Sunday, August 23, 2015

How would proportional representation work in Atlantic Canada?

How would proportional representation work in Atlantic Canada, for federal elections?

I’m not talking about classic “list-PR” with candidates appointed by central parties, which no one proposes for Canada.

I’m talking about the model recommended by theLaw Commission of Canada, where every Member of Parliament represents actual voters and real communities. The majority of MPs will be elected by local ridings as we do today. The others are elected as provincial MPs, topping-up the numbers of MPs from your province so the total is proportional to the votes for each party. You can cast a personal vote for the provincial candidate you prefer.

The Atlantic provinces are small enough that the provincial MPs are accountable. In Canada’s four largest provinces these additional MPs would be elected from regions within each province, maybe with about 12 MPs per region.

Canadians support proportional representation
Polls show more than 70% of Canadians support proportional representation for Canadian elections. Canada’s Liberal Party has opened the door to start implementing PR within one year of the 2015 election. The NDP and Greens fully support PR.

So this is no longer an academic discussion. This is a practical discussion: if Canada gets PR, how would it work in the Atlantic provinces?

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 provincial candidates. So you help elect a few provincial MPs, topping-up the local results to make them match the vote shares. Every vote counts: it’s proportional. You can vote for the provincial candidate you prefer: it’s personal. There are no closed lists. Voters elect all the MPs.

Consultations
After the October 19 election, Canada will very likely see a 12-month public consultation process by a special all-party task force or parliamentary committee with a mandate to consult experts and ordinary Canadians, and bring recommendations to Parliament, likely including the best design for a mixed-member proportional system.

Competing MPs
Every voter in the province would be served by competing MPs. You could choose to go to your local MP for service or representation, or you could go to one of your provincial MPs, likely including someone you helped elect.

Accountable MPs
This 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.”

More people would vote, and vote differently
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."

And when every vote counts, turnout will be higher -- perhaps 7% higher. So, when voters have more choice, the results will be far more representative of our diverse population and their diverse views. Who can say what would be the result of real democratic elections?

Meanwhile, I’ve done simulations on the votes cast in 2011. 

New Brunswick example
In 2011 New Brunswick voters elected eight Conservative MPs, one New Democrat and one Liberal. Yet those voters cast only 44% of their votes for Conservatives, while 30% voted New Democrat, 23% Liberal, and 3% Green. If every vote counted equally, on those votes Conservative voters would elect five MPs, New Democrat voters three MPs, and Liberal voters two. (For the calculation, see technical footnote below.)

Since I’m projecting from the 2011 votes, I’ll start with the 2011 candidates. Let’s suppose the six local MPs were Conservatives Keith Ashfield, Rob Moore, Mike Allen and Robert Goguen, New Democrat Yvon Godin, and Liberal Dominic LeBlanc.

In that case, Liberal voters would elect one provincial Liberal MP. Many would have preferred Dominic LeBlanc, but on election day, assuming he already won a local seat, other Liberals would have elected the other Liberal MP: maybe Fredericton’s Randy McKeen, or Kelly Wilson from Charlotte County, or Saint John’s Stephen Chase.

NDP voters would elect two provincial MPs. NDP voters can vote for the provincial NDP candidate they prefer. Many would have preferred Yvon Godin, but assuming he already won a local seat, the regional seat would go to the two next most popular. In other words, NDP voters whose top preference was not Yvon Godin could, if they wish, elect the other two NDP MPs. Maybe NDP voters who want a woman or a First Nations candidate would have preferred Susan Levi-Peters. Maybe Saint John area voters would have preferred Rob Moir.

Conservative voters would elect one provincial MP. Many would have preferred Keith Ashfield, Rob Moore, Mike Allen or Robert Goguen, so the others would have elected an MP such as Bernard Valcourt or Tilly O'Neill Gordon.  

What would provincial MPs do?
How would provincial MPs operate? The provincial MPs would cover several ridings each. Just the way it’s done in Scotland. They could have several offices, just as MP Bernard Valcourt has offices in both Edmonston and Campbellton.  

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

In Nova Scotia in 2011, in all 11 ridings the Liberals nominated only men. Additional provincial candidates would surely have included some women. Since polls show 90% of Canadians want to see more women elected, we’ll elect women when given the chance. 

But voters will have the final say, since they can vote for their party’s provincial candidate they prefer. Or they can vote for the list as ranked by the party’s nomination process.

Some Green Party voters would have elected MPs
In Nova Scotia, Green voters would have elected an MP such as John Percy.

