Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Are Canadian voters comfortable with First Past The Post?

The Globe and Mail editorialized on Oct. 10, 2022, that “Multiple provincial referendums have been held on ditching FPTP for some sort of proportional representation – Prince Edward Island in 2005, 2016 and 2019; Ontario in 2007; British Columbia in 2005, 2009 and 2018. In none of them did enough voters endorse the new over the old. Canadians are apparently comfortable with a system that, however imperfect, has produced 150 years of stable government, and are suspicious of changing it.” (PEI did vote for MMP in 2016, by the way.)

Comfortable? False.

Canadian voters are far from comfortable with FPTP. Polls showed in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2010, 2012 and 2013 that around 70 percent of Canadians supported PR.

More recently: Strategic Directions poll 2017 May 23 to 25: When asked explicitly if they would prefer that Canada adopt a Proportional Representation (PR) system, national support was once again strongly supportive (71%).

Angus Reid Global poll Sept. 12 & 13, 2019: “Do you support or oppose moving towards a system of proportional representation in Canadian elections?” Net support: 77%. Net oppose: 23%

Angus Reid Global poll October 29 – November 4, 2019: please indicate which of these two broad options you prefer for Canada: A new system of ProportionalRepresentation: 68%. The current First Past the Post system: 32%

Leger poll September 4 to September 6, 2020: Do you support or oppose moving to proportional representation in Canada? 76% support, 24% oppose.

And for Ontario, Leger poll November 12-14, 2021. Do you support or oppose moving to proportional representation in Ontario? Support 78%, oppose 22%

Why do some referenda fail? Fear of the unknown, sometimes. For example, the BC 2018 referendum asked voters to vote yes on the first question when the result of the second question was one of three systems, a "mystery box," which might be an unknown system.




Tuesday, September 20, 2022

If every vote counted, what risks would change?

If the Liberals had kept their 2015 promise to make every vote count, and Canada had Proportional Representation for the 2025 election, there would be no risk of Pierre Poilievre or anyone else winning an accidental majority with only 35 or 40 per cent of the votes.

Sadly, not going to happen for 2025. Justin Trudeau is no longer listening to Liberals who wanted PR in 2015, although at least 28 of them are still in his caucus.

For an election after redistribution, the risk goes up slightly. There will be 343 ridings, five more than today. But most of the ridings will be reconfigured, to reflect shifts in populations. The biggest winner is Alberta, with three new MPs. And the biggest winners, on the current proposals of the 10 Boundaries Commissions, on the votes cast in 2021, will be the Conservatives with five more MPs, and the NDP also with five more MPs. The Bloc will gain two, while the Liberals will lose seven. But the Conservatives will still be 48 seats away from a majority, only three fewer than in 2021.

https://www.ipolitics.ca/news/analysis-tories-bloc-ndp-gain-and-liberals-lose-under-redistribution

Toronto is complaining

The redistribution will cost Toronto a seat, since it is not growing as fast as the rest of Ontario. But at the Boundaries Commission hearings for Toronto Sept. 29, the outrage was almost universal: how can Toronto accept losing a seat? Of course, in 2021 Toronto voted 52% Liberal and elected 100% Liberal MPs, so many Toronto voters have more than one reason to be outraged.

A “Dose of Proportionality.”

But what would happen if the Liberals listened to what Justin’s father said in 1980? How about a “dose of proportionality?” A temporary step towards proportional representation. Like the recommendation of the Pépin-Roberts Commission in 1979 (the “Task Force on Canadian Unity”) which proposed electing an additional 60 MPs to top-up the results from each province, keeping the present ridings. Pierre Trudeau endorsed that in 1980, but couldn’t get it past his nervous backbenchers.

A modest 42 additional MPs is the number of additional MPs the late Mauril Bélanger liked. He was MP for Ottawa-Vanier for 21 years, one of the Liberal MP supporters of proportional representation, and the man whose bill changed "in all thy sons command" to "in all of us command."

These extra 42 MPs would give all parties MPs from almost every region, if that party got over 5% in the province. Not full proportional representation, but “PR-lite,” a “dose” of PR. This will make every vote count to some extent, and will also make accidental majority governments far less likely. 

More diversity

Both larger parties will have more incentive to pivot to more diverse vote bases.

The 12 new Conservative MPs would be five in Quebec, two in Atlantic Canada, two in Toronto, one in Peel—Halton, one in Vancouver, and one on Vancouver Island, more geographically diverse. The six new Liberal MPs would be two in Alberta, one in the BC Interior, one in Southwestern Ontario, one in Northern and Central Ontario, and one in Eastern Quebec, again more geographically diverse. 

Less risk of accidental majorities

Is 42 extra MPs really enough to make a difference? On the votes cast in 2021 on the new Boundaries, it looks like the 42 extra MPs would be 16 for the NDP, 12 for Conservatives where their voters are badly unrepresented, six Liberals, seven PPC, and one Green. That’s only seven PPC in the six provinces where they got more than 5% of the votes (Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick). Not the 14 MPs they would have gotten in those six provinces under full PR.

With the additional 42 MPs, the Conservatives would be 9 seats further away from an accidental majority, 57 seats away, and the Liberals would be 14 seats further away from an accidental majority, 34 seats away. And Canada would be 24 MPs further away from being locked into a two-party system. 

Happier Toronto

Toronto voters would elect three more MPs, the best runners-up from parties underrepresented in Toronto. On the votes cast in 2021, that’s the NDP’s Alejandra Bravo, and two Conservatives like Joel Yakov Etienne and Indira Bains.   

Technical note: I am using 21 regions, each with an average of 16 local MPs and 2 regional MPs for top-up seats awarded to the party most unrepresented in the region. 


Friday, June 3, 2022

What would Ontario's 2022 election look like if we used proportional representation?

The people of Ontario just reminded all of us very powerfully of why we need PR! So did the Toronto Star editorial supporting it, a first.

