Saturday, May 13, 2017

What would BC’s 2017 election results have been, with proportional representation?

What would BC’s 2017 election results have been, with a proportional representation system where every vote counts?

Of course, I’m not talking about the kind of province-wide system used in the Netherlands, with no local ridings, no threshold, and 13 parties in their Parliament.

I’m talking about the open-regional-list Mixed Member Proportional system, where every MLA has faced the voters. That’s the system PEI voters chose last November, with a workable ballot as you can see here. It’s also the model on which the federal Electoral Reform Committee found consensus.

You have two votes

You have two votes: one for your local MLA, and one for a party’s regional candidate you prefer, which counts as a vote for that party. This is the same practical model used in Scotland, with one vital improvement: Canadian voters would like to vote for a specific regional candidate and hold them accountable. 

I’m assuming 52 local MLAs and 35 regional MLAs, so 60% of MLAs are elected in local districts as we do today. The other 35 are elected from seven regions, which makes them large enough that every voter, even for the Green Party, has an MLA they helped elect. The regions have an average of 12 MLAs each: seven local, five regional.

The best of both worlds

Voters are guaranteed two things which equal better local representation:
1.         A local MLA who will champion their area.
2.         An MLA whose views best reflect their values, someone they helped elect in their local district or local region.

No longer does one person claim to speak for everyone in the district. No longer does one party claim unbridled power with only 40% support. Local districts are bigger than today, but in return you have competing MLAs: a local MLA, and about five regional MLAs.

Parties will work together

Parties will, unless one party had outright majority support, have to work together - to earn our trust where others have broken it, and to show that a new kind of governance is possible. Research clearly shows that proportionately-elected governments and cooperative decision-making produce better policy outcomes and sustainable progress on major issues over the long term.

BC’s rural/urban divide

One factor I have left alone is the all-party consensus to protect the 17 electoral districts in the North Region, the Cariboo-Thompson Region, and the Columbia-Kootenay Region, largely rural and small-urban. These elected 13 Liberals and four New Democrats in 2017. Any decent proportional system for BC will keep the same regional balance. Thus, it is not surprising that my simulation gives the Liberals a bonus of two MLAs, one at the cost of the NDP, one at the cost of the Greens. 

Province-wide result: 38 Liberals, 35 NDP, 14 Greens

The perfectly proportional result would have been 36 Liberal MLAs, 36 NDP MLAs, and 15 Greens. Instead, for the reason above, I get 38, 35 and 14. This does not change the election outcome, since the parties will form the coalitions they choose to form, regardless which party has a few more seats than the other.

Regional nominations

Typically, party members will nominate local candidates first, then hold a regional nomination process. Often the regional candidates will include the local candidates, plus a few regional-only candidates who will add diversity and balance to the regional slate. In order to ensure democratic nominations, it would be useful to deny taxpayer subsidy to any party not nominating democratically.  The meeting would decide what rank order each would have on the regional ballot. But then voters in the region would have the final choice.

A simulation

What follows is only a simulation from the votes cast in 2017. In any election, as Prof. Dennis Pilon says"Now keep in mind that, when you change the voting system, you also change the incentives that affect the kinds of decisions that voters might make. For instance, we know that, when every vote counts, voters won't have to worry about splitting the vote, or casting a strategic vote. Thus, we should expect that support for different parties might change."
   
The North and the Cariboo—Thompson Region

Instead of electing ten Liberal MLAs and only two New Democrats, these voters would have elected two more New Democrats. That would be those candidates who got the most votes across the region (after crossing off the regional list those who were elected as Local MLAs). Maybe Anne Marie Sam (an elected councilor with the Nak’azdli Nation) and Quesnel city councilor Scott Elliott or Prince George labour lawyer Bobby Deepak. And they would have elected a Green MLA, maybe Dan Hines from Kamloops (Green Party Spokesperson for Forestry) or Rita Giesbrecht from 100 Mile House (Party Spokesperson for Rural development).

The Interior including the Columbia—Kootenay Region

Instead of electing ten Liberal MLAs and two New Democrats, these voters would have elected two more New Democrats as well as Michelle Mungall and Katrine Conroy. Maybe Harry Lali from Merritt and Gerry Taft from Invermere or Colleen Ross from Grand Forks. And Green voters would have elected two MLAs such as former Nelson city councillor Kim Charlesworth (Party Spokesperson for Agriculture and food systems) and Keli Westgate from Vernon.

