Why do bad ideas, no matter how many times they’ve been rejected, never seem to fade away?

Electoral reform is one of those bad ideas — hailed by vocal supporters as a near-saviour of our democracy, but in reality a deeply flawed concept that could do more harm than good.

After almost every election, cheerleaders for electoral reform pop up to denounce Canada’s current voting system as “unfair” and “undemocratic” — and last week’s federal election was no exception.

As soon as the final votes were counted, a noisy grouping of academics, politicians, special-interest activists and columnists renewed the shopworn chant that the “distorted” results show the need for Canada to scrap its first-past-the-post voting system and replace it with a proportional representation system.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is leading the charge, claiming the results “show a broken electoral system and it’s certainly clear we have to fix it.” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was right there with him.

What angers the advocates even more is that Justin Trudeau backed away from his promise made during the 2015 election campaign to get rid of the existing system before the 2019 election.

What most advocates want is a mixed voting system where some seats in Parliament, or in a provincial legislature, are elected in the traditional way and other seat are apportioned based on a party’s percentage of total votes cast in the election.

If a true proportional representation system had been in place for last week’s election, the Liberals would have been awarded only 112 seats instead of the 157 they did capture, the Conservatives would have 116 seats instead of 121 they now have, the NDP 54 seats instead of 24 they actually have, the Bloc 26 seats instead of the 32 they got, the Greens 22 seats instead of just three, the People’s Party five seats instead of zero. The last three seats would go to other parties.

As tempting as it might seem to some to “reform” our system, the reality is that Canadians in every province that has held a referendum on electoral reform have voted against the idea.

To keep pushing this bad idea makes little sense, especially when the reasons for rejecting are so powerful.

First, the experiences in countries from Israel to Italy and Australia, where political chaos is the norm not the exception, are warnings that such voting systems can be much worse than our current system. At the same time, there is no evidence that other nations with such voting systems, such as Germany or Sweden, are any better governed than is Canada.

Second, we likely would see perpetual minority governments, with legislative gridlock and secret backroom deals being a permanent way of life. Only twice since the Second World War has a party received more than 50 per cent of the votes, first in 1958 when the Tories got 53.67 per cent and in 1984 when the Conservatives got 50.03 per cent.

Third, progressives who like the idea of electoral reform should understand it opens the door for MPs from fringe groupings, like the anti-abortion Campaign Life Coalition and anti-immigrant advocates. Do you really want an Alberta Party, a Maritime Party, a pro-gun party? Such parties could have incredible influence when asked to support the party that forms the government.

Fourth, many MPs would be appointed by their party — not directly elected by voters. How is having a party leader name a party backroom official or fundraiser as an MP more democratic than the current system?

Fifth, if the number of seats remains the same, ridings would have to be even larger than they are today to accommodate those MPs selected by the parties themselves. If the number of seats is increased, then we would have even more politicians than we do now.

Sixth, electoral reform won’t solve the issue of voter turnout. Indeed, turnout rates in most countries with such systems have been falling, with a few upward bumps, for decades, just as in Canada.

Wisely, neither Singh nor May seems eager to pursue electoral reform as a priority. Supporters of this bad idea should follow their lead.

Bob Hepburn is a politics columnist based in Toronto.