If every vote in Ontario had counted in 2022, what would that look like?

No one man would have a one-party government elected by only 40.8% of the votes.

On the votes cast in 2022, with proportional representation our Ontario legislature should have 53 PC MPPs, 31 New Democrats, 31 Liberals, and 8 Greens.

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 using the mixed-member proportional system (used in Germany, New Zealand and Scotland). Using eight regions, the regions would have an average of 15 MPPs each (nine local MPPs, six regional MPPs elected to top-up seats).

Did your vote count?

In 2022, 54% of Ontario votes were not effective to help elect an MPP, as the First-Past-The-Post system threw them in the trash.

And who can say what a real democratic voting system would have given Ontario? This year’s 43.03% turnout was the lowest since Confederation. But in New Zealand, where every vote counts, in 2020 they saw an 82% turnout elect a new government with two-party support. 

The open-list or no-list Mixed-Member Proportional systems: 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 for the top-up seats. All MPPs have faced the voters. No one is guaranteed a seat. The region is small enough that the regional MPPs are accountable.

Open-list

With open-list, the ballot would look like this ballot that PEI voters chose in their 2016 plebiscite. 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.”

No-list

With no-list, instead of voting for a candidate on a regional list, your second vote helps elect as regional MPPs those local candidates who got the most local support without winning the local seat. Call them “best runners-up.”   

How would regional MPPs serve residents?

See how it works in Scotland.

Ontario’s Rural-Urban Divide

Our winner-take-all voting system exaggerates Ontario’s regional differences, especially the rural-urban divide.

Ontario’s suburban, small-town and rural voters somehow combined to make Doug Ford an all-powerful premier. But his majority in this year’s Ontario election came from our winner-take all voting system, not from voters. It came from the 30-MPP bonus for the PCs that our skewed system foisted on those voters by throwing 54% of their ballots in the trash.

Liberal voters would be fairly represented, with 31 MPPs holding the balance of power, as would Green voters with eight MPPs. See details below.

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.

Note: this is only a simulation

In any election, 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."

In these local simulations, for the names of regional MPPs I use the local candidates who got the highest percent in the region without winning the local seat. They would be the most likely winners under open-list MMP, and would certainly be the winners under no-list MMP. 

Toronto and York 

PC voters cast only 38.2% of the votes in Toronto and York Region, yet elected 22 of the 35 MPPs. With MMP, instead of electing only four Liberal members, these voters would have also elected seven Liberal regional MPPs (maybe Steven Del Duca, Soo Wong, Arlena Hebert, Lee Fairclough, Jonathan Tsao, Paul Saguil and Sandra Tam), and two Green regional MPPs (such as Dianne Saxe and Abhijeet Manay), along with 14 PCs and eight New Democrats. 

Peel

Voters electing 12 MPPs from Peel Region would, instead of electing only PCs, have elected three or four Regional Liberal MPPs (maybe Dipika Damerla, Imran Mian and Elizabeth Mendes), and two New Democrats (maybe incumbent MPPs Gurratan Singh and Sara Singh), along with about seven Progressive Conservatives. 

East Central Ontario (Kingston—Durham Region)

Voters electing 13 MPPs from Mid-East Ontario would, instead of electing only one New Democrat, one Liberal and 11 PCs, have elected two Liberal regional MPPs (such as Amber Bowen from Ajax and Peterborough’s Greg Dempsey), along with two New Democrats (maybe Kingston’s Mary Rita Holland and Whitby’s Sara Labelle or Peterborough’s Jen Deck),  one Green (Haliburton’s Tom Regina or Frontenac’s Dr. Marlene Spruyt) and seven local PC MPPs. 

Eastern Ontario (Ottawa—Cornwall)

Voters electing 11 MPPs from Eastern Ontario would, instead of electing only two New Democrats, have elected a regional NDP MPP (maybe Ottawa’s Melissa Coenraad or Lyra Evans) and a Green such as Christian Proulx, along with three Liberals and four PCs. 

Central West (Waterloo—Bruce—Simcoe)

Voters electing 14 MPPs from Central West Ontario would, instead of electing only two New Democrats and a Green but no Liberals, have elected another New Democrat MPP such as Elmira’s Karen Meissner or Barrie’s Pekka Reinio, and three Liberals such as Jeff Lehman, Ted Crysler, and Selwyn Hicks or Surekha Shenoy, along with Green leader Mike Schreiner and a second Green MPP (Matt Richter), and six local PC MPPs. 

Central South (Hamilton—Halton—Niagara—Brantford

Voters electing 15 MPPs from Central South Ontario would, instead of electing no Liberal or Green MPP, have elected three regional Liberal MPPs (such as Oakville’s Alison Gohel, Milton’s Sameera Ali and Kaniz Mouli) and a Green regional MPP like Sandy Crawley, along with four New Democrat MPPs, six PCs, and independent Bobbi Ann Brady. 

Southwest (London—Windsor)

Voters electing 12 MPPs from Southwest Ontario would, instead of electing no Liberal MPP, have elected two regional Liberal MPPs (maybe London’s Kate Graham and former St. Thomas Mayor Heather Jackson or Windsor councillor Gary Kaschak), along with four New Democrats and six PCs. 

Northern Ontario

Voters electing 12 MPPs from Northern Ontario would, instead of electing only no Liberal MPP, have elected two regional Liberal MPPs such as Shelby Ch’ng (or Rob Barrett) and David Farrow, along with five New Democrat MPPs and five PCs.

What sort of government would Ontario have had?

Cooperation between parties representing a majority can get a lot of good things done. This is the norm in most western democracies.

The Ontario government might have been:

1. A minority PC government with a supply-and-confidence agreement (like the Accord in Ontario in 1985) with the Liberals, ensuring a stable government for four years (giving the Liberals time to rebuild). Possible but unlikely, the Liberals had promised not to do this.

