Monday, January 11, 2016

Accountable MPs and Open Lists: the key to a Canadian proportional representation model


A made-in-Canada model of proportional representation will never feature closed lists of candidates for MP. All MPs must be personally accountable to voters, not to just to those who nominated them as candidates.

Canadians don’t want a Parliament like the Netherlands, with 11 parties under their “pure proportional” model, nor like Israel’s. “Pure-list-PR” with candidates appointed by central parties, and no local MPs, will never work for Canada.

Even a mixed member model like Scotland’s with additional regional MPs elected from regional closed lists would not be fully accepted in Canada.

So we’re looking at mixed member models where you can vote for candidates both in a local riding and in a local region, like the one in this six-minute video designed by the Law Commission of Canada.

The majority of MPs are still local MPs. Regional MPs are elected by those voters whose votes did not elect a local MP. Every vote counts to help elect an MP, as far as reasonably possible. (Maybe, in metropolitan areas, local districts might even elect several MPs, not just one?)

Open lists are practical

A much better precedent exists in the German province of Bavaria. Open lists have worked well in their mixed member model since 1949. Unlike our Law Commission model, Bavaria has no option to vote for the party list. You vote only for a local candidate in your local riding and for a regional candidate in your local region.

The Law Commission of Canada

As the Law Commission of Canada concluded back in 2004, "Based on the feedback received during our consultation process, many Canadian voters would also most likely desire the flexibility of open lists in a mixed member proportional system. In essence, allowing voters to choose a candidate from the list provides voters with the ability to select a specific individual and hold them accountable for their actions should they be elected."

That also means the regional MPs must be elected from small enough regions that they will be accountable to a real local region.  

Ontario’s 2007 model was not the answer

Across Ontario in the 2007 referendum, 63.1% voted against MMP. About 31% were simply against proportional representation. Many more were voters who wanted all MPPs to be personally elected, not on closed lists. Many more were voters who wanted all MPPs to be anchored in their own local region, not on province-wide lists. And 7.5% were voters outside Toronto who disliked province-wide lists even more than Toronto voters did. As Prof. Henry Milner wrote just after the referendum "opponents hammered away on the claim that there would be 39 MPPs beholden to party headquarters instead of voters. . . . in a short campaign, this image of unrepresentative party hacks from Toronto getting in through the back door was fatal.”

Designing a made-in-Canada system

Many Canadians who voted Liberal want assurance that never again will a divisive political leader win 100% of the power with 39% of the votes. And never again will voters have to vote against something, or vote for a less-preferred candidate to block the election of one even less preferred. So we don’t want a model where only half the votes count.

Groups like Fair Vote Canada have been saying “Make every vote count” for years. The new government of Canada was elected on a platform that said “We will make every vote count.” They pledged an all-party Parliamentary committee that will deliver its recommendations to Parliament, and legislation to enact electoral reform introduced within 18 months of forming government, following varied and robust consultations with Canadians, and serious, responsible study with expert assistance.

That process is about to begin.

Fair Vote Canada’s campaign says a model of Proportional Representation for Canada must respect the need for all MPs to face the voters and be accountable to voters.

For example, Bavaria’s seven regions are too large to make regional MPs accountable to a local region. Do we want a model with regions averaging only eight or nine MPs each? The regional MPs would be more accountable, but the model would be a little less proportional. Or do we want one with regions averaging 12 or 14 MPs? And do we want the local MPs to be 60% of the total? Or 65%, making the new ridings a little smaller, but the model would be a little less proportional?

These details will matter to the MPs who will face getting re-elected under the new model.

The principle

But details will not matter as much as the principle: make every vote count to help elect an MP, and make all MPs personally accountable to voters.

The implementation of truly representative government in Canada, via an element of proportional representation, will in future be seen as every bit as much an advance for the nation as old age pensions or medicare.

Democratic nominations

Candidates in federal elections getting 10% of the vote receive public subsidy (rebates) of 60% of election expenses up to the approved limit.

Today, we hear of parties appointing candidates. Why should an undemocratic process be rewarded?
 