Fraser Valley-Langley Region

Instead of electing seven Liberal MLAs and only one NDP member, these voters would have elected another NDP MLA such as Langley Teachers Association leader Gail Chaddock-Costello, or Chiliwack school board employee and union leader Tracey Lorrean O'Hara, and a Green MLA like Langley’s Bill Masse (Green Party Research and Policy Chair) or Elizabeth Walker or Peter Tam.

Vancouver—North Shore Region

Instead of electing only ten NDP MLAs and six Liberal MLAs, these voters would have elected three Green Party MLAs. Maybe Dana Taylor (he was a North Vancouver city councilor), Kim Darwin from the Sunshine Coast (she was President of the Sechelt Chamber of Commerce) and David Wong (architect and author of ‘Escape to Gold Mountain’) or Prof. Michael Markwick (Party Spokesperson for Democratic Security and Human Rights) or Jerry Kroll (Party Spokesperson on Transportation).

Burnaby—Tri-Cities—Maple Ridge Region

Instead of electing only nine NDP MLAs and one Liberal, these voters would have elected a Green MLA (likely Jonina Campbell, New Westminster School Board chair and Party Spokesperson for Education), as well as two Liberal incumbents like Linda Reimer and Richard Lee.

Surrey-Delta-Richmond Region

Instead of electing only eight Liberals and seven New Democrats, these voters would also have elected two Green MLAs, such as Roy Sakata (retired school administrator of Richmond School District) and Surrey’s Rita Fromholt or Delta’s Jacquie Miller or White Rock’s Bill Marshall.
  
Vancouver Island

These voters would have elected another Green MLA like Lia Versaevel from North Cowichan, Victoria’s Kalen Harris, or Mark Neufeld (party spokesperson on Youth and intergenerational equity), and three more Liberal MLAs like Jim Benninger from Comox, indigenous leader Dallas Smith from North Island, and Nanaimo’s Paris Gaudet.

How will regional MPs operate? 

Most regional MPs will each cover several ridings. This is just the way it’s done in Scotland, where each regional MP normally covers about three local ridings, and holds office hours rotating across them. 

Overhangs

With a regional MMP model, we risk local sweeps being so extreme that they create “overhangs.” Those are results too disproportional for the regional compensatory (“top-up”) MLAs to correct, when they are only 40% of the total. That’s the trade-off in the system design, to keep local ridings from being almost double their present size. In this simulation we find two overhangs that cancel each other out. The Liberal sweep in Fraser Valley-Langley gives them an extra MLA there, but the NDP sweep in Burnaby-Tri-Cities-Maple Ridge gives them an extra MLA there.

Technical note

The calculation for any PR system has to choose a rounding method, to round fractions up and down. I have used the “largest remainder” calculation, which Germany used until recently, because it is the simplest and most transparent. In a 10-MLA region, if Party A deserves 3.2 MLAs, Party B deserves 3.1, Party C deserves 2.3, and Party D deserves 1.4, which party gets the tenth seat? Party D has a remainder of 0.4, the largest remainder. In a region where one party wins a bonus (“overhang”), I allocate the remaining seats among the remaining parties by the same calculation.    

Eight region model:

Some people feel the North Shore has a unique character, despite having only five MLAs (including Powell River-Sunshine Coast), and should be its own region.  This has the advantage of letting Richmond be paired with Vancouver rather than with Surrey, a better match. So here’s that alternative. (Sadly, it elects one less Green: 38 Liberals, 36 NDP, and 13 Greens):

Vancouver—Richmond Region

Instead of electing only eight NDP MLAs and seven Liberal MLAs, these voters would also have elected two Green Party MLAs. Maybe David Wong (architect and author of ‘Escape to Gold Mountain’) and elected school trustee Janet Fraser, or Jerry Kroll (Party Spokesperson on Transportation) or Bradley Shende (Party Spokesperson for income security).

Surrey-Delta Region

Instead of electing only four Liberals and seven New Democrats, these voters would also have elected a Green MLA, such as White Rock’s Bill Marshall or Surrey’s Aleksandra Muniak, or Delta’s Jacquie Miller or Surrey’s Rita Fromholt.