2. A minority NDP government with a supply-and-confidence agreement (like the Accord in Ontario in 1985) with the Liberals, ensuring a stable government for four years (giving the Liberals time to rebuild). More likely than option 1.

3. A coalition government between the NDP and the Liberals. Less likely in today’s climate, more likely under PR when the public is more used to cooperation between parties representing a majority.

4. A coalition government between the PCs and the Liberals. Possible but even less likely.

5. A minority government with no agreement or Accord, relying on support from one or more other parties issue by issue. Possible but less stable (although Bill Davis made it work for four years from 1977 to 1981). Today, it would be very unstable because the minority government would be looking for an excuse to roll the dice and try for an accidental majority. Under PR, when an accidental false majority would not be possible, everyone might want to make it work (as happened in Scotland for four years from 2007 to 2011).

How big will the Legislature be? Yes, that's only 75 local MPPs. So the local ridings are larger, unless we have a larger Legislature. That's the only downside of the mixed-member proportional system. The 2007 Ontario Citizens Assembly decided to add 22 MPPs. Local ridings would still have to be larger, but a bit less so. Politicians hate to suggest adding more politicians. A Citizens Assembly will find it easier. 

Technical Notes:

1.    Because of rounding errors when Ontario is divided into eight regions, the simulation above happens to give the PCs a bonus of one seat and the NDP a bonus of one, one from the Liberals, one from the Greens. The overall results are still very close to proportionality.

2. This simulation assumes there is a threshold of 3%, 4% or 5% for a party to elect a regional MPP for a top-up seat. The New Blue Party got only 2.7%. (However, if we impose no threshold, the New Blues got enough votes in Central West that they could have elected a MPP, either leader Jim Karahalios or his wife Belinda.)

3.    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-MPP region, if Party A deserves 3.4 MPPs, Party B deserves 3.1, Party C deserves 2.3, and Party D deserves 1.2, which party gets the tenth seat? Party A 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.

4. 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 of Canada 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. The UK’s Jenkins Commission 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.

Ontario NDP Policy (Convention)

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Ontario NDP reaffirms its endorsement of a system of proportional representation for Ontario.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the proposed system of voting incorporate the following characteristics:

a) preservation of the traditional link between voter and MPP by keeping constituency seats;

b) two votes: one for a local constituency candidate and one for a Party's list of candidates;

c) Party lists to be developed and applied at a regional rather than provincial level;

d) restoration and enhancement of democracy through the provision of additional seats in the Legislature;

e) additional seats to be filled from Party Lists so as to offset disproportionality between the constituency elections and the popular Party vote.

f) voters to have the option of either endorsing the party’s regional list, or casting a personal vote for a candidate within the regional list. 

Updated: An Ontario NDP government will convene a Citizen's Assembly (an independent group of citizens) that will be mandated to develop a made-in-Ontario model of MMP. The group will be supported in its work by a panel of experts and representatives of Ontario's major parties. The CA will also be mandated to make recommendations to the government on timelines, implementation and ratification for the change to an MMP voting system.

(This Post updated Nov. 10, 2022.)



Sunday, March 6, 2022

Can anything be done before the next federal election?

Public opinion favours making every vote count: 76% of voters support moving to proportional representation in Canada. And 80% support the idea of a national citizens’ assembly to make recommendation for a made-in-Canada Proportional Representation system. Yet today we face a roadblock in Ottawa.

The current inaction is unstable. Something will trigger action. We need to be ready.

Suppose the Liberals decide not to risk a Poilièvre-led Conservative Party getting a false majority. Can anything be done before the next election? How about a “dose of proportionality?” A temporary step towards proportional representation. Like the recommendation of the Pépin-Roberts Commission in 1979 (the “Task Force on Canadian Unity”) which proposed electing an additional 60 MPs to top-up the results from each province, keeping the present ridings. Pierre Trudeau endorsed that in 1980, but couldn’t get it past his nervous backbenchers.

Suppose a national Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform recommended in 2024, after at least a year’s hearings and deliberations, a new voting system for Canada. We are now about to start public hearings to set up new electoral districts. Whatever model is chosen by the Citizens Assembly will require new electoral boundaries, another round of hearings, which need to wrap up seven months before a 2025 election, if the election can even wait that long. Not enough time.

A modest 42 additional MPs is the number of additional MPs the late Mauril Bélanger liked. He was MP for Ottawa-Vanier for 21 years, one of the Liberal MP supporters of proportional representation, and the man whose bill changed "in all thy sons command" to "in all of us command."

These extra MPs will give all parties MPs from almost every region, if that party got over 5% in the province. Not full proportional representation, but “PR-lite,” a “dose” of PR. This will make every vote count to some extent, and will also make accidental majority governments far less likely.

Is 42 extra MPs really enough? Would it have prevented a Harper false majority in 2011? Checking the 2011 results, those 42 MPs would have been 17 Liberals, 11 New Democrats, 4 Greens, 5 Bloc, and 5 Conservatives (from Atlantic Canada and Quebec). Harper would have had 171 MPs out of 350, four short of half.

The 2021 election left many Liberal voters from Alberta and Saskatchewan unrepresented, along with many Conservative voters in Quebec, the GTA, BC and PEI. My simulation takes a group of, typically, about 17 present ridings, and gives them two additional MPs. Voters for the most unrepresented party in that region elect an additional MP. The winning candidate is the candidate of that party in that region who got the highest level of support without being elected locally (“best runner-up.”) The Atlantic Provinces get only one additional MP each, while the four larger provinces are divided into regions.

If we had elected an additional 42 MPs last year, on the votes cast then in 22 regions across Canada, look at the variety they would have added: Sure, almost half are from the NDP, but 22 others are from other parties.

Four more Liberals. One from Alberta like Edmonton councillor Ben Henderson. One from Saskatchewan like Sean McEachern (Ralph Goodale’s successor). One from the BC Interior like Tim Krupa. One from Eastern Quebec like star labour candidate Ann Gingras.

