Saturday, March 10, 2018

What if every vote in Ontario counted this year?


If every vote in Ontario counted this year, what would that look like?

Rural and urban voters in every region of Ontario would have effective votes and fair representation in both government and opposition. That’s a basic principle of proportional representation.

For example, let’s see what would happen in Ontario’s new 124-MPP legislature, using the votes cast in 2014. I am using the mixed-member proportional system with open lists in ten regions with an average of 12 MPPs each (seven local MPPs, five regional MPPs).

Ontario-wide result
For the new 124 seats, with proportional representation I get Liberals 49, PCs 37, NDP 30, Green 8.

Did your vote count?
In 2014 many votes did not count, as the First-Past-The-Post system threw them in the trash.

In Toronto, Peel Region and Halton Region the 48% of voters who voted Liberal elected 91% of their MPPs (30 of those 33 MPPs).  Result: the Official Opposition PC caucus has no representative of those 370,000 diverse PC voters.  The 304,000 who voted NDP elected only three MPPs. The 54,000 Green voters might as well have stayed home.

But take the three regions (below) of southern Ontario surrounding the big four metropolitan areas, stretching from Pembroke to Windsor. In 2014 the 37% of those voters who voted Progressive Conservative elected 62% of the MPPs from those regions, so the 30% who voted Liberal elected only 21% of them, the 25% who voted NDP elected only 17% of them, and the 7% who voted Green elected no one.

The open-list MMP system: Every MPP represents actual voters and real communities
We’re not talking about a model with candidates appointed by central parties. We’re talking about the mixed member system designed by the Law Commission of Canada and endorsed by the Ontario NDP Convention in 2014, where every MPP represents actual voters and real communities. The majority of MPPs will be elected by local ridings as we do today, preserving the traditional link between voter and MPP. The other 39% are elected as regional MPPs, topping-up the numbers of MPPs from your local region so the total is proportional to the votes for each party.

You have two votes. One is for your local MPP. The second helps elect regional MPPs, topping-up the numbers of MPPs from your local region so the total is proportional to the votes for each party. The ballot would look like this ballot that PEI voters chose a year ago.

Unlike the closed-list MMP model Ontario voters did not support in 2007, you can cast a personal vote for a candidate within the regional list. This is commonly called “open list.” All MPPs have faced the voters. No one is guaranteed a seat. The region is small enough that the regional MPPs are accountable.

How would regional MPs serve residents?

Competing MPPs:
You have a local MPP who will champion your community, and about five competing regional MPPs, normally including one whose views best reflect your values, someone you helped elect in your local district or local region.

Central West (Simcoe—Bruce—Wellington)
Voters electing nine MPPs from Central West Ontario would, instead of electing only two Liberals (Barrie’s Ann Hoggarth and Guelph’s Liz Sandals) and no New Democrats, have elected four local PC MPPs and two Liberals, along with a regional Liberal MPP (maybe long-time PR supporter Fred Larsen from Orillia), a New Democrat regional MPP (maybe Simcoe County's Doris Middleton or Guelph’s James Gordon), and a Green (no doubt party leader Mike Schreiner).

Central East (Kingston—Peterborough)
Voters electing nine MPPs from Central East Ontario would, instead of electing no New Democrats, have elected four local PC MPPs and three Liberal MPPs, along with two New Democrat regional MPPs (maybe Kingston’s Mary Rita Holland and Peterborough’s Sheila Wood).

Southwest (London—Windsor)
Voters electing 13 MPPs from Southwest Ontario would, instead of electing only one Liberal MPP and no Green, have elected two regional Liberal MPPs (maybe Windsor’s Teresa Piruzza and Huron school trustee Colleen Schenk) along with five New Democrat MPPs, four PCs, and a Green regional MPP (maybe London’s William Sorrell, Green shadow cabinet Labour critic).

Toronto
Voters electing 13 MPPs from Central Toronto-Scarborough would, instead of electing only one NDP member (Peter Tabuns) and no PCs, have elected seven local Liberal MPPs and one New Democrat, along with two New Democrat regional MPPs (maybe Michael Prue and Rosario Marchese or Jonah Schein), two Progressive Conservatives (maybe Justine Deluce and Prof. Liang Chen), and one Green (maybe Tim Grant, Green shadow cabinet critic for Transportation).

Voters electing 12 MPPs from Northern Toronto—Etobicoke-York would, instead of electing only one NDP member (Cheri DiNovo) and no PCs, have elected six local Liberal MPPs and one New Democrat, along with one New Democrat regional MPP (maybe Paul Ferreira or Tom Rakocevic), three Progressive Conservatives (maybe Doug Holyday, Robin Martin and Michael Ceci), and one Green (maybe Dr. Teresa Pun, Green shadow cabinet Health critic).

Peel—Halton
Voters electing 15 MPPs from Peel and Halton Regions would, instead of electing only one NDP member (Jagmeet Singh) and no PCs, have elected eight local Liberal MPPs and one New Democrat, along with two New Democrat regional MPPs (maybe Gugni Panaich and Kevin Troake), and four Progressive Conservatives (maybe Effie Triantafilopoulos, Ted Chudleigh, Jane McKenna and Jeff White).

York—Durham  
Voters electing 15 MPPs from York Region and Durham Region would, instead of electing three PCs and only one NDP member, have elected two more PCs (maybe Jane Twinney and Farid Wassef) along with two New Democrat regional MPPs (maybe Laura Bowman from East Gwillimbury and Whitby’s Ryan Kelly), three Progressive Conservatives (maybe Doug Holyday, Robin Martin and Michael Ceci), and one Green (maybe Peter Elgie or Stacey Leadbetter).

Central South (Hamilton—Waterloo—Niagara—Brantford)
Voters electing 16 MPPs from Central South Ontario would, instead of electing only three PC MPPs and no Green, have elected five MPPs from each major party and a Green regional MPP (maybe Kitchener’s Stacey Danckert, Green shadow cabinet Finance critic).

Ottawa—Cornwall
Voters electing ten MPPs from Central East Ontario would, instead of electing no New Democrat or Green, have elected four Liberal MPPs and four PC MPPs along with a New Democrat regional MPP (maybe Ottawa’s Jennifer McKenzie) and a Green regional MPP (maybe Andrew West, Green Shadow Cabinet Attorney General critic).

Northern Ontario
Voters electing 12 MPPs from Northern Ontario would, instead of electing only one PC MPP and no Green, have elected a regional PC MPP (maybe Timmins mayor Steve Black) along with five New Democrat MPPs, four Liberals, and a Green regional MPP (maybe North Bay’s Nicole Peltier, Green shadow cabinet critic for Consumer Services).

A projection
This projection assumes voters voted as they did in 2014. But, 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."
Technical Notes:
1. 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.

2. The purpose of the compensatory regional seats is to correct disproportional local results, not to provide a parallel system of getting elected. The Law Commission recommended that the right to nominate candidates for regional top-up seats should be limited to those parties which have candidates standing for election in at least one-third of the ridings within the top-up region. Jenkins recommended 50%. This prevents a possible distortion of the system by parties pretending to split into twin decoy parties for the regional seats, the trick which Berlusconi invented to sabotage Italy’s voting system.