North Shore Region

Instead of electing only two NDP MLAs and three Liberal MLAs, these voters would also have elected a Green Party MLA. Maybe Dana Taylor (he was a North Vancouver city councilor), or Kim Darwin from the Sunshine Coast (she was President of the Sechelt and District Chamber of Commerce), or Prof. Michael Markwick (Party Spokesperson for Democratic Security and Human Rights)


Friday, March 17, 2017

If PEI used MMP, how would it work out?

If PEI used the Mixed Member Proportional system they voted for, how would it work out?

Last November, PEI voters voted in favour of changing their voting system to the Mixed Member Proportional system (MMP).

You have two votes. Your first vote allows you to choose who you believe will be the best local representative, just as we do today. Your second vote allows you to choose your preferred party by voting directly for one of their candidates for Island-wide representative. This second vote counts as a vote for that candidate’s party. It helps elect Island-wide representatives for top-up seats.

PEI would still have 27 MLAs. That will now become 18 local MLAs and 9 Island-wide MLAs, to top-up the local results so the overall result will match the share of the votes cast for that party. Every vote will count.



The PEI Liberal government has refused to honour the vote. As a result, the Honour the Vote movement seems to be wielding political power where before there was seemingly little or none.

If this MMP system were used for federal elections, in the larger provinces the top-up MPs would not be province-wide representatives. They could be from regions such as 12 MPs: eight local and four regional.

PEI’s 2015 election:

Back to PEI: if this MMP system had been used in the 2015 election, how would it have worked out?

As Prof. Dennis Pilon says in this video : "Now keep in mind that, when you change the voting system, you also change the incentives that affect the kinds of decisions that voters might make. For instance, we know that, when every vote counts, voters won't have to worry about splitting the vote, or casting a strategic vote. Thus, we should expect that support for different parties might change."

But let’s take the votes actually cast in 2015. Liberal voters would have elected 11 local MLAs, such as Pat Murphy, Robert Henderson, Sonny Gallant, Paula Biggar, Heath MacDonald, Bush Dumville, Kathleen Casey, Richard Brown, Doug Currie,  Wade MacLauchlan, and Allen Roach.

Progressive Conservative voters would have elected seven local MLAs such as Matthew MacKay, Jamie Fox, Brad Trivers, Sidney MacEwen, James Aylward, Darlene Compton, and Steven Myers.

By the percentage of the vote, Liberal voters deserved to elect 11 of the 28 MLAs, so they need no top-up Island-wide MLAs. The PCs deserved to elect 10 MLAs, so they elect another three MLAs as Island-wide MLAs. Who is elected? The three PC candidates on the Island-wide ballot who got the most votes (after crossing off those who already won a local seat). That might have been Colin LaVie, Rob Lantz, and Mary Ellen McInnis or Linda Clements.

Green Party voters deserved to elect 3 MLAs. Maybe they would have been Peter Bevan-Baker, Becka Viau, and Darcie Lanthier.

NDP voters deserved to elect 3 MLAs. Maybe they would have been Michael Redmond, Karalee McAskill and Susan Birt or Peter Meggs.

Who would form the government?

Who would form the government? It takes 14 votes to pass legislation. A stable government would be a coalition between the Liberals and either the Greens or the NDP. If the Liberal insisted on trying to govern alone, another option would be a coalition of the PCs plus Greens plus NDP. A third option, if coalitions were not possible, would be a minority government with an accord (a “confidence-and-supply agreement”) where the junior partner was free to move amendments and vote against government bills with the exception of budget bills and matters of confidence. If all else fails, the Liberals might form a minority government and bargain with the Greens and NDP case-by-case to get support from one or the other.   

2011 election

If this MMP system had been used in the 2015 election, how would it have worked out?

Since the Liberals got over 50%, they would have a majority government. With 51.4% of the vote they would have 14 MLAs. If they elected 14 Local MLAs as I think they would have, they would have elected no Island-wide top-up MLAs. PC voters would have elected four Local MLAs and seven Island-wide MLAs. Green and NDP voters would have elected one Island-wide MLA each, such as Green leader Sharon Labchuk and NDP leader James Rodd or top vote-getter Jacquie Robichaud. The 2007 election would have been just like 2011.