Some unrepresented Conservative voters would have elected more MPs
Newfoundland Conservative voters would have elected another MP such as Fabian Manning. PEI Conservative voters would have elected another MP such as Mike Currie.

How many local MPs?
In my 2011 simulation, I have made each top-up region have at least 57.5% of its MPs as local MPs. On average across Canada, 62.7% of the MPs will be local MPs. The 335 MPs from the ten provinces will be 210 local MPs and 125 regional or provincial MPs.

On average across Atlantic Canada, three present ridings generally become two larger ridings. Local ridings are usually around 50% bigger than today. In every Atlantic province, this is enough for perfectly proportional results on the 2011 votes. (See technical footnotes.)

Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia voters would elect seven local MPs and four provincial MPs.

PEI
PEI would keep three local MPs, and have one provincial MP to represent voters under-represented by the local results.

Newfoundland & Labrador
Newfoundland & Labrador would have to be a bit of a special case, in my opinion. With seven MPs today, they would have to keep five local MPs. This would let Labrador keep its own MP. That decision would be made by the Boundaries Commission for Newfoundland & Labrador. However, in the last two boundaries hearings in 2012 and 2002, even though Labrador’s population is much lower than the other ridings, not one single Newfoundlander objected to Labrador keeping its own MP. I bet that would continue. With proportional representation, it’s the total vote across the province that determines the partisan breakdown of MPs from the province. So it would do no great harm to democracy to let Labrador keep its own MP. The six ridings on the island of Newfoundland would become four larger ridings, and the new Boundaries Commission might use the present ridings as a basis but would not be limited to them. Two provincial MPs would represent voters under-represented by the local results.

More choice
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.

Local MPs become more independent
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.

The rural voice
Will proportional representation swamp the rural voice? No, as shown here.

“When you empower people, it’s incredible what can be achieved”
As Tom Mulcair has written “In a study that looked at 36 countries with proportional representation, countries that reformed their systems saw increased voter turnout, more women and minorities elected and an overall higher satisfaction with democracy. Furthermore, countries with proportional representation also score higher on indicators of health, education and standards of living. They are more likely to enjoy fiscal surpluses and have healthier environmental policies, economic growth and decreased income inequality.

“It may seem shocking that a change in electoral system can fuel such dramatic changes, but when you empower people, it’s incredible what can be achieved. By responding to and reflecting a broader pool of interests and people, proportional elections lead to governments that are not based on one single partisan worldview or a narrow segment of society. Proportional governments represent a broader cross-section of society; as a result, the policies they pass tend to be more credible, stable and based on the common good.”

Winner-take-all results across Canada
On the votes cast in 2011, the winner-take-all results on the new 2015 boundaries for the 338 ridings would be 187 Conservative, 110 NDP, 36 Liberal, 4 Bloc, and 1 Green.

Simulated results across Canada
If every vote counted equally, using province-wide perfect proportionality for the 338 MPs (not counting Quebec Green votes which were below 3%), the results would have been: Conservative 140, NDP 104, Liberal 64, BQ 19, Green 11.

In my simulation, after adjustments due to 62.7% local seats, the results for 338 MPs are: Conservative 139, NDP 108, Liberal 64, BQ 17, Green 10. Close to perfect, while keeping 62.7% of the MPs as local MPs.

Technical Footnotes:
1.  How does the math work? In my New Brunswick example, on the votes cast in 2011, Conservative voters were entitled to 4.41 MPs, NDP voters 2.997 MPs, Liberals 2.27, and Greens 0.32. After the first eight MPs are calculated, the next “highest remainder” is the NDP’s 0.997, and the next is the Conservatives’ 0.41, so they get the 10th MP. If 2,600 more new voters had voted for the Green Party, they would have taken the 10th seat from the Conservatives, electing an MP such as Janice Harvey, Fisheries critic for the Green Party of Canada and wife of provincial Green leader David Coon.

2. The rounding method used in the simulation is highest remainder, for the same reason the Ontario Citizens Assembly chose it: it's the simplest. Germany used to use this too, on the premise that it offset the risk to proportionality of their 5% threshold. Similarly it offsets smaller region sizes across Canada.

3.  With only 37.3% of the MPs as compensatory (“top-up”) MPs, there is no guarantee that the result will be perfectly proportional. In Quebec in 2011 the “Orange Wave” was so extreme that this model lets NDP voters elect 38 MPs rather than the 35 they deserve, at the cost of the Bloc (two MPs short) and the Conservatives (one). If one party swept the five local seats in Newfoundland and Labrador, the two provincial MPs might not be enough for perfect proportionality. Adding provincial MPs, while keeping the House the same size, means larger local ridings. It’s a trade-off: the higher the proportion of provincial MPs, the larger are the local ridings. But the lower the proportion of provincial MPs, the greater the risk that they are too few to compensate for the disproportional local results.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How big are the regions, under MMP?

