Faith in Our Vote

By Brad Wassink

A Public Justice Case for Proportional Representation

Submission to the Special Committee on Electoral Reform
October 2016
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As Christians, we believe that the federal government has a moral commitment to develop policy that is grounded in the common good, giving priority to addressing the needs of the most vulnerable in Canadian society and ensuring that Canada contributes to the well-being of people and the planet.

This work is rooted in the concept of public justice, which is defined as the political dimension of loving one’s neighbour, caring for creation, and achieving the common good. CPJ views public justice as particularly the responsibility of governments and citizens. In all aspects of our lives—personal, communal, corporate, institutional and political—we are called to implement just policies that allow everyone to live in dignity and participate in society.

Therefore, from a public justice perspective, citizenship is crucially important. Citizenship entitles people to rights, but also requires them to exercise certain responsibilities. Citizens have both the right and the obligation to participate in the creation of laws. They also have the responsibility to ensure that the common good is pursued and that the rights of the marginalized are protected and promoted.

Representation is essential to this pursuit. It requires accountability, dialogue, engagement, and an effective and accessible electoral system that respects the wishes of citizens.

Canada’s current electoral system, first-past-the-post (FPTP) is flawed in many ways. It is disproportional in its results, and it can discourage citizen engagement. It often leads to strategic voting and the perception of wasted votes, underrepresentation of women and minorities, and declining voter turnout.

There are a variety of possible alternative systems. But the one that is chosen should ensure that a diversity of perspectives among citizens is represented when public policy is made. Special care must be taken so that the rights of minorities are recognized and regarded.

Electoral systems of proportional representation (PR) have greater proportionality in their distribution of seats, foster greater engagement, and eliminate the perception of wasted votes. Some systems, such as mixed member PR, also maintain strong geographic representation.

CPJ, therefore, recommends that the Canadian government adopt a system of mixed-member proportional representation (PR) that is:

  • Effective and legitimate, yielding electoral results that match the will of the people;
  • Engaging, encouraging citizens to participate in the electoral process;
  • Accessible, maintaining a simple voting process;
  • Inclusive, representing women and minorities in the House of Commons; and
  • Representative, maintaining strong connections between voters and local representatives.

(Photo Credit: knehcsg/Flickr)

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