Sunday, November 29, 2015

What would Liberal respect for Canada’s political diversity look like?


Canada’s new Minister for Democratic Institutions, Maryam Monsef, was interviewed by Peter Mansbridge. He says "People want the system changed. How are you going to go about that?" She replies: "Yes, Canadians voted for real change, for a government that puts their needs ahead of the party's. A government that celebrates our diversity, and not takes a divisive approach. . . . I hope that Canadians will be proud of their politicians and their country because of the kind of work we do and the respectful manner that we go about it."

Maryam Monsef’s heart is in the right place, like many in caucus. “Sunny ways” will, I trust, include respect for Canada’s political pluralism and diversity. Including the 60.5% of Canadians who did not vote Liberal in 2015. 

Respect for those who wanted a minority government

A poll taken after the election showed just over 25% of those who voted Liberal would have preferred a minority Liberal government.

That should be no surprise. The E-day Liberal vote of 39.5% comprised the 25.7% they had pre-writ, the 12.2% picked up from the NDP support decline, and 1.6% from the Green decline. That means 35% of the Liberal E-day voters had decided during the campaign, many near the very end, that this was how to stop Harper. Some of them were originally Liberals who had decided, back before the first debate, to cast a strategic vote for the NDP, and then came home to the Liberals. But most were new strategic voters.

The day before the election, pollsters were still expecting a minority government. So were many Liberal candidates. So most new Liberal MPs know how they won.  

“We will make every vote count”

The Liberal platform on Electoral Reform began “We will make every vote count.”

Many Canadians who voted Liberal want assurance that never again will a divisive political leader win 100% of the power with 39% of the votes. And never again will voters have to vote against something, or vote for a less-preferred candidate to block the election of one even less preferred.

Only proportional representation will respect the wishes of supporters of all parties to cast votes that are not only counted, but count to elect their first choice.

Only proportional representation will make every vote count.  

Respect for unrepresented Liberals

Sure, proportional representation would let voters elect some opposition MPs in regions that are Liberal strongholds today.

But in return it will let unrepresented Liberal voters elect about 18 more MPs (at least 13), as shown below. And see Canada's 70 missing MPs.

The ranked ballot in single-member districts (IRV/AV) is a scheme for partisan advantage

The platform also said they would consider ranked ballots. Now, a ranked ballot is not a voting system; it is a ballot, which can be used in many systems. It can be used in proportional voting systems.

But the system of single-member districts using “ranked” or “preferential” ballots (Instant Runoff Voting or the Alternative Vote) still means voters are voting against something, voting for a less-preferred candidate to block the election of one even less preferred. It is still a winner-take-all system

And as Eric Grenier's really illuminating piece showed, it advantages the Liberal Party in a big way. It has been called “First-Past-The-Post on steroids.” It is obviously a scheme for partisan advantage. It is disrespectful to voters' genuine preferences. The 25% or 35% of those who voted Liberal, who voted to stop Harper, would regard it as a betrayal of the Liberal promise.

As Stephane Dion says, the preferential ballot in single-member districts alone ”does nothing to correct the distortion between votes and seats and the under-representation of national parties compared to regional ones.” It makes only half the votes count.

I cannot believe most Liberal MPs will support it. Furthermore, they are well aware how they won. They would not dare get caught in public supporting a scheme for partisan advantage.

What would respect for Canada’s political diversity look like?

Can we make every vote count, while ensuring that every Member of Parliament represents actual Canadians and Canadian communities?

Let’s look at Liberal Party voters in Canada’s diverse regions.

I am going to show two examples using a mixed-member system like the Law Commission of Canada recommendation. This is not the NDP model. Liberals know the Law Commission of Canada was an expert impartial Commission that they were proud of (and that the last government abolished). I am using it because it still has local MPs, unlike Stephane Dion's P3 model.

With any mixed-member model your second vote is for a party, and if you want to look at the list of 8 or 10 regional candidates under the party name, you can choose one if you wish. Simple but flexible, as shown in this six-minute video.

Five more Alberta Liberal MPs, on the 2015 votes on a 30-region model:

Liberal voters in the 11 ridings of Metropolitan Edmonton cast 26% of the votes, but elected only two MPs. A proportional system would have let them elect another MP like Karen Leibovici (former President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and former MLA) or Kenya-born Accountant Beatrice Ghettuba or former Beaumont councillor Jacqueline Biollo. The preferential ballot would likely have been no help here.

Liberal voters in the 11 ridings of Metropolitan Calgary cast 32% of the votes, but elected only two MPs. A proportional system would have let them elect two more MPs like television journalist Nirmala Naidoo and lawyer Matt Grant or lawyer Kerry Cundal, whoever got the most support from Liberal voters across Calgary. The preferential ballot would likely have been no help to Nirmala Naidoo or Kerry Cundal.