2000 election

An interesting change would have been the 2000 election when PC Premier Pat Binns won every seat but one. Under MMP he would have won 17 of the 18 local seats, but Liberal voters would have elected 8 MLAs: one local, and seven Island-wide. NDP voters would have re-elected Herb Dickieson as well as electing one other MLA like Gary Robichaud, giving the legislature a real and more diverse opposition.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Canada wants moderate proportionality.

Many people have said Canada needs “a moderate proportional voting system.” Sure, Canadians are not extremists. But what does that mean?

In the 2015 election, the Liberals famously got 39.5% of the vote. (Actually, they got 39.8% of the five-party vote.) Under perfect province-wide proportionality, they would elect 40.5% of the MPs, but First Past The Post gifted them a “winner’s bonus” of 47 seats. In 2011 FPTP gifted Harper a “winner’s bonus” of 40 seats, in a smaller House.

On the votes cast in 2015, if you exclude Green votes outside BC where they got less than 5%, the Liberals got 40.7% of the votes, and under perfect province-wide proportionality they would elect 41.7% of the MPs. In a conventional MMP model with 14-MP regions and counting all Green votes, the Liberals elect 41.3% of the MPs.

In a more moderate 8-MP-region model with 38% top-up MPs, the Liberals elect 42.9% of the MPs, a bonus of 8 seats. Way better than the actual bonus of 47 seats. We can live with that.

The ranked ballot in single-member ridings is off the table.

One thing “moderately proportional” does NOT mean is the ranked ballot in single-member ridings. The multi-party Electoral Reform Committee’s majority report said the choice is between a good proportional system and First-Past-The-Post. The Liberal minority report did not even mention the ranked ballot. The Committee Chair, Liberal Francis Scarpallegia, said “no one wants the ranked ballot.” A huge step forward.

Justin Trudeau promised to make every vote count.

A recent Environics poll found 67% of Liberal voters feel the Liberal government should keep its promise and move forward with reforming Canada’s voting system. Only 10% disagreed, while 23% were unsure.

Canadians expect him to deliver this promise in full and on time.

A Scott Simms-inspired model?

In a recent discussion with Newfoundland MP Scott Simms, former Democratic Reform Critic for the Liberals, Simms agreed 10% top-up MPs was way too light, but suggested 20%. Lord Jenkins’ Report in the UK recommended 15% to 20% top-up MPs. I cannot imagine two people more different that Lord Jenkins and Scott Simms, yet they have the same thought.

For example, say we give each province 18.7% top-up MPs. Suppose we start by adding 44 top-up MPs to the House, by giving each province 10.5% more MPs and rounding the number up. The neat feature of these numbers is that they give the Atlantic provinces the 18.7% we want. The present 32 Atlantic ridings are unchanged, like the 3 ridings of the Territories. (The 44 new seats includes 3 more MPs for the Territories.) In the rest of Canada, we make enough of the present ridings bigger to give each province 18.7% top-up MPs. This adds another 28 regional MPs, cutting the number of local ridings to 310, each only 10% larger (outside Atlantic Canada). In total we have 72 regional top-up MPs.

I have done a simulation. With 32 regions, each with about 11 MPs today, outside Altantic Canada they will each generally become 10 local MPs and 2 regional top-up MPs.

Overly moderate, too moderate for me. And yet, no false majority on the votes cast in 2015. The Liberals get a bonus of 29 seats, but are 8 MPs short of a majority in the larger House. Interesting to look at.

This model still has many of the benefits of proportional representation. Liberal voters now unrepresented elect MPs in non-metropolitan Alberta, Vancouver Island, and the Barrie—Owen Sound region. And under-represented Liberal voters elect more MPs in Saskatchewan, Calgary, Edmonton, the BC Interior and North, and the London—Windsor region. Conservative voters unrepresented in five of Quebec’s seven regions elect MPs, as do those in Toronto, Peel Region, Northern Ontario, the north half of Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island, and Yukon. The Atlantic Provinces have six opposition MPs. NDP voters everywhere outside PEI are represented. Even Green voters in Vancouver, Manitoba and west-central Ontario elect MPs, and 14 in total after the Green vote doubles under PR.

And as Prof. Dennis Pilon says in this video "Now keep in mind that, when you change the voting system, you also change the incentives that affect the kinds of decisions that voters might make. For instance, we know that, when every vote counts, voters won't have to worry about splitting the vote, or casting a strategic vote. Thus, we should expect that support for different parties might change."

