Electoral Reform Canada – Lessons from Europe

This webinar addresses the need to discuss the electoral reform debate in Canada. In his 2015 campaign, Justin Trudeau promised electoral reform and the end to Canada’s first-past-the-post system at the federal level. With this assurance, Trudeau expressed common public concern about whether Canada has the most appropriate way to organize elections as the key component of the democratic system. The built-in bias towards the winning party, the frustration over ‘strategic voting’ and the disadvantage for smaller parties as well as deficits in representing women and minorities are key issues in the debate. Yet at the same time, there are concerns about what an electoral reform and the introduction of proportional representation would mean for the democratic political process and the stability of government.

With the current referendum on electoral reform in British Columbia, the weaknesses and strengths of the respective electoral system have become a matter of major public debate. The webinar “Electoral reform: A viable option for Canada- lessons from Europe” addressed these issues on October 30th at 9:30am PT. It featured an expert discussion on the alternative options for organizing elections and the experiences that we have with other electoral systems in particular in Europe. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the competing electoral systems? What do they mean for the performance and quality of representative democracy?

Hosted since 2005 at the University of Victoria, the EUCAnet.org project focuses on stimulating exchange on EU-Canada topics. With the support of the Erasmus+ Jean Monnet project of the European Union “Communication and Media Strategies for EU experts in Canada” and the Centre for Global Studies, the webinar series brought together experts in Canada with various stake holders (students, practitioners, media representatives) to engage with ideas on critical issues of politics and policy making in Canada and Europe.

Speakers Overview

Dennis Pilon (York University) addresses voting system reform as part of worldwide democratization efforts and comparative evidence concerning the effect of different electoral systems in particular in Europe. From this perspective, he looks into evidence of governing stability, vote maximization, cooperation across parties, alternation in government, and representation of diversity.

Maxwell Cameron (University of British Columbia, director of the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions) focuses on the implications of electoral systems for the functioning and quality of democracy. He relates this discussion to the local context and the issues that we face with electoral reform in British Columbia. At the end of the presentations watch the online questions that come from the participants.


Oliver Schmidtke is professor at the Department of Political Science and the Director of the Centre for Global Studies at the University Victoria. His research interests are in the fields of comparative European politics and contemporary history, European integration, migration, ethnic conflicts, and nationalism/populism.