After the October 19 election, Canada will very likely see a 12-month public consultation process by a special all-party task force or parliamentary committee with a mandate to consult experts and ordinary Canadians, and bring recommendations to Parliament, likely including the best design for a mixed-member proportional system.

How big are the regions? Maybe 12 MPs.
The first question for any mixed-member model is “how big are the regions?”

Suppose a region comprises 16 MPs, namely ten local MPs and six elected as regional MPs, topping-up the numbers of MPs from the region so the total is proportional to the votes cast for each party. That’s the size of the Scottish Parliament’s regions. The Wales Assembly has regions of 12. The Law Commission of Canada recommended in 2004 “adding an element of proportionality to Canada’s electoral system, as inspired by the systems currently used in Scotland and Wales.”

With the open-list model recommended by the Law Commission and widely supported, you can cast a personal vote for the regional candidate you prefer. The region is small enough that the regional MPs are accountable. The smaller the region, the more locally accountable. But the smaller the region, the larger is the effective threshold for a party’s voters to elect an MP. Designing any voting system involves that sort of trade-off.

In some European countries, we find quite a variation in region sizes. But in Canada, Stéphane Dion has said he would find it worrisome if Canada was divided into different political microclimates, and I agree. Dion writes “I no longer want a voting system that gives the impression that certain parties have given up on Quebec, or on the West. On the contrary, 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.” Again I agree.

Excluding Newfoundland & Labrador and PEI as special cases, the other four smaller provinces have 14, 14, 11 and 10 MPs, an average of about 12. Below, I show what this would look like.

Mixed-member proportional system
I’m not talking about classic “list-PR” with candidates appointed by central parties. I’m talking about the model designed by the Law Commission of Canada, where every Member of Parliament represents actual voters and real communities.

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.

Canadians support proportional representation
Polls show more than 70% of Canadians support proportional representation for Canadian elections.

Canada’s Liberal Party has opened the door to start implementing PR within one year of the 2015 election. The NDP and Greens fully support PR. So this is no longer an academic discussion. This is a practical discussion: if Canada gets PR, how would it work?

Regions of about 12 MPs
To have similar “political microclimates” in every region, we might have regions averaging about 12 MPs.

In Ontario, with 121 MPs, that means ten regions, which I find works very well.

In BC, with 42 MPs, is that three of 14, or four of 10.5? But the Lower Mainland has 26 MPs, far too large for one region. Voters would face a “bedsheet ballot” with all the regional candidates of each party. So that’s two regions of about 13 each. But the Interior and North have nine MPs, clearly a region, as Northern Ontario is with its nine MPs. That leaves Vancouver Island as a special case with only seven MPs, just as Newfoundland and Labrador have only seven MPs.

Alberta has 34 MPs. Three regions of 11 or 12 MPs each will work nicely.

Quebec has 78 MPs. Is that six of 13, or seven of about 11? I cannot find a design for a Quebec six-region model without using a region of 18 MPs, larger than anywhere else in Canada. Seven regions works, in a couple of alternatives.

That adds up to 30 regions across Canada.

But are 12-MP regions too small to be fair to smaller parties like the Greens? I have done a simulation of this model on the votes cast in 2011. In Ontario, 2011 Green Party voters deserved to elect 4.58 MPs, while this model lets them elect four MPs, pretty close. Across the rest of Canada, they elect their fair share.

How many local MPs?
The next trade-off is the ratio of local MPs to total MPs.

Adding regional MPs, while keeping the House the same size, means larger local ridings. The higher the proportion of regional MPs, the larger are the local ridings. But the lower the proportion of regional MPs, the greater the risk that they are too few to compensate for the disproportional local results.

In my 2011 simulation, I have made each region have at least 57.5% of its MPs as local MPs. On average across Canada, regions will have 62.7% of their MPs as local MPs. The 335 MPs from the ten provinces will be 210 local MPs and 125 regional MPs. In this model eight present ridings generally become five larger ridings. Local ridings are usually 60% bigger than today.
 
