Among the campaign promises of the victorious Liberal Party was a pledge that October 19 2015 would be the last federal election conducted on the first-past-the-post system. That traditional voting system had long been criticized for returning a House of Commons that does not represent accurately the percentage of popular vote received by the various political parties. In particular, the winning party usually gains a majority of seats even while winning only about 40% of the vote and the losing parties often end up with fewer seats than their popular vote should provide. Critics claim that the existing system is unfair, makes it seem that our votes don’t count, and contributes to the lower voting turnout over the past couple decades.
The Conservative Government is gone, and so is its domineering leader, Stephen Harper. A number of former Conservative Cabinet Ministers have mused about the need for a less strident and more moderate approach and have second-guessed some of their past decisions. Is the Conservative Party on the verge of rejecting its ultra-right “Tea Party” stance of the past decade? Is the NDP going to retain its measured, balanced budget posture of the recent past – notwithstanding its disappointing election results? Will the Liberals follow their classic approach of campaigning from the left and governing from the right – while never straying too far from the middle? Before we can try to answer these questions, we need to understand the terminology used to describe party positions.
C. Richard Tindal, Ph.D is a retired Professor of Government. He taught for 30 years at St. Lawrence College, Kingston and was an occasional Visiting Professor at Queen's University. He has also written and consulted extensively about government.