Canada is a very free country, but unfortunately not a very democratic one. Not when our electoral system consistently gives us governments that most of us don’t choose.

For example, during the decade of the Harper government, the Conservatives never even managed to get 40 percent of voter support. The Liberals have done no better, also never achieving 40 percent support since returning to power in 2015. In fact, in the last two elections they received fewer votes than the Conservatives.

They have at least now, by creating an agreement with the New Democrats, formed a government that represents a majority of Canadians. Together they represent 51 percent of us, a bare majority.

Democracy is based on political equality, oft expressed as one citizen, one vote, each vote equal to every other. Obviously in our elections some citizen’s votes are more equal than others. Many simply don’t count.

The fault lies in our archaic first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system. A candidate wins a constituency even if other candidates combined get more votes. And a party forms a government if it wins more constituencies than any other even if other parties combined win more votes. One hundred percent of the power with a minority support of the citizens is a norm in Canadian politics.

This isn’t necessary. There are a variety of electoral systems which result in every party getting the number of seats it deserves—the number proportionate to its share of the votes. Voila, democracy! A country can choose a proportional system, or mix and match systems to develop one that best suits its circumstances.

FPTP is not only an undemocratic system, it is particularly bad for a highly regionalized country such as ours. A province like Alberta which is heavily committed to one party can wind up heavily under-represented in Ottawa. Under a proportional representation (PR) system, Alberta would have the number of MPs from each party that each party’s voting share dictated.

During the Trudeau père years, Alberta was seriously under-represented, at one time having no MPs in the government caucus at all, and this contributed to the hostilities that very nearly broke up the country. Under a PR system, the province would always have been represented in the government caucus.

One of the major Liberal promises when they assumed power in 2015 was that there would never be another election with FPTP. They betrayed the promise, plunging us into two elections since under the old archaic rules. This week they had a chance to redeem themselves.

The House of Commons debated Motion M-86, a motion to establish a national citizens’ assembly to consider electoral reform. The assembly would consider various voting systems, consult fellow citizens and experts, and make recommendations. Here was an opportunity to move decisively toward a democratic system.

It was defeated overwhelmingly 219 to 102. The NDP, Green Party and the Bloc MPs all voted yea along with 40 Liberals and three Conservatives.

That the three small parties voted in support is to be expected. Not only are all three progressive but small parties tend to suffer more under FPTP and, in any case, have limited hope of forming a government and assuming all the power. They just seek their proper share.

The Conservatives voted overwhelmingly against because, well, they are conservative and have difficulty with change. FPTP is also an inheritance from our British heritage, something near and dear to their hearts.

The Liberals were simply disappointing. Only 40 remained true to their promise, the great majority once again voting for betrayal.

Perhaps we should expect nothing less from the two major parties. The goal of political parties is, after all, power above all else. And what power hungry entity can resist the promise of 100 percent of the power even if less than 40 percent of the people support you?

So it appears we will have yet more elections under an undemocratic system and elect more governments most of us oppose. Perhaps we should consider ourselves lucky not to be experiencing the American dilemma. FPTP has locked the country into a two-party system even though significant numbers in both parties would prefer to go their own way, and millions of Americans would appreciate another choice. However, I find “it could be worse” small consolation.

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