Liberal voters in the other 12 Alberta ridings cast 15% of the votes, but elected no MPs. A proportional system would have let them elect two MPs like Chandra Kastern from Red Deer (Executive Director of the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra) and General Manager of the McMurray Métis Kyle Harrietha, or Medicine Hat economics professor Glen Allan, or Hinton Councillor Ryan Maguhn. The preferential ballot would likely have been no help here.

This projection uses a mixed member model with 30 regions in the 10 provinces, of about 12 MPs each, with 38.2% of the MPs elected in regions to top-up the disproportional local results. As shown in this six-minute video. But that’s not the only option.

Moderate 42-region model

If the government prefers a more moderate model, with regional MPs more locally accountable, and a slightly higher proportion of local MPs, they might prefer a model inspired by the UK’s Jenkins Report: about 8 MPs per region in 42 regions, with 35.5% of the MPs elected in regions.

Alberta would have four smaller regions. The overall results in Alberta would be similar under either model, but Liberals outside Calgary and Edmonton would have more accountable MPs.

Liberal voters in South and Central Alberta’s nine ridings would have elected two MPs accountable to that region like Red Deer’s Chandra Kastern and Medicine Hat’s Glen Allan or Canmore’s Marlo Raynolds. Liberal voters in Northern Alberta’s six ridings would have elected an MP accountable to that region like Fort McMurray’s Kyle Harrietha or Hinton's Ryan Maguhn. The preferential ballot would likely have been no help in either of those regions.

Five more Liberal MPs from west and central Ontario

With the smaller-region model, look at the Liberal voters in the six Windsor—Sarnia ridings whose 28% of the votes elected no one. A proportional system would have let them elect two MPs like Sarnia retired principal Dave McPhail and public-relations professional Frank Schiller from Windsor, or young teacher Katie Omstead from Leamington. The preferential ballot would likely have been no help to Dave McPhail or Frank Schiller.

The Liberal voters in the nine Mid-western ridings (London—Bruce) whose 39% of the votes elected only two MPs would have elected a third MP like Owen Sound communications consultant Kimberley Love, or former St. Thomas city councillor Lori Baldwin-Sands, or journalism professor Allan Thompson from Kincardine. The preferential ballot would likely have been no help to Kimberley Love or Lori Baldwin-Sands.

The Liberal voters in the six Central Ontario ridings around Barrie whose 39% of the votes elected no one would have elected two MPs like Barrie’s former College CEO Brian Tamblyn and Orillia’s former hospital CEO Liz Riley, or aboriginal lawyer Trisha Cowie in Muskoka Lakes, or long-time Mayor of New Tecumseth Mike MacEachern.

With the larger-region model, look at the Liberal voters In the 11 ridings of southwestern Ontario whose 33% of those votes elected only two MPs. A proportional system would have let them elect two more MPs like Lori Baldwin-Sands in St. Thomas and Sarnia retired principal Dave McPhail or Leamington’s Katie Omstead. The preferential ballot would likely have been no help to Lori Baldwin-Sands or Dave McPhail.

In the 15 ridings of West Central Ontario, Liberal voters cast 42% of the ballots, while Conservative voters cast only 41%. Yet the region’s 15 MPs are ten Conservatives and only five Liberals, all men. A proportional system would have let voters in that region elect six Liberal MPs. Liberal voters might have elected Orillia’s Liz Riley, Muskoka’s Trisha Cowie, or Owen Sound’s Kimberley Love.

Four more BC MPs outside the Lower Mainland

In BC’s Interior and North, Liberal voters cast 19% of the votes but elected only one of the nine MPs.  A proportional system would have let them elect two more MPs like Metis lawyer Karley Scott from West Kelowna and CEO Tracy Calogheros from Prince George, or Salmon Arm lawyer Cindy Derkaz, or Kamloops teacher Steve Powrie.

On Vancouver Island, Liberal voters cast 21% of the votes but elected none of the nine MPs. A proportional system would have let them elect two MPs like lawyer David Merner from Victoria and Councillor Carrie Powell-Davidson from the City of Parksville, or Nanaimo Business Consultant Tim Tessier. The preferential ballot would likely have been no help here.

Two more Saskatchewan MPs

In Saskatchewan, with the smaller region model, Liberal voters in the six ridings of South Saskatchewan cast 26% of the votes and would have elected (in addition to Ralph Goodale) a regional MP accountable to that region like respected Indigenous academic, public administrator, and legal expert Della Anaquod in Regina, or Regina councillor Louis Browne. The preferential ballot would likely have been no help here.

Liberal voters in the eight ridings of North Saskatchewan, who cast 22% of those votes, would have elected a regional MP accountable to that region like Saskatoon’s Tracy Muggli (Director of Mental Health and Addiction Services) or aboriginal leader Lawrence Joseph from Prince Albert. The preferential ballot would likely have been no help to Tracy Muggli.

With the larger-region model the overall outcome would be the same. Liberal voters cast 24% of the votes but elected only one of the 14 MPs. A proportional system would have let them elect two more MPs such as Tracy Muggli and Della Anaquod or Lawrence Joseph.