In almost every province, this is enough for perfectly proportional results on the 2011 votes. Only in Quebec was the “Orange Wave” so extreme that this model lets NDP voters elect 38 MPs rather than the 35 they deserve, at the cost of the Bloc (two MPs short) and the Conservatives (one). Elsewhere, Alberta Liberals get a bonus of one MP from the Greens, offset by BC Green voters getting a bonus of one MP from the Liberals, while Ontario NDP voters get a bonus of one MP from the Greens.

Competing Regional MPs
Every voter in the region would be served by competing MPs. You could choose to go to your local MP for service or representation, or you could go to one of your regional MPs from a “top-up region” based in your area, likely including someone you helped elect. How will regional MPs do their work? See how it works in Scotland.

“When you empower people, it’s incredible what can be achieved”
As Tom Mulcair has written “In a study that looked at 36 countries with proportional representation, countries that reformed their systems saw increased voter turnout, more women and minorities elected and an overall higher satisfaction with democracy. Furthermore, countries with proportional representation also score higher on indicators of health, education and standards of living. They are more likely to enjoy fiscal surpluses and have healthier environmental policies, economic growth and decreased income inequality.

“It may seem shocking that a change in electoral system can fuel such dramatic changes, but when you empower people, it’s incredible what can be achieved. By responding to and reflecting a broader pool of interests and people, proportional elections lead to governments that are not based on one single partisan worldview or a narrow segment of society. Proportional governments represent a broader cross-section of society; as a result, the policies they pass tend to be more credible, stable and based on the common good.”

Accountable MPs
This 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: 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.”

More choice
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.

Local MPs become more independent
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.

What would this 12-MP region model look like? Let’s look at the four larger provinces.

Ontario regions
Northern Ontario, north of the French River, has nine MPs. Toronto has 25 MPs, two regions of 12 or 13. York Region’s ten MPs and Durham Region’s five make a 15-MP region. Peel and Halton Regions have 16 MPs, or if Burlington goes with Hamilton, then 15. South Central Ontario (Hamilton—Niagara—Brant) has 11 MPs, and with Burlington 12. Southwestern Ontario (London—Windsor) has 11 MPs. West Central Ontario has five Waterloo Region MPs, five in Simcoe—Muskoka (Barrie), three in Grey—Bruce—Huron—Perth (58% rural), and two in Wellington—Dufferin (Guelph), total 15. East of the GTA are 19 MPs, which have to be in two regions. The Ottawa Valley (Ottawa—Cornwall—Pembroke) with 11 MPs is 19% French mother tongue, where many regional candidates will be bilingual. That leaves Central East Ontario (Kingston—Peterborough, 52% rural) with eight MPs.

Quebec Regions
I defer to Quebeckers, but here is one option. Montreal-est—Laval 13, Montreal—ouest 9, Longueuil—Roussillon—Suroît 12, Laurentides—Lanaudière—Outaouais—Abitibi-Témiscamingue—Nord 15, Estrie—Mauricie—Centre-du-Québec—Montérégie-est 11, Quebec City—Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean—Côte-Nord 11, and Chaudière-Appalaches—Bas-Saint-Laurent—Gaspésie 7.

BC Regions
Vancouver—Burnaby—North Shore—Maple Ridge 14, Surrey—Richmond—Abbotsford—Langley 12, BC Interior and North 9, and Vancouver Island 7.

Alberta Regions
Metropolitan Edmonton 11, Metropolitan Calgary 11, South and North Alberta 12.

The rural voice
Will proportional representation swamp the rural voice? No, as shown here.

More people would vote, and vote differently
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."

And when every vote counts, turnout will be higher -- perhaps 7% higher. So, when voters have more choice, the results will be far more representative of our diverse population and their diverse views. Who can say what would be the result of real democratic elections?

Meanwhile, I’ve done simulations on the votes cast in 2011. 

Winner-take-all results
On the votes cast in 2011, the winner-take-all results on the new 2015 boundaries for the 338 ridings would be 187 Conservative, 110 NDP, 36 Liberal, 4 Bloc, and 1 Green.

Simulated results
If every vote counted equally, using province-wide perfect proportionality for the 338 MPs (not counting Quebec Green votes which were below 3%), the results would have been: Conservative 140, NDP 104, Liberal 64, BQ 19, Green 11.

In my simulation, after adjustments due to 62.7% local seats, the results for 338 MPs are: Conservative 139, NDP 108, Liberal 64, BQ 17, Green 10. Close to perfect, while keeping 62.7% of the MPs as local MPs.