“A moderate system”

Prof. Nathalie Des Rosiers told the Electoral Reform Committee about the Law Commission Report on Aug. 22 “We were trying to maintain the good parts of the first past the post system while remedying the bad parts. It was a moderate report that was aimed at helping Canadians and Parliament grapple with this issue of electoral reform.” She mentioned one-third top-up MPs.

Alex Boulerice responded “as the Scottish model shows, even in the Westminster tradition, changes can be made toward a moderate proportional voting system. I don't think anyone here would want our system to become extreme.

New Zealand’s 2012 MMP Review Commission said “The system of MMP adopted by New Zealand in 1993 is a moderate form of proportional representation which seeks to balance two important objectives. One is the principle of proportionality: that a party’s share of seats should reflect its share of the nationwide vote. The other is the need to ensure elections deliver effective Parliaments and stable governments by avoiding an undue proliferation of very small parties in Parliament.”

Oddly, the Electoral Reform Committee never heard one witness advocate the full Jenkins Commission Report, which was only 15% to 20% top-up MPs; deliberately very moderate. Jenkins wrote:
“In considering the level of Top-up we are required to balance carefully the potentially competing criteria set out in our terms of reference. On the one hand the importance of maintaining the link between MPs and their constituencies and the need to ensure stable government - to the arguable extent that this requires single party majority government most of the time - pushes towards keeping the level of Top-up as low as possible. On the other hand the requirement to deliver broad proportionality would push us towards a larger Top-up sufficient to correct, or at least substantially to ameliorate, potential disproportional outcomes on the constituency side. . . . a Top-up of between 15% and 20% of MPs would do sufficient justice to the three competing criteria discussed above to be acceptable.
. . . . . . . without producing any likelihood of a stagnant and unhealthy prospect of constant and unchangeable coalition.”

Electoral Reform Committee Chair Francis Scarpaleggia said on CBC Dec. 7: “I think you would want a moderate system of proportionality that would still allow for majority governments.” I expect he meant the same thing as Jenkins: a moderate level of proportionality that would still allow for some single-party majority governments.

So we can promote moderate proportionality, as long as it is fairly proportional. Many PR countries have a Gallagher index much less than five. Canada is a moderate country, after all.

But not too moderate

But this Scott Simms-inspired model is too moderate for me. Interesting to look at, though. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Could Canada take an "incremental approach" to proportional representation?

The Electoral Reform Committee acknowledged that the overwhelming majority of testimony was in favour of proportional representation.

The choice, it found, is between keeping the present system or adopting a good proportional representation system that maintains the connection between voters and their MP. That would be the mixed-member proportional system described in detail here

An "incremental approach?"

Could an “incremental approach” to an MMP model work? This trial balloon was floated by the NDP and Green members of the Electoral Reform Committee.

This is not the best solution. It could mean waiting until 2025 for full implementation. But let's see what it would mean.

There will be a redistribution after the 2021 census. With the growing population of several provinces, I think there should be 35 more MPs from the growing provinces. Otherwise, the six smaller over-represented provinces will become even more over-represented.

An incremental approach is to keep the present ridings for 2019, and add 38 MPs to the House (including 3 extra MPs for the Territories) as top-up MPs for the 2019 election and the next election (2023 or earlier).

The second phase is to adopt, by legislation in 2017, a full mixed-member proportional representation system, to be implemented along with the recommendations of the Electoral Boundaries Commissions after the 2021 census, which are likely to take effect May 1, 2024. Again, it would have 376 MPs.

MMP-lite

With only 11% top-up MPs, the first phase is an “MMP-lite” model.

On the votes cast in 2015, the projected results would have been 189 Liberals, 112 Conservatives, 56 NDP, 13 Bloc, and 6 Greens. By contrast, a fully proportional model would have elected 153 Liberals, 119 Conservatives, 76 NDP, 17 Bloc, and 11 Greens.

With 376 MPs, that’s a Liberal majority of only 1, compared to the current majority of 15. To have a stable government, a coalition or accord would be advisable. Canada has seen ten coalition governments, and six stable Liberal minority governments. With an election in 2019 on this model, a false majority government would still be possible, but rather less likely.

Although this first phase model is poorly proportional, it still has some of the benefits of a proportional system.