Ten more Conservatives. Five from Quebec. Two from the GTA, one from the BC Lower Mainland like Alice Wong, one from Vancouver Island like town councillor Shelley Downey, and one from PEI. A more balanced caucus.

One more Green, from the BC Lower Mainland, where their strongest candidate was Dr. Cheryl Matthew, indigenous policy expert, of the Simpcw First Nation.

Seven of the Peoples Party of Canada: four in Ontario, one in Manitoba (the man who came second to Candice Bergen), and two in Alberta.

And 20 New Democrats: two from Toronto, two more from Montreal and two more from the rest of Quebec, seven from other Ontario regions, one more from Alberta, one from the BC Lower Mainland, one from Saskatchewan, one more from Manitoba, and one from each of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

But Fair Vote Canada’s rural and small-urban caucus says 40 percent of Canadians live in population centres below 100,000 people, share common concerns and value having local representation to champion our area. So we note that those 20 additional NDP MPs would be 12 from the big cities, plus Elaine Perez from Lethbridge, Janine Seymour from Kenora, Aisha Jahangir from Guelph, Shailene Panylo from Oshawa, Vic Sahai from Kingston, Ruth Ellen Brosseau from Berthier—Maskinongé, Serge Landry from Moncton, and Mary Shortall from Newfoundland.

And the 12 from the big cities would be 8 diverse women and 4 men: climate-change activist Anjali Appadurai in Vancouver, Métis candidate Robert Doucette in Saskatoon, Métis candidate Melissa Chung-Mowat in Winnipeg, Unifor Women’s Director and former MP Tracey Ramsey in Windsor, former MP Malcolm Allen in Hamilton, Broadbent Institute Director Alejandra Bravo and FoodShare Director Paul Taylor in Toronto, CUPE Economist Angella MacEwen in Ottawa, Iranian-born international health specialist Nimâ Machouf and lawyer (former MP) Ève Péclet in Montreal, CSN union staffer Tommy Bureau in Quebec City, and former MLA Lisa Roberts in Halifax.

An accidental false majority government is far less likely.  

Seven from the Peoples Party? That’s a good thing, but only half the 14 they would have elected under full PR (with 380 MPs) from the five provinces where they got over 5%. “The far-right has not taken power in Europe. What has been presented as a weakness of proportional representation is its strength. It does allow for far-right parties to win seats in parliaments, but that comes with consequences. These parties are then out in the open, no cover of silence, and exposed to the scrutiny of the public, media and other political parties. And we can learn without agreeing to the party intents, why some people support or join these kind of groups. Without knowing why, you can never address the circumstances why people do.” In Germany, the AfD party has seats in the federal parliament and 16 state legislatures. That’s 17 governing coalitions, and all 17 excluded the AfD.

(Note: this post was revised April 12, 2022.)
 

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Many Liberals want a moderate proportional system. So here it is.

Back in 2013, when Justin Trudeau and Joyce Murray were both running to become Liberal leader, the Leadership Debate was March 3, 2013. Joyce Murray says to Justin Trudeau “If you were actually listening to Canadians you would know that two-thirds of Canadians want proportional representation so that their vote counts, and so that we don’t have the divisive toxic system that we have today, so if you were listening to Canadians you would be going after proportional representation . . ."

Justin Trudeau replies "The problem with proportional representation is that every different model of proportional representation actually increases partisanship, not reduces it . . . I understand people want proportional representation, but too many people don’t understand the polarization and the micro-issues that come through proportional representation." (Watch the video at 43:30).

He was not the only Liberal worried about micro-issues and micro-parties. Liberal PR supporters like Stéphane Dion also wanted a “moderate“ PR model.

So when Fair Vote Canada made submissions to the ERRE (Special Committee on Electoral Reform), the MMP model we recommended, with open regional lists, had regions of only about eight MPs. That’s 42 moderately proportional regions across the country. We said “The aim in defining these top-up regions should be to ensure that all MPs are accountable to real communities, or as the Jenkins Commission put it, locally anchored to small areas.”

On the votes cast in 2021, would this have elected 17 MPs from the Peoples’ Party of Canada? Only 8, actually: 3 in Alberta, 3 in Ontario, 1 in New Brunswick, and 1 in Manitoba (the candidate who came second to Candice Bergen, which explains a lot.)

That’s a good thing. “The far-right has not taken power in Europe. What has been presented as a weakness of proportional representation is its strength. It does allow for far-right parties to win seats in parliaments, but that comes with consequences. These parties are then out in the open, no cover of silence, and exposed to the scrutiny of the public, media and other political parties. And we can learn without agreeing to the party intents, why some people support or join these kind of groups. Without knowing why, you can never address the circumstances why people do.” In Germany, the AfD party has seats in the federal parliament and 16 state legislatures. That’s 17 governing coalitions, and all 17 excluded the AfD.

Exaggerated regional differences

The Liberals in 2021 saw more than 350,000 Liberal voters in Alberta and Saskatchewan represented by only two MPs when they deserve seven.

The Conservatives saw more than 500,000 Conservative voters in the City of Toronto and Peel and Halton regions represented by no one but Liberal MPs when they deserved to elect 11 MPs.

And we all saw 1.3 million Bloc Quebecois voters elect 32 MPs while more than three million NDP voters elected only 25 MPs.

Details are here.


Thursday, November 4, 2021

A negotiated element of proportionality

Ideally, a minority government would move forward with electoral reform by holding a Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform and agreeing to act on its recommendations in time for an election in 2024.

There is an alternative compromise that would let the Liberals know what they had agreed to: a negotiated compromise to introduce an element of proportionality.

In 1979 the Pépin-Roberts Commission (the “Task Force on Canadian Unity”) proposed electing an additional 60 MPs to the House of Commons to top-up the results from each province, keeping the present ridings. That Commission was multi-partisan, co-chaired by former Ontario Conservative Premier John Robarts. The Liberal government received that report Jan. 25, 1979, but did not endorse it right away, nor did Joe Clark’s Progressive Conservatives who took power four months later.