In all 30 regions, supporters of all major parties would find their 2011 votes count to help elect an MP, with only three exceptions. The BC Interior’s Liberal voters needed another 2,100 votes to elect an MP. Vancouver Island’s Liberals needed another 6,200 votes to elect an MP. PEI’s New Democrat voters needed another 20,300 votes to elect an MP.

Some unrepresented Liberal voters would have elected more MPs
Liberal voters were short-changed the worst in 2011. Under winner-take-all, Alberta Liberal voters elected no one, but with MMP would elect four MPs. Since I’m using the 2011 votes, I’ll use 2011 candidates. Maybe Cam Stewart and Jennifer Pollock in Calgary, Mary MacDonald in Edmonton, and Medicine Hat’s Norm Boucher or Fort McMurray’s Karen Young.

BC Lower Mainland Liberal voters would have elected three more MPs, such as Sukh Dhaliwal, Ujjal Dosanjh and Pam Dhanoa. Manitoba Liberal voters would have elected another MP such as Anita Neville.

Toronto Liberal voters would have elected another MP such as Michael Ignatieff. York—Durham Liberals would have elected three more MPs such as Mark Holland, Bryon Wilfert and Karen Mock. South Central Ontario Liberals would have elected two MPs such as Hamilton’s Dave Braden and Niagara Falls’ Bev Hodgson. Peel—Halton Liberals would have elected four MPs such as Paul Szabo, Bonnie Crombie, Andrew Kania, and Ruby Dhalla or Navdeep Bains. Southwestern Ontario Liberals would have elected two MPs such as London’s Glen Pearson and Wallaceburg’s Gayle Stuck. Central West Ontario Liberals would have elected two more MPs such as Kitchener’s Karen Redman and Orillia’s Steve Clarke. Ottawa Valley Liberals would have elected another MP such as Anita Vandenbeld. Central East Ontario Liberals would have elected another MP such as Cobourg’s Kim Rudd.

Quebec Liberal voters outside Montreal Island would have elected five more MPs such as Brossard’s Alexandra Mendès, Gatineau’s Marcel Proulx, Brome-Missisquoi’s Denis Paradis, Quebec City’s Jean Beaupré and Matane’s Nancy Charest. New Brunswick Liberals would have elected another MP such as Fredericton’s Randy McKeen.

Some unrepresented New Democrat voters would have elected more MPs  
York—Durham NDP voters would have elected three MPs such as Oshawa’s Chris Buckley, Markham’s Nadine Hawkins, and Keswick’s Sylvia Gerl. Peel-Halton NDP voters would have elected two MPs such as Brampton’s Jagmeet Singh and Mississauga’s Michelle Bilek. Central West Ontario NDP voters would have elected three MPs such as Susan Galvao from Cambridge, Grant Robertson from Bruce County, and Myrna Clark from Barrie. Ottawa Valley NDP voters would have elected another MP such as Marlene Rivier. East Central Ontario NDP voters would have elected two MPs such as Kinston’s Daniel Beals and Lyn Edwards from Kawartha Lakes. Southwestern Ontario NDP voters would have elected another MP such as Sarnia’s Brian White.

BC Lower Mainland NDP voters would have elected another MP such as Karen Shillington. BC Interior NDP voters would have elected another MP such as Vernon’s Nikki Inouye.

Alberta NDP voters would have elected five more MPs such as Calgary’s Paul Vargis, Mark Sandilands from Lethbridge, Jennifer Villebrun from Grande Prairie, and Edmonton’s Ray Martin and Lewis Cardinal.

Saskatchewan NDP voters would have elected five MPs. Maybe Saskatoon’s Nettie Wiebe, Regina’s Noah Evanchuk, Prince Albert’s Valerie Mushinski, Saskatoon’s Darien Moore, and Regina’s Fred Clipsham.

Manitoba NDP voters would have elected two more MPs such as Rebecca Blaikie and Jim Maloway.

New Brunswick NDP voters would have elected two more MPs such as Saint John’s Rob Moir and Moncton’s Shawna Gagné.

Some unrepresented Conservative voters would have elected more MPs
Metropolitan Montreal Conservative voters would have elected an MP from Montreal-est—Laval such as Gérard Labelle or Zaki Ghavitian, two from Montreal—ouest such as Larry Smith and Svetlana Litvin, and Terrebonne’s Marc Boundreau or Blainville’s Jean-Guy Dagenais. Elsewhere in Quebec they would have elected four more such as Lawrence Cannon from Gatineau, Jean-Maurice Matte from Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Jean-Philippe Bachand from Les Sources MRC, and Josée Verner from Quebec City.

