Sunday, June 20, 2010

“Limited MMP” (Canada’s electoral Plan B)

The Liberal Party, like the British Labour Party, is more likely to accept a “more proportional system” than a fully proportional system. That’s what Lord Jenkins’ Commission in the UK aimed at, to balance broad proportionality with the need for stable Government: “limited MMP.”

As a compromise, it’s not as bad as I thought.

The essence of the MMP system, as Lord Jenkins wrote, is that the voter has the opportunity to cast two votes, the first for his or her choice of local riding MP, and the second for an additional or Top-up MP who would be elected for the purpose of correcting the disproportionality left by the riding outcomes.

See MMP Made Easy.

“Limited MMP” in Canada would have only 20% “top-up” MPs. A group of five present ridings would become four larger ridings. We could have small “top-up” regions averaging only ten each. The regional “top-up” MPs would be personally elected and be very accountable.

Jenkins proposed an open list system in small regions, in the interests of local accountability and providing the regional MPs with a broad constituency link. As Jenkins said, additional members locally anchored to small areas are “more easily assimilable into the political culture and indeed the Parliamentary system than would be a flock of unattached birds clouding the sky and wheeling under central party directions.” He wanted regions ranging from six to 12 MPs.

Take New Brunswick. On the 2008 votes, if the eight local ridings elected four Conservatives, three Liberals and one New Democrat, the two provincial MPs would be one New Democrat and one Green, making the overall result proportional to the votes cast. Who fills those two seats? The voter has two votes: one for local MP, one for their favourite of their party's provincial candidates. The top vote getter is elected to that provincial seat. All MPs are personally accountable. Maybe Rob Muir or Alice Finnamore would be the provincial NDP MP, and Mary Lou Babineau or Alison Ménard the Green. In larger provinces, the additional MPs are accountable at a regional level.

Germans call this "personalized proportional representation." Every voter has competing MPs: you can go to your local MP or one of your regional MPs.

Lord Jenkins’ model needs some tweaking for Canada. He had no region with more than two regional MPs, but that’s punitive to smaller parties. “Limited MMP” could have small regions but ranging from four MPs to 16, averaging 10. The number of regional MPs from each region would be one, two or three. My simulation has only eight regions large enough for three regional MPs, seven with only one regional MP, and 15 with two regional MPs each.

Lord Jenkins called for 15% or 20% of regional “top-up” MPs, but at least 35% is needed for full proportionality. That’s the intent: more chance of stable government. Still, every point below 20% distorts the result still more.

“Limited MMP” would work rather fairly in Ontario and BC, so long as the calculation method is “highest remainder.” However, in the extreme strongholds -- Saskatchewan, Alberta and Quebec -- it would have a more limited effect. On the votes cast in 2008, the Bloc would keep almost half of its Quebec bonus. Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC Conservative voters would have seven more MPs than they deserve. Green Party voters would elect 14 MPs, not 18 or 21. Most importantly, due to under-representation of Green and NDP voters, the Liberal-NDP-Green majority of voters would elect only 146 MPs rather than 157 or 160 as a full MMP model would. But that’s what you get with a compromise model. Although “Limited MMP” doesn’t give the Liberals any national bonus seats on the 2008 votes, it would if they were the largest party; and meanwhile it gives them five more MPs in the GTA than full MMP would.

To use Limited MMP in Canada our 305 MPs in the provinces might be in 30 regions, with 61 regional MPs, 244 local MPs. That’s what I used for my spreadsheet projections. (I left the three territories unchanged.)

The result Canada-wide would have been 123 Conservatives, 81 Liberals, 51 NDP, 37 Bloc, 14 Greens, and two Independents.

Note: this is only if people voted as they did on October 14, 2008. In fact, if voters knew every vote would count, more would have voted -- typically 6% or so more -- and some would have voted differently. We would have had different candidates - more women, and more diversity of all kinds. We could have different parties.

The benefit of this system is to voters who are now unrepresented, and the 7 benefits listed below. However, to repeat, incumbent MPs would find it a moderate and acceptable model: every group of five ridings becomes four larger ridings, but a candidate can also run for one of the regional MP positions, with two regional MPs in each ten-riding region.

The Liberal caucus would not be just the GTA plus the Montreal area and the Atlantic Provinces. Currently only 15 of the 77 Liberal MPs are outside those regions. Liberal voters would have elected 15 more MPs from regions where they are now unrepresented or under-represented: six more from the West, six more from Ontario outside the GTA, and three more from Quebec outside Montreal. With the open-list system, those regional MPs would be the regional candidates who get the most votes on the regional ballot.

Today, 71 of the west's 92 MPs are Conservatives, 21 others. With “Limited MMP” that would be 56 Conservatives, 36 others (15 more than today).

