Would Canadian voters benefit from a two party political system like they have south of the border?
It’s something that has been discussed around many a dinner table in Canada, and there are several solid arguments both for and against the idea.
Those opposed to a two party system – which would of course consist of a liberal-minded representative on the left and a conservative on the right – say that it is a good thing that Canadians have more choice when it comes to who they want to run their country and/or province.
But there are a few factors that come into play for those in favour of a two party system, and these factors make the argument that much more interesting.
A federal election is expected this coming October, but let’s begin by examining what happened in the recent provincial election, which saw the NDP shock the long-time ruling Alberta PCs.
The main contention when it comes to elections in Canada is that the victor more often than not comes away with support from around one third of the voting population, so in essence, our leaders, both federally and provincially, rarely have support from the majority of Canadians.
In Alberta’s election, we saw Rachel Notley’s NDPs storm to power in a crushing defeat of the PCs.
In the Banff-Cochrane riding, NDP MLA-elect Cameron Westhead garnered support of 8,428 of 19,615 total voters; that’s 43 per cent. The remaining 57 per cent went to the PCs and Wildrose, two ‘right wing’ parties (if you were to assume for the sake of this argument that the PCs are ‘right wing’).
Provincially, the NDP got 40 per cent of the popular vote and the Liberals saw four per cent, so 44 per cent voted left.
The PCs and Wildrose had 28 per cent and 25 per cent respectively, meaning 53 per cent went right.
Three per cent went to a variety of other parties, such as the Alberta Party, and yes, event the Communist Party of Alberta.
The provincial NDP benefited greatly with the vote on the right being split between the PCs and Wildrose, much like the federal Conservative Party of Canada benefits with votes on the left being shared between the Liberal Party of Canada and federal NDP.
When it comes to federal parties, it’s quite interesting (and extremely lopsided) to see that out of six parties that have candidates in any given election, only one is on the ‘right’ side of the fence.
Splitting votes on the left you have the NDP, Liberal, Green Party, Bloc Quebecois and now the Forces et Democratie, a new party that currently holds two seats in the House of Commons.
The last federal election in 2011, saw the lone conservative party garner just under 40 per cent of the popular vote, while left wing parties (NDP, Liberals, Green Party and Bloc) got 59.49 per cent.
There are, of course, certain intricacies with a parliamentary system of government as opposed to a simple popular vote model, like they do in the U.S. But there remains a connection between being popular (more individual votes) and winning enough ridings to form a majority or minority government.
If Canada were to offer one choice on the right and one on the left, granted, there would not be as much choice for voters, but there would be far more support and accountability for the party that came out on top.
The last time a federal party leader saw support of more than half the Canadian voting population was in 1984. Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative Party garnered 50.03 per cent of the vote.
Before that, you have to go back to John Diefenbaker in 1958, when he won 53.67 per cent of the popular vote.
What would Canada’s and each province’s political landscape look like if we had a two party system? Better, worse…simply different, but mostly the same?
By nature, most people tend to gravitate to one side of the political spectrum or the other…you are either a conservative or a liberal, and you’ll vote for whichever party is aligned with your ideology.
The way Canada’s political system is currently set up (based on the U.K. model) it creates quite a distorted sense of what success should look like and has given many provincial and federal politicians a false sense of popularity.