However, after Pierre Trudeau announced his resignation as Liberal leader (Nov. 21, 1979), three days later speaking at the University of Montreal he said “I think we have to move in this direction because the national parties, even though they have many voters in all parts of Canada, don’t have sitting in Ottawa members of Parliament from that particular region on the government side. In the case of Mr. Clark’s government, he doesn’t have a lot of members and ministers in the house who could speak for Quebec, and in the case of our government we didn’t have a lot of members or ministers who could speak for Alberta. You are aware, of course, that the Pépin-Robarts Committee also recommended something along those lines.”

Sound familiar?

When Joe Clark then lost a confidence vote, Pierre Trudeau withdrew his resignation and was re-elected Prime Minister Feb. 18, 1980. But earlier that February he told CBC he still supported the Pépin-Robarts recommendation. You can listen to him here:

https://www.cbc.ca/archives/when-pierre-trudeau-said-canada-needed-proportional-representation-1.5358177

And the 1980 Speech from the Throne pledged “You will be asked to appoint a committee of Parliament to examine the electoral system in order to ensure that the highest degree of representativeness and responsibility is achieved and that the confidence of Canadians in parliamentary institutions is strengthened.”

With the House of Commons larger now, the Pépin-Robarts recommendation could be for 72 more MPs. But, okay, even Pierre Trudeau couldn’t get reform past his nervous backbenchers.

So let’s consider a modest 34 top-up MPs, a 10% solution. What would that look like?

I have done a simulation in 16 regions (4 in Ontario, 3 in Quebec, 2 in BC, and the other 7 provinces are 1 region each). No doubt the additional top-up MPs would be the local candidates who were their parties' best runners-up in the region, with the highest vote percent.

On the votes cast this year, by my simulation the 34 top-up MPs elected provincially (or regionally in Ontario, Quebec and BC) to help represent voters currently unrepresented would be 6 more Liberals (1 in Saskatchewan, 1 in Alberta, 2 in the BC Interior and Vancouver Island, 1 in Manitoba, and 1 in Eastern Quebec), 5 more Conservatives (3 in Quebec and 2 in the GTA), 22 more New Democrats (10 in Ontario, 4 in Quebec, 3 in Atlantic Canada, 2 in Alberta, 1 in Saskatchewan, 1 in Manitoba, and 1 in the BC Lower Mainland) and another Green in BC. No more Bloc, currently over-represented. And I assume moderate thresholds would keep out the PPC.

Many pundits are saying the Liberals have proven they cannot win a majority, so they do not have much to lose, but they also will not fear a Conservative majority. With 187 seats needed for a majority, the above result (166 Liberals, 124 Conservatives, 47 New Democrats, 32 Bloc, and 3 Greens) can provide stable government.

Adding more seats will prevent Quebec or any other province losing seats. And if the regular redistribution is complete by the next election, the 34 top-up seats can overlay the new boundaries just as they would today. 

Would the additional 6 Liberals be worthwhile? Start with Saskatchewan: their best runner-up was Sean McEachern, even though he got only 27% of the vote in Ralph Goodale’s old riding of Regina—Wascana. McEachern was a special assistant to Goodale from 2003-6 when he was the federal finance minister, then worked for the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association for 12 years becoming Policy Director, and then Chair of the Regina Airport Authority, well-groomed to be Saskatchewan’s cabinet Minister, Goodale’s successor. Then Eastern Quebec, where their best runner-up was their new star candidate, well-known unionist Ann Gingras, long-time President of the CSN’s regional council, previously a critic of the Liberals but recruited this time by Justin Trudeau himself. In Manitoba, Doug Eyolfson, MP from 2015-2019 who chaired the Manitoba Liberal caucus, a doctor who helped draft a committee report recommending a National Pharmacare Plan. In Alberta: Ben Henderson, Edmonton City Councillor since 2007, who ran in Amarjeet Sohi’s old seat. In BC: Dr. Nikki Macdonald, Professor and Executive Director at the University of Victoria, environment leader. And also: Kelowna’s Tim Krupa, who went from Kelowna to an MBA at Oxford, worked in the PMO for three years, and on to Harvard and the CPP, who would give a voice in caucus (and cabinet?) to the BC Interior where the Liberals were shut out. All stars. 

And the 22 New Democrats would be no surprise: most were already in target ridings.

A 10% solution is more modest than the dormant proposal of French President Emmanuel Macron for a “dose of proportionality” for France: a 20% “proportional share" for Parliamentary elections. And it is more modest than the 15% to 20% share of top-up MPs recommended for the UK by the Jenkins Commission.


I previously described another variation of a compromise model:

and here:
http://wilfday.blogspot.com/2020/03/making-every-vote-count-belanger.html

For further reference on models with regional top-up MPs see MMP for Canada.


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

2021 Canadian election results under moderate MMP.

Our voting system keeps tempting governments to roll the dice and try for an accidental majority government with only 39% voter support. Why should Canada put up with this system?

A system that rewards toxic partisanship? Where at least 30% of voters are voting to stop another party winning? Which fails to encourage minority governments to see working with other parties, or Confidence and Support Agreements, or Coalitions as normal?

That leaves more than 350,000 Liberal voters in Alberta and Saskatchewan represented by only two MPs when they deserve seven? That leaves more than 500,000 Conservative voters in the City of Toronto and the Peel and Halton regions represented by no one but Liberal MPs when they deserved to elect 11 MPs? That lets 1.3 million Bloc Quebecois voters elect 32 MPs while more than three million NDP voters elect only 25 MPs?

But wouldn’t proportional representation encourage extremists? Would it give Maxime Bernier’s People Party 17 seats in the House of Commons? Would it put MPs in the House who are not accountable to real communities?

