How would proportional representation have shaped this election's results?

The Conservatives could have gained more seats and could even have won the election if Justin Trudeau had enacted his 2015 promise of electoral reform. How would it have affected Monday's results? We did the calculations.

By Mélanie Meloche-HolubowskiClick to get the reporter contact informations.
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and Naël ShiabClick to get the reporter contact informations.
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Oct. 23, 2019

On Oct. 21, the Liberal Party won 36 more seats than the Conservative Party, who nonetheless won the popular vote with 34.4 per cent of the votes, compared to 33.1per cent for the Liberals. Our first-past-the-post electoral system is the cause of this unusual situation. Every dot on the graphic represents one MP.

Yet there are alternatives that could help prevent this imbalance. In the case of a pure proportional representation system, Canada would be viewed as a single large entity. The percentage of seats that a party will occupy in the House of Commons corresponds to the percentage of votes received. All votes count equally.

With this type of electoral system, the Liberals would go from 157 seats to 112 seats and the Conservatives, from 121 to 117. In this case, Andrew Scheer's party would be in the lead.

The NDP would have more than doubled its number of seats, from 24 to 54. The Bloc Québécois would have elected fewer MPs, with 26, instead of 32.

As for the Green Party, they would have elected seven times the number of MPs (22 instead of 3). The People's Party would have 6 MPs in the House of Commons instead of none.

With a mixed-member non-compensatory ballot system (or parallel voting), people vote twice: once for a candidate in their riding and once for the party. Constituency MPs are elected in the same way they are now.The remaining seats are proportionally allocated according to the number of votes for each party across the country. For these proportional seats, MPs are elected from lists drawn up by the parties.

With this type of system (used in Japan), the Liberals would have formed a minority government, but with 142 seats instead of 157. The Conservatives would have won 120 seats instead of 121.

The Bloc Québécois would have approximately the same number of elected MPs (30 instead of 32) and the New Democrats would have made important gains, with 34 seats instead of 24.

The Green Party would have elected 6 additional MPs and the People's Party would have made its entry into the House of Commons with 2 MPs.

Another alternative is the mixed-member compensatory system, used in Germany and recommended for Canada by the House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform in 2016. Voters get two ballots: one for a riding MP and one for the party. Compensatory seats are awarded according to the proportion of votes at the regional or provincial level. A party who wins 10 per cent of the votes, but doesn't elect an MP, would obtain enough seats to attain 10 per cent representation in Parliament. Those MPs are elected from party lists and represent regional or provincial boundaries.

With this voting system, that better reflects the popular vote, as well as regional specificities, the Conservatives would have 117 elected MPs (instead of 121). The Liberals would have 112 seats, a 44-seat loss.

But the NDP would have benefited the most, with 30 more seats (54 instead of 24). The Bloc would have 26 seats, instead of 32.

This type of electoral system would also have been very advantageous for the Greens (22 seats instead of 3) and the People's Party (6 seats instead of none)

The introduction of a different voting system has been floated on a number of occasions in Canada - notably in British Columbia, Ontario and Prince Edward Island - but without any success. The changes were rejected during referendums. In Quebec, the CAQ government promises to hold a referendum on electoral reform in the next general election, in 2022.

Now that Canadians have elected a minority government, will the Liberals be influenced by the NDP and the Greens, who both have called for electoral reform?


We used the results of the 2019 general election (last update: Oct. 22 at 6:10 a.m. ET) and kept only the parties with more than 0.3 per cent of the popular vote, which corresponds to one seat in a proportional voting system. For the purposes of this simulation, we excluded independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould.

We drew on the 2016 report of the House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform, which recommends that two-thirds of MPs be directly elected to constituencies and one-third be elected from party lists. These proportions would therefore correspond to 226 riding seats and 112 list (or compensatory) seats. However, our calculations are an approximation. We must consider the fact that with a different voting system, party strategies and voter behavior would likely differ.

Mélanie Meloche-Holubowski — reporter; Nael Shiab — data journalist; Melanie Julien — desk editor; Francis Lamontagne — designer.