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Court challenge of 'first past the post' in Quebec buoyed by intervenors

A legal case begun in 2007 to challenge Quebec's first past the post voting system is moving through the Quebec Court of Appeal and is likely to go all the way to the Supreme Court. Hearings begin on February 8.

Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada and Fair Vote Canada (FVC) have both been granted intervenor status in the case. From The Star:

Democracy groups take aim at Canada’s electoral system

A Quebec group called the Association pour la revendication des droits démocratiques (ARDD) took the complaint a big step further by arguing before the provincial Superior Court that first-past-the-post violates the constitutional rights of those who cast their votes for the losing candidates because they are not reflected in the final results.

Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that:

3. Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of the members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.

John Deverell, from Fair Vote Canada gets to the point about the significance of this charter challenge.

“The winner-take-all voting system is utterly unfair to every citizen who can’t elect a representative, and that’s usually about half the voters. After every election half of us are subjected to taxation without representation. Depending on where they live, some Canadians may live an entire lifetime without ever being able to elect a representative they want.”

You can watch a 3-minute video explanation of the case by lawyer Julius Grey here.

While the court challenge won't lead directly to PR in Quebec, it's a big step because every province uses the winner take all system.

“The application does not ask the court to tell the government what to do. It asks the court to tell the government it can’t keep doing what it’s doing now, said Deverell.”

The blog Democracy under Fire has an excellent synpopsis of the latest developments with some useful background material.

First Past The Post Undemocratic

Blogger Curiousity Cat suggests that the Liberals and NDP also seek intervenor status.

If Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton truly believed in real democratic reform (instead of just platitudes), then they would step up and join ranks with the Greens and with Fair Vote Canada to obtain an interpretation from the Quebec Appeal Court and later (probably) the Supreme Court of Canada.

While it's unfair to lump Ignatieff and Layton together in such a way, (for one thing, the latter talks positively about PR while the former does not), it is clear that meaningful democratic reforms will need the support of both the Liberal Party and the NDP. The onus is on Ignatieff and the Liberals to signal a willingness to advance democracy in Canada and put federal first past the post where it belongs. In the history books.

This post first appeared on the Catch 22 Harper Conservatives' campaign website.

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