No, no, and no. Not if Canada uses the Mixed Member Proportional system recommended by the Law Commission of Canada in 2004. And I’m using a threshold of 5% (like Germany and New Zealand), applied at the provincial level (as Germany did at first, and as Canada must if we don’t want Quebec’s election affected by votes cast in Alberta).

And I’m using a moderate level of proportionality, where the regional MPs elected to top-up seats are elected in 42 small regions across Canada, with an average size of only 8 MPs. This would elect only eight Peoples Party MPs, not 17. (Its enemies would say, at least it keeps eight of them off the streets.)

Why should Canada keep using an outdated voting system where 14 of those 42 regions would be one-party kingdoms, swept by a single party?

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

In my 2021 simulation, voters for every major party would have elected someone in almost all of these 42 regions, except five (no NDP in two regions of Quebec or in PEI, no Northern Alberta Liberal, and no Bloc in West Montreal).

The West’s unrepresented voters would have helped elect diverse MPs from regions outside their strongholds, including 12 more New Democrats, nine more Liberals, and four PPC (who got over 5% in the three Prairie provinces).

Ontario’s unrepresented voters would have helped elect diverse MPs from regions outside their strongholds, including 18 more New Democrats, 16 urban Conservatives, four Liberals outside the GTA, and three MPs from the Peoples Party (they got 5.5% of the Ontario vote).

Quebec’s unrepresented voters would have helped elect diverse MPs from regions outside their strongholds, including eight more New Democrats, eight more Conservatives, four more Bloc and three more Liberals.

Atlantic Canada’s unrepresented voters would have helped elect diverse MPs from regions outside their strongholds, including five New Democrats, two more Conservatives, two Greens, and one PPC.

(Detailed breakdown below) 

The open-list or no-list MMP systems: Every MP represents actual voters and real communities

We’re not talking about a model like Israel’s with no local MPs, and candidates appointed by national parties. We’re talking about the mixed member system designed by the Law Commission of Canada, where every MP represents actual voters and real communities. More than half of MPs will be elected by local ridings as we do today, preserving the traditional link between voter and MP. The others are elected as regional MPs for top-up seats, topping-up the numbers of MPs from your local region so the total is proportional to the votes for each party.

You have two votes. One is for your local MP. The second helps elect regional MPs. With open-list MMP you cast a personal vote for a candidate within the regional list.  Voters elect all the MPs. No one is guaranteed a seat. The region is small enough that the regional MPs are accountable. Every vote counts: it’s proportional. You vote for the regional candidate you prefer: it’s personal. No closed lists. Or with the no-list MMP system, the regional MPs for top-up seats are the defeated local candidates who came closest to winning: best runners-up. Result: after the election, everyone has a local MP, plus a few regional MPs.

The broken promise

The 2015 Liberal platform said "We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system. We will convene an all-party Parliamentary committee to review a wide variety of reforms, such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting."

A lot of the Liberals were serious, until the PMO told them to bite their tongues. Some are still speaking up, like Wayne Long from New Brunswick and Nate Erskine-Smith in Toronto, and the Liberal MPs on the House of Commons standing Committee who voted June 22 to study establishing a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform to make recommendations about how Canadians elect Members of Parliament and how the make up of Parliament reflects the votes cast by Canadians. 

Ranked ballots in single-member ridings are off the table

When Justin Trudeau announced the end of electoral reform in February 2017 he said: his favourite option was “to rank your ballot. I have heard very clearly that people think it would favour Liberals too much. And therefore I’m not going near it, because I am not going to do something that everyone is convinced is going to favour one party over another." He could also have mentioned that only four percent of expert witnesses at the Electoral Reform Committee had supported it. The Liberal MPs on the committee didn't even mention it in their minority report, and when the media asked the Liberal committee chair why not, he answered "nobody wants ranked ballots."

Stéphane Dion was right

Stéphane Dion wrote in 2012 “I do not see why we should maintain a voting system that makes our major parties appear less national and our regions more politically opposed than they really are. 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.”

Competing MPs:

You have a local MP who will champion your community, and four or five competing regional MPs, normally including someone you helped elect whose views best reflect your values.

So you can vote for the local candidate you like best regardless of party, without hurting your party, since it's the party (regional) ballot that determines the party make-up of the House of Commons. 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.

See how it has worked in Scotland.

Note: this is only a simulation

In any election, 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." However, on the votes cast in 2021, my simulation results in 120 Liberal MPs, 115 Conservatives, 65 New Democrats, 26 Bloc, eight PPC, and four Greens, due to the 5% threshold and small regions (with perfect province-wide proportionality it would have been 116 Conservatives, 115 Liberals, 62 NDP, 27 BQ, 13 PPC, and 5 Greens.)

Regional Breakdown

The West

In BC, the nine MPs from the Interior would have included two Liberals like Kelowna’s Tim Krupa and Merrit’s Sarah Eves, and another New Democrat like Wayne Stetski or Bill Sundhu.

The nine MPs from Surrey--Fraser Valley woold have included two New Democrats like Surrey’s Sonia Andhi and Fraser Valley’s Danielle (D J) Pohl.

The nine MPs from Vancouver-Richmond-Delta would have included two Conservatives like Alice Wong and Kenny Chiu, and another New Democrat like Vancouver’s Anjali Appadurai, and

The eight MPs from Burnaby-Maple Ridge-North Shore would have included a second Conservative MP like Nelly Shin.

The seven MPs from Vancouver Island would have included a Liberal like Nikki Macdonald and two Conservatives like Port McNeill’s Shelley Downey and Mary Lee from Comox.

In Alberta, the 10 MPs from Calgary would include a second Liberal like Sabrina Grover and two New Democrats like Kathleen Johnson and Gurmit Bhachu or Raj Jessel.

The 10 MPs from the Edmonton area would include a second Liberal like Ben Henderson, a third New Democrat like Charmaine St. Germain, and a People’s Party candidate like Murray MacKinnon.

