This is the fourth in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series
Canada’s government is chosen with a “First Past the Post” electoral system where some votes are worth more than others, but most don’t count at all. This effectively divides Canadians into those that have representation and those who have none.
With such disproportionate representation, the best hope for in such a polarized electorate is a minority government, because no laws can be passed without the support of more than one party. Unfortunately there is no “minority government” box to mark on the ballot. This is especially difficult for citizens when our winner-take-all electoral system delivers a majority government to a single party that earned far less than a majority of votes.
Our current Liberal majority government was elected by just 39.5% of the voters, excluding a majority of Canadians from representation in Government. When a “majority” government (like most First Past the Post (FPTP) governments) is elected by a minority of voters, the majority of voters are unrepresented. The idea is that whoever is elected, is expected to represent the interests of all their constituents. This sounds good in theory, but hasn’t worked so well in practice.
Guelph’s former Liberal MP Frank Valeriote explains why one person can’t effectively represent a diverse constituency:
What citizens are left with is a serious democratic deficit. The problem becomes even bigger when well funded corporate and ideological special interest groups can successfully lobby for what their employers want. Powerful insiders and professional lobbyists know how the system works and they how to get what their employers want. Not only do these people know who to talk to, they have access to the decision makers ordinary citizens don’t. These pros can make backroom deals and convince the right people to put forth legislation and trade agreements beneficial to the special interests groups who hire them — even when it’s detrimental to the public good.
Since we are saddled with a system that usually leaves most voters without representatives who will speak for us in Parliament, the only recourse left to the majority of Canadians without representation is to lobby the government ourselves when our MPs consider issues important to us. If we don’t, we have no hope of discouraging our MPs from supporting:
- legislation, policy or dangerous trade agreements Canadians oppose,
- making and voting for laws that undermine the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and/or
- otherwise jeopardize the public good,
That’s why the majority of voters have to work very hard just to get the government’s attention. We must try to educate the government about the issues that are important to us, and work even harder to try to convince the government not to pass laws or make policy detrimental to our interests.
If we used a different kind of electoral system — one that provided citizens with some form of Proportional Representation — we wouldn’t have to work so hard because we would actually have representation in Ottawa.
But we aren’t there yet. In the here and now, it is very important you let your MP know where you stand on issues that matter to you.
It doesn’t matter which party your MP is in, if you oppose Canada’s ratification of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) you need to let your MP know you do not want the TPP.
Or Bill C-51.
Or even a motion to condemning the BSD movement (our right to dissent!).
Whenever the government is going to do things we don’t want it to, it’s up to us to let the government know or the only side they will hear is the other one. If you can’t convince your MP and/or their party disagrees with you, s/he isn’t likely to do you much good at all. So our only hope is that a lot of other Canadians will contact their MPs about the issues that matter to you as well.
We would be much better off with Proportional Representation, but even without it, if enough of us speak up, (strongly enough, loudly enough) there is a slim chance we might persuade the Government to back away from bad policy. Public opinion didn’t seem to have much weight with the previous Government, but public opinion does matter to the Liberal Government. Our chance of being heard is better than it was with 39.6% majority government the Liberals replaced.
You can contact your MP in a variety of ways:
- by meeting with your MP in person,
- speaking to your MP on the phone,
- sending your MP postal mail (Mail may be sent postage-free to any Member of Parliament)
- writing your MP an email,
- sending your MP a fax
- speaking to your MP on social media, or
- signing petitions.
Meeting with your MP in person is probably the single most effective strategy while signing a petition (especially a digital petition) is probably the least effective. To make it easier for the folks in the Waterloo Region area to contact your MP, I’ve put together contact information for our new crop of Members of Parliament.