Today, 49 of Quebec’s MPs are Bloc members, and only 26 are federalists (14 Liberals, 10 Conservatives, 1 NDP, and 1 independent). (It took 86,203 federalist voters to elect one Quebec MP last year, but only 28,163 Bloc voters.) With “Limited MMP” that would be 12 more federalists: 37 Bloc MPs and 38 federalists (16 Liberals, 13 Conservatives, 8 NDP, 1 independent.)

Today, 27% of the voters in South Central Ontario (Hamilton-Niagara-Brant) voted Liberal but elected no one. Limited MMP would let those voters elect two Liberal MPs.

Why would Liberals want electoral reform? Let’s look at the points made by Lord Jenkins in a similar context in the UK:

“Under-representation of a relatively strong minority party is very much a function of that party's appeal across geographical areas and occupational groups. When a party has a narrow but more intense beam“ (like the Bloc in Canada) “its representation, although by no means perfect under the present system, approximates more to its strength. This is perverse, for a party's breadth of appeal is surely a favourable factor from the point of view of national cohesion, and its discouragement a count against an electoral system which heavily under-rewards it.”

1. Canadian Liberals want a system that favours Canadian unity, not one which gives a big bonus to sovereignists.

“The same properties of FPTP tend to make it geographically divisive between the two leading parties, even though each of them can from time to time be rewarded by it with a vast jackpot.”

2. Canadian Liberals want a system that gives them a foothold in their regions of weakness like Alberta and eastern Quebec.

“There is also not merely the regular divergence from a majority but occasionally from a plurality in the country as a whole. . . Systemic bias . . .essentially arises when a given number of votes translates into significantly more seats for one party than for the other.”

3. Many Liberals remember that Joe Clark won more seats than Pierre Trudeau in 1979 with fewer votes, just as the PQ won the Quebec election in 1998 with fewer votes than the Liberals. This was largely a consequence of Liberals piling up large unneeded majorities in their heartland seats.

“The semi-corollary of a high proportion of the constituencies being in 'safe-seat' territory is not merely that many voters pass their entire adult lives without ever voting for a winning candidate but that they also do so without any realistic hope of influencing a result. In these circumstances it is perhaps remarkable that general election turnouts remain at a respectable level.”

4. Voter turnouts in Canada have fallen well below a respectable level. Liberals see the danger in this.

“The next criticism of FPTP is that it narrows the terrain over which the political battle is fought, and also, in an associated although not an identical point, excludes many voters from ever helping to elect a winning candidate. The essential contest between the two main parties is fought over about a hundred or at most 150 (out of 659) swingable constituencies. Outside the chosen arena voters were deprived of (or spared from) the visits of party leaders, saw few canvassers, and were generally treated (by both sides) as either irrevocably damned or sufficiently saved as to qualify for being taken for granted.”

5. Liberals in weak areas are tired of being written off. Liberals in strongholds are tired of being taken for granted.

“One thing that FPTP assuredly does not do is to allow the elector to exercise a free choice in both the selection of a constituency representative and the determination of the government of the country. It forces the voter to give priority to one or the other, and the evidence is that in the great majority of cases he or she deems it more important who is Prime Minister than who is member for their local constituency. As a result the choice of which individual is MP effectively rests not with the electorate but with the selecting body of whichever party is dominant in the area. Unless the electorate is grossly and rarely affronted, individual popularity in any broad sense hardly enters into the process at all. This is not an inbred deficiency in all voting systems. Both the Additional Member System (as in Germany) with its two votes, and the Single Transferable Vote in multi-member constituencies (as practised in the Republic of Ireland) allow the voter to combine influencing the choice of government and expressing a preference between individuals as local representative.”

6. Liberals have often wanted to be elected on their own merits, whether or not their party has run into bad times.

“A party which has the will to increase female or minority representation might find it easier to do so under a system involving lists or slates of candidates than it would with a system which makes use exclusively of single-member constituencies.”

7. Liberals do wish to elect more women and minority MPs.

What would the House of Commons look like?

On the 2008 votes, Liberal voters would have elected 15 more MPs, starting with six more from the West:

In the Vancouver region one more: maybe Raymond Chan or Don Bell?
One in the BC Interior: maybe Diana Cabott from Kelowna?
One in Calgary and Southern Alberta: maybe Jennifer Pollock?
One in Edmonton and Northern Alberta: maybe Jim Wachowich, Donna Lynn Smith or Indira Saroya?
In Manitoba three MPs, not just one. Maybe Raymond Simard and John Loewen or Tina Keeper or Bob Friesen?
In South Central Ontario (Hamilton-Niagara-Brant) two MPs, not none. Maybe Paddy Torsney and Lloyd St. Amand or Larry Di Ianni or Arlene MacFarlaneVanderBeek or Joyce Morocco?
In Central Ontario one MP, not none. Maybe Jamie McGarvey from Parry Sound?
In Southwestern Ontario (London - Windsor) two MPs, not just one. Maybe Susan Whelan?
In the Ottawa region three MPs, not just two. Maybe Marc Godbout or Dan Boudria or Penny Collenette?
In Northern Ontario two MPs, not just one. Maybe Ken Boshcoff from Thunder Bay or Louise Portelance or Diane Marleau from Sudbury?
In the Quebec City region one MP, not none. Maybe Jean Beaupré or Pauline Côté?
In Eastern Quebec one MP, not none: Nancy Charest from Matane?
In Estrie--Centre-du-Québec--Mauricie one MP, not none. Maybe Denis Paradis from Brome--Missisquoi or Nathalie Goguen from Sherbrooke?

