Court challenge against Canada’s unfair voting system to be filed today

For immediate release: October 9th, 2019

(Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver) - With the financial support of over 800 Canadians from all provinces and two territories, a pair of non-profit organizations will file a court challenge this morning to contest the constitutionality of the voting system used in Canadian federal elections. 

The Charter Challenge for Fair Voting is a court challenge driven by the understanding that each Canadian has the right to effective representation and equal treatment before the law; and that these rights are violated by the federal voting system. The case will be filed in Toronto this morning with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

What’s the problem? 

  • In the 2015 federal election 52% of voters cast ballots for candidates that didn’t end up in Parliament, and roughly half of Canadian voters are regularly unrepresented in any given Canadian parliament.
  • Votes are converted into seats in Parliament in an arbitrary and unfair manner, resulting in an arbitrary and unfair distribution of legislative power. 
  • Many voters repeatedly face strong incentives to vote ‘strategically’ for candidates other than their preferred choice, in order to prevent an even less appealing candidate from winning. 

What is the goal of this challenge?

  • To have Canadian courts rule that Canada’s unfair voting system does not meet the requirements of the Charter, specifically sections 3 and 15, and to have the courts order the government to develop a charter-compliant voting system where all voters are represented in Parliament. 
  • Under section 3, the application filed today argues that the federal voting system violates Canadians’ rights to effective representation, meaningful participation, and fair and legitimate elections. 
  • Under section 15, the filing claims that FPTP discriminates against voters and candidates on the basis of political belief and against candidates on the basis of race, sex, and ethnicity.  

Who is involved? 

  • The challenge is a collaboration between Fair Voting BC and Springtide (based in Nova Scotia). Fair Voting BC and Springtide have both been active in research and advocacy for electoral reform at the federal level. Both groups are named as applicants in the Notice of Application filed this morning. 
  • Springtide and Fair Voting BC have retained Toronto-based constitutional lawyer Nicolas Rouleau as legal counsel. 
  • Financial support for the case comes from over 800 individual donors, and organizers will continue to seek the support of Canadians to advance the case as it progresses. 

More information: 

  • The Notice of Application being filed today is available here.
  • Charter Challenge for Fair Voting website: www.charterchallenge.ca
  • Follow the Charter Challenge for Fair Voting for case updates on Twitter: @challenge4fv
  • Concerned Canadians can help support the costs of advancing this case with a tax-deductible donation here.

Quotes

“Canada's first-past-the-post system is unfair to large segments of the population. It discriminates against and fails to represent minorities. It leaves countless other Canadians with little voice in the deliberations of Parliament. There is a strong argument that it is unconstitutional.” 

- Nicolas Rouleau, legal counsel

“We live in a representative democracy. Every voter’s vote should help elect an MP who will represent their views in Parliament.” 

- Antony Hodgson, president of Fair Voting BC 

“We have a voting system that reliably excludes millions of Canadian voters from being represented by someone for whom they have voted.” 

- Mark Coffin, executive director of Springtide 

 

Contact:

To arrange an interview, or for more information. please contact: 

Mark Coffin 

902-989-3668 

mark@springtide.ngo

- - -

Stay tuned to this blog for updates on electoral reform and the Charter Challenge for Fair Voting.

Get Charter Challenge updates by following SPRINGTIDE on Facebook and Twitter.

Sign up for email updates from the Charter Challenge for Fair Voting here:

By subscribing to this list you consent to being contacted by both Springtide and Fair Voting BC.

  • Mark Coffin
    published this page in Blog Updates 2019-10-09 11:53:12 -0300


Like and Follow

- - -

Current Status:

- In early August of 2019, we raised enough support ($70,000) to cover the costs of preparing a court application and securing expert testimony for our case.

- The case is being filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on October 9th, 2019
 

How you can help

The main way you can help is to support the case financially. We need to raise another $150,000 to cover the costs associated with arguing the case at two levels of provincial court, and to file an application for leave with the Supreme Court of Canada. You can make a tax-deductible donation here.


What to expect

- Once filed, the case will be heard in a provincial court.

- Following an initial decision, there will be an appeal heard in another court. If the initial decision is in our favour, the Government of Canada will likely appeal it. If the decision is not in our favour, we will appeal it.

- Finally, the case may be heard by the Supreme Court. If the decision of the appeal court is in our favour, we suspect the Government will request leave from the Supreme Court. If the decision of the appeal court is in the government's favour, we will request leave from the Supreme Court to hear the case. If the case is heard in the Supreme Court of Canada, the decision will be final. If the case isn’t granted leave to be heard in the Supreme Court, the decision of the appeal court will be final.


Time and Money

We estimate the total costs for arguing and overseeing this case to be in the range of $300,000 - $350,000, spread out over the course of 2 - 4 years.

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