Two more Manitoba MPs outside Winnipeg.   

With the smaller region model, the Liberal voters who cast 33% of the votes outside Winnipeg but elected none of those six MPs would have elected two MPs like Brandon lawyer Jodi Wyman and aboriginal educator Rebecca Chartrand or Springfield agriculture expert Terry Hayward or TV journalist Joanne Levy from Rockwood or former RCMP officer Ray Piché. The preferential ballot would likely have been no help to Jodi Wyman, Rebecca Chartrand, Terry Hayward or Joanne Levy.

No more strategic voting

The biggest result of using PR would be to end strategic voting, and to let every voter help elect an MP representing his or her first choice of views. In some ridings in BC and elswhere, Liberal voters had to vote NDP to stop Harper. They know how NDP supporters felt in the rest of Canada. 

The other big result would be to end the parade of strongholds. Only an electoral system featuring proportionality will end the magnification of our regional differences rather than highlighting our common ground

Once our voting system respects Canada’s political diversity, it’s all up to the voters to decide, as it shouold be.

How would regional MPs represent constituents?

Regional MPs would cover several ridings each. Just the way it’s done in Scotland. They would have several constituency offices, just as MP Bob Zimmer had three.    

Design options

Please note that there are many design options for designing a mixed-member proportional system.

Fair Vote Canada supports only models that ensure all MPs have faced the voters (for example, no closed lists.)

Many Canadians want a simple, easy to understand ballot.

The Scottish ballot, vote for local MP and for a party, qualifies.

But many people hate closed party lists.

How to square the circle?

Well, one example of how to do it is the Law Commission of Canada recommendation: your second vote is for a party, and if you want to look at the list of 8 or 10 regional candidates under the party name, you can choose one if you wish.

Page 105 of the Law Commission Report said:

"Based on the feedback received during our consultation process, many Canadian voters would also most likely desire the flexibility of open lists in a mixed member proportional system. In essence, allowing voters to choose a candidate from the list provides voters with the ability to select a specific individual and hold them accountable for their actions should they be elected."

And page 109:

"We believe that a flexible list system represents a reasonable compromise for the Canadian context. Elections Canada or other government body should therefore develop a methodology for determining which candidate or candidates should be awarded each list seat. Implementing a flexible list would send a signal to voters about their primacy in the process of determining who gets elected. It would also support voters who decide to trust a political party’s choice of list candidates by allowing them to vote for the party slate.

Therefore:

Recommendation 5:
Within the context of a mixed member proportional system, Parliament should adopt a flexible list system that provides voters with the option of either endorsing the party “slate” or “ticket,” or of indicating a preference for a candidate within the list."


This all satisfies Fair Vote Canada's principles:

"Positive voter choice: We need fair and unrestricted competition among political parties presenting democratically-nominated candidates. A democratic voting system must encourage citizens to exercise positive choice by voting for the candidate or party they prefer. They should not find it necessary to embrace negative or strategic voting – to vote for a less-preferred candidate to block the election of one even less preferred. Never should citizens be denied representation simply because their preferred candidate cannot win a single-member riding."

Saturday, November 21, 2015

What would respect for Canada’s political diversity look like, for Green voters?


Canada’s new Minister for Democratic Institutions, Maryam Monsef, was interviewed by Peter Mansbridge. He says "People want the system changed. How are you going to go about that?" She replies: "Yes, Canadians voted for real change, for a government that puts their needs ahead of the party's. A government that celebrates our diversity, and not takes a divisive approach. . . . I hope that Canadians will be proud of their politicians and their country because of the kind of work we do and the respectful manner that we go about it."

What would respect for Canada’s political diversity look like?

Let’s start by looking at Green Party voters.

Green votes were half of Green support

After Elizabeth May took part in the Maclean’s debate, EKOS found Green Party support at 7.3%. Other polls found it as high as 7.0% at times.

But on Election Day only 3.4% of voters cast ballots for the Green Party. Maybe half the potential Green Party voters either stayed home discouraged that their diversity would be disregarded, or jumped on the Liberal bandwagon, outside some BC ridings. The Green vote declined from 2011 levels in every province west of Quebec but BC.

Even with support at 3.4%, they cast enough ballots that, with a proportional voting system, they would have elected six MPs (listed below).

No more strategic voting

The biggest result of using PR would be to end strategic voting, and to let every voter help elect an MP representing his or her first choice of views.

What if a fair voting system respected the wishes of Green Party supporters to cast votes that are not only counted, but count to elect their first choice?

If the Green vote doubled

If proportional representation added enough new voters to double the Green Party vote, they could have elected about 26 Green Party MPs including Elizabeth May (listed below).

That projection of 26 MPs assumes a model with about 12 MPs per region, in 30 regions in the ten provinces across Canada, with 38.2% of MPs elected in regions to top-up the disproportional local results. As shown in this six-minute video.

But that’s not the only option.

