How would the results of the 2011 election play out, by province and nationally, if a model of proportional representation were in place?
For a start, let’s use the 2008 votes.
This simulation 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 -- often 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.
To prevent any concern that we voters might have no voice in choosing the individual that will represent us, let’s use the open-regional-list mixed member proportional (MMP) model recommended by the Law Commission of Canada in 2004. (More details below.)
You have two votes. The first is for your local MP, as today. The second is for your party’s regional candidate you like best. This model still leaves almost two-thirds of MPs elected from local ridings. The other one-third are elected from regions averaging 14 MPs (nine local, five regional). If a party’s voters have managed to elect only a few local MPs in that region or none at all, that party gets additional “top-up” seats. The regional candidate with the most votes gets any regional seat needed to top-up the local results to make every vote count equally.
Winner-take-all gave Canada a House of Commons in 2008 of 143 Conservatives, 77 Liberals, 49 Bloc Quebecois, 37 New Democrats, no Greens and two independents.
Instead, the proportional results would have been 116 Conservatives, 86 Liberals, 55 New Democrats, 31 Bloc, 18 Greens, and two Independents. The majority of Canadians voted Liberal, NDP or Green. A Liberal-NDP-Green coalition government would have a clear majority. Or a Liberal-NDP government could rely on either the Greens or the Bloc for a majority. Either way, that's a strong, stable majority in Parliament elected by a majority of voters.
The provincial results are even more telling. They would be the end of the “regional silos” that Canada’s politics have fallen into. Our political diversity in each province is fully represented.
An exciting prospect: voters have new power to elect who they like. New voices from new forces in Parliament. No party rolls the dice and wins an artificial majority. Cooperation will have a higher value than vitriolic rhetoric. Instead of having only a local MP -- whom you quite likely didn’t vote for -- you can also go to one of your diverse regional MPs, all of whom had to face the voters. Governments will have to listen to MPs, and MPs will have to really listen to the people. MPs can begin to act as the public servants they are.
Instead of Alberta Liberal voters electing no MPs, they would elect four Liberal MPs – two from Calgary, southern and central Alberta, two from Edmonton and northern Alberta. Alberta NDP voters would elect three NDP MPs (two north, one south), Greens two (one south, one north), and Conservatives 19.
Instead of Quebec having 49 Bloc MPs from only 38 percent of Quebec voters, it would have only 31. It would have 18 Liberal MPs, 15 Conservatives, nine New Democrats, a Green, and an independent.
In Ontario, instead of no Conservative MPs from the City of Toronto and 51 from outside Toronto, Toronto Conservative voters would have elected five MPs; outside Toronto, 35. Liberal voters, instead of electing 32 MPs from the Greater Toronto Area and only six from outside the GTA, would have elected 17 from outside the GTA and 22 from the GTA. NDP voters would have elected three more for a total of 20. Green voters would have elected seven MPs, one from each of six regions in southern Ontario and a second from their strongest region.
In BC, in the Lower Mainland Liberal voters would have elected five MPs rather than four, Green voters would have elected two MPs, and Conservative voters would have elected nine rather than 12. Similarly, in the rest of BC Liberal voters would have elected two MPs rather than only one, Green voters would have elected two MPs, while Conservative voters would have elected seven rather than ten.
In Saskatchewan, NDP voters would have elected three MPs rather than none, Liberal voters would have elected a second MP, and Green voters would have elected one, while Conservative voters would have elected eight MPs not 13.
In Manitoba, Liberal voters would have elected three MPs, not just one. Green voters would have elected an MP, while Conservative voters would have elected two fewer and over-represented NDP voters would have elected one fewer.
In summary, across the West that would mean 16 Liberal MPs, not just seven. For another example, the 28% of the voters in South Central Ontario (Hamilton-Waterloo-Niagara) who voted Liberal but elected no one would have elected four regional MPs.
In Nova Scotia, NDP voters would have elected a third MP, and Greens one, while over-represented Liberal voters would have elected three not five.
In New Brunswick, NDP voters would have elected a second MP and Greens one, while Conservative voters would have elected four not six.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, Conservative voters would have elected an MP, and NDP voters a second, while Liberal voters would have elected four not six.
In P.E.I. Conservative voters would have elected a second MP, while Liberals would have two MPs not three.
The models which failed referendums in Ontario and PEI had closed province-wide lists. This failure was no surprise to those who wrote the Jenkins Commission report in the United Kingdom. Jenkins said MPs 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.”
MMP is used in Scotland, Wales, New Zealand and Germany. This model was described in more detail by Prof. Henry Milner at an electoral reform conference Feb. 21, 2009. A similar model is used in the German province of Bavaria and was proposed by Scotland's Arbuthnott Commission in 2006.
In this model, all MPs are locally accountable. Generally each group of three local ridings becomes two larger ones. Voters can go to their local MP or one of their competing regional MPs (about five regional MPs). Voters for all parties have representation in their region. A more detailed breakdown is available.
Note on Quebec Greens. In 2008 the Greens got only 3.5% of the votes in Quebec. Many MMP models would prevent them winning seats in a province where they got less than 5%, but the Law Commission did not say that. However, the region size in this model gives them no seats except one in the 21-MP region of Montreal/Laval where they got 4.3%.
Note: By having only 35% of MPs elected regionally, the results are not perfectly proportional, but very close. If we had used province-wide totals with perfect proportionality the results would have been: 118 Con (119 without the Quebec Greens), 81 Lib, 58 NDP, 28 BQ (30 without the Quebec Greens), 21 Green (18 without the Quebec Greens), and 2 Ind. If we had used regional totals with perfect proportionality the results would have been 117 Con, 82 Lib, 58 NDP, 28 BQ, 21 Green, and 2 Ind. In this simulation, after adjustments due to having 65% local seats, the results are: 116 Con, 86 Lib, 55 NDP, 31 BQ, 18 Green, and 2 Ind. The effect on balance in the House is the same. In return for slight deviations from perfect proportionality, all MPs are “locally anchored” and accountable. A very good trade-off.