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Essay Contest Winner

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Courtenay-Alberni Greens are pleased to announce the winner of the Essay Contest Zaira Walsh of Oceanside.

If I could change the way we elect people in Canada


    Most voters want their vote to count, because otherwise, why bother voting? In Canada’s current electoral system, first-past-the-post, the political party with the most Members of Parliament elected wins the Federal election. This means that despite a large number of second or third runner-up votes, only the winning parties in each riding will represent Canadian citizens in parliament. In a system like proportional representation, every citizens’ vote counts and is worth something when it comes down to which parties win seats in parliament. For example, say a large group of voters (but not quite the majority) want the Green Party to win because they know that those politicians will do the most for the climate crisis. Of those voters, however, half of them decide to vote NDP because they know that the Green Party is unlikely to win overall, and they don’t want another party to get elected. The other half vote Green, but in the first-past-the-post system, those votes are not represented when the majority of people in that riding voted for another party. All the Green votes in that area count for nothing, because they didn’t win that riding.


    According to a chart from the Institute for Technology and Electoral Assistance, voting turnout is higher in countries with proportional representation rather than the “winner-takes-all” based systems. Countries like New Zealand, Germany, Sweden, Austria, and the Netherlands all use PR (proportional representation), and they all have a higher voter turnout than countries like Canada, the UK, and France, with the “winner-takes-all” type system. For Example, in recent elections, New Zealand had a 78.9% turnout, and Sweden had a 87.2% turnout, versus Canada’s 67.7% turnout. This is only one of many reasons that PR would better represent every voter. This study shows that citizens are more encouraged to vote when they know that their opinion will be affecting the country even if their chosen party does not win the election in their area. This being said, there should be a minimum number of votes for a party to hold any representation. 


    Improvements in income equality, sustainability action, and reduced child mortality rates, are among the many benefits of PR. When each individual’s vote counts, they are more likely to have a high quality of life, assuming that the party they vote for follows through with their promises. “Political preferences of low-income citizens are better represented in a PR system.” (Berneur, Gigger, and Rosset, 2015). Another issue is climate change. The climate crisis is urgent and immediate. A 2010 study by Cohen found that PR countries acted faster on climate change, and in 2014, Orellana came to the conclusion that those countries using a PR system made a 117% greater use of renewables. In terms of population health, according to Gathman (2019), PR led to a 15% decline in child mortality rates and in infectious diseases. 


    In conclusion, there are many reasons to change to a PR system, with research and studies that back up these findings. It could be assumed, however, that the main reason Canada did not switch to the PR system when it was voted on in 2018, is because many citizens simply do not understand the system. PR can sound complicated and confusing, but in reality it better represents the wishes of the people, and there are more than several countries with successful PR systems in place that prove it is a reasonable and effective electoral system.

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