Changing Canada’s federal electoral system

Changing Canada’s federal electoral system would change how federal elections work and how our federal government works. For example, different reforms might change:

Who you vote for

You could vote for:

  • an individual candidate;
  • a political party; or
  • in some systems, both.

You could:

  • pick just one candidate on the ballot, like we do now;
  • rank the candidates—your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and last choice; or
  • choose multiple candidates without ranking them.

How you vote

Today, most of us vote in person by pencil and paper, either on election day itself or in the advance polls in the days beforehand. Many people also use special ballots, which are mailed in. Introducing new technologies at the polls could pave the way for online voting in the future.

Who votes

Voting could be made compulsory, like in Australia.

How you are represented

What and who a Member of Parliament represents could change:

  • your electoral district could continue to have one Member of Parliament (MP); or
  • you could have larger areas that are represented by multiple MPs.

How much support is required to win a seat

The percentage of votes needed for a candidate or political party to win a seat could vary:

  • certain systems require at least 50% support; or
  • in other systems, the threshold for winning could be much lower.

How election outcomes are decided

How votes are counted and translated into seats could change. This could influence:

  • The chances of having a majority government as some systems produce majorities more often while others produce minority or coalition governments more often.

  • The number and range of political parties that hold seats in the House of Commons as some systems could permit smaller political parties to gain more seats, which could encourage the creation of more political parties.

Check out an overview of Canada’s current federal electoral system and a fact sheet about different electoral systems for more information.

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