Liberal voters are better represented in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Southwest Ontario, with five more MPs from those regions. Strong near-winner candidates in southwest Ontario like Kimberley Love and Allan Thompson or Katie Omstead or Stephen McCotter would be in Parliament. So would a strong candidate from the north half of Saskatchewan like Tracy Muggli or Lawrence Joseph. So would strong near-winner candidates from Alberta like Matt Grant and Karen Leibovici.

Green voters are better represented, with MPs like Gord Miller and Bruce Hyer from Ontario, Jo-Ann Roberts and Frances Litman or Ken Melamed from BC, and Daniel Green or JiCi Lauzon from Quebec.

Conservatives in Atlantic Canada elect three MPs instead of being silenced. Conservatives in Metropolitan Montreal and western Quebec elect four strong candidates like former MLA and mayor Robert Libman, Moroccan-born lawyer Valerie Assouline, business community leader Jimmy Yu, and Lebanese-Canadian architect Roland Dick.

New Democrats would have re-elected  Peggy Nash, Craig Scott and Andrew Cash in Toronto, Paul Dewar in Ottawa, Wayne Marston in Hamilton, and Jack Harris in Newfoundland, and added two new MPs in Ontario and two in Alberta.

Second phase

The second step is legislation in 2017 for a full mixed-member proportional representation system. It could have more than 33% regional MPs. The only reason to keep the number to 33% was to follow the present boundaries whenever possible, usually making three ridings into two. This is irrelevant with redistribution after the 2021 census, which are likely to take effect May 1, 2024.

The six small over-represented provinces would have temporarily gained a top-up MP, which ends with redistribution. Since they are over-represented, they are unlikely to complain. Using 2021 estimated populations from Statistics Canada, the other provinces will get: 83 for Quebec (close to the 86 they had temporarily), 138 for Ontario (up from the temporary 134), 49 in BC (up from 46), and 40 in Alberta (up from 38).

Technical note on projected size of the House:

The “electoral quotient” was set at 111,166 for the redistribution after the 2011 census, with a national population of 34,482,779. For the redistribution after the 2021 census the electoral quotient will be adjusted to reflect average provincial population growth since the previous redistribution. It might be increased to as much 123,812, but that would make Quebec over-represented.

It might be 119,180. In that case, the next House would have 351 MPs, an increase of only 3.85%. 
With some options, the six small over-represented provinces would temporarily gain a top-up MP, but lose that seat with redistribution. Since they are over-represented, they are unlikely to complain. 
Quebec, however, could find it humiliating to gain Top-Up MPs in phase 1, and lose them all again in phase 2. A risky tactic. 

Better to set the size of the next House high enough that Quebec gets to keep five of its eight temporary top-up” seats. If it becomes 376 MPs, the quotient is 109,970. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

The open-list Mixed Member Proportional system for which the Electoral Reform Committee found consensus.

The multi-party Electoral Reform Committee had a great deal to say about the Mixed Member Proportional System.

This could be the best model for Canadian democratic proportional representation.

The Committee found consensus on proportional representation

In Recommendations 1, 2 and 12, the Committee acknowledged that, of those who wanted change, the overwhelming majority of testimony was in favour of proportional representation. The Committee recommends that the Government should develop a new electoral system with a minimal level of distortion between the popular will of the electorate and the resultant seat allocations in Parliament, but not sever the connection between voters and their MP.

The Liberal minority report did not even mention the alternative of the ranked ballot in single-member ridings. At the press conference on the filing of the Committee Report, Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia (Chair of the Committee) confirmed "no one wants the ranked ballot." A huge step forward.

This is all consistent with the Mixed Member Proportional system, with open lists for the regional top-up MPs.

The Committee’s Report found consensus on open-list MMP.

Most individuals who favoured reform expressed support for this system (MMP).” “A majority of participants who advocated for electoral system change proposed the adoption of an MMP system, suggesting that it maximizes voter choice.” “Moving to an MMP system would keep the electoral system relatively simple. The local representation factor seems very familiar and similar to what [we] know with the current first-past-the-post system. It feels relatively simple and accessible on the ballot.” “Most respondents to the e-consultation strongly supported or supported the view that voters should determine which candidates get elected from a party’s list.”

