Electoral Reform

More than 60 per cent of Canadians would prefer majority government: Forum Poll

When a coalition government was included as an option, preference for a majority government dropped from 66 per cent to 59 per cent, with 13 per cent of respondents favouring a coalition.

'All of this conversation, from day one we’ve learned that it’s about trade-offs; there are different things that different systems do well,' says NDP democratic reform critic Nathan Cullen, centre, referring to voting systems. The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright

By TIM NAUMETZ

PUBLISHED : Friday, Nov. 18, 2016 4:20 PM

Two-thirds of voting-age Canadians would want a majority government if a federal election were held today, a new Forum Research poll indicates.

The findings, from a survey taken as MPs were beginning the final stages of a four-month committee inquiry into electoral reform, indicate that only one-fifth of electors (19 per cent) would want a minority government.

When the Forum polling firm threw the prospect of a coalition government into the mix, preference for a majority government dropped from 66 per cent to 59 per cent, with 13 per cent of those polled favouring a coalition.

The survey did not probe respondents about a preference from the range of electoral systems the Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform began scrutinizing in July.

  

It asked only which electoral outcome the respondents would favour if an election were held today: majority, minority, or a coalition government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals took power last year with a majority in the House of Commons. Forum Research president Lorne Bozinoff said the findings suggest Canadians prefer the stable government that normally accompanies a majority over the unpredictable dynamics of a minority in the House of Commons.

“Canadians like the stability that comes with a majority government, and the decisiveness with which it can take action,” the Toronto-based pollster was quoted as saying in a news release. “They have only so much patience for the parliamentary give and take beloved of the smaller parties.”

The stability of majority governments has been cited several times by witnesses and public commentators during the special committee hearings. But some opposition MPs say a majority of the experts who testified and most of the citizens who lined up at open mics across the country expressed support for a proportional system of voting that would virtually preclude single-party majority governments in the future.

  

NDP MP Nathan Cullen said despite the view of many electors that stability of majority governments is preferable to the instability often seen in nations with proportional electoral systems, compromise will be required if Canadians choose a new system.

“All of this conversation, from day one we’ve learned that it’s about trade-offs; there are different things that different systems do well. The main problem with the status quo, the system we have right now, is it distorts the results,” Mr. Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley, B.C.) said.

“Forty per cent of a vote can give you 100 per cent of the power, as is true for Mr. Trudeau, was true for Mr. Harper. That fundamental unfairness is what we’re seeking to correct,” Mr. Cullen said at a news conference this week.

Sixty-six per cent of the poll respondents, who were asked which electoral outcome they would prefer if an election were held today, chose majority government.

  

Nineteen per cent said they would prefer a minority government, while 16 per cent had no opinion.

In a separate question in the poll, when a coalition government was added as a third choice, preference for a majority government dropped to 59 per cent, preference for a minority government dropped to 14 per cent, and 13 per cent said they would prefer a coalition government, which could be the only way a government in a minority Parliament could pass laws under a proportional electoral system. Fourteen per cent said they don’t have an opinion.

A report to the committee from a community meeting on electoral reform that Mr. Trudeau’s riding office held last month in his Montreal electoral district of Papineau concluded with the summary: “In general, most were favourable to the idea of a proportional and mixed-proportional voting system.”

Under its mandate from a House of Commons motion passed last June, the committee invited all 338 MPs to sound views on electoral reform in their ridings over the summer. One hundred sixty-nine MPs, primarily New Democrats and Liberals, went along with the request and filed summaries with the committee, although several included town halls sponsored by several MPs in adjacent large-city ridings.

The Forum poll suggested coalition governments were most popular among respondents who supported the NDP, the Green Party, and the Bloc Québécois, at 19 per cent, 27 per cent, and 26 per cent respectively.

By region and province, coalition governments were most popular in British Columbia, at 19 per cent, and the Prairie provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, at 17 per cent.

The interactive voice response telephone survey of 1,474 randomly selected Canadian electors was conducted Nov. 9 and Nov. 10 and has a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent 19 times out of 20. Subsample results are less accurate.

tnaumetz@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times