Letter to the Editor: Ranked ballots seek majorities

I was happy to read Councillor Blair Mirau’s letter in your pages last week on the topic of voting reform in Canada

The following is an open response letter from Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen to Prince Rupert resident Blair Mirau:

Editor:

I was happy to read Councillor Blair Mirau’s letter in your pages last week on the topic of voting reform in Canada – a historic opportunity to rethink how we want to be represented in our national Parliament.

I appreciate Councillor Mirau’s contribution to the debate even if I happen to disagree with his voting alternative of choice, the ranked ballot.

Voting systems like our current system, first-past-the-post (FPTP), and ranked ballots seek to manufacture a single ruling party majority government.

I am more in favour of proportional representation (PR) systems. The goal of these systems is to create a parliament that focuses on compromise and cooperation, and which honestly reflects how the population voted. Thirty per cent of the votes means 30 per cent of the seats. Simple enough!

My own election in 2015 is a perfect example of how first-past-the-post, just like the ranked ballot system, leaves too many votes and voices out of our national conversation. I was humbled to be re-elected last October with about 51 per cent of the ballots cast. But this means 49 per cent of the voters in Skeena—Bulkley Valley didn’t elect anyone. The 21,735 people who voted Liberal, Conservative, Green and CHP deserve to have their views represented in Parliament, just like the 22,531 who voted NDP.

This happened across the country in 2015. Some MPs were elected in their ridings with as little as 28 per cent of the votes. Seventeen million people voted; nine million votes didn’t elect anyone.

The fact that half of the votes don’t “count” is why Canadians around the country are rallying for reform. But we already know that ranked ballots, like FPTP, will throw away half the votes cast because even with a ranked ballot, the winner only needs the support of 50 per cent of his or her constituents. In that light, it’s hard to really call ranked ballots a solution.

The other reason I do not support ranked ballots is simple: Canadians should be able to vote for their first choice, not their third or fourth choice, and have their vote count when the seats are awarded in Parliament.

The reason I support PR is also simple: every vote is counted, no matter where a person lives or who they vote for; PR countries tend to elect more women and people from minority backgrounds; they tend to have more cooperative and diverse parliaments; and voter turnout is, on average, seven per cent higher.

The other reason is that the research, expertise, and countless past studies like the 2004 Law Commission report all overwhelmingly recommend a proportional representation system to work towards leveling up Canada’s democratic deficit.

I agree with Councillor Mirau that this opportunity before us for change is real and full of promise. That’s why I believe we should use it to address the underlying problems with our current system. And we should use it to build a made-in-Canada solution that takes not necessarily the easiest path but one that challenges us to think big, be visionary, and, as the prime minister said during the last election, make every vote count.

Nathan Cullen

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP