Our Government Our Election

Lesson 3.3: Electoral Reform

Students will learn about the first-past-the-post electoral system, the kinds of legislatures it produces, and some of the reforms that have been suggested.

1. Brainstorm with class a list of parties running for election. If the list is incomplete, share with class missing parties.

2. Use overhead Smaller Political Parties to introduce how we have broader political choice in Saskatchewan than what is often perceived.
• Why do smaller parties and their candidates tend to get less support than mainstream candidates? Discuss these possibilities...
- Local candidates have become less important during elections as the campaign focuses on the leaders.
- The media only pays attention to the main parties.
- Individuals do not have or make time to thoroughly research all candidates.
- Smaller parties often do not operate province-wide campaigns like the major parties.
- Smaller parties do not reflect the beliefs of a critical mass of people.
- People tend to vote for parties that they believe have better chances of winning.
- Smaller parties simply have views that represent a fringe opinion.
• What instances in Saskatchewan history have seen smaller parties become major parties?

It may be worthwhile to examine the policies of one or more smaller parties to enlighten or follow-up this discussion. Activities in Lesson 3.4 will help guide such an examination.

3. Bridge discussion of the lack of representation of smaller political parties in the legislature to a discussion of the first-past-the-post voting system, using Reasons for Electoral Reform.

4. There are healthy debates on the best types of electoral systems. Students may embark on research projects that critically examine different types of voting. This could include:

  • variations of proportional representation, such as single transferrable vote, party-list PR, and mixed-member constituency PR
  • run-off voting, including instant run-off voting
  • first-past-the-post

An excellent starting point to understand various voting systems is the Law Commission of Canada’s 2004 report Voting Counts: Electoral Reform for Canada.

5. Several provinces have held plebiscites and referendums on electoral reform. For a case study on the experience in Prince Edward Island, check out the case study “Setting Minimums: PEI Votes on Electoral Reform” in Lesson 3 of Direct Democracy.

Smaller Political Parties


Reasons for Electoral Reform