Moderate model

If the government prefers a more moderate model, with regional MPs more locally accountable, and slightly fewer regional MPs, they might prefer a model inspired by the UK’s Jenkins Report: about 8 MPs per region in 42 regions, with 35.5% of MPs elected in regions.

Under that model, on the votes cast in 2015 Green voters would have elected only four MPs (listed below).

If enough new voters doubled the Green Party vote, they would have elected about 16 Green Party MPs including Elizabeth May. Not as good as 26, but reason enough for Greens to support the model.

MPs on the 2015 votes:

Under either model, on the 2015 votes Green voters would have elected two more MPs from BC like Finance Critic Ken Melamed or Climate Change Critic Claire Martin, and Arts, Culture and Heritage critic Jo-Ann Roberts or Transportation Critic Frances Litman (whoever got the most support from Green Party voters in their region). And one in Ontario, like Infrastructure and Community Development Critic Gord Miller from Guelph.

On the larger-region model they would also have elected an MP from Manitoba like Environment Critic Andrew Park, and an MP from the south half of the Lower Mainland like Abbotsford teacher Stephen Fowler.  (This projection uses an MMP model with 30 regions of about 12 MPs each, using the “highest remainder” formula. I used a threshold of 2.5%, reflecting the result of a 5% threshold with a doubled vote. Perfect province-wide proportionality with no threshold would also have let Green Party voters in Ontario elect two more MPs, two in Quebec, one in Saskatchewan and one MP in Alberta.)

MPs if the vote doubled

With the Green vote doubling, with either model Ontario Green voters would have elected five more Green Party MPs like Democratic Reform Critic and MP Bruce Hyer, Small Business Critic Jean-Luc Cooke or noted constitutional lawyer Deborah Coyne, Hamilton engineer Peter Ormond, London environmental consultant Carol Dyck, and Lindsay teacher Bill McCallum.

New Brunswick Green voters would have elected a Green Party MP like Labour and Employment Critic Mary Lou Babineau. From Nova Scotia, an MP like interim provincial leader Brynn Nheiley. From Alberta, an MP like Rocky View software developer Romy Tittel. From BC, two more MPs like Urban Affairs and Housing Critic Wes Regan from Vancouver, and South Shuswap small businessman Chris George.

With the larger region model Green voters would also have elected three more Ontario MPs, like Public Works and Government Services Critic Christopher Hill or Immigration and Citizenship Critic Linh Nguyen from Mississauga; Social Service Critic Vanessa Long from Newmarket; and Toronto theatre director Chris Tolley. And another Alberta MP like Calgary project manager Natalie Odd.

In Quebec, even a doubled Green vote would have been below 5%, but if the threshold was only 4% they would have elected four MPs like Quebec Advocate Cyrille Giraud from Montreal, media personality JiCi Lauzon in Longueuil, former municipal councillor Corina Bastiani in Sorel, and Science and Technology Critic Colin Griffiths from Gatineau.

Similarly, with a threshold of only 4%, Saskatchewan Green voters would have elected an MP like Saskatoon energy engineer Mark Bigland-Pritchard.

But Greens have generally been willing to accept the challenge of meeting a 5% threshold. Once our voting system respects Canada’s political diversity, it’s all up to the voters.
 



How would regional MPs represent constituents?
 
 
Regional MPs would cover several ridings each. Just the way it’s done in Scotland.


Design options
Please note that there are many design options for designing a mixed-member proportional system.
 
Fair Vote Canada supports only models that ensure all MPs have faced the voters (no closed lists.)

Many Canadians want a simple, easy to understand ballot.

The Scottish ballot, vote for local MP and for a party, qualifies.

But many people hate closed party lists.

How to square the circle?

Well, one example of how to do it is the Law Commission of Canada recommendation: your second vote is for a party, and if you want to look at the list of 12 regional candidates under the party name, you can choose one if you wish. Simple but flexible.

Page 105 of the Law Commission Report said:
"Based on the feedback received during our consultation process, many Canadian voters would also most likely desire the flexibility of open lists in a mixed member proportional system. In essence, allowing voters to choose a candidate from the list provides voters with the ability to select a specific individual and hold them accountable for their actions should they be elected."

And page 109:
"We believe that a flexible list system represents a reasonable compromise for the Canadian context. Elections Canada or other government body should therefore develop a methodology for determining which candidate or candidates should be awarded each list seat. Implementing a flexible list would send a signal to voters about their primacy in the process of determining who gets elected. It would also support voters who decide to trust a political party’s choice of list candidates by allowing them to vote for the party slate.

Therefore:
Recommendation 5:
Within the context of a mixed member proportional system, Parliament should adopt a flexible list system that provides voters with the option of either endorsing the party “slate” or “ticket,” or of indicating a preference for a candidate within the list."