On the other hand, Liberal voters would have elected 11 fewer MPs from regions where they are now over-represented: seven from the GTA, one from Montreal, one from Nova Scotia, one from Newfoundland and Labrador, and one from PEI. So they would have a net gain of only four MPs, but their caucus would be far more representative.

Conservative voters would have elected 11 more MPs from regions where they were unrepresented or under-represented, starting with five from Quebec:
From the Montreal region two MPs, not none. Maybe Michael Fortier and Hubert Pichet or Andrea Paine or Rafael Tzoubari?
From Laval--Laurentides--Lanaudière two MPs, not none. Maybe Claude Carignan from Saint-Eustache and Jean-Pierre Bélisle from Laval or Sylvie Lavallée from Joliette?
In Montérégie one MP, not none. Maybe René Vincelette or Marie-Josée Mercier?
From East Toronto two MPs, not none. Maybe John Carmichael and Dr. Benson Lau or Roxanne James?
From West Toronto one MP, not none. Maybe Joe Oliver or Rochelle Wilner or Axel Kuhn or Patrick Boyer?
From Northern Ontario two MPs, not just one. Maybe Gerry Labelle from Sudbury, Cameron Ross from Sault Ste. Marie, or Dianne Musgrove from Manitoulin?
From Newfoundland and Labrador one MP, not none. Maybe Fabian Manning?
From PEI two MPs, not just one. Maybe Mary Crane?

However, Conservative voters would have elected 31 fewer MPs from regions where they are now over-represented: three from Edmonton and Northern Alberta, three from Calgary and Southern Alberta, three from Saskatchewan, two from the BC Lower Mainland, two from the BC Interior, two from Manitoba, two from the Ottawa region, two from York-Durham, two from Central West Ontario (Kitchener-Grey-Bruce), two from Southwest Ontario, one from South Central Ontario, one from Central Ontario, one from Lake Ontario (Kingston--Peterborough), two from the Quebec City region, two from New Brunswick, and one from Nova Scotia. So they would have a net loss of 20 MPs, yet their caucus would be more representative of the whole country.

New Democrat voters would have elected 19 more MPs from regions where those voters are unrepresented or under-represented.
In Saskatchewan two MPs, not none. Maybe Nettie Wiebe and Don Mitchell or Valerie Mushinski or Janice Bernier?
In Edmonton and Northern Alberta two MPs, not just one. Maybe Ray Martin or Mark Voyageur or Adele Boucher Rymhs?
In Calgary and South Alberta one MP, not none. Maybe John Chan?
In Surrey--Fraser Valley one MP, not none. Maybe Rachid Arab?
In Montreal two MPs, not just one. Maybe Alexandre Boulerice or Anne Lagacé Dowson?
In Laval--Laurentides--Lanaudière one MP, not none. Maybe Réjean Bellemare?
In Montérégie one MP, not none. Maybe Richard Marois or Sonia Jurado?
In Outaouais--Abitibi--Nord-du-Quebec one MP, not none. Françoise Boivin?
In Estrie--Centre-du-Québec--Mauricie one MP, not none. Maybe Annick Corriveau from Drummond, or their young star Geneviève Boivin from Trois-Rivières, or TV host Yves Mondoux from Sherbrooke?
In the Quebec City region one MP, not none. Maybe Anne-Marie Day or Raymond Côté?
In Eastern Quebec one MP, not none. Maybe Guy Caron from Rimouski?
In Ontario in York-Durham one MP, not none. Maybe Mike Shields from Oshawa?
From West Toronto one MP, not none. Maybe Peggy Nash?
From Peel--Halton one MP, not none. Maybe Jagtar Shergill or Jash Puniya?
From Central West Ontario (Waterloo-Guelph-Grey-Bruce) one MP, not none. Maybe Tom King or Cindy Jacobsen or Max Lombardi or Kerry McManus?
In Lake Ontario region (Kingston-Peterborough) one MP, not none. Rick Downes from Kingston?
From Nova Scotia three MPs, not just two. Maybe Gordon Earle or Tamara Lorincz?
In New Brunswick two MPs, not just one. Maybe Rob Moir or Alice Finnamore?