We should change Canada's electoral finance system to require registered federal parties that wish to receive a candidate's election expense subsidy to nominate that candidate democratically, that is, by vote of all their members (or their elected delegates) living in the electoral district or region with valid memberships as of a specified cut-off date.

Canada needs democratically-nominated candidates


Candidates in federal elections getting 10% of the vote receive public subsidy (rebates) of 60% of election expenses up to the approved limit.

Today, we hear of parties appointing candidates. Why should an undemocratic process be rewarded?

We should change Canada's electoral finance system to require registered federal parties that wish to receive a candidate's election expense subsidy to nominate that candidate democratically, that is, by vote of all their members (or their elected delegates) living in the electoral district or region with valid memberships as of a specified cut-off date.

Appointed candidates?
 
Any public discussion of Proportional Representation with any multi-member riding component quickly leads to comments on “candidates appointed by the party.” This happens whether, for example, it’s in a seven-MP STV district, or in a 12-MP MMP district with five regional MPs and eight or ten regional candidates (such as the seven local ones and a few regional-only ones) nominated and ranked by each party. This is unfair, since parties already appoint local candidates when they choose to.

Democracy is the core
Proportional representation means fair and unrestricted competition among political parties presenting democratically-nominated candidates. Democracy is at its core, not more power to party elites.

Parties can nominate several candidates at once democratically, in the same way they nominate single candidates: by vote of the membership in the district or region. Depending on local geography, it might be entirely an in-person meeting, or might include online voting.
 
If a major party finds it necessary in a very rare case to appoint, why should they not be encouraged to follow the German example: if a nomination meeting faced serious problems, call another meeting rather than appoint?   Michael Chong’s Reform Act aimed at preventing party leaders from holding the appointment power. Why should parties qualify for election expense rebates for a candidate not democratically nominated?

New parties may need to appoint candidates in ridings where they have no membership, but those will be token candidates spending nothing, and not getting the 10% of the vote required to qualify for rebates of 60% of election expense.

At one time some parties needed to appoint candidates in order to nominate more women, but this is no longer necessary.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Open-list mixed member proportional models: The Bavarian example

Canadians can consider several models of proportional representation, including Bavaria's.

Scotland’s regional mixed-member model

Scotland’s regional mixed-member elections are simple and practical: you elect a local MP plus regional MPs.

Every vote counts. If your vote didn’t count to elect a local MP, it will help elect a regional MP from your local region, to top-up the local results.

You have two votes, a local vote for a local MP, and a regional vote. Your local region has nine local MPs and seven regional MPs.

To elect an MP in a 16-MP region, your party will need about 5% of the regional votes. This is unlike the “pure proportional representation” system of the Netherlands, where they have no local MPs, and no threshold to win seats. In their last election they got 11 parties in Parliament. Voters for an Animal Rights party cast 1.9% of the votes and elected two MPs, while four other parties got fewer than 5% of the votes.

In Scotland you can vote for a local candidate of a different party than the party you want to see in government. New Zealand has a similar two-vote system, where about 32% of voters split their ballots that way. 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.

Improved Scottish model

But Canadians would want one big improvement on the Scottish model: no closed lists. You can vote for the regional candidate of your party that you like best.

The Law Commission of Canada recommended a model that, like Sweden’s, gives voters a choice: you can vote for a regional candidate personally, or for the party’s regional list. Watch this six-minute video.

No one knows how many voters would use the list option: with a similar choice in Brazil only about 10% do.
Yet many PR-sceptics will scream “backroom-dominated party list.” And they will ask a valid question: how many personal votes does it take to move a candidate up the list? The Law Commission left the “personal threshold” detail to be decided.

Bavaria’s model

German federal elections use a mixed member system like Scotland’s. But since 1949 the German province of Bavaria has used an open-list variation, with no party-list option at all. You vote for a local candidate in your riding, and for a regional candidate in your region. (They have seven regions.)