This all satisfies Fair Vote Canada's principles:

"Positive voter choice: We need fair and unrestricted competition among political parties presenting democratically-nominated candidates. A democratic voting system must encourage citizens to exercise positive choice by voting for the candidate or party they prefer. They should not find it necessary to embrace negative or strategic voting – to vote for a less-preferred candidate to block the election of one even less preferred. Never should citizens be denied representation simply because their preferred candidate cannot win a single-member riding."

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Parade of Strongholds Continues, Again


In Canada’s 2015 election we saw a healthy range of diverse opinions.
 
Outside Quebec, across Canada the balance was 37% Conservative Party voters, 41% Liberal Party voters, and 22% NDP or Green voters. In Quebec it was 17% Conservative Party voters, 36% Liberal Party voters, 28% NDP or Green voters, and 19% Bloc voters.

Yet our House of Commons looks very polarized. And I don’t just mean the Liberal sweep of Atlantic Canada

From Canada’s big four metropolitan areas we find Liberal voters cast 46% of the votes but elected 77% of those 126 MPs, 97 MPs. Conservative voters cast 25% of those votes but elected only 11 MPs. NDP and Green voters cast 22% of those votes but elected only 11 MPs. Bloc voters cast 6% of those votes and elected 7 MPs.

Liberal Strongholds

So the big Liberal strongholds are the big four metropolitan areas (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa/Gatineau) where they got a bonus of 39 MPs. Of the 31 cabinet ministers, 15 are from those big four, although they have only 39% of Canada’s population.

The smaller Liberal stronghold, with a bonus of 13 MPs, is Atlantic Canada, where 59% of the voters cast Liberal votes but elected 100% of the MPs. The 18% who cast NDP votes, the 4% who cast Green votes and the 19% who cast Conservative votes were all disregarded.

Just as happened in the 2014 Ontario election: a parade of strongholds.

The flip side of those Liberal bonuses is other Conservative bonuses.

Conservative Strongholds

From Ontario and Quebec outside metropolitan Toronto, Ottawa-Gatineau and Montreal, and the West outside metropolitan Vancouver, Conservative voters cast 39% of the votes but elected half the MPs, a bonus of 19 MPs.

Let’s break down those Conservative “strongholds.”

In the West outside metropolitan Vancouver, Conservative voters cast 47% of the votes but elected 62% of the MPs, a bonus of 12 MPs. Liberal voters were shortchanged by nine MPs. Green voters were short three.

In Quebec outside metropolitan Montreal and Gatineau, the Conservatives got 23 % of the votes but 32% of the MPs, a bonus of four MPs.

In Ontario outside metropolitan Toronto and Ottawa Conservative voters cast 37% of the votes but elected 43% of the MPs, a bonus of three MPs.

Those bonuses echo the ones that gave the Conservatives a false majority in 2011, and could do so again.

Proportional Representation

Canadian voters want to be able to say "never again can any one-man one-party government seize undeserved power as Harper did in 2011." Canadians entrusted the new government with a majority because they felt so strongly that these kinds of false majorities are not fair. Only an electoral system featuring proportionality will end the magnification of our regional differences rather than highlighting our common ground. Only an electoral system featuring proportionality will end policy lurch and the distortion between votes and seats.

Of course, I’m not talking about classic “list-PR” with candidates appointed by central parties, which no one proposes for Canada. I’m looking at Mixed Proportional systems like the model designed by the Law Commission of Canada.

You have two votes. With one, you help elect a local MP as we do today. The majority of MPs would still be local MPs. With the other vote, you can vote for the party you want to see in government, and for your favourite of your party’s regional candidates. So you help elect a few regional MPs, topping-up the local results to make them match the vote shares. Every vote counts: it’s proportional. You can vote for the regional candidate you prefer: it’s personal. There are no closed lists. Voters elect all the MPs.

Real Change

The Liberal Party should fix the problem once and for all by bringing in Real Change in the form of Proportional Representation, not small change in the form of the preferential ballot.

As Stephane Dion says, the preferential ballot in single-member districts alone ”does nothing to correct the distortion between votes and seats and the under-representation of national parties compared to regional ones.”  It makes only half the votes count. It can be even worse than First Past The Post in creating false majorities. Only proportional representation will make all our votes count toward electing our first choice. A preferential ballot can be built into a proportional system. The preferential ballot is not a system, it is a tool.

Appealing to All Parts of Canada

These bonuses are bad for democracy in Canada.

As John Ibbitson has written about the Conservative leadership race “. . .  the new leader may need to appeal to all parts of the country under a proportional representation system rather than building from the regional blocs on which the two parties are based right now. . . . vast swaths of urban and suburban (Conservative) MPs were wiped out in Ontario and the party was shut out in Atlantic Canada. The Conservative caucus is probably to the right of where the party should be."

And Liberals in the West are, as usual since 1972, under-represented in the government caucus.