Newfoundland Conservative voters would have elected another MP such as Fabian Manning. PEI Conservative voters would have elected another MP such as Mike Currie. Vancouver Island Conservative voters would have elected another MP such as Gary Lunn.

Some Green Party voters would have elected MPs
In BC, Green voters would have elected their Deputy Leader, Vancouver’s Adriane Carr, another Lower Mainland MP such as White Rock’s Larry Colero, and an MP from the Interior such as Greig Crockett from North Okanagan. In Alberta, Green voters would have elected an MP such as Calgary’s Heather MacIntosh. In Nova Scotia, Green voters would have elected an MP such as John Percy.

In Ontario, Green voters deserved to elect 4.58 MPs, but by this simulation they elect only four MPs, such as Erich Jacoby-Hawkins or Emma Hogbin in Central West, Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu in Toronto—Scarborough, Ard Van Leeuwen in Peel—Halton, and Jen Hunter in Ottawa Valley. But 6,900 more Green votes in York—Durham (a 29% increase) would have given the Greens an MP there such as John Dewar or Rebecca Harrison.

Regional candidates
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 nominated in the local ridings, and some additional regional candidates. (In Nova Scotia in 2011, in all 11 ridings the Liberals nominated only men. Additional regional candidates would surely have included some women. Since polls show 90% of Canadians want to see more women elected, we’ll elect women when given the chance.) 

But voters will have the final say, since they can vote for their party’s regional candidate they prefer.

Other design decisions
Several other decisions must be made after consulting Canadians and experts.

Should a party have to reach a threshold, such as 5% of the vote in that province, to qualify for regional top-up MPs in that province? Or 4%? Both are common thresholds in Europe.
 
Should voters elect local MPs as we do today, by First-Past-The-Post, or should they use a preferential ballot? No working MMP model does this. However, some supporters of proportional representation for Canada admire the Jenkins Report in the UK which did propose this option, so it should be considered.


Footnotes:
1.       An acceptable MMP model for Canada could have regions of:
Ontario 12.1 x 10 (range 8 to 15)
Quebec 11.1 x 7 (range 7 to 16)
BC 10.5 x 4 (range 7 to 14)
Alberta 11.3 x 3 (range 11 to 12)
Manitoba 14
Saskatchewan 14
Nova Scotia 11
New Brunswick 10
Average of eight provinces: 11.6
Newfoundland & Labrador 7
PEI 4
Average of ten provinces: 11.2

2.        A new Boundaries Commission would not be limited to using the present ridings as a basis in all cases. For example, Dufferin—Caledon is half in the GTA (Peel Region), and Wellington—Halton Hills is also half in the GTA (Halton Region), so they would have to be re-divided. Burlington is usually considered part of Hamilton’s metropolitan area. Several present Quebec ridings straddle the boundaries of their 17 administrative regions.

3.       The rounding method used in the simulation is highest remainder, for the same reason the Ontario Citizens Assembly chose it: it's the simplest. Germany used to use this too, on the premise that it offset the risk to proportionality of their 5% threshold. Similarly it offsets smaller region sizes.

4.        When referring to urban and rural, Stats Can classifies any population centre with urban density and a population of 1,000 to 29,999 as “small urban.” However, I find towns of fewer than 3,000 residents are not generally considered urban; for example, only a small handful of them are large enough to have a high school. I have therefore defined “urban” as larger than 3,000.  

Saturday, May 9, 2015

How would proportional representation have worked in Alberta's provincial election this year?





How would proportional representation have worked in this years’ Alberta provincial election?
 
I’m not talking about classic “list-PR” with candidates appointed by central parties. I’m talking about the model designed by the Law Commission of Canada, where every Member of Parliament represents actual voters and real communities. The majority of MPs will be elected by local ridings as we do today. The others are elected as regional MPs, topping-up the numbers of MPs from your region so the total is proportional to the votes for each party. You can cast a personal vote for a candidate within the regional list. The region is small enough that the regional MPs are accountable.
 
Polls show more than 70% of Canadians support proportional representation for Canadian elections. The Alberta NDP included proportional representation in its policy. Liberal Leader David Swann has said he sees proportional representation as the key to overcoming the perceived political apathy among Albertans, and this year he signed Fair Vote Canada’s Declaration of VotersRights. So this is no longer an academic discussion. This is a practical discussion: if Alberta had PR, how would it have worked?

More people would vote, and vote differently

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."
 


And when every vote counts, turnout will be higher -- perhaps 7% higher. So, when voters have more choice, the results will be far more representative of our diverse population and their diverse views. Who can say what would be the result of real democratic elections?