However, New Democrat voters would have elected five fewer MPs from regions where they are now over-represented: two from Northern Ontario, one from Central South Ontario, one from Manitoba, and one from Vancouver region. So they would have a net gain of 14 MPs.

Green voters would have elected 14 MPs from regions where those voters are unrepresented:
One from Nova Scotia: no doubt Elizabeth May.
One from the Vancouver region: maybe Adriane Carr?
One from the BC Interior: maybe Huguette Allen from North Okanagan or Angela Reid from Kelowna?
One from Edmonton and Northern Alberta: maybe Will Munsey from Vegreville-Wainwright or Monika Schaefer from Yellowhead or Les Parsons from Wetaskiwin?
One from Calgary and South Alberta: maybe Eric Donovan or Lisa Fox or Natalie Odd?
One from Saskatchewan: maybe young star Amber Jones, or Tobi-Dawne Smith?
One from Manitoba: maybe Kate Storey from Dauphin or Dave Barnes from Brandon?
One from East Toronto: maybe Sharon Howarth or Stephen LaFrenie?
One from York-Durham: maybe John Dewar from Keswick or Glenn Hubbers from Newmarket?
One from Ottawa region: maybe Jen Hunter or Lori Gadzala from Ottawa?
One from Central West Ontario: maybe Mike Nagy from Guelph, Dick Hibma from Owen Sound, or Cathy MacLellan from Kitchener-Waterloo?
One from Peel-Halton: maybe Ard Van Leeuwen from Dufferin-Caledon, or Dr. Blake Poland from Oakville?
One from Southwestern Ontario: maybe Mary Ann Hodge from London?
One from New Brunswick: maybe Mary Lou Babineau from Fredericton or Alison Ménard from Moncton?

In summary, the Liberal caucus today would be 65 local MPs and 16 regional MPs. The Conservative caucus would be 112 local MPs and 11 regional MPs (five in Quebec, three in Toronto, one in Northern Ontario, one in Newfoundland, and one in PEI.) The NDP caucus would be 31 local MPs and 20 regional MPs. The Bloc caucus would be 37 local MPs. The Green Party caucus would be 14 regional MPs.

Caveat: any MMP-lite model is vulnerable to the "decoy list" trick invented by Silvio Berlusconi to sabotage Italy's voting systenm. In that trick, a party would run only regional candidates, while running its local candidates under another name, so that the MMP system works like the parallel system. It is also vulnerable to a softer version where a small party runs no local candidates, but appeals to a large party's supporters whose second vote will likely not be needed to "give us your second vote" for its regional candidate. Two counter-measures would be advisable. First, give the Chief Electoral Officer power and broad discretion to deem two associated parties to be a single party. Second, prevent a party running a regional candidate unless it runs local candidates in at least half the seats in the region.


Raymond said...

I personally agree with some sort of MMP system.

The challenge would be selling the idea to politicians and/or to the public.

If you enlarge the size of the legislature (to accomodate the additional regional MP's), it means having to sell to the public the idea of more politicians, with all the associated pay, perks & pensions.

If you enlarge the size of the ridings to make room for the regional MP's without increasing the size of the legislature, it means having to convince existing MP's on the idea of reducing the numbers in their party caucuses (with all of their entrenched local connections, pension credits, etc.)

Who would decide the size of the legislature? Would "limited MMP" be first sold to the political parties, their caucuses, or to the general public?

I wonder if the public might accept 5 larger geographical regions at the federal level. For example: the west coast-Yukon; the prairies-NWT-Nunavut; Ontario; Quebec; & the maritime provinces.

Right now, party representation in parliament is very regional in nature. Also, with "limited MMP", larger regions may be better, because of the limited number of MP's set aside for proportionality.

Wilf Day said...

“Limited MMP” is not what I would explain to the public, because Lord Jenkins designed only a half-measure. To show the flaw in our system today I say: “in 2008, 51.4% of voters voted Liberal, NDP or Green, but they elected only 37% of the MPs.” However, “Limited MMP” still fails to let those voters elect a majority of MPs.

So the intent of this model, as Jenkins’ Report in the UK said, is a compromise balancing broad proportionality with the need for stable Government: MMP-lite. Unlike most MMP models, this one is to be sold to the Liberal Party and its caucus. Note that, without adding more MPs, it would elect more Liberal MPs than were elected under winner-take-all. The parties with reduced numbers in their party caucuses would be the Conservatives and Bloc.

Jenkins wanted only one or two regional MPs from each small region because, he said, additional members locally anchored to small areas are “more easily assimilable into the political culture and indeed the Parliamentary system than would be a flock of unattached birds clouding the sky and wheeling under central party directions.” That’s basic to his model.

As for MPs from combined provinces, I don’t know if the public would accept it, but it would certainly require a constitutional amendment. Normally, MMP would not require a constitutional amendment.