MP Raj Saini (Liberal)
209 Frederick Street (Main Office)
House of Commons
Federal Government Website: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members/Raj-Saini
Open Parliament’s voting record for Raj Saini can be found here:
MP Marwan Tabbarra (Liberal)
153 Country Hills Drive,
House of Commons
Phone: 613 992-1063
Fax: 613 992-1082
Federal Government Website: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members/Marwan-Tabbara
Open Parliament’s voting record for Marwan Tabarra can be found here:
MP Harold Albrecht (Conservative)
1187 Fischer-Hallman Road (Main Office)
House of Commons
Federal Government Website: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members/Harold-Albrecht
Open Parliament’s voting record for Harold Albrecht can be found here:
Hon. Bardish Chagger, P.C., Member of Parliament (Liberal)
House of Commons
Federal Government Website: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members/Bardish-Chagger/
Ministry of Small Business and Tourism is part of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
Ministry Website: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/icgc.nsf/eng/home
The Honourable Bardish Chagger, Privy Council, MP
C.D. Howe Building
235 Queen St.
Federal Government Ministry Website: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/icgc.nsf/eng/h_07540.html
Open Parliament’s voting record for Bardish Chagger can be found here:
MP Bryan May (Liberal)
534 Hespeler Road (Main Office)
House of Commons
Federal Government Website: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members/Bryan-May
Open Parliament’s voting record for Bryan May can be found here:
MP Lloyd Longfield (Liberal)
40 Cork Street East (Main Office)
House of Commons
Federal Government Website: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members/Lloyd-Longfield
Open Parliament’s voting record for Lloyd Longfield can be found here:
MP Michael Chong (Conservative)
16 Mountainview Road South, Suite 205
Georgetown, Ontario L7G 4K1
Phone: (905) 702-2597
200 St. Patrick St. East, Suite 5.
Fergus, Ontario N1M 1M4
Phone: (519) 843-7344
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Phone: (613) 992-4179
Phone: (866) 878-5556 (Toll-Free in Riding)
Federal Government Website: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members/Michael-Chong
Open Parliament’s voting record for Michael Chong can be found here:
For those of you in other parts of Canada:
If you are not sure who your Member of Parliament is, all you need is your postal code to find out here:
Or if you do know who your MP is, you can look him/her up by name here:
This part of the website seems a little bit broken just now, as I’m finding it is providing links to incomplete draft contact pages. It might be easier to simply type in the correct URL by typing it into the URL address bar (or search bar) in your browser:
(type in the first name of your MP in place of “Add” and the MP’s surname in place of “Name”)
The complete list of contact information for all Parliamentarians is here in plain text:
Until we actually have a representative democracy with Proportional Representation (something you might want to mention when you’re chatting with your MP), we all just have to keep working harder.
My MP photos are released under a Creative Commons Attribution licenses:
MP Raj Saini on Wikipedia
MP Marwan Tabbara on Wikipedia
The Hon. Bardish Chagger, P.C., MP, on Wikipedia
MP Bryan May on Wikipedia
The only exception is MP Harold Albrecht on Wikipedia, whose image is released into the Public Domain by a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication [I’m considering doing this for all my politician photos, but then there is less chance I’ll find out if they’re used, which is always fun.]
Roger Duhamel’s Parliament Building drawing is also in the Public Domain (due to Crown Copyright expiration.)
• Proportional Representation for Canada
• What’s so bad about First Past The Post
• Democracy Primer
• Working for Democracy
• The Popular Vote
• Why Don’t We Have PR Already?
• Why No Referendum?
• Electoral System Roundup
• When Canadians Learn about PR with CGP Grey
• Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote
• #ERRÉ #Q Committee
• #ERRÉ #Q Meetings & Transcripts
• Take The Poll ~ #ERRÉ #Q
• Proportionality #ERRÉ #Q
• The Poll’s The Thing
• DIY Electoral Reform Info Sessions
• What WE Can Do for ERRÉ
• #ERRÉ today and Gone Tomorrow (…er, Friday)
• Redistricting Roulette
• #ERRÉ submission Deadline TONIGHT!
• #ERRÉ Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm
• The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRÉ
• FVC: Consultations Provide Strong Mandate for Proportional Representation #ERRÉ
• PEI picks Proportional Representation
• There is only one way to make every vote count #ERRÉ
• Canada is Ready 4 Proportional Representation
• Sign the Petition e-616
• #ProportionalRepresentation Spin Cycle ~ #ERRÉ
• International Women’s Day 2017 ~ #IWD
• An Open Letter to ERRÉ Committee Liberals
and don’t forget to check out the PR4Canada Resources page!