One thing we know for sure: it is extremely unlikely that Alberta voters would vote exactly as they did in 2015.

In 2012 in Alberta, people perceived you could vote for Redford to stop Wildrose, or waste your vote. In Alberta this year, the NDP vote, compared with 2012, went up 476,387. Turnout was up 196,535 this year. The total PC and Wildrose vote went down 236,581. The Liberal vote went down 65,455. Likely about 41% of Rachel Notley's victory came from the higher turnout.

Trying to guess how the public would likely have voted if this election had been carried out under PR is very difficult. However, in order to see an example of how PR would have worked, let’s take a likely example.

Turnout this year was only 53.7%, still pitiful. More voters will vote if they have more choices. Elections in PR countries often see turnouts like 78% or more. Let’s assume a modest 6.4% turnout increase to 60.1%.

Look at the polls

The Liberals and Alberta Party were doing a lot better in the polls until they got squeezed.

April 23 was the televised leader’s debate.  Before that, the NDP had been at 30% in public opinion polls, while the Liberals had around 12% support and the Alberta Party around 5%. But before Prentice tabled his “election budget” that doomed him March 26, his PCs were at 44% while the NDP and Liberals were both around 18%. After the debate, Wildrose dropped from around 31% to around 26%, while support for Prentice dropped from 27% to about 23%.

During the final two weeks, as voters absorbed that the race was between Prentice and Notley, Liberal support dropped to only 4% on election day, the Alberta Party dropped to 2%, and Wildrose dropped to 24%. PC support rebounded to 28% in the final days with Prentice’s “stop the NDP” campaign.

Since there was no Liberal in 31 of the 87 ridings, that helped depress their election-day vote. The Alberta Party was worse, running in only 35 of the 87. The Green Party of Alberta ran in only 24 ridings. With PR, all three parties would have been on the ballot everywhere, and no voters would have been voting “against” someone.

Five regions

I’m going to show a simulation proportional in five regions: Edmonton, Calgary, Central Alberta, Northern Alberta, and South Alberta. These regions provide good geographic representation, and accountable regional MPs.

Projected Result with higher turnout

If the turnout was 60.1%, this lets the Liberals stay at close to 12%, the Alberta Party at over 4%, and the Greens at over 1%, while the PCs get under 25%, similar to Wildrose. This higher turnout would cut the NDP percent down to 36%.

A PR system might have had a 4% legal threshold. However, to include the Greens in my example, let’s assume the only threshold is that imposed by the size of the five regions, like the Scottish model. Projected result: NDP voters would have elected 32 MLAs, PCs 21, Wildrose 20, Liberals 10, Alberta Party 3, Green Party 1.

Coalition governments are normal

Some pundits, who know better, try to confuse coalition governments with mergers. Post-war Germany has had coalition governments after every election but one. Of the 31 countries with parliamentary government in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), 81% are governed by coalitions.

Alberta would benefit from a stable coalition government representing a true majority of voters. An NDP-Liberal-Alberta Party coalition would have 45 seats (adding the Green makes 46), more than the alternative PC/Wildrose coalition with 41.

You have two votes, with the Mixed Member system

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

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 MLAs, 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 MLAs.

Fair Vote Canada says “A democratic voting system must encourage citizens to exercise positive choice by voting for the candidate or party they prefer.”

More choice

For local MLA, you can vote for the candidate you like best without hurting your party, since the party make-up of parliament is set by the party votes. In New Zealand, 32% of voters split their votes that way.

Local MLAs become more independent

This system makes it easier for local MLAs 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 MLAs bring with them into the Legislature, thus strengthening their independence.

Competing MLAs
Every voter in the region would be served by competing MLAs. You could choose to go to your local MLA for service or representation, or you could go to one of your regional MLAs from a “top-up region” based in your area, likely including someone you helped elect.

What would regional MLAs do?

How would regional MLAs operate? The regional MLAs would cover several ridings each. Just the way it’s done in Scotland. They could have several offices, just as the MLA for Drumheller-Stettler has offices in Stettler, Hanna and Drumheller.

Who would the regional MLAs be?

Who would those regional MLAs be? First, each party would hold regional nomination meetings and/or vote online to nominate their regional candidates. These would often be the same people nominated locally, plus a few additional regional candidates. 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.

Accountable MLAs

This 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: 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.” Our own Law Commission saidallowing 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."

Every vote counts. 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.”

