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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Proportional representation in Canada Glashan, John Gall

Abstract

The thesis of this paper is that proportional representation is a desirable reform and that it could be applied to the election of the legislative bodies in Canada to a far greater extent than has been admitted by its opponents. In Chapter 1 the two main types of porportional representation, or P.R. as it is called generally, the Hare system, preferred on the English speaking countries, and the 'list' type, preferred on the Continent of Europe, are examined and compared. The two basic premises of P.R.: that every substantial group in the community is entitled to representation at all times; and that no one, in his capacity as a member of a substantial group, can be represented by someone for whom he has not voted; are evaluated and found logical. In Chapter II the past and present uses of P.R. in Canada are surveyed. This reform came about as a result of the renewed interest in effective democratic government occasioned by World War 1. P.R. was tried in both municipal and provincial elections, and, although a failure in the municipal field, was never repealed for the election of some M.L A.'s in Alberta and Manitoba. The conclusion reached is that the factor of party had a great deal to do with the retention or rejection of P.R.; and that P.R. was not given a fair trial in the civic field. Chapter III surveys the history of P.R. as an issue in the House of Commons. The subject was debated at considerable length in the early 1920's; the only recorded division in the House on P.R. is analysed. The Report of the 1936 Special Committee on the Election and Franchise Act is examined and found too shallow for acceptance. In Chapter IV an attempt has been made to meet the geographic objection of the Special Committee, namely, that constituencies would be far too large, by proposing a partial application of P.R. to federal elections. Appendix I is a map upon which the proposed scheme has been drawn. Some indications of the extent to which P.R. could be applied for the elections of provincial legislators are given. In Chapter V the other main objection of the Special Committee, namely, that P.R. would cause the disintegration of political parties into groups and seriously endanger the operation of cabinet government is rejected because the paradoxical integrating effect of a federal system, and the similar effect of the Crown, are ignored. The conclusion is that P.R. is a logical extension of the democratic election, but that in the past it has been supported from the wrong point of view, and, that, therefore, the initiative will now have to come from the voters.

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