When politicians don't stand up for our civil rights, it's up to citizens to fight for those rights in court. Nobody else can do it for us.

Since the Canadian Charter of rights and freedoms was established in the 1980s, the courts have been ruling in favour of fair and equal representation in Canadian and provincial elections. Now, it's time to challenge the fairness of the first-past-the-post voting system itself. 

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    Negative Effects

    We’ve recently shared with you some of Prof. Lawrence LeDuc‘s evidence that our First Past the Post voting system has deeply negative consequences for both individual voters and for the country as a whole. FPTP Makes Unhappy Voters  Later in his affidavit, Prof. LeDucRecent points to how important it is for voters to gain parliamentary representation when they cast their vote in an election: “experimental research demonstrates clearly that voters do care about the degree to which their votes are reflected in the distribution of parliamentary seats, and that this affects their degree of satisfaction with electoral institutions and with the perceived fairness of the political system more generally.”  He presents evidence that “only about half (54%) of Canadians … were “very satisfied” or “fairly satisfied” with “the way that democracy works in this country”,” compared with much higher levels “in Denmark (92%,) Sweden (80%), or The Netherlands (78%) – all PR countries.”  “The electoral system was among the most frequently-mentioned reasons [for their dissatisfaction] – second only to the concentration of power in the executive, which is itself a function of our FPTP electoral system,” and notes that “should Canada change to a PR system, it is likely that the level of satisfaction with the political system would increase.” Negative Effects on Younger Voters Prof. LeDuc’s evidence clearly supports Prof. Karen Bird’s findings (which we described recently) that FPTP leads to under-representation of women and minority groups, and adds evidence that “young voters, whose issues and concerns differ from those of older voters, ... are typically under-represented as MPs in Parliament under the existing FPTP system. This divergence has, in recent years, contributed to declining turnout among younger age groups.” A Host of Other Negative Effects Prof. LeDuc outlines a host of other negative effects of FPTP voting in the Canadian context:  Low voter turnout: “Research has consistently found that one of the reasons for declining turnout in Canada is the feeling among citizens that their votes too often do not really count under the present system, or that the choices presented to them in many constituencies are inadequate.” Strategic voting: “Canadian voters hate the idea of strategic voting – effectively being told to vote for a candidate that they don’t want in order to prevent a candidate that they like even less from being elected. Rather than encouraging participation, this configuration more often prompts withdrawal.” Safe seats: ““Safe” seats lead to increased voter dissatisfaction and higher rates of withdrawal from voting.”  “In “swing” ridings, on the other hand, turnout tends to be higher, because voters feel that their votes matter and they have the chance to impact the election of a representative. The concepts of “safe” and “swing” ridings have no meaning under PR.” We feel that all of these issues are highly relevant to the claim we’ll be making in our arguments that our voting system does not deliver effective representation, as required by our Charter.  Wishing you a lovely and safe holiday season! Thanks for all of your tremendous support this past year.  Jesse Hitchcock, Springtide & Antony Hodgson, Fair Voting BC
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    Key Problems With FPTP Voting

    In our last post, we introduced you to Prof. Lawrence LeDuc (University of Toronto) and outlined his key argument that our First Past the Post voting system means that half the voters don’t receive legislative representation - at most, they get constituency service, but we claim that this is not the heart of our Charter right to effective representation. In Prof. LeDuc’s affidavit, he describes three additional significant problems created by our current voting system that are well-known to electoral reform advocates:  false or exaggerated parliamentary majorities, systematic under-representation of political minorities, and distorted regional and provincial representation. False Majorities:   On false or exaggerated majorities, he notes that there have been 30 elections since 1921, which was “the first federal election seriously contested by three or more political parties.”  Of these, only three have produced “true majorities”, in which the winning party’s candidates attracted over 50% of the vote.  Fourteen resulted in “false majorities”, where a party won a majority of the seats but whose candidates attracted less than 50% of the vote, and thirteen resulted in minority governments (three of which were “wrong winner” elections, “where the party with the most votes did not gain the most seats”, including our most recent election in 2019). The problem, as he points out, is that “For more than a century, our electoral system has typically failed to deliver results that accurately reflect the will of the electorate as expressed on Election Day..” Systematic Under-Representation of Political Minorities: LeDuc states that another key problem is that “Canada’s FPTP electoral system favours minor parties with concentrated sectional support, and discourages those with greater but diffuse national support.”  “This has systematically benefited supporters of the separatist Bloc Québécois, while systematically penalizing supporters of the NDP and the Green Party.” Distorted Regional and Provincial Representation: LeDuc outlines the very consequential results of this systemic under-representation: “The best-known modern case is the 1993 federal election, which produced a Parliament in which the Bloc Quebecois became the Official Opposition because the concentration of its votes in Quebec gave it 54 of the province’s 75 seats.”  In the same election, “the Progressive Conservatives were reduced to two seats, despite receiving 16% of the national vote – [2%] more than the Bloc[‘s 14%].”  And “the Liberals won 98 of the 99 seats in Ontario.”   LeDuc explains that the “fear that FPTP would exacerbate regional and linguistic tensions in Canada was fully dramatized by the 1993 outcome, and its implications for the country could be seen in the second Quebec referendum which took place two years later.”  He also states that “the National Energy Policy, and the animosity that it caused in Alberta, were direct consequences of this distortion of regional representation” in the 1980 election in which “Pierre Trudeau formed a majority government ... with no seats in British Columbia, Alberta, or Saskatchewan.”  And he notes that “the divisions and tensions in our politics caused by FPTP are not only regional or linguistic ones,” but also led to Harper’s governments in 2006 and 2008 having no “representation from Canada’s three largest cities”. LeDuc summarizes these findings by saying “For all of the reasons documented by Cairns and other scholars, FPTP, in my opinion, has never been, and is not now, an effective electoral model for a bilingual, multicultural, regionally complex federation such as Canada.”  More to come next week.  Jesse Hitchcock, Springtide & Antony Hodgson, Fair Voting BC
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Current Status:

- The case was filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on October 2019.

- Served government with affidavit and evidence package in May 2021.

- Awaiting government affidavits.
 

How you can help

The main way you can help is to support the case financially. We need to raise another $30,000 for the next stage of the case - drafting the factum. You can support the case for as little as a dollar a month.

What to expect

- Summer to Fall 2021 - preparing for cross-examination and preparing response affidavits - $35,000 fundraising goal met

- Fall 2021 to Winter 2022 - draft factum - $30,000 fundraising goal - fundraising underway

- Winter 2022 - prepare and present oral arguments - $25,000 fundraising goal

- At each step, we set a goal based on our estimate of the costs, and ask supporters to contribute to help us reach that goal, and to ensure the case can continue to move forward.