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The Liberals’ dramatic victory may alter the importance of the popular vote, but our electoral system isn’t changing any time soon
Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party managed to scrape together 157 seats in the House of Commons to form a minority government in the federal election, while the Conservatives, despite winning the popular vote, will form the official Opposition with just 121 seats.
In his first federal campaign four years ago, Trudeau said he would replace Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system in favour of proportional representation, though that promise fell short out of fear of pushing legislation without support from the other major parties.
Patrice Dutil, a politics and public administration professor at Ryerson, says he isn’t surprised that Trudeau’s campaign promise to eliminate first-past-the-post never came to fruition.
“First-past-the-post has served the Liberal party extremely well in its history,” Dutil said. “If we were in a proportional situation and the Tories had the same votes and representation in the legislature as the Liberals, they could easily form government with the Bloc Québécois.”
When it comes to electoral reform, Dutil says that revamping the voting system would actually end up doing more harm than good to Canada’s future elections.
“I think in a country like ours, which is very decentralized and prone to very intense local political cultures, within a generation, Canada would cease to exist,” he said.
Reese Nemeth, the vice-president of events for Ryerson Campus Conservatives, says last week’s federal election only serves as a reminder of the importance of strategic local campaigning.
“It goes to show that in reality, the way our system works, the popular vote has little to do with the outcome,” he said. “Having strong local campaigns is vital to ensuring that the parties have strong regional representation.”
Trudeau’s re-election has affirmed the permanence of first-past-the-post, so with the popular vote’s importance diminished, strategic campaigning will play a greater role in elections to come.