The Manitoba provincial election produced a few surprises.
Although most political pundits weren’t surprised that the NDP won – Greg Selinger and his political machine were quite aptly able to frame the election on their terms while the PCs response was timid – the manner in which they won was interesting.
The NDP saw its share of the popular vote decrease compared to the previous election, yet it still managed to gain seats in the legislature. The NDP won its fourth straight majority, gaining one seat in the process. The NDP finished with 37 seats, the PCs with 19, and the Liberals with a single seat. On the surface, it would appear as though the NDP cruised to a comfortable win.
However, when examining the parties’ shares of the popular vote, it seems apparent that Manitobans were almost evenly split between the NDP and the PCs – but that isn’t exactly true. The NDP had 46 per cent of the popular vote – a decrease of 2 percentage points – while the PCs gained 6 percentage points since the last election to sit with 44 per cent of the popular vote. In essence, it was virtually even.
That being said, Manitobans as a whole weren’t as divided as these figures would seem to indicate; rather, what these numbers prove is that there is a clear split in the civic-rural vote.
Some individuals will look at this as a great example as to why we need proportional representation in Manitoba. Proportional representation is an electoral system in which parties gain seats in proportion to the number of votes cast for them.
However, I disagree with such a move. Proportional representation isn’t the electoral cure-all to our Westminster system as its proponents often argue. I am by no means arguing that individuals living in rural communities don’t deserve equal representation; rather I believe the first-past-the-post is the appropriate electoral system – despite its flaws. PC leader Hugh McFadyen would seem to agree with me on this topic.
McFadyen rubbished the thought of changing the electoral system when the question was posed in a scrum after his concession speech. That’s because he knew full well that the popular vote doesn’t matter, it’s where the votes are coming from.
Elections are won in urban centres, where people are concentrated. McFadyen unfortunately didn’t win in key urban battlegrounds, which accounts for the disparity in seat distribution.
Proportional representation wouldn’t change the fact that he didn’t get the job done in Winnipeg, plain and simple.