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Michael TaubePrime Minister Justin Trudeau wants to change Canada’s voting system to make it more democratic and representative of the people’s views. Unfortunately, the Liberals’ preferred electoral reform model isn’t representative of either value.

Let me explain why.

Canada uses a first-past-the-post system (FPTP) for federal elections. The political candidate who finishes first in a riding is declared the winner. A parliamentary seat can be earned by as little as one vote, or as many as one million votes.

This “winner take all” strategy has been used since before Confederation. Alas, it renders a party’s overall popular support virtually meaningless.

For example, in 2011 the Tories won a majority government (166 out of 308 seats) with 39.62 percent of popular support in 2011. In 2015, the Liberals also won a majority government (184 out of 338 seats) with 39.47 percent of popular support.

In the comparison, the slightly more popular Tories won fewer seats than the Liberals.

Canada’s two major parties still support FPTP (even if it doesn’t always work to their advantage) because it typically favours political outfits with more money, influence and provincial roots. Until Trudeau became prime minister, you rarely heard a peep out of them.

That’s why the other parties support proportional representation (PR). It is claimed that PR would create a more level playing field for elections, and ensure the popular vote is reflected in the result.

If PR had existed in Canada, we would have had mostly minority-led Liberal and Tory governments. The NDP, Greens, Bloc Quebecois and others would have also gained additional seats, based on reaching a threshold of popular support (usually five percent).

Here’s the problem. Many PR models exist in different countries. Some are simple to understand, others are far more complex. This has confused Canadians about PR in general. It’s also caused some provincial referendums about electoral reform (including Ontario’s attempt to switch to mixed-member proportional in 2007, and B.C.’s attempts to switch to single transferable vote in 2005 and 2009) to become heavily muddled.

The Trudeau Liberals are taking a different approach. There won’t be a nationwide referendum on PR. A committee that has been set up to examine the issue will be heavily influenced by Ottawa, for obvious political reasons. Moreover, the Liberals will operate under the guise of lightly discussing PR, but heavily push for a preferential ballot.

In this electoral reform model, voters rank their choices. If a riding has five candidates, then you can have a first choice, second choice, and so on. While you don’t have to rank them all, voters in countries that use preferential balloting have tended to do so.

If the first choice ballots don’t produce a victor, the last place candidate is immediately dropped. His/her votes are automatically shuffled to the second choice candidate (if marked on a ballot). This process continues until one candidate reaches 50 percent of popular support, and is declared the winner.

While it sounds like a reasonable solution, it’s actually not.

The Liberals may not be every voter’s first choice, but the party traditionally ranks high as a second choice to keep the Tories and NDP out of power. This existing scenario would translate very well in preferential balloting – and the Trudeau government knows it, even if they repeatedly deny it.

The right-leaning Tories would do well on first choice ballots with core supporters, but would get wiped out on second choice ballots. The left-leaning NDP would get out-muscled by the centre-left Liberals, and collapse in many ridings. Smaller parties would struggle to ever make real electoral gains.

Hence, a shift to preferential balloting would clip opposition parties at their heels, and keep the Liberals firmly in power for many years.

This isn’t democracy, ladies and gentlemen. It’s the continuation of Liberal hegemony in the most undemocratic fashion imaginable.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

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