Kevin Montgomery R.G.D.

Who Passed The Post?

Home > Politics > Governance Design > Who Passed The Post?

Here’s an idea to review how we approach vote count in Canada. It stems from something that has bothered me since I first saw it on T.V: The comparing of “First Past The Post” and “Proportional Representation”. The idea that a popular vote of under 50% could decide a majority government is a source of frustration for me. First Past The Post is great in a 1-on-1 election, because the candidate elected has a clear majority mandate. It’s the majority mandate that’s tricky when a popular vote is separated 5 ways, which I respect that Proportional Representation seeks to solve.

But ultimately, why can’t we use a blend of both voting systems?

The way I’ve worked this out, the way people vote would not change at all, in that it only requires one voter to submit a single vote. The difference is in how the votes are interpreted, and using a systematic majority rule to decide the counting mechanism that is most appropriate. I’ll use the 2008 Canadian General Election results in my example.

It works like this:

When the votes are counted, if a riding has a clear majority (50+%) in favour of a candidate/party, then they win the seat as per majority mandate.

If not, then the riding has failed to come to a majority decision. The seat then gets submitted to a Proportional Representation pool.

The counting could also factor voter turnout, whereby if support for one candidate/party of those who voted is 60%, but only 58.8% of the riding came out to vote (as was the national average in 2008), then the actual percentage in favour of that candidate/party would be 35%, which in that case would fail to satisfy a majority rule.

In the final count, the ridings that have won seats by clear majority are subtracted by the total number of seats in the House of Commons. Those total number of seats assigned to the Proportional Representation pool get split up according to popular vote, and assigned to ridings in order of preference for who voted most in favour of that party.

It might sound a bit complicated, but I don’t think it is. Perhaps now is a good time to show an…


Of the 308 electoral districts in 2008, 118 seats would have qualified for majority rule, that is, where the candidate in a riding received 50+% of the votes and would have rightfully won a seat via a clear majority.

Bloc Québécois 13
Conservative 80
Independant 1
Liberal 17

That leaves 190 pooled seats to be delegated by Proportional Representation. The first question that should be asked is how to decide which party is awarded seats first? It would make sense to delegate in order of popular vote ratio.

I’ve pulled some data from to help calculate the popular vote.

Party Popular Vote Pooled Seats Awarded
Bloc Québécois 10.00% 19
Conservative 37.60% 71
Green Party 6.80% 13
Liberal 26.20% 50
NDP 18.20% 35

Per popular vote, the pooled seats would be delegated in order national popular vote (Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Bloc Québécois, Green Party), and then in the order of the ridings that favoured each party most, determined by popular vote per riding. For example, because the Conservatives have the highest national popular vote in this scenario, their seats would be delegated first, in the order of the ridings that favoured them the most.

Under “Who Passed The Post”, the results would have been:

Bloc Québécois 32
Conservative 151
Green Party 13
Independant 1
Liberal 67
NDP 42

Note: The total number of seats filled in this outcome is only 306, which is 2 short. This is probably because the count of the Popular Vote percentages only totals 98.8%. Clearly, there are counts not taken into consideration on

I think this system would respect a riding’s preference where there is a clear winner determined by majority rule, while respecting the growing desire for representation of other parties in ridings that were unable to select a clear winner. All the while, this system does not change how people already vote, so there’s no learning curve in changing how to vote.

As always, please feel free to send me your comments!

2 response(s) to Who Passed The Post?

  1. Kevin says:

    I just realized that there is a problem in this model with how the seats get distributed. In regards to assigning a candidate/party to a riding, it’s unclear how the associations are made. The example I gave would assume that the Green Party gets assigned first. By what determination? It makes sense to me to go in the order of the popular vote, similar to the outcome of a ranked voting system. So that Conservatives are assigned their due seats first, followed by the Liberal Party, etc. I’ll have to give that some more thought.

  2. Kevin says:

    Update: “Who goes first” is now determined by popular vote.

Leave a Reply