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The Electoral System of Canada

Discuss About The Electoral Minority Political Representation?

The above quoted lines of B.R. Ambedkar from “Writings And Speeches: A Ready Reference Manual” clearly indicates the meaning of Constitution which forms a basic aspect of the government of all countries. A Constitution is a written or oral document of fundamental precedents or principles which guide the governance of a particular nation or country[1]. Almost every Constitution of the world provides provisions for the electoral system through which the citizens can elect their leaders or the government to be more precise. Commenting on the importance of the Electoral system and the role of each citizen within it Albert Einstein said, “The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure”[2]. Therefore, the role which each individual plays in the electoral system is very significant and the exercise of that role is very important for the achievement of the idea condition of democracy[3]. The essay intends to shed light on the electoral system of Canada. The thesis statement of this particular essay is whether the country of Canada needs a new electoral system or not.


The government of Canada is based on “Constitutional Monarchy” with strong democratic traditions[4]. It is interesting to note that the democracy of Canada is ranked at the 6th position among all the nations of the world with an impressive rating of 9.15 out 10, with a turnout percentage of 68.49 during the elections[5]. In the political system of Canada, the Monarch is the constitutional head of the state[6]. The Monarch is vested with the power to appoint the Prime Minister but in reality he appoints the leader of the party with the majority votes as the Prime Minister of the nation[7]. The Parliament is divided into two houses- the “House of Commons” and the “Senate”[8]. There are two major political parties in the nation, namely, “Liberal Party of Canada” and “Conservative Party of Canada”[9]. However, in the present times it is seen that various new political parties like “Bloc Québécois” and “Green Party of Canada” and others.

It is to be noted that "first past the post" system forms the basis of the electoral system of the country of Canada[10]. The party with the majority of the votes forms the government. However, it is often seen that one party seldom attains the majority in the general elections. Therefore, majority of the times it is seen that the government is formed by the process of coalition. As already mentioned the Parliament of the country consists of two houses- the “House of Common” and the “Senate”[11]. The “House of Common” consists of the members selected on the basis on the general elections and they are generally considered to be the representatives of the common people. The “Senate” members on the other hand, are selected by the Governor General of the nations, primary on the recommendation of the Prime Minister of the nation. Initially, the elections were called in by the Prime Minister of the country. However, in the year 2007, the Conservative Parliament of the nation passed a dictum according to which the elections were to be conducted after an interval of every 4 years[12]. In line with the dictum of Larry J. Sabato given in the book “Pendulum Swing”, “Every election is determined by the people who show up”, Canada is one of the few nations of the world where the majority of the few people believe in exercising their fundamental rights[13]. It is to be noted that the number of representatives in the “House of Commons” from a particular region depends on the population of that region, the size of that particular region and also the economic links of that region. The aboriginals as well as the Indians also get representation in the “House of Commons”.  The job of conducting the elections is imbued with the “Office of the Chief Electoral Officer”, also called by the name of “Elections Canada” [14].

Equal Voting Rights


It is to be noted that the electoral system of Canada is a flexible one in comparison to the other nations of the world. All the citizens of the nations above the age of 18 years are eligible to vote in the elections. It is to be noted that until 1970, the government had a rule according to which only the citizens over the age of 21 years were eligible to vote in the general elections[15]. According to the Constitution of the nation, “The franchise – the right to vote for one’s representative – is the fundamental political right. It produces the most direct verdict by citizens on the performance of those who govern them. It is … “the key stone in the arch of the modern system of political rights in this country””[16]. Therefore, the government provides equal voting rights to all its citizens. The government also takes into consideration the voting rights of the aboriginals and various other entities for the elections. It is to be noted that the government of Canada provides voting rights to the Indians and others foreign people living over there provided that they forfeit their natural citizenship of their motherland. The comment of Gerald Alfred is interesting to note in this particular context, “It has been said that being born Indian is being born into politics. I believe this to be true; because being born a Mohawk of Kahnawake, I do not remember a time free from the impact of political conflict”[17]. The voting process of the elections conducted by the government of Canada has been designed taking into consideration the comfort level of the various entities of the country. The citizens can go to the various polling booths to cast their votes. In addition to that for the medically disabled people as well as the ones who are hospitalized there are stipulations by means of which they can cast their votes through online means in the presence of representative election officers. In case of people who are even unable to avail the services of the online voting system and who are residing in the far off places the election commission even provides provisions wherein they can cast their votes at a later date during the “advanced polls”[18]. In addition to this, at the polling booth there are officials speaking both English and French languages in a bid to help the voters. These are some of the rare features which rarely any nation provides to its citizens.