The Report also discussed the details of MMP design: “In 2004, the Law Commission recommended two-thirds of MPs be elected in constituency races and the remaining one-third be elected from provincial or territorial party lists. The Commission noted that avoiding increasing the size of the House of Commons was a priority in determining said ratio.” “One way some countries with MMP systems have addressed the threat of the election of “fringe” or “extremist” parties is through the use of thresholds. For example, to be eligible to receive a share of the party vote seats in New Zealand, a party must garner at least 5% of the national vote.” Prof. Tanguay noted a built-in kind of threshold with MMP: “You'd need, probably, at least 10% of votes in a region to get one of those list seats.” As for the three Territories, “Some suggested adding a second compensatory MP to each territory to allow for some degree of proportionality” as the Law Commission recommended in 2004.

Further details are found in the Supplementary Report of the NDP and Green Party: “(MMP) with 2/3 of the House of Commons elected to represent direct constituencies, and 1/3 elected as regional compensatory members.” A group of three ridings will become two larger ridings each 50% bigger: “As such, since it would not affect current riding boundaries, a full riding redistribution would be unnecessary.”

The six smaller provinces have 60 MPs, an average of ten each. Local regions of about ten MPs match Prof. Tanguay’s comment above. The Hon. Stéphane Dion has advocated regions of similar size, to prevent creating different political micro-climates in different regions.

An MMP model with 34 local regions, with an average of 9.85 MPs each for the 335 MPs from the ten provinces, plus six MPs for the Territories, looks very practical.

Every region is represented

As Stéphane Dion likes to say “the whole spectrum of parties, from Greens to Conservatives, must embrace all the regions of Canada. In each region, they must covet and be able to obtain seats proportionate to their actual support. This is the main reason why I recommend replacing our voting system.” And Fair Vote Canada says “we must give rural and urban voters in every province, territory and regional community effective votes and fair representation in both government and opposition.”

In all 34 regions, on the votes cast in 2015, voters for all major parties have a representative. For example, Liberal voters who are not represented today in Vancouver Island, South and Central Alberta, Northern Alberta, Windsor—Sarnia, and Barrie—Owen Sound will elect MPs. So will Conservative voters in Atlantic Canada, Montreal and the western 72% of Quebec, Toronto, Peel Region, Northern Ontario, the north half of metropolitan Vancouver, and Vancouver Island.

How will regional MPs operate? 

Most regional MPs will each cover several ridings. Take Saskatchewan as an example. On the votes cast in October 2015, Liberal voters there would have elected two regional MPs. They might be based in Saskatoon and Prince Albert, but they would likely have additional offices in North Battleford and elsewhere, just as MP Kelly Block has offices in Martensville, Humboldt and Rosetown. This is just the way it’s done in Scotland, where each regional MP normally covers three local ridings, and holds office hours rotating across them. 

Even the Ministry of Democratic Institutions notes “Of the 34 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada is one of only three that continue to use the FPTP system to elect legislators.” The rest mostly use proportional representation and have stable majority coalition governments like Germany.

Not my model

The model I am describing is not my personal model. I would use more than 33% regional MPs. This is the model I have taken from the reports outlined above.

Is one-third regional MPs enough?    

My simulation of this model on the votes cast in 2015 results in 144 Liberals (a bonus of 7 MPs over the perfectly proportional result), 107 Conservatives (short 3), 70 NDP (a bonus of 1), 15 Bloc, and 5 Greens (short 5). Not perfect, but reasonably proportional.

Prof. Byron Weber Becker has run the model on his software. It has a Gallagher Index of 2.94, and a Composite Gallagher Index of 4.25.

Looking at provinces, Ontario shows a Liberal bonus of 3, 1 from the Conservatives, 2 from the Greens. This is because of the Liberal sweep of Toronto, Peel Region and Oakville, where 52% of the vote gave them all 37 MPs. With only 33% compensatory MPs, the Liberals get a bonus of 5 MPs there, 3 from the Conservatives, 1 from the NDP, and 1 from the Greens. But another region gives the Conservatives a bonus, and the other eight regions of Ontario show fully proportional results.

New Brunswick shows a pattern similar to Toronto: a sweep on 51.6% of the vote, resulting in a Liberal bonus of 1 MP from the Conservatives. Conversely, the NDP sweep of six of Vancouver Island’s seven seats means BC shows an NDP bonus of 1 from the Conservatives.

Quebec is close to perfect: a Liberal bonus of 2 and a Conservative bonus of 1, 2 from the Greens, 1 from the NDP. In Alberta’s four regions, rounding anomalies give the Liberals and NDP a bonus of 1 each, 1 from the Conservatives, 1 from the Greens.

