Canada, a former British colony, inherited its electoral system from Britain. Also known as “First Past the Post System,” it gives a seat to the candidate who with the biggest number of votes within his or her riding, i.e. his or her voting district (Canadian Electoral System in Detail”). The candidate who has accumulated the relative majority of votes will represent this riding as a Member of Parliament. THESIS STATEMENT: Canada’s electoral system is a single member plurality system which results in majority governments, maximizes stability, and leads to a strong opposition.
The electoral system of Canada is grounded on a government parliamentary system and uses the plurality majority representation. It operates on the two levels, federal and provincial. On these two levels, elections are viewed as the foundation of Canada’s life on the principles of democracy, since they are the primary tools through which Canadian citizens can grant power to the people governing them. As the nation is divided in 338 ridings, each needs to elect a representative to the House of Commons, based on the principle of vote plurality (“The Electoral System of Canada”). In this way, the candidate that has got more votes than other candidates gets the right to serve as a Member of Parliament. It turns out, hence, that Canadian voters give their votes not directly to a political party or a political leader they wish to see as the head of the government but to individuals that represent their voting districts.
Even though the plurality system has its own shortcomings, it focuses on maximizing stability by producing stable governments and by employing a carefully designated election process. Stable governments come as a result of representing the biggest part of the population, i.e. the majority is clear-cut and politically represented, as a rule. In fact, this enables the government to pursue key political objectives, and thus leads to stability. Also, the stability of the electoral system results from the use of a well-designated election process. In order to call for new elections, the governor general, who formally represents the sovereign, should first dissolve the current House of Commons, or “drop the writ” (“Canadian Electoral Systems”). The administration of federal elections since this moment is the responsibility of Elections Canada, the non-partisan and absolutely independent agency, led by the Chief Electoral Officer. On Election Day, voters all across the nation head to the polling stations or, in special cases, vote by mail or vote 10 days in advance (“The Electoral System of Canada”). Between the moment the election is called and the moment when polling stations close, Elections Canada keep informing Canadians about getting on the National Register of Electors and the list of voters, about the citizens’ right to vote, as well as about how and where citizens can vote. The activities arranged by Elections Canada embrace news releases, meetings with members of communities and minorities, running a toll-free calling centre, advertising candidates, and running a website (“The Electoral System of Canada”).
In addition, Canada’s electoral system fosters the formation of a strong opposition. According to researchers, this happens as “both the winning party and the main opposition party often receive a higher number of seats than their share of the popular vote” (“Canadian Electoral System in Detail”). In essence, the opposition becomes the Official Opposition and gets the second biggest number of seats within the House of Commons.
Overall, Canada’s electoral system operates as a mechanism of turning votes into parliamentary seats. Its three important features are producing a majority government, fostering stability, and enabling a strong opposition.