Further Reading

Further Reading


There is a wide variety of readings on the subject of electoral systems and electoral reform, both in general and with regard to the Canadian context.


Farrell, D. M. (2011). Electoral systems: a comparative introduction. Palgrave Macmillan.

David Farrell provides a single volume comparative study of the major different types of electoral system. It is a highly regarded textbook and was a key resource in the preparation of this report.

Norris, P. (2004). Electoral engineering: Voting rules and political behavior. Cambridge University Press.

Pippa Norris examines how political institutions and culture interact to shape voter behaviour as electoral reform is undertaken across many different contexts.

International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA International, http://idea.int)

An intergovernmental organization supported by Canada and other countries devoted to the development of sustainable democracy worldwide. Provides numerous resources related to the comparative study and practice of elections and electoral reform.

ACE Electoral Knowledge Network (http://aceproject.org)

An online knowledge repository combining analytical articles, cross-national statistics, an electoral encyclopedia including descriptions and empirical examples of all major electoral systems and other resources. Elections Canada, International IDEA, the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division and other national and international electoral bodies provide support for its work.

Making Electoral Democracy Work

A collaborative project organized by researchers in Canada and abroad, affiliated with the University of Montreal, the project considers various facets of democracy including party strategies and voter behaviour. http://electoraldemocracy.com/



Library of Parliament Canada

The Library of Parliament conducted a study examining the question of electoral reform, considering a number of alternatives and some of the trade-offs involved. It also charted previous attempts at reform in Canada, including successful early initiatives that were later repealed. http://www.lop.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/ResearchPublications/2016-06-e.html?cat=government

Policy Options Special Feature

Policy Options is hosting a series of short writings on the goals and process of electoral reform here: http://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/june-2016/electoral-reform/

Ottawa Citizen

Likewise, the Ottawa Citizen is assembling opinions on both the substance and process of change; a partial collection of the contributions exists here: http://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/icymi-heres-your-guide-so-far-to-electoral-reform.

They include arguments for and against specific change, considerations of process, and what the implications of change might be for voters and the Canadian political system.

Springtide Collective

This 2015 report models how five different electoral systems would work in practice for Nova Scotia provincially, including FPTP, AV, List PR, MMP and STV. http://nslegislature.ca/pdfs/committees/62_2_LACSubmissions/20160502/20160502-162-001.pdf



First Past the Post

While readers are most likely to be familiar with FPTP, there are many resources available to learn more about how it and other aspects of Canadian governance function, along with factors to consider when contemplating changes to the current electoral system.

Parliament of Canada

The Canadian Parliament website provides a great deal of material regarding the specifics of how Canada’s government works, ranging from the definition and description of key terms and functions to the specific schedules and agendas for both the House of Commons and the Senate to the official record of debates in the House (known as the Hansard). http://www.parl.gc.ca/Default.aspx?Language=E

Open Parliament

Open Parliament is a volunteer-run website that works to render available but difficult-to-use data more accessible to Canadians. Topics include parliamentary bills, debates and votes. https://openparliament.ca/.

André Blais ed. (2008). To Keep or To Change First Past The Post? Oxford University Press.

Well-regarded academics from Canada and abroad address a variety of subjects related to the principles and politics of reform in countries that currently use FPTP, including Canada, the US and the UK.

Alternative Vote

There are a number of possible variations to the AV system regarding the ballot structure—such as how candidates are listed, and whether voters must rank all candidates to have their vote considered valid. Other systems such as two-round voting have many of the same characteristics as AV as well, with the significant difference that voters may further consider the final choice on the basis of additional campaigning by the remaining candidates.

The following readings give some insight into these variations, along with insight into the specific effects of AV.


The BBC provides a summary of the Australian experience with AV prepared for an international audience. The piece suggests that there may be few differences between AV and FPTP in terms of electoral outcomes. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-13065069

ACE Project

ACE describes the features of AV. http://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/es/esd/esd01/esd01d/default. The same website also outlines some advantages and disadvantages of the system, and gives another account of the Australian experience.