Promoting Equal Representation


The Constitution of Canada provides for the equal representation of all the entities of the nation. According to the Constitution, “The electoral system should have the confidence of Ontarians and reflect their values”. This statement speaks volumes about the policy of equal representation followed by the government of Canada for the selection of the representatives. It is to be noted that legitimacy is one of the most important features of the electoral system of Canada. According to the Constitution, “legitimacy is the result or consequence of a good electoral system”. Therefore, the government of Canada seeks to promote the legitimacy of the electoral system through the policy of equal representation of all its entities. Commenting on the aspect of equal representation, the Constitution of the nation says that “The Legislative Assembly should reflect the population of Ontario in accordance with demographic representation, proportionality and representation by population among other factors”. Therefore, the elected personnels of the “House of Commons” indicate the overall makeup of the population of that particular province in terms of cultural identity, ethnicity, gender, class, economy and various other parameters[19]. The Elections Canada in order to encourage the participation of the aboriginals in the elections in the year 2006 launched a campaign with the slogan “I can choose to make a difference. I can vote”[20]. In the opinion of B.R. Ambedkar, “It is not enough to be electors only. It is necessary to be law-makers; otherwise those who can be law-makers will be the masters of those who can only be electors”. Therefore, the Canadian electoral system provides provision for the equal voting rights for all its citizens, irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, education and various other attributes and also provides equal opportunity to the candidates for participating in the general elections[21]. It is to be noted that the candidates participating in the elections can participate on behalf of any of the political parties or they can even participate in the elections as individual members as well. Another important fact to be noted about the Canadian electoral system is the proportionality system which it follows for the selection of the representatives in the “House of Commons”. The number of representatives elected to the “House of Commons” from a particular region or area is directly proportional to the total population as well as the area of that region. Therefore, each of the votes casted by the voters holds significance for the candidates participating in the general elections. This policy has been designed as per the dictum of Abraham Lincoln according to whom “The ballot is stronger than the bullet”[22].

There are people, on the other hand, who consider that the electoral system should be modified as it does not cater to all the needs as well as the requirements of the people. These people use the argument of Euripides from his play “Orestes” to justify their arguments,

“When one with honeyed words but evil mind"

The major bone of contention for these people is the “first past the rope” policy used by the electoral system of Canada for the selection of the party which would form the government[23]. Another argument used by them is the multiple riding policy used by the electoral system[24]. These people even feel that the minorities do not get adequate representation in the elections and in the “House of Commons”. They are even of the opinion that there is a certain amount of regional misrepresentation in the elections and even in the “House of Commons”[25]. According to DaShanne Stokes, “Free elections don't always result in fair elections”[26]. Therefore, they repudiate the present electoral system of the nation of Canada. However, it is to be noted that the electoral system of Canada is one of the most innovated ones among the various countries of the world and the nations is considered as one of the premier ones which practices the various precepts of the concept of democracy. It is to be noted that the “first past the rope” policy used by the Canadian government is one of the most fair ones, which gives priority to the choices of the people and is in use in most of the major democratic countries of the world[27]. It is true there are instances in which the minority people do not get equal amount of representation in the “House of Commons” but those instances are very rare and the electoral system has special provisions which ensure that such instances do not happen on a regular basis. Moreover, changing the electoral system and making it from the grass root level would not only incur a huge amount of capital but would also lead to a significant drainage of the resources of the nations. In the opinion of Abraham Lincoln, “Don't interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties”[28]. Thus, it is advisable not to change the overall electoral system of the nation but rather to modify it as per the changing needs as well as the requirements of the people.

Therefore, from the above discussion it becomes clear that the electoral system of Canada is a very fair one and provides equal opportunities to all its citizens. The electoral system also safeguards the liberty of the people and also takes into consideration the various changing needs as well as the requirements of the people and also the changing global scenario. The electoral system also safeguards the democracy of the nations and it is very important not for the nation but for the entire world as Canada is one of the major supporter of the system of democracy.

References

"Canadian Electoral Reform". 2018. Sfu.Ca. https://www.sfu.ca/~aheard/elections/reform.html.

"Citizens Assembly". 2018. Citizensassembly.Gov.On.Ca. https://www.citizensassembly.gov.on.ca/en-CA/docs/Introductory/Principles%20and%20Characteristics%20of%20Electoral%20Systems.pdf.

 "Elections Canada". 2018. Elections.Ca. https://elections.ca/res/rec/part/paper/aboriginal/aboriginal_e.pdf.

"House Of Commons". 2018. Ourcommons.Ca. https://www.ourcommons.ca/content/Committee/421/ERRE/Brief/BR8550163/br-external/McCullochStephen-e.pdf.

"Your Vote Should Count". 2018. Broadbent Institute. https://www.broadbentinstitute.ca/electoral_reform.

Ahmed, Amel. Democracy and the politics of electoral system choice: engineering electoral dominance. Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Bickerton, James, and Alain-G. Gagnon, eds. Canadian politics. University of Toronto Press, 2014.

Bowler, Shaun, and Todd Donovan. The limits of electoral reform. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Forest, Benjamin. "Electoral redistricting and minority political representation in Canada and the United States." The Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe canadien 56, no. 3 (2012): 318-338.

Joseph, Rebecca. 2018. "Canada Is A ‘Full’ Democracy, U.S. Is Not: Report". Global News. https://globalnews.ca/news/3999377/canada-us-democracy-2017/.

Kohut, Tania. 2018. "What Trudeau Said: A Look Back At Liberal Promises On Electoral Reform". Global News. https://globalnews.ca/news/3102270/justin-trudeau-liberals-electoral-reform-changing-promises/.

Mackie, Thomas T., and Richard Rose. The international almanac of electoral history. Springer, 2016.

Office, Privy. 2018. "Electoral Systems Factsheet - Canada.Ca". Canada.Ca. https://www.canada.ca/en/campaign/electoral-reform/learn-about-canadian-federal-electoral-reform/electoral-systems-factsheet.html.

WILSON, JOHN, and TERENCE QUALTER. 2018. "Canadian Electoral Systems". The Canadian Encyclopedia. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/electoral-systems/.

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