Look who could have been MPs

If diverse Conservative voters were fairly represented, they would have elected GTA MPs like their new star candidate Bin Chang in Scarborough (she is a professor of Finance) and lawyer Leslyn Lewis; Effie Triantafilopoulos (a lawyer who was Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Canada); and Mark Adler's right-hand-woman Marnie MacDougall. In Quebec they might have elected former municipal mayor Robert Libman, Montreal lawyer Valerie Assouline, and former Afghan refugee Qais Hamidi in Longueuil. In Metro Vancouver they might have elected North Vancouver Councillor Mike Little, Vancouver lawyer Blair Lockhart (she has taught environmental law), recent Richmond school board trustee Kenny Chiu, and recent Coquitlam MLA Douglas Home.

If diverse Liberal voters in the West outside metropolitan Vancouver were fairly represented, they would have elected Alberta MPs like Kerry Cundal and Nirmala Naidoo from Calgary, Chandra Kastern from Red Deer or Kyle Harrietha from Fort McMurray, and Karen Leibovici from Edmonton. And BC MPs like Karley Scott from West Kelowna, Tracy Calogheros from Prince George, David Merner from Victoria and Carrie Powell-Davidson from the City of Parksville. And Tracy Muggli or Cynthia Block from Saskatoon and aboriginal leader Lawrence Joseph from Prince Albert.

Regional MPs

Every voter in the region will be served by competing MPs. You can choose to go to your local MP for service or representation, or you can go to one of your regional MPs, likely including someone you helped elect.

How would regional MPs do their work? Just the way they do in Scotland. They would cover several ridings each, with several offices as many MPs do today.

How would party members nominate and rank a group of regional candidates? It could be done on-line, and with live conventions. Likely party members in each region would decide to nominate the same candidates already nominated in the local ridings, and some additional regional candidates. 



In my view, parties should be required to nominate candidates democratically for the candidate to get public subsidy of election expenses.


Accountable MPs

The open list method was recommended both by our Law Commission and by the Jenkins Commission in the UK. Jenkins’ colourful explanation accurately predicted why closed lists would be rejected in Canada as they were in the PEI referendum: additional members locally anchored 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.”

Every vote counts. Each province still has the same number of MPs it has today. No constitutional amendment is needed. 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.”

What would have happened with proportional represetation?

In any election, aProf. 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."


Canadians support proportional representation

Friday, October 23, 2015

What would the results of the 2015 election have been, with proportional representation?


What would the results of the 2015 election have been, with proportional representation?

In any election, aProf. 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."

But on the votes as cast, the final count in my regional simulation is Liberals 143, Conservatives 105, New Democrats 69, Bloc 15, and Greens six; details below.

Negative voting mania

This election featured a mania of bandwagon voting never before seen in Canada, eclipsing even 1968’s Trudeaumania.

A serious attempt at organized negative voting or tactical voting (which Canadians insist on calling “strategic voting”) was made by LeadNow, based only on local polling in 80 ridings over the month before the election. It had little effect. The whole country swung behind the Liberals in the last few days of the campaign, in a collective impulse to end the Harper government. Recommendations by LeadNow to vote for 31 NDP candidates were successful in 13 cases, but failed in 18 others.

Never again

The polling swings of the last six months have clearly shown that Canadian voters want more than two choices, if they can vote for what they want. This leaves a vast number of voters, frustrated at having to vote against something on October 19, saying “never again -- next time I want to vote for my first choice.” 

Polls taken the day before the election correctly predicted the outcome, but until that Sunday, polls had shown a Liberal minority government. Some newly elected Liberal MPs had been encouraging NDP supporters to help elect a minority Liberal government. They were apologetic: “I was expecting a minority government.” Many people echoed a Globe and Mail columnist who wrote “What have we done?” A voter’s anguished letter to Justin Trudeau went viral: “I did not vote for you. I voted against the alternative. . . . Change the electoral system.”

So the first effect of using proportional representation would have been to end strategic voting.

The Liberal platform promised to “Make Every Vote Count:” to study electoral reform, including both options: proportional representation, and ranked ballots in single-member districts, and implement one of them in time for the next election.

Fair Vote Canada welcomed Justin Trudeau’s promise to make every vote count. “Never again should we face a one-party, one-man government elected by a minority of voters. We urge you to work with all Parties and enact voting rules for a true and modern representative democracy in time for the next election. . . We are calling on you to design a voting system for Canada in which every ballot delivers equal representation.”

Preferential ballots will not do

Preferential ballots, of course, are intended to help centrist parties, who hope to be everyone else’s second choice. But in Atlantic Canada, where the Liberals swept all 32 seats, the preferential ballot would be a cure without a disease.

Stephane Dion’s 2013 line was “Preferential voting . . . does nothing to correct the distortion between votes and seats and the under-representation of national parties compared to regional ones.” This has never been more obvious. Surely very few in the Liberal Party will expect such a partisan quick fix to be acceptable. Only proportional representation will make every vote count.

What would the 2015 votes have produced under proportional representation?

It is tempting to describe what result proportional representation would have produced on the opinion polls taken before the niqab killed the NDP campaign in Quebec and started what became a consensus, and then a mania.

