Voting in Canada is discouraging.
“Basically, the only time your vote has any effect is if you vote for the winner in your riding,” said retired federal returning officer Dave Brekke.
All other votes are useless.
It’s a tough situation in the Yukon, he added.
Left-leaning voters have three choices, while the right-wing electorate has one.
So, in theory, 74 per cent of the Yukon populous could vote for three representatives that aren’t elected and a party could win the election with just 26 per cent of the vote.
“Ridings are won with 35 per cent who want the person, while the other 65 per cent, that would be their last choice,” said Brekke.
The apolitical Yukoner is worried about the upcoming election, and resents the fact the current electoral system requires strategic voting.
“I dislike false majority governments,” he said, citing the 2002 territorial election.
“The Liberals got 35 per cent of the vote and got one seat, while the Yukon Party got 40 per cent and got 12 seats,” he said.
Canada’s electoral system needs to change, said Brekke.
The current system is designed for two major parties, not four or five, said Fair Vote Canada president Barbara Odenwald, from Ottawa.
In the last federal election more than seven million votes didn’t count – elect anyone, she said.
It’s not democratic, she said.
Parties win ridings with less than a third of the population’s support.
“We need to get people to understand that most of the problems in the political system are related to problems with our electoral system,” said Odenwald.
There have been attempts to change Canada’s electoral system in BC and in Ontario, but both were voted out.
“Ironically, to change the system, at least 60 per cent of voters had to be in support,” said Odenwald.
Never mind that the current system can elect people with less than 30 per cent of the vote, she said.
Of the four Yukon parties running federally, three of them want to see the electoral system change.
“Some people can’t point to anyone their vote helped elect,” said Liberal incumbent Larry Bagnell, who personally answered the phone at his campaign office.
The current system may be causing the low voter turnout, he said.
“Maybe people don’t think they can make a difference.”
At least each party now gets a set amount of money for every vote it receives, added Bagnell, who has been working with Brekke on possible electoral changes.
“We need a system that is a better reflection of who people want elected,” said NDP candidate Ken Bolton, who has also been working on electoral changes with a nonpartisan Yukon group that includes Brekke.
“The NDP and the Greens are shortchanged,” he said.
But it’s not just the NDP and the Greens, said Brekke, who has proposed a possible alternative to the present system.
Using Brekke’s system voter effectiveness went from 53.7 per cent using Canada’s present system to 94.3 per cent using the proposed system.
It elected seven Greens, and gave the NDP more seats across Canada.
The Liberals would have elected MPs in the Prairie provinces, the Conservatives would have elected MPs in large cities and the Bloc would have elected MPs where they were underrepresented, he said.
“And all parties would have lost seats where they were over-represented.”
Changing Canada’s electoral system is also part of John Streicker’s Green Party platform, he said from a cellphone while canvassing voters early Wednesday morning.
“I think we need some form of proportional representation so more Canadian voters can point to someone they elected in Parliament,” he said.
Trouble is, proposed proportional-representation systems were voted out in BC and Ontario, said Bolton.
“They may have been too complicated.”
So a simple preferential ballot, where voters rank their choices, might be the best, he said.
“Unfortunately, this doesn’t address the under-representation by women, First Nations and minorities in the current political system,” added Bolton.
“I’m sure, in our collective wisdom, Canadians can come up with a much better system.”
Calls to Conservative candidate Darrell Pasloski’s campaign office to ask about electoral reform were greeted by an answering machine.
Pasloski didn’t call back.
The current government in Canada doesn’t want electoral reform, said Odenwald.
“Why would they want to change a system that managed to weasel them (into power) when they only got a minority of the vote?” she said.
“It’s not in the government’s best interest to educate the public, because our system got them elected.”
Because of the current system, it’s necessary to vote strategically, said Brekke.
“People need to think about what could actually happen in a riding and how their vote will affect that,” added Bagnell, when asked about the possibility of a split vote electing an MP who has only 30 per cent of the vote.
“The bottom line at an election is what will have the best results for the country,” he said.