The eight MPs from South & Central Alberta, rather than all Conservatives, would include an NDP candidate like Leduc's Hugo Charles or Elaine Perez from Lethbridge, a Liberal like Devon Hargreaves from Lethbridge, and a PPC candidate like Red Deer’s Megan Lim.

The six MPs from Northern Alberta, rather than all Conservatives, would include an NDP candidate like Gail Ungstad from Slave Lake and a PPC candidate like High Prairie's Darryl Boisson.

Saskatchewan’s MPs would not be all Conservatives. The six MPs from Regina and Southern Saskatchewan would include a Liberal MP like Sean McEachern and an NDP MP like Tria Donaldson. The eight MPs from Saskatoon and Northern Saskatchewan would include two NDP MPs like Robert Doucette and Clare Card, and a Liberal MP like Buckley Belanger.

In Manitoba, the six MPs outside Winnipeg would now include a Liberal MP like Shirley Robinson of Cross Lake First Nation, and a Peoples’ Party of Canada MP like Solomon Wiebe in the Pembina Valley, while the eight Winnipeg MPs would now include a Conservative like Melanie Maher.

Ontario

In Ottawa-Cornwall’s 10 ridings, NDP voters would have elected two MPs like Ottawa’s Angella MacEwen and Lyse-Pascale Inamuco, while Conservative voters would have elected a third MP like Ottawa’s Jennifer McAndrew.

In Central East Ontario’s nine ridings, Liberal voters would have re-elected two more MPs like  Maryam Monsef and Neil Ellis, while NDP voters would have elected two MPs like Kingston’s Vic Sahai and Deep River’s Jodie Primeau or Peterborough’s Joy Lachica.

In Durham-Rouge Park’s six ridings, NDP voters would have elected an MP like Oshawa’s Shailene Panylo.

In Scarborough--Don Valley’s eight ridings, rather than all Liberals, Conservative voters would have elected two MPs like Yvonne Robertson and Sabrina Zuniga, and an NDP MP like Guled Arale.

In Toronto and East York’s eight ridings, rather than all Liberals, NDP voters would have elected three MPs like Alejandra Bravo, Paul Taylor and Clare Hacksel or Norm Di Pasquale, Conservative voters would have elected an MP like Stephanie Osadchuk or Steven Taylor.

In the eight ridings of Etobicoke-York-Willowdale, rather than all Liberals, Conservative voters would have elected three MPs like Joel Yakov Etienne, Geoffrey Turner and Geoff Pollock, while NDP voters would have elected an MP like Hawa Mire or Matias de Dovitiis. 

The 10 MPs from York Region would have included a New Democrat like Benjamin Jenkins or Yvonne Kelly, and another Conservative like re-elected Leona Alleslev.

The six MPs from Central Ontario (Barrie-Owen Sound), rather than all Conservatives, would have included two Liberals like Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux of Chippewa of Georgina Island First Nation, and Barrie’s Lisa-Marie Wilson; and a New Democrat like Gravenhurst’s Heather Hay or Barrie’s Sarah Lochhead.

The seven MPs from Brampton—Mississauga North, rather than all Liberals, would have included two Conservatives like Jasveen Rattan and Jagdeep Singh, and a New Democrat like Jim McDowell or Gail Bannister-Clarke.

The eight MPs from Mississauga—Halton, rather than all Liberals, would have included three Conservatives like Kerry Colborne, Michael Ras and Hanan Rizkalla, and a New Democrat like Lenaee Dupuis or Tom Takacs.

In Hamilton-Niagara-Brant’s 11 ridings, NDP voters would have elected a second MP like former MP Malcolm Allen, and the Peoples Party would have elected an MP like Norfolk’s Ken Gilpin.

The eight MPs from Waterloo-Wellington-Dufferin would (assuming Green MP Mike Morrice was elected in his riding) have included an NDP MP like Guelph’s Aisha Jahangir, and a third Conservative MP like Waterloo Region’s Carlene Hawley.

The seven MPs from London--Oxford--Perth—Huron would have included a second NDP MP like London’s Dirka Prout.

The six MPs from the Windsor-Sarnia region would have included a second NDP MP like Tracey Ramsay from suburban Windsor and a People’s Party MP like Chatham’s Liz Vallee.

In Northern Ontario, Conservative voters would have elected two more MPs like Sault Ste. Marie’s Sonny Spina and North Bay’s Steven Trahan, while the PPC would have elected an MP like Englehart’s Stephen MacLeod.

Quebec

The eight MPs from East Montreal would have included another New Democrat like Nimâ Machouf, a Conservative like Steve Shanahan, and another Bloc MP like Simon Marchand.

The six MPs from West Montreal, rather than all Liberals, would have included a Conservative like Frank Cavallaro and a New Democrat like Emma Elbourne-Weinstock.

The eight MPs from Montreal-Nord—Laval, rather than all Liberals, would have included a Conservative like Spyridonas Pettas, a New Democrat like Ghada Chaabi or Ali Faour, and two Bloc MPs like Manon Lacharité and Isabel Dion.

The nine MPs from Laurentides—Lanaudière, rather than all Bloc, would have included two Liberals like former MP and MNA Linda Lapointe and former MP Ramez Ayoub, a Conservative like Catherine Lefebvre of Deux-Montagnes, and a New Democrat like Benoit Bourassa of Deux-Montagnes.

The ten MPs from Longueuil-Suroit would have included a Conservative like Karen Cox or Brossard’s Marcos Alves, and a New Democrat like Niklas Brake or Marc Audet.

The six MPs from Montérégie-est—Estrie would have included a Conservative MP like Pierre Tremblay (Sherbrooke municipal councillor) and an NDP MP like Marika Lalime.

The six MPs from Outaouais--Abitibi—Nord would have included a Conservative MP like Michel Gauthier (former Editor of Le Droit).

The six MPs from Centre-du-Québec—Mauricie would have included a New Democrat like former MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau and a second Conservative like former Trois-Rivières mayor Yves Lévesque.