Even simpler than the Law Commission model: no personal threshold. The ranking is done entirely by the voters. As usual, you have two votes: one for a local MP, one for a regional MP. The list order has no legal weight.

Does this process result in the list order prevailing anyway? In 2003, preferences led to the defeat of 25 advantageously positioned regional candidates, to the benefit of 25 others who were less so, out of a total of 88 elected regional members. Just look at the 1998 charts for Munich on pages 55 and 56 of Prof. Massicotte’s working document.

Note the spectacular fall of Minister Ursula Männle from the 3rd place assigned by her party to the 42nd decided by the voters’ individual preferences. This ensured her defeat.

Prof. Massicotte concludes “As a result of preferences, electoral rivalry between parties has a new level of competition between candidates of the same party within each region. . . . The Bavarian experience shows that voters take the possibility offered them very seriously . . . and that the preference system has a major impact on which list candidates get elected.”

Although every local candidate is also a regional candidate, some regional candidates are “regional-only.” This is necessary in case a party sweeps a region so massively that it elects some regional MPs on top of all the local MPs.

This also let the party members nominate a slate better balanced by gender and minorities, creating more voter choice. The Law Commission of Canada wanted to “support voters who decide to trust a political party’s choice of list candidates by allowing them to vote for the party slate . . . to promote successful election of women.” But Bavaria’s model also does this. And the position of women in Canada’s Parliament has improved since the 2004 Law Commission Report.

How does the Bavarian model work?

Is the regional ranking done only by a small group of voters who didn’t vote for the star candidate? No risk of that in Bavaria. The ranking is by the total number of votes cast for a candidate in the local race, added to the total number of regional votes cast for that candidate in all the other seats in the region (but not in the seat where he or she ran locally -- that would give double weight to those voters, so the regional list in a riding excludes the local candidates). Note that every local candidate is also a regional candidate.

The party vote is also a total of the two votes. Unlike most MMP models, Bavaria counts your local vote as a vote for a party, just as it counts your regional vote. This reduces the scope for the “Berlusconi trick” that ruined Italy’s system (running local candidates under a different party name than the regional candidates, twin parties, one a clone of the other).

Some people like the “best-runners-up” model used in the German province of Baden-Wurttemberg: no regional candidates at all, no lists. The regional MPs elected to top up the local results are the local candidates who, in that region, got the most votes without winning the local seat.

The effect of the Bavarian model is a hybrid with the best-runner-up model. You have regional candidates, but those who did well locally without winning the local seat have an advantage for the regional seat.

In the 2013 Bavarian election, of the 90 regional deputies, 13 were regional-only candidates who won election from regional votes alone, despite not receiving any local votes. Four regional candidates standing at the head of the regional list were not ranked first in the final count. (The regional candidates included all 977 local candidates -- an average of 11 in each riding -- plus 785 regional-only candidates, an average of  10 candidates from each party in each region.) 

Bavaria’s 5% threshold rule applies to parties and “organized groups” such as the “Free Voters” movement which denies it is a party, but has met the 5% threshold in the last two elections. In 2008 it became the third party, with more seats than the Greens, repeated in 2013.

The trend to having two votes, now universal in Germany, began in Bavaria in 1949. They wanted to let voters not only elect a local MP, but also express a preference for one of the regional candidates of the party they were voting for.

One reason Bavaria likes this system is that it tends to be as much of a one-party province as Alberta used to be, so it needs competition within its conservative party. The CSU governed in a liberal-conservative coalition in 2008-2013, but otherwise has governed alone since 1962.

How big are the regions?

Bavaria’s stable model has used seven regions since 1950, with an average of 23 MPs each. Some are as small as 17 MPPs (9 local, 8 regional), while the largest region (Munich) has 58 MPPs.

“I support reforms to add elements of proportional representation that also ensure that Members of Parliament remain directly accountable to their constituents” said Dominic LeBlanc. “Do we want to keep that bond between a specific MP and a specific group of Canadians?" asked Justin Trudeau.  “Canadians voted for real change, for a government that puts their needs ahead of the party's. A government that celebrates our diversity, and not takes a divisive approach” said Minister Maryam Monsef.