But that is wishful thinking. Let’s look instead at what the votes cast on Oct. 19 would have produced, under a proportional voting system. If nothing else, it will demonstrate how PR in Canada would work.

Of course, I’m not talking about classic “list-PR” with candidates appointed by central parties, which no one proposes for Canada. I am looking at the model designed by the Law Commission of Canada


Mixed Proportional
With the Mixed Proportional system, you have two votes. With one, you help elect a local MP as we do today. The majority of MPs would still be local MPs. 

With the other vote, you can vote for the party you want to see in government, and for your favourite of your party’s regional candidates. So you help elect a few regional MPs, topping-up the local results to make them match the vote shares. Every vote counts: it’s proportional. You can vote for the regional candidate you prefer: it’s personal. There are no closed lists. Voters elect all the MPs.


This was supported by the NDP MPs, half the Liberal caucus, and the smaller parties, in the House of Commons on Dec. 3, 2014. It was even supported by former Conservative independent Brant Rathgeber, to the surprise of some. He understood that, with two votes, you can vote for the party you want in government. And you can also vote for the local candidate you like best regardless of party, without hurting your party, since it's the second (regional) ballot that determines the party make-up of the legislature. About 32% of voters split their ballots this way in New Zealand with a similar system.

This makes it easier for local MPs to get the support of people of all political stripes. They can earn support for their constituency-representation credentials, not just for their party. This boosts the kind of support MPs bring with them into the House of Commons, thus strengthening their independence.

Regional open list MMP

The Law Commission’s 2004 report, Voting Counts, recommended “Within the context of a mixed member proportional system, Parliament should adopt a flexible list system that provides voters with the option of either endorsing the party “slate” or “ticket,” or of indicating a preference for a candidate within the (regional) list.

Similarly, Fair Vote Canada’s 2015 campaign supported only models which respected the need for all MPs to face the voters. And Leading Liberal MP Dominic Leblanc told Fair Vote Canada “I support reforms to add elements of proportional representation that also ensure that Members of Parliament remain directly accountable to their constituents first and foremost.”

This requires regions small enough to make regional MPs accountable. Regions larger than 18 MPs would require a “bed-sheet ballot” to list the regional candidates of all parties. The Law Commission Report was explicitly inspired by the models of Scotland, which has 16-MSP regions, and Wales, which has 12-MHA regions.
 
Such regions have an effective threshold of at least 5% in each region. The 2015 Green vote dropped to only 3.5% across Canada, while in 2008 it was 6.8%. So no regional PR model will give most 2015 Green voters full representation. A 5% threshold would have cut them down to four MPs from their BC base, where BC Green voters cast 8.24% of the ballots.

If the Greens doubled their vote with PR as they would surely have done, they would have elected about 23 MPs across Canada, getting official party status and overtaking the Bloc.

Province-by-province

Any PR model for Canada will start by looking at votes province-by-province, since the Constitution Act gives each province specified numbers of MPs. Perfect province-wide proportionality would have resulted in 137 Liberal MPs, 109 Conservatives, 67 New Democrats, 10 Greens, and 15 Bloc Quebecois MPs. That’s assuming a threshold of no higher than the 2% used by Jean Chretien for his great campaign finance legacy, the per-vote subsidy.

Here’s the list:

Lib, Con, NDP, Green, Bloc
B.C.                15, 13, 11, 3
Alberta           8, 21, 4, 1      
Sask.              3, 7, 4
Manitoba       6, 5, 2, 1
Ontario           55, 43, 20, 3
Quebec          28, 13, 20, 2, 15
N.B.                5, 3, 2
P.E.I.               2, 1, 1
N.S.                7, 2, 2
Nfld & Lab.    5, 1, 1
Territories      3, 0, 0
Total               137, 109, 67, 10, 15

The West wants in to the Liberal caucus

One thing can be said with certainty: the 2015 results under winner-take-all still left Liberal voters in the West under-represented.

This new government looks like a government of the GTA and Atlantic Canada. Out of all Liberal voters across Canada, the 20% in the GTA elected 26% of the Liberal caucus, while the 11% in Atlantic Canada elected 17% of the Liberal caucus. Western Liberals cast 25% of the Liberal votes but elected only 16% of the caucus.

Liberal women are especially under-represented in the West. Since Justin Trudeau will make his first cabinet half women, gender parity has arrived in the federal Liberal Party. Polls show 90% of Canadians want to see more women elected. With good women among the regional candidates, voters will vote for them.

Geographic diversity

Some people think proportional representation would mean big-city rule. Not so, as I will show.

In the nine ridings of the BC Interior and North, Liberal voters cast 30% of the votes, but elected only Stephen Fuhr, while the Conservatives elected five MPs. A proportional system would have let voters in that region elect three Liberal MPs, three Conservative MPs, and three New Democrats. Liberal voters might have elected Karley Scott from West Kelowna and Tracy Calogheros from Prince George.

