open Secondary menu

Electoral Insight – Review of Electoral Systems

Electoral Insight – June 1999


Review OF Electoral Systems

Alain Pelletier
Policy and Research Manager, Elections Canada

On April 23, 1999, the Advisory Committee of Registered Political Parties, which is chaired by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, conducted a review of electoral systems and their potential implications for Canada.

Three Canadian political scientists were invited to present papers. Professor André Blais (Département de science politique, Université de Montréal) addressed the criteria for assessing electoral systems. Professor John C. Courtney (Department of Political Studies, University of Saskatchewan) reviewed the advantages and disadvantages of the plurality-majority systems. Finally, Professor Heather MacIvor (Department of History, Philosophy and Political Science, University of Windsor) reviewed proportional and semi-proportional electoral systems.

The recurring theme of the presentations was that no electoral system is perfect, because none of them can perfectly achieve proportional representation, including the representation of women, Aboriginal and ethnocultural minorities. According to Professor MacIvor, if a change from the current process were to be contemplated, the choice of a new electoral system should be made through a binding referendum to be put before Canadian electors.

Summaries of the three papers are presented here. The full text of each paper is available on Elections Canada's Web site at

Note: The opinions expressed are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada.