The Communist Party of Canada is a registered political party with a 95 year history of fighting for peace, democracy, and socialism. Our party was the first political party in Canada to call for proportional representation. We maintain that any discussion about electoral reform should begin with scrapping the anti-democratic “Un-Fair Elections Act” imposed by the Harper Conservative government, and building from the principle of making every vote count.
In convening the Special Committee on Electoral Reform, Parliament mandated the committee to (1) “study of viable alternate voting systems to replace the first-past-the-post system”; (2) “examine mandatory voting and online voting”; and (3) “assess the extent to which the options identified” would advance democratic principles. This brief presents the perspective of the Communist Party of Canada towards these questions and associated matters, and our policy on electoral reform.
Make every vote count
In presenting this brief, the Communist Party of Canada again goes on record as a strong champion of electoral reform and replacing First-Past-the-Post (FPP) with Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) representation, without threshold limits.
Despite mis-information campaigns, the Mixed Member Proportional voting system is very clear, involving one ballot with two votes. With one vote, a local Member of Parliament is elected, and with the second vote, the people select a party. The Member of Parliament can be with the party you vote for, or not. Locally elected Members of Parliament would be elected in exactly the same way as they are now. The second vote would go toward electing a Member of Parliament from a party list.
Since our founding in 1921, the Communist Party has advocated deep-rooted democratic reforms to the Parliamentary system to make every vote count. Our party’s position was reflected, for example, in our extensive submission to the 1937 Rowell–Sirois Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial Relations. Noting the long battle for the enfranchisement of women (not achieved in Quebec until 1940) our party’s brief to Parliament cited fundamental contradictions in Canada’s supposedly democratic electoral system including the unelected Senate and the racist disenfranchisement of Indigenous people, citizens of Chinese, Japanese and South Asian origin. Our 1963 submission to the Laurendeau-Dunton Commission on bi-lingualism and bi-culturalism formally called for proportional representation (PR). The Communist Party was the first political party to advocate for PR and we have consistently advocated for this position.
Today, the reality is self-evident that the FPP “winner take all” system is undemocratic, entrenching the big business parties. A vast and costly electoral machine is required to win ridings. The big business parties raise tens of millions of dollars through individual donations from bankers and private business. Electoral spending limits are obscenely high, while limiting donations from trade unions, democratic organizations that are already financially transparent. The Conservative Party’s recent “In and Out” scandal further exposed gross violations of electoral funding rules and the 2014 “Un-fair Elections Act” effectively limited the franchise, gagged Elections Canada, and created further loopholes for election fraud.
Elections are therefore widely recognized as a horse-race largely orchestrated by the corporate media, where small and progressive parties are marginalized. This is not only true for the Communist Party; the exclusion of Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, from the 2015 federal election debates had a marked impact on their voter turnout and subsequent vote. This situation is partly created by FPP, which effectively rejects the idea that every vote counts. Most majority governments are formed with less that 50 percent of the vote.
- Dramatically cutting spending limits for political parties
- Banning corporate donations
- Permitting donations from trade unions
- Guaranteeing equal time for all registered political parties, including in leaders and all candidates debates, governed by the Elections Act, not the Broadcast Act
While voting for a party like the Communist Party can send a powerful message regardless whether it wins or loses, voters often feel compelled to “vote strategically,” instead of choosing the party whose policies they support. Strategic voting result from the FPP system and serves voters very poorly. This choice, as well as the decision not to vote, are nevertheless understandable. Indeed, among the big parties voters have little fundamental difference in status quo ideas. For example, voters seeking to support a peace candidate have no options among the big parties in Canada today, which all clearly support NATO and oppose Palestinian liberation. Likewise, the composition of parliament reflects systemic gender discrimination and white privilege, as Indigenous nations, peoples from racialized communities, women and Trans-persons are all shut out by FPP.
Our party has maintained long-standing and strong support for MMP because it is a much needed and significant reform to the voting system. MMP would help break the stranglehold of the giant corporations over politics. It would help counter the trend to squeeze progressive, small parties off the electoral platform altogether. The peoples of Canada have waged prolonged campaigns to enlarge democracy in this country. Historically, this has included revolutionary struggles to win representative assemblies. Later battles to expand the franchise have fought against class oppression as well as colonialism, racism, sexism, ageism and other structural inequalities. The campaign for proportional representation is all part of this struggle, led by groups like Mouvement pour une démocratie nouvelle and Fair Vote Canada with support from their allies in labour and the people’s movements, the Communist Party, the Green Party, the New Democratic Party, the Bloc Québécois, Québec Solidaire and others. When Prime Minister Trudeau announced the 42nd General Election would be the last under FPP, many people thought his government would bring in some form of PR.
 In the 2015 election, for example, an anomaly arose in three of the twenty six ridings where our Party nominated. In Calgary Forest Lawn, Vancouver Kingsway and Vancouver East, some voters no doubt recognized that one particular party would likely win overwhelmingly, a unique, small but significant counter-balance to the strategic voting effect. In each riding our candidates broke the one-percent threshold.
 See Bryan Breguet, “Did Strategic Voting Work?” Huffington Post, November 2nd 2015 http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/11/02/canada-election-2015-strategic-voting-lead-now_n_8452212.html