In the seven ridings of Vancouver Island, Liberal voters cast 21% of the votes, but elected no one, while NDP voters cast 33% of the ballots yet elected six of the seven MPs. A proportional system would have let Liberal voters on Vancouver Island elect one or two MPs such as David Merner from Victoria and Carrie Powell-Davidson from the City of Parksville.

In Alberta, the 25% of the voters who voted Liberal deserved to elect eight of its 34 MPs, yet elected only four, all men. A proportional system would have let voters in Alberta elect eight Liberal MPs, 21 Conservative MPs, four NDP MPs, and one Green. If they had elected four regional MPs, they might have been Kerry Cundal and Nirmala Naidoo from Calgary, Chandra Kastern from Red Deer, and Karen Leibovici from Edmonton.

In Saskatchewan, the 24% of voters who voted Liberal deserved to elect three of its 14 MPs, yet elected only Ralph Goodale. A proportional system would have let voters in Saskatchewan elect three Liberal MPs, seven Conservative MPs, and four NDP MPs. Liberal voters might have elected Tracy Muggli from Saskatoon and aboriginal leader Lawrence Joseph from Prince Albert.

The preferential ballot would not have helped western Liberals. Only two ridings in Saskatchewan elected Conservative MPs by less than 50% of the vote, and the NDP was second in both. In Alberta I see only one riding where it might have helped Liberals.  In central Canada, if it did anything it would only have padded the Liberal majority.

Even some Ontario regions show the same lack of Liberal MPs. 

In the 15 ridings of West Central Ontario, Liberal voters cast 42% of the ballots, while Conservative voters cast only 41%. Yet the region’s 15 MPs are ten Conservatives and only five Liberals, all but one men. A proportional system would have let voters in that region elect six Liberal MPs, six Conservative MPs, two New Democrats and one Green. Liberal voters might have elected Orillia’s Liz Riley, Muskoka’s Trisha Cowie, or Owen Sound’s Kimberley Love.

In the 11 ridings of southwestern Ontario, NDP voters elected four MPs with 27% of the vote, yet the 33% who voted Liberal elected only two MPs, one female. A proportional system would have let voters in that region elect four Liberal MPs, four Conservative MPs, and three NDP MPs. Liberal voters might have elected Chatham’s Katie Omstead and Lori Baldwin-Sands from St. Thomas.

NDP old and new stars

NDP voters would have elected some of their stars who everyone says will be missed: Megan Leslie, Peter Stoffer, Jack Harris, Françoise Boivin, Nycole Turmel, Paul Dewar, Craig Scott, Peggy Nash, and Jinny Sims.

But the NDP did elect 16 new members of their 44-MP caucus: seven from BC, three from Ontario, three from Saskatchewan, two from Quebec, and one from Manitoba.

PR would have added breadth to the NDP by adding 13 more new people such as young Calgary lawyer Laura Weston, Cheryl Meheden from Lethbridge, Edmonton’s Janis Irwin, Saskatoon’s Claire Card, Harbaljit Singh Kahlon from Brampton, Dianne Douglas from Mississauga, Oshawa’s Mary Fowler, Peterborough’s Dave Nickle, Kitchener’s Susan Cadell, Stratford’s Ethan Rabidoux, Jason Godin and AJ Griffin from New Brunswick, and Joe Byrne from PEI.

Winner's bonus


In any winner-take-all election, the largest party usually gets a “winner’s bonus.” In Quebec, the Liberal “winner’s bonus” was 12 seats, at the cost of the Bloc (five seats), NDP (four), Greens (two), and Conservatives (one). They not only swept the federalist ridings of Montreal and western Quebec, they even won nine of the 14 seats in south-shore Montérégie, leaving four for the NDP and one for the Bloc.
Overhangs

With a regonal MMP model, we risk local sweeps being so extreme that they create “overhangs.” Those are results too disproportional for the compensatory (“top-up”) MPs to correct, when they are only 37% of the total. That’s the trade-off in the system design, to keep local ridings from being almost double their present size.

This happened on Oct.19 with the never-before-seen Liberal sweep of New Brunswick, and with the sweep of Toronto. In a simulation of the 2015 votes cast with regions averaging only 12 MPs, this results in a bonus of three MPs for the Liberals. With a real MMP election where voters have more choice and do not need to cast negative votes, such sweeps will not normally happen.

Also, the small vote for the Greens leaves them with only six MPs, not the ten which perfect proportionality would give them. This adds another two to the Liberal bonus, and gives the NDP a bonus also. The final count in my regional simulation is Liberals 143, Conservatives 105, New Democrats 69, Bloc 15, and Greens six.

Also, when we make districts small enough to make regional MPs more accountable, we again risk local sweeps being too extreme. In 2015, that wasn’t the problem: a 25-MP Toronto region would have the identical overhang to the two smaller regions.

Conclusion

Again, the biggest result of using PR would be to end strategic voting, and to let every voter help elect an MP representing his or her first choice of views.