Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote

back to Entitlement

Ahead to #ERRE #Q Committee

Canadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag backgroundThis is the twelfth in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

PR v AV posterGetting up to speed on electoral reform can be difficult, so I’d like to share Fair Vote Waterloo’s timely and informative video, Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote.

Waterloo City Councillor Diane Freeman moderates a discussion between two of Canada’s leading experts on electoral reform, Barry Kay, Associate Professor of Political Science at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, and Dennis Pilon, Associate Professor of Political Science at York University in Toronto.

In the hands of anyone else, this discussion might have not have been suitable for a general audience, but these professors kept it clear and were careful to explain things that might have become too technical.

The question and answer session at the end of the talk was equally informative.

Dennis Pilon
Dennis Pilon (2012)

When I was just starting to learn about electoral reform back in 2012, I heard Dennis Pilon speak at a Fair Vote Waterloo event at Wilfred Laurier University’s Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work in Kitchener.  Hearing Mr. Pilon again this year,  I was reminded that electoral reform isn’t really as complicated as defenders of the status quo would have us believe.  It’s really only confusing because we are unfamiliar with the alternatives.

Mr. Pilon also explains that different voting systems (including multi-member ridings, Proportional Representation and Alternative Vote) have indeed been employed in parts of Canada throughout our history.

No matter which electoral system we choose, the mechanics of voting for will not change dramatically for voters.  We’ll still go to the polling station, get our ballot, then go behind a privacy screen to mark our choice.

The mechanics of voting will hardly chance under a Proportional System.
The mechanics of voting will hardly change under a Proportional System.

Defenders of the Status Quo often tell us that Canadians understand the system we have now because it is easy.  They say adopting any new system would be more difficult for Canadians than what we have now.  And yet the reality is that we don’t actually understand it.

Many Canadians think when we vote, we’re voting for the Prime Minister.
The reality is that we don’t have presidential elections like our American friends.  We don’t have a say in who the leader will be because we don’t hold Primaries.  In Canada, the members of political parties choose their own leader. And the only Canadians who can actually vote for the Prime Minister are those who live in the presumptive PM’s riding.  The only Canadians who voted for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2015 live in the Quebec riding of Papineau.

Many think our votes are equal and effective.  But when 38,000 voters can elect a Liberal MP but it takes more than 600,000 voters to send a single Green MP to Ottawa, it is very clear that all our votes are not equal.

how many votes graph (sideways)
Some votes are worth more than others in Canada’s Winner-take-all electoral system.

An when 39% of the votes result in majority power, 61% of the voting electorate’s votes have not counted.

39% of the Vote = 100% of the power In 2011 and 2015 Canada
39% of the Vote = 100% of the power In 2011 and 2015 Canada

We don’t understand that our vote is supposed to result in our representation in Ottawa.

Sadly Canadian political parties have more control over Members of Parliament than voters do under our current system.

Waterloo voters picket ex-MP Peter Braid's Office
Canadian MPs frequently ignore the wishes of their constituents and vote the way the party dictates.

Many of us believe democracy is about winners and losers.  But it’s not.  It’s about representing us in Parliament.

“Democracy is NOT about picking winners and losers. You are thinking of sports, or perhaps capitalism. Democracy is about working together to accomplish more than we can do as individuals. It is about bringing all stakeholders to the table so everyone can get what they need. When democracy functions as it should, we are all winners. For that, you need a fair voting system” Wayne Smith, Executive Director, Fair Vote Canada

back to Entitlement

Ahead to #ERRE #Q Committee


Proportional Representation For Canada series so far:

• 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?
• Stability
• Why No Referendum?
• Electoral System Roundup
• When Canadians Learn about PR with CGP Grey
• Entitlement
• 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!

Proportional Representation vs Alternative Vote Debate in Kitchener

PR v AV poster

What’s the difference between a Proportional Representation voting system and Alternative Vote?

If you’re in or near enough to Waterloo Region and can make it out to Kitchener City Hall tonight (that’s Thursday night), you’ll have a chance to find out from the experts when Waterloo city councillor (and former NDP candidate) Diane Freeman moderates a panel discussion between WLU’s Associate Professor of Political Science, Barry Kay and York University’s Associate Professor of Political Science, Dennis Pilon.

Barry Kay and Dennis Pilon will be talking about representative democracy and electoral reform, with special emphasis on the winner-take-all electoral system Alternative Vote (known variously as Instant Runoff Voting/Preferential Voting/ranked voting) and the many different ways in which Proportional Representation will be achieved.

Alternative Vote is the electoral system the Liberal Party of Canada voted to support at the party’s 2012 Convention.  But the issue was revisited at the party’s next convention, when Liberal Policy Resolution 31 was passed.  This formed the basis ~ almost word for word ~ for the Liberal campaign promise.

In resolution 31, Alternative Vote was referred to as “a preferential ballot,” and as “ranked ballots” in the campaign promise.   And we know that this is the electoral system Prime Minister Justin Trudeau favours, and has been championed by his advisor Robert Asselin of the Liberal think-tank Canada 2020.

But Alternative Vote isn’t a system the results in Proportional Representation.  It’s another winner-take-all voting system, very much like the First Past The Post winner-take-all system we use now.  I see no value in switching from one winner-take-all system to another.

But maybe I’m wrong.  Perhaps Mr. Kay will enlighten me tonight.

After the talk there will be an audience Q & A, and who better to answer you questions than experts of this calibre.

I hope to see you there!