What if the Green vote doubles?

Another way to test whether 33% regional MPs is enough, is to project the outcome if the Green Party vote doubles, as they expect it would under PR.

A projection showing their vote doubled from non-voters (everywhere but in Elizabeth May’s riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands) shows them electing 20 MPs, very close to the perfect 22 MPs they should elect. They elect MPs in every province but Newfoundland & Labrador and P.E.I. Again, the sweeps in Toronto and New Brunswick give the Liberals a bonus of 9 MPs, of which 4 are from the NDP, 2 from the Bloc, 2 from the Greens, and 1 from the Conservatives. Not perfect, but reasonably proportional.

Which ridings would change?

Every local region, with about 10 MPs per region, will still have the same number of MPs as it does today. Those MPs will become 67% local, 33% regional. Wherever possible, three present ridings will become two larger ridings 50% larger. In my simulation, I use 16 nine-MP regions, 8 twelve-MP regions, and 7 six-MP regions. The Boundaries Commissions will make short work of this. Exceptions will be in only about 14% of ridings, about 49 of the present 338. As well, seven ridings could be “grandfathered:” the three for the Territories, and four more remote and aboriginal ridings.


Law Commission of Canada



In 2004 the Minister of Justice, the Hon. Irwin Cotler, tabled the Law Commission of Canada’s Report recommending a mixed member proportional system, just as outlined above. MMP is used in Germany, Scotland, New Zealand, and other jurisdictions. 


The Law Commission recommended one vital improvement: no closed lists. All MPs are elected and have faced the voters. If voters for a party are entitled to elect a regional MP, it will be the party’s regional candidate who got the most votes across the region. 

You have two votes. With your first vote, you help elect a local MP as we do today. With the second, you also help elect a few regional MPs: it’s proportional. You can cast a personal vote for the regional candidate you prefer: it’s personal.

The regional candidates will be democratically nominated in 34 local regions, each small enough to make them accountable, not by the province-wide lists that Ontario voters rejected in their 2007 referendum.

Ranked ballots?

Could this model use a ranked ballot to elect the local MPs? In most ridings this would make no difference, but it would increase the Liberal bonus to the extent that the Gallagher Index would be 5.93, higher than the target of 5, with a Composite Gallagher Index 6.82. Not recommended.

Technical note

The calculation for any PR system has to choose a rounding method, to round fractions up and down. I have used the “largest remainder” calculation, which Germany used until recently, because it is the simplest and most transparent. In a 10-MP region, if Party A deserves 3.2 MPs, Party B deserves 3.1, Party C deserves 2.3, and Party D deserves 1.4, which party gets the tenth seat? Party D has a remainder of 0.4, the largest remainder. In a region where one party wins a bonus (“overhang”), I allocate the remaining seats among the remaining parties by the same calculation.    

Appendix - the regions:

My simulation using this model lets voters elect 221 local MPs and 114 regional MPs in 34 regions, plus two each from the three Territories.

The regions are:

Ontario:
Toronto Central—Scarborough 13, North York—Etobicoke 12, York Region 9, Mississauga—Brampton—Oakville 12, Hamilton—Niagara—Halton 12, Central Ontario (Barrie—Owen Sound) 9, Waterloo—Brantford—Wellington—Dufferin 9, London—Oxford—Norfolk 6, Windsor—Sarnia 6, Central East (Durham—Peterborough—Kingston) 12, Eastern Ontario 12, Northern Ontario 9.

Quebec:
Montréal-est 9, Montréal-ouest 9, Laval—Lanaudière 9, Laurentides—Outaouais—Abitibi-Témiscamingue—Nord 11, Rive-sud 9, Montérégie-est—Bécancour—Estrie 9, Québec City—Mauricie—Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean—Côte-Nord 13, Chaudière-Appalaches—Bas-Saint-Laurent—Gaspésie 9.

Alberta:
Calgary 10, South-Central Alberta 9, Edmonton 9, North Alberta 6.

British Columbia:
Vancouver—Burnaby—Coquitlam—Maple Ridge 12, Surrey—Fraser Valley—Richmond—Delta 12, Vancouver Island, North and West Vancouver 9, BC Interior and North 9

Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador, and Prince Edward Island: each are one region.