New myth-busting report spells out case for proportional representation




OTTAWA — Nine million votes were wasted in the 2015 election under Canada’s winner-take-all electoral system – that’s more than the populations of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Atlantic provinces combined, according to a new electoral reform primer outlining why the principle of proportionality must underpin the government’s promise to bring in voting reform by the next federal election.

An electoral system for all: Why Canada should adopt proportional representation, authored by University of British Columbia political scientist David Moscrop, was commissioned by the Broadbent Institute after the newly elected Liberal government promised that the 2015 federal election would be the last one using first-past-the-post.

“It’s early in the national conversation on electoral reform, and we’ve already heard lots of myths about proportional representation, so we wanted to set the record straight. The primer does this in spades,” said Rick Smith, Executive Director of the Broadbent Institute.

Moscrop traces what’s wrong with our current system, which predates Confederation, and outlines why a “proportional system that’s fair, representative and engaging is best for Canada’s democracy in the 21st century.”

Research shows that under proportional representation, Canadians could see voter turnout increase by five to seven per cent. Such an increase would have translated into between 1.3 and 1.8 million more ballots cast in 2015 based on turnout in the October election. 

“This is hugely important. Turnout has been in decline in Canada for decades. In 2008, it got so bad that only 58.8 per cent of eligible voters voted – the lowest in our history. In 2015, voter turnout was 68.5 per cent. Which we celebrated,” the primer states, which also points out that under proportional representation, Canadians can expect 1.5 to eight per cent more women elected than under the current system of first-past-the-post and, if properly designed, could help make sure the country’s diverse population is better reflected in the House of Commons. 

Other myths busted in the paper include concerns over frequent elections and instability if Canada adopted proportional representation. “We have had more federal elections than many other democracies: 22 since 1945. That makes us even more ‘unstable’ than Italy – a country that uses PR and is often used as the poster child for instability,” the report states.

The Liberals promised to bring in electoral reform legislation within 18 monthsafter studying the issue and consulting Canadians. The Broadbent Institute is pleased to have joined with 15 other leading Canadian organizations last week to launch the Every Voter Counts Alliance, a broad coalition dedicated to implementing a voting system in Ottawa based on the principle of proportionality before the 2019 federal election. Since the launch, an additional eight groups have signed on as supporting organizations. 

“The move to proportional representation is important for the future of Canada. The Broadbent Institute looks forward to contributing to this debate in a thoughtful and energetic way,” added Smith. 

The report is available online at


For more information or arrange an interview with author David Moscrop, please contact Sarah Schmidt, Director of Communications, Broadbent Institute, sschmidt[at]broadbentinstitute[dot]ca or 613-857-2814.