The 11 MPs from Quebec City--Saguenay--Côte-Nord would have included a New Democrat like Tommy Bureau or Camille Esther Garon.

The eight MPs from Chaudière-Appalaches—Gaspésie would have included a second Liberal MP like Léonie Lajoie, and a third Bloc MP like Guy Bernatchez.

Atlantic Canada

The ten New Brunswick MPs would have included an NDP MP like Serge Landry, a PPC MP like Jack Minor, and a Green MP like Nicole O'Byrne.

The four PEI MPs would have included, rather than all Liberals, a Conservative like Jody Sanderson or Doug Currie, and a Green MP like Anna Keenan.

The eleven Nova Scotia MPs would have included three New Democrats like Lisa Roberts, Kevin Payne and Jenna Chisholm.

The seven MPs from Newfoundland and Labrador would have included a second Conservative like Sharon Vokey and a New Democrat like Mary Shortall.

 

 

Monday, November 30, 2020

When Pierre Trudeau supported Proportional Representation

Many people don’t know Pierre Trudeau supported Proportional Representation in 1980. You can listen to him here:

https://www.cbc.ca/archives/when-pierre-trudeau-said-canada-needed-proportional-representation-1.5358177

Hearing Pierre Trudeau explain why he supported proportional representation, his reasons sound totally familiar 40 years later.

The Pépin-Robarts solution (now the Bélanger solution)

In the 1979 election, Liberals in Alberta cast 22% of the votes but elected zero members – in fact they had only one Liberal MP west of Winnipeg. The Liberals had no Saskatchewan MP after their young star Ralph Goodale lost his seat. And conversely, Joe Clark’s Progressive Conservative Party got 13% of the Quebec vote and only two members, and much the same for the NDP.

Pierre Trudeau said “I think we have to move in this direction because the national parties, even though they have many voters in all parts of Canada, don’t have sitting in Ottawa members of Parliament from that particular region on the government side. In the case of Mr. Clark’s government, he doesn’t have a lot of members and ministers in the house who could speak for Quebec, and in the case of our government we didn’t have a lot of members or ministers who could speak for Alberta. You are aware, of course, that the Pépin-Robarts Committee also recommended something along those lines.” 

The Pépin-Robarts Commission

“To move in the direction of proportional representation” was the solution recommended by the Pépin-Roberts Commission Jan. 25, 1979. That Commission (the “Task Force on Canadian Unity”) was multi-partisan, co-chaired by former Ontario Conservative Premier John Robarts. They proposed electing an additional 60 MPs to the House of Commons to top-up the results from each province, keeping the present ridings.

Trudeau did not endorse it right away. The 1979 election was held May 22. Pierre Trudeau’s government lost its majority, even though they actually got more votes than the PCs. Even the Liberals and NDP combined were 2 seats short of a majority. Trudeau resigned as PM June 3 and announced his resignation as Liberal leader Nov. 21. Three days later, speaking at the University of Montreal, he endorsed the Pépin-Robarts recommendation to give each province fair representation from voters for each party. When Joe Clark then lost a confidence vote, Pierre Trudeau withdrew his resignation and was re-elected Prime Minister Feb. 18, 1980. Earlier that February he told CBC he still supported the Pépin-Robarts recommendation.

Those additional 60 MPs would (in 1979) have included 23 Liberal MPs, 17 from the West: 3 from Alberta, 3 from Saskatchewan, 6 more from BC where they had only 1, 3 from the Territories,.and 2 more from Manitoba, plus 4 more from Ontario, I more from Nova Scotia, and 1 from PEI. PC voters would have elected 7 more MPs from Quebec. NDP voters would have elected MPs from Quebec, New Brunswick and Alberta, and more from other provinces.

The actual 1979 election result was PCs 136, Liberals 114, NDP 26, Creditistes 6. With the additional 60 provincial MPs, the results would have been 137 Liberals, 143 PCs, 51 New Democrats, and 11 Creditistes. With 172 seats needed for a majority, the Liberals would have had to work with the NDP as they did from 1972 to 1974, or even form a coalition government. A perfectly proportional result with 342 MPs would have been 140 Liberals, 125 PCs, 62 New Democrats, and 15 Creditistes, but the governmental outcome would have been the same either way. 

Pierre’s same reasons apply today

Today, 40 years later, the Prime Minister should make his father’s argument, since the Liberals once again have no MPs from Alberta and Saskatchewan, after their Saskatchewan veteran Ralph Goodale once again lost his seat.

With the House of Commons larger now, the Pépin-Roberts recommendation could be for 72 more MPs. But even 60 more MPs, or even a modest 42 MPs, is worth looking at.

It’s a semi-proportional solution: keep the present riding boundaries, and add some additional MPs to top-up the results from each province or region. These extra MPs will give all parties MPs from each region. They will make every vote count to some extent, and will also make accidental majority governments far less likely.

It could be permanent. Or it could be a fast solution, while the discussion continues about whether to adopt full proportional representation, how a PR model for Canada would work, and whether a Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform is a better way to settle these questions than holding a referendum?

Can an expansion of the House be justified? In fact, it is inevitable. After the next census, the smaller provinces will have their present seats protected again, while the growing large provinces will be entitled to more MPs. This resulted in 30 more MPs in 2015. The next census will have a similar result, maybe even more. 

The Bélanger Solution

A modest 42 additional MPs is the number of additional MPs the late Mauril Bélanger liked. He was MP for Ottawa-Vanier for 21 years, one of the Liberal MP supporters of proportional representation, and the man whose bill changed "in all thy sons command" to "in all of us command." 

Does the Bélanger solution work?

Is 42 extra MPs really enough? Would it have prevented a Harper false majority in 2011? Checking the 2011 results, those 42 MPs would have been 17 Liberals, 12 New Democrats, 3 Greens, 5 Bloc, and 5 Conservatives (from Atlantic Canada and Quebec). Harper would have had 171 MPs out of 350, four short of half.

More about the Belanger solution here.