Asselin, Robert. (2014). “An Agenda for Democratic Reform in Canada”, Canada 2020.

Asselin argues in favour of the alternative vote because of its ability to require and signal stronger support for winning candidates due to the majority requirement (i.e., 50% threshold). http://canada2020.ca/agenda-democratic-reform-canada/

List Proportional Representation

In considering how List PR might be implemented in Canada, choices would have to be made about a number of factors, including the geographical unit for which lists are prepared (district, regional, provincial or national); whether to employ closed or open lists, and how to structure the ballot as a result; the particular electoral formula to use to translate votes into seats; different methods of vote counting; and whether to use a minimum threshold and, if so, what it should be.

ACE Project

ACE provides a description of the functioning of List PR systems, its advantages and disadvantages, and various factors for consideration when implementing such a system. http://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/es/esd/esd02/esd02c/default

Broadbent Institute

This 2016 report argues Canada should adopt proportional representation. https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/broadbent/pages/4935/attachments/original/1456927971/An_Electoral_System_for_All_Report.pdf?1456927971 

MacDonald Laurier Institute

This 2011 report offers a critique of proportional systems in Canada http://www.macdonaldlaurier.ca/files/pdf/John-Pepall-Electoral-Reform-in-Canada.pdf

Making Electoral Democracy Work

A consideration of how strategic voting can unfold in a PR system, looking at the Swedish case. http://electoraldemocracy.com/strategic-voting-pr-evidence-2010-swedish-general-election-1293

Mixed-Member Proportional

Some of the most important considerations when considering and implementing MMP include: ratio of constituency to list MPs; the ballot structure (for example, whether to separate party and constituency votes); the size of ridings; the electoral formula that translates votes into seats; and how to set the minimum threshold. These issues and many others are addressed in the following readings:

Law Commission of Canada

In 2004, Law Commission of Canada released a study reviewing the possibility and potential consequences of electoral reform in Canada. It explored potential implications of various alternatives and recommended that Canada adopt a form of MMP system based on the experience of Scotland and Wales. http://publications.gc.ca/collections/Collection/J31-61-2004E.pdf

Ontario Citizens’ Assembly

In 2007, the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly released its final report recommending the province adopt MMP (a proposal rejected in a subsequent referendum). The archived webpage for the assembly includes links to the final report explaining the process of deliberation and reasons for the recommendation, and to the more detailed background report. http://www.citizensassembly.gov.on.ca/

James Bolger, former prime minister of New Zealand

Jim Bolger reflected in 2001 on the experience and aftermath of introducing MMP in New Zealand during his premiership. Among his conclusions are that MMP achieved many of the anticipated outcomes such as a more proportional legislature with greater representation of women and visible minorities, but that ambiguity persisted among New Zealanders as to the popularity of the change at the time the comments were made. http://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/votes-and-seats/new-zealand-adopts-pr-a-prime-ministers-view/

ACE Project

ACE examines the workings of the German system in detail. The site also provides an evaluation of some advantages and disadvantages of the system in general. http://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/es/esy/esy_de

Single Transferable Vote

There are a number of important choices to be made when designing an STV system, including how to calculate the quota, how to transfer excess vote shares from winning candidates, and how to design the ballots effectively given the large number of choices voters must make. The following resources address these and other issues.

BC Citizens’ Assembly

In 2007, the BC Citizens’ Assembly released its final report recommending the province adopt STV. The recommendation narrowly failed a referendum, with the yes vote falling just two percent shy of the 60% threshold the government had set. The proposal was defeated more decisively in a subsequent referendum.  The archived webpage for the assembly includes links to the final report, explaining the method of deliberation and reasons for the recommendation, and to the more detailed background report. http://citizensassembly.arts.ubc.ca/

BC Referendum video

In preparation for the BC referendum, the following animated explanatory video was produced: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-4_yuK-K-k.

ACE Project

ACE provides a case study of Ireland as the most well-known example of STV in action. http://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/es/esy/esy_ie

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