Canadas First Past the Post System
In Canada Federal and Provincial First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) elections are based on single member districts or ridings. Each riding chooses one candidate to elect into parliament. In order to win a candidate must obtain the highest number of votes but not necessarily the majority of votes. The party that wins the most ridings is named the official government of Canada with the second place party becoming the official opposition.
The (FPTP) system is also known as the 'winner-take-all' system, in which the candidate with the most votes gets elected. FPTP voting methods can be used for single and multiple member elections. In a single member election the candidate with the highest number, not necessarily a majority, of votes is elected.
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This puts a heavy strain on parties that are spread geographically thin, such as the Green party of Canada who received approximately 5% of the popular vote from 2004-2011, but had only won a single riding during that time (Elections Canada). The second problem facing smaller parties in FPTP systems is related to tactical voting. Duverger suggested an election in which 100,000 moderate voters and 80,000 radical voters are voting for a single official. If two moderate parties ran candidates and one radical candidate were to run, the radical candidate would win unless one of the moderate candidates gathered fewer than 20,000 votes. Observing this, moderate voters would be more likely to vote for the candidate most likely to gain more votes, with the goal of defeating the radical candidate. Either the two parties must merge, or one moderate party must fail, as the voters gravitate to the two strong parties, a trend Duverger called polarization (Duverger 1972). Smaller parties will never have a fair amount of representation in proportion to their size. FPTP tends to reduce the number of viable political parties to a greater extent than other methods. This makes it more likely that a single party will hold a majority of legislative seats. Canada has had 33 majority governments out of 41 elections (Parliament of Canada)