertions as to who the leading contenders are likely to be in the election. Even voters who distrust the media will know that other voters do believe the media, and therefore that those candidates who receive the most media attention will probably be the most popular and thus most likely to be the top two.

The media can also play an important role in persuading voters to use tactical voting. This is exemplified through the use of attack advertisements in television; radio and print media. This happens in the UK. The system may promote votes against as opposed to votes for. In the UK, entire campaigns have been organized with the aim of voting against the Conservative party by voting either Labour or Liberal Democrat. For example, in a constituency held by the Conservatives, with the Liberal Democrats as the second-place party and the Labour Party in third, Labour supporters might be urged to vote for the Liberal Democrat candidate (who has a smaller shortfall of votes to make up...
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