Building a Better Ontario: Electoral Reform for the People

Credit: Policy Note

While the pandemic and economic insecurity remain front and centre in Ontario’s politics, the province’s 2022 election is not all that far away. It will test Doug Ford’s performance for which he has had few checks on his power. 

His majority government afforded him the ability to change the rules of government in 2019. This is not the norm, but a controversial move so the Conservatives can pass legislation quickly – with little opposition or public input. Now, Ford has used a bill called the “COVID-19 Recovery Act” as a façade to make unrelated changes to schools, municipalities, and the justice system.

Ford accrued this power and stifled debate because the electoral rules allow him to. Ontario’s first-past-the-post electoral system incentives majority rule by the minority in that majority governments are elected without a majority of people voting for them. We need a system the reflects the values and interests of Canadians.

For Our Future proposes regional-list proportional representation: a simple, but empowering electoral system that ensures proportionality, regional representation, directly elected candidates, no wasted votes, and drastically expands voting rights.

The Details

Nomination Elections. Under the proposed system, nomination elections for each political party would be held in each sub-district (current ridings) on the same day in which all adult Canadians can participate. This may come to be known as 'Nomination Day' and would come months prior to the general election.

Here, voters would simply rank their preferences of nominees for each party (ranked ballot election). This would allow Canadians to vote for who they believe would best represent their local sub-district from each party, not just the party to which they are loyal. Political parties would retain the right to decide who can be a nominee for their party in each sub-district, thereby ensuring that each nominee adheres to the values of their respective party.

General Election. The general election would be changed to a proportional representation system with new, larger voting districts that represent Canada’s distinct regions. The most important change brought by this new system is that it allows constituents to vote for a party, and not just a candidate. Importantly, to prevent unsavoury political parties from gaining political power a three percent threshold to gains seats would be instituted.

Once the election is over, parties would be granted seats in the legislature in accordance with the regional-list proportional representation system. In each district, the party with the highest percentage of the popular vote would be given the first seat. This seat would be given to the sub-district that the party had its highest percentage of votes within. The party with the second-highest percentage of the popular vote would then fill its first seat under the same method. This would work in a cyclical fashion until all seats are filled. The nominees that won their nomination elections and represented the party that won a seat for their sub-district would become Members of Parliament.

Indigenous Elections. Finally, one of the most innovative elements of this system would be the creation of virtual Indigenous districts that provide greater equity and inclusivity in Canada’s electoral system. Similar to the system for New Zealand’s indigenous Māori people, virtual Indigenous districts would be similar to the regional districts, with sub-districts that better represent Indigenous communities. Under this system, voting method and seat allocation processes would be the same as the nomination and general elections, however, it would be exclusive to self-identifying Indigenous persons.

What this Means for You

Proportionality is one of the two central tenets of this system. First, this system’s seat share will always equal the vote share. Not only does this produce fair results, but there will be no wasted votes, everyone’s voice is heard and represented. Secondly, people can continue to directly elect their candidates, maintaining regional representation in the legislature.

Expanding the right to vote would be the greatest achievement. Democracy has been traditionally understood narrowly. Citizens have one vote and that is for a local candidate to be elected to the legislature. With RLPR, citizens are granted one vote per political party in their nomination elections. Despite your political leaning, everyone ought to be allowed to have a say in how they are represented even if “their party” loses.

We propose Region-list Proportional Representation because it increases the democratic power of Canadians and shifts power away from the electoral minority and to the majority. This policy change should not be seen as radical, but the right thing to do. If you agree, sign the petition below and make a difference.