First-past-the-post creates a conservative English Canada vs. a progressive Quebec

The NDP scored a number of firsts for itself in the 2011 election: the first time with seats in the triple digits, the first time as Official Opposition, the first time with strength in Quebec, and so on.

This is also the first time it has beaten the first-past-the-post (FPTP) election system. In the past, the NDP has been the major loser in the strange and undemocratic games FPTP plays, consistently receiving far fewer seats in the House than its popular support justifies. But this time it was slightly ahead of the game with 33 per cent of the seats for 31 per cent of the popular vote.

The NDP’s more equitable showing resulted from its Quebec performance: 77 per cent of the seats for 42 per cent popular support. In Saskatchewan on the other hand, the province most closely associated with the NDP (even though the original CCF was founded in Alberta), it was shut out despite receiving a third of the vote.

This was in fact the pattern of the election. The NDP grossly over-represented in Quebec and, along with the Liberals, under-represented just about everywhere else. The Conservatives, on the other hand, were under-represented in Quebec, four per cent of the seats with 17 per cent of the vote, but heavily over-represented in English Canada. Overall, with only 40 per cent of the votes, they gained 54 per cent of the seats in the House.

The Conservatives are widely thought to own the West, and they do, although not to the extent the election indicated. If they didn’t have the 20 more seats than they deserved in the West, they wouldn’t have won a majority.

In any case, we now have yet another polarity in the country—a conservative English Canada and a progressive Quebec—once again aggravated by FPTP. Will we never rid ourselves of this undemocratic beast and adopt an electoral system that accurately represents the Canadian people?