Edmonton Region

Edmonton region NDP voters would have elected all 13 of its Local MLAs. But rather than all 23 MLAs being NDP, PC voters would have elected four of the 10 Regional MLAs, Liberals three, Wildrose two, and Alberta Party one.

The Regional MLAs for each party would be the party’s regional candidates who ended up with the most support across the region. Liberal voters might have elected incumbent MLA Laurie Blakeman, nursing educator Donna Wilson (Past-President of the University of Alberta Association of Academic Staff), and editor at Asian Vision Harpreet Singh Gill, or construction company co-owner Dan Bildhauer. Alberta Party voters might have elected Women’s Studies faculty lecturer Cristina Stasia, or Arts Council Chair and ACTRA board member John Hudson, or Gary Hanna, president of the Parkland Teachers’ Local. PC voters might have elected incumbent MLAs Stephen Mandel (former mayor), Cathy Olesen, Dave Quest, and Heather Klimchuk (Minister of Human Services), or Stephen Khan or Janice Sarich or David Xiao or Gene Zwozdesky (Legislature Speaker) or Thomas Lukaszuk (former deputy premier). Wildrose voters might have elected former Strathcona County mayor Linda Osinchuk who had run against Brian Jean for leader, and two-time candidate Jackie Lovely, caucus staffer and President of the Summerside Community League; or financial planner Jaye Walter.
Calgary

This year Calgary voters elected 15 NDP MLAs, eight PCs, one Liberal, and one Alberta Party. Instead, my projection shows Calgary NDP voters electing seven of the new 15 local MLAs, PC voters electing six local MLAs, Liberal voters electing one Local MLA (David Swann) and four Regional (city-wide) MLAs, Wildrose voters electing five Regional MLAs, Alberta Party voters electing one Local MLA (Greg Clark), and Green Party voters electing one regional MLA.

Liberal voters might have elected young lawyer David Khan, Shelley Wark-Martyn (former Ontario cabinet minister under Bob Rae), Realtor Avinash Khangura, paramedic and PR advocate Pete Helfrich, or proud PR advocate Naser Al-Kukhun. Wildrose voters might have elected health policy analyst Linda Carlson, entrepreneur Brad Leishman, former Calgary police officer Kathy Macdonald, petroleum engineer Blaine Maller, and former Wildrose Party President Jeff Callaway. Green Party voters would likely have elected their leader, Janet Keeping.

Central Alberta

Central Alberta voters elected six NDP MLAs, six Wildrose MLAs, and one PC. Instead, with eight local MLAs and five Regional MLAs, they would have elected four Wildrose MLAs (likely all local) and four NDP MLAs (maybe three local and one regional), four PCs (maybe one local and three regional), and one Liberal Regional MLA.

Liberal voters would no doubt have elected much-admired Red Deer historian Michael Dawe. PC voters could, in addition to Lloydminster Local MLA Richard Starke, have elected as Regional MLAs Minister of Environment and Water Diana McQueen, Minister of Justice Verlyn Olson, and PC MLA Kerry Towle (a floor-crosser from Wildrose).

Northern Alberta

Northern Alberta voters elected six NDP MLAs, six Wildrose MLAs, and one PC. Instead, with eight local MLAs and five Regional MLAs, they would have elected four NDP MLAs (likely all local) and four Wildrose MLAs (maybe three local and one regional), four PCs (maybe one local and three regional), and one Alberta Party Regional MLA.

Alberta Party voters could have elected Grande Prairie City Councillor Rory Tarant or Peace River River City Cinema manager Sherry Hilton. PC voters could have elected, in addition to PC MLA Wayne Drysdale, PC Minister of Energy Frank Oberle, Jr., PC Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Pearl Calahasen, and PC Minister of Finance Robin Campbell or PC MLA Maureen Kubinec.

Southern Alberta

Southern Alberta voters elected nine Wildrose MLAs and four NDP MLAs. Instead, with eight local MLAs and five Regional MLAs, they would have elected five Wildrose MLAs (likely all local), four NDP MLAs (maybe three local and one regional), three PC Regional MLAs, and one Liberal Regional MLA.

Liberal voters could have elected Lethbridge practical nurse and teacher Sheila Pyne or Lethbridge Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Officer Bill West as their Regional MLA. PC voters could have elected as Regional MLAs PC MLAs Bruce McAllister and Ian Donovan, both Wildrose floor-crossers, and Okotoks councillor Carrie Fischer who defeated former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith for the PC nomination, or Newell County Reeve Molly Douglass, or former Minister of Municipal Affairs Greg Weadick.