Seeing as how Canada had their elections a couple weeks ago and the US will have their election next week, I thought it would be a good time for a brief overview with commentary about each system of electing leaders. I suspect most informed Canadians are already familiar with both systems while most informed Americans likely do not know exactly how the Canadian system works. I chalk that up to the difference in the amount of attention each gets. Americans likely only hear about an election in Canada after it’s over. Personnally, I really knew very little about the Canadian government and how it worked before I started dating a Canadian. And even after that, my interest in and knowledge of it only gained traction after a couple years of living here. Hence, I thought it would be a good idea to inform those who may not know.
First the US system since most people already know about it especially recently with publicity the current election has been getting. For all intents and purposes, the US only has two significant parties, the relatively liberal Democrats and the conservative Republicans. The candidate for each party is chosen via public primary elections or caucuses. Once the candidates are chosen, they run against each other in the general election. The winner is not chosen by popular vote, but rather through a rather convoluted system known as the electoral college.
In the Canada, there are numerous federal political parties with the significant ones being the Conservatives, the Liberals, the NDP, the Bloc Québecois, and the Green Party. The candidate for each party is chosen by members of the party. Elections are held for the members of Parliment, but a direct election of the Prime Minister is not held. The Prime Minister is the leader of the party which holds the most seats in Parliment.
Regarding the number of parties, I agree with the gripe of most people that there are only two parties to chose from in the US and they have a stranglehold on the government between them. But as we see in Canada, there is only one of the five parties on the right and they are able to control (kinda) the government with only 37.6% of the vote. So it really is a question of what mix of party ideologies or what system of voting would produce the leader the best represents the populous.
Regarding the choosing of candidates, I favor the US system though it really should not take a half year. It should be a one-day deal. I’m not warm to the idea that the party chooses the leader, though it is generally through a election process among members. It’s not like some people in a back room choose them. The benefit of the Canadian system is that those leaders are out for the public to see and become familiar with long before the election. That system allows that the time between the announcement of the election and the actual election could be limited to just over five weeks.
Regarding the choosing of the leader, again I favor the US system though without the electoral college. It should be by popular vote if there are only two significant parties. If there are more than two candidates, it should be through a preferential voting system. Really the person leading the country should be someone that the majority of people are happy with. As for the Canadian system, I have a problem with the Prime Minister setup in that when you are voting for the person representing your riding in Parliment, your vote is shared between choosing the person, the party, and the leader. In the US when you vote for a member of Congress, you are not concerned about your vote translating into the choice of the leader. For that matter, I don’t like the fact that the political parties choose who they have running in each riding in Canada. We had someone from Manitoba running to represent our riding in the last election. It really should someone from that riding instead of someone placed for increased chance of a win.
Lastly, the US should really learn something from the brevity of the Canadian election process. I know that money is king stateside, but the money spent there on the campaigns should be spent elsewhere. But maybe I’m just too socialist.