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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  • Latest from the blog

    “Majorities” Aren’t Really Majorities

    In our last post, we introduced you to the first pieces of evidence laid out in the affidavit written by Antony Hodgson (president of Fair Voting BC), in collaboration with Byron Weber Becker (University of Waterloo) and Fred Cutler (University of British Columbia), about the results of the 2019 federal election and described our key evidence that fewer than half the voters ended up voting for an elected MP (crucial for our argument that half the voters are not effectively represented). Government MPs Typically Represent Only a Quarter of Voters After that, our affidavit makes the additional point that, “regardless of whether a government is a majority or a minority, the MPs elected to the governing party are routinely elected by only a small minority of voters” - typically less than a quarter of them. “For example, in the 2019 federal election, the 157 MPs belonging to the Liberal Party were elected by only 3.7 million of the 17.9 million voters who participated in that election (20.8%). Even in the 2015 election, which returned a majority government, the 184 MPs belonging to the Liberal Party were elected by only 4.6 million of the 17.7 million voters who participated in that election (26.2%).”   This evidence will let us argue that our current voting system does not respect one of the core tenets of democracy - namely, that legislative decisions should be made by representatives elected by a majority of voters.  Thanks to Byron Weber Becker, we were able to process historical election data in Canada going back to our first election as a country in 1867.  The figure below shows that it’s been a consistent feature of Canadian elections for our entire history that MPs from the winning party are elected by only about a quarter of the voters. Percentage of effective votes (solid shades) and ‘wasted’ votes (lighter shades) cast for the party that won the greatest number of seats in each Canadian federal election. We have also been able to show that “the winning party’s vote share (as received by all its candidates) has historically been going down” - even when counting just the elections resulting in majority governments, where the winning party’s candidates received a vote share “averaging 44.7% in the first four elections [of the past 40 years] resulting in a majority (1980, 1984, 1988, and 1993) and decreasing to an average of 39.6% in the last four resulting in a majority (1997, 2000, 2011, and 2015).” Canada Has Moved Away From Principle of Majority Rule:  We concluded that, “overall, the typical result of Canadian federal elections under FPTP in recent decades is that candidates from the party that wins the most seats [only] win up to about 40% of the popular vote. Yet despite there having been only a single true majority government in the past 59 years (after the 1958 election) and despite having its MPs elected based on votes cast by little more than a quarter of the voters (typically cast in a limited portion of the country), the party winning the most seats nonetheless secures majority power in Parliament close to 70% of the time (~41 of the 59 years). This suggests that Canada has over the past few decades moved decisively away from the principle of “majority rule”.” Stay tuned for more information! 
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    Case Update & Introducing Fair Voting BC Evidence

    As a follow-up to our last communication, we are still waiting for the government affidavits. It could be a few more weeks at this point, and we'll share any new updates as soon as possible. In the meantime, we're pleased to share more information from our case evidence.  Fair Voting BC Evidence  Over the past number of months, we’ve walked you through the evidence put forward by the four expert witnesses we invited to submit affidavits in this case:  Profs. Nadia Urbinati (Columbia University), John Carey (Dartmouth College), Karen Bird (McMaster University) and Lawrence LeDuc (University of Toronto). In addition to these experts, Antony Hodgson (president of Fair Voting BC and a professor at the University of British Columbia) also worked closely with some other experts (Byron Weber Becker (University of Waterloo) and Fred Cutler (University of British Columbia) to put together our own unique analyses to support our key contention that the First Past the Post voting system fails to effectively represent voters. In the coming few emails, we’ll share key insights.  Antony Hodgson (President, Fair Voting BC & University of British Columbia), Byron Weber Becker (University of Waterloo) and Fred Cutler (University of British Columbia). The 2019 Canadian Federal Election The first section of our affidavit reviews the results of Canada’s 2019 election in order to illustrate in our own national context some of the key problems described by the expert witnesses. The first thing we pointed out was that “in a strong majority of ridings in the 2019 Canadian election (215 out of 338, or 63.6% of them), the winning candidate did not win a majority of votes. Many won significantly less. In particular, two candidates were elected with less than 30% of the votes cast in their ridings.” While this is an interesting first point for the court to consider, we went on to make an even more important and central point by stating that it is important “to distinguish between votes cast for candidates who are elected and those that are not. We define a vote cast for an elected candidate as “effective”, as such a vote affects the composition of the legislature, and one cast for a candidate who is not elected as “ineffective”, as such votes do not have any effect on the composition of the legislature. Ineffective votes are commonly referred to as “wasted votes.”” “Of the 17.9 million voters who cast votes in 2019, a majority of over 9.1 million (51.0%) cast wasted votes.” This is the main fact that we plan to rely on in making our case - over half the voters do not have an MP they have voted for, and we will argue (based on Prof. Urbinati’s evidence) that this consequence of FPTP implies that these voters are not effectively represented. In addition, “There was a strong link between a voter’s political preferences and the likelihood of casting a wasted vote, with supporters of some parties affected to a greater extent than others. Large majorities of voters who voted for the NDP, the Green Party, the People’s Party of Canada, or for independent candidates in the last election cast a wasted vote” (as well as significant numbers of Liberal and Conservative voters - see figure below), which means that certain kinds of voters (“characterized by political preference and region”) are systematically discriminated against.   Representation of effective votes (solid shades) and ineffective, or wasted, votes (lighter shades) cast by party in the 2019 Canadian federal election. An effective vote is one cast for a winning candidate, while a wasted vote is one cast for a losing candidate. In upcoming messages, we’ll dive deeper into the rest of the evidence we’ve put together. Voices from the Movement - Event Recording A big thank you to those who attended the Voices from the Movement Session, presented by Unlock Democracy Canada. If you were unable to attend or would like to revisit, a recording of the session is available here. 
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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

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

- Late Spring/Summmer 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.