The regions have to be small and local enough to make that true, while still large enough to be at least moderately proportional.
 
Polls show over 70% of Canadians support proportional representation.

The mixed member proportional system used in Scotland and Wales, and recommended for Canada by the Law Commission of Canada, has all MPs tied to ridings or local regions; MPs would be elected in each riding but they'd be augmented by regional MPs elected from candidates in a local region. Justin Trudeau has never ruled that out at all, as long as the regions aren't too large.

Is Bavaria’s regional ballot too large and complex? In 2003 the number of spoiled or rejected votes was 1.2% for the local vote, 1.9% for the regional vote. Munich, with 58 MPPs, had a ballot with 469 names. No wonder some were rejected.

I suggest no regions larger than 18 MPs, preferably about 12 MPs on average.

More details of Bavaria’s model

Bavaria used to use the Scottish "highest average" (D'Hondt quota) but in 1990 this was declared unconstitutional, so they switched to "largest remainder" (Hare). Wouldn't it be lovely to live in a country where lack of full proportionality is unconstitutional?

Although they use a 5% threshold for representation, they give state funding to any party that reaches 1% of the regional votes.

Bavaria has almost half their MPs elected from the regions. Canada would use a higher ratio of local MPs.

Bavaria originally imposed a 10% threshold at the regional level, but in 1973 opted for a 5% threshold applicable to the whole province.

Bavaria’s 5% threshold rule has an unusual feature: a party needs to pass the 5% threshold province-wide to win even a local seat; no independents. Canada would never copy that feature.

Unlike German federal elections, the ballot had no circle for the voter to mark after the party name. If voters nevertheless marked the party name alone on the regional ballot, it was counted as a valid vote for the party, but had no effect on the ranking of the regional candidates. Only 1% of voters did this in 2013. 


Canadian adaptations

As well as allowing independents, Canada could need other changes to the Bavarian model.

We would need smaller regions than they use.

They use a 5% threshold province-wide for a party’s voters to elect a Regional MP. The effective threshold for smaller regions would already be at least 5%. But we might want some guarantee that a regional micro-party might not run in some region of Ontario or Quebec and elect a single regional MP with only 1% of the vote in the province, if the public expects this would not happen. A threshold of 4% or 5% applied province-by-province would prevent this. In Europe, the threshold is generally 4% or 5%, and New Zealand has been debating which of these numbers to use.
 
Take the Green Party in Quebec. With PR, assume their vote doubles, to 4.5%. If Montérégie is a 12-MP region (excluding a couple of ridings in Montérégie-est), and the Green vote doubled, Green voters there would have cast enough votes to elect their star Quebec candidate JiCi Lauzon, likely their only Quebec MP. A threshold of 4% lets him be elected, 5% does not.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

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


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

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

Respect for those who wanted a minority government

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

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

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

“We will make every vote count”

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

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

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

Only proportional representation will make every vote count.  

Respect for unrepresented Liberals

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

But in return it will let unrepresented Liberal voters elect about 18 more MPs, as shown below. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moderate 42-region model

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

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

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

Five more Liberal MPs from west and central Ontario

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

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

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

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

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

Four more BC MPs outside the Lower Mainland

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

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

Two more Saskatchewan MPs

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

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

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

Two more Manitoba MPs outside Winnipeg.   

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

No more strategic voting

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

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

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

How would regional MPs represent constituents?

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

Design options

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

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

Many Canadians want a simple, easy to understand ballot.

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

But many people hate closed party lists.

How to square the circle?

Well, one example of how to do it is the Law Commission of Canada recommendation: your second vote is for a party, and if you want to look at the list of 8 or 10 regional candidates under the party name, you can choose one if you wish.
Page 105 of the Law Commission Report said:

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

And page 109:

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

Therefore:

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

This all satisfies Fair Vote Canada's principles:

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

Saturday, November 21, 2015

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


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

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

Let’s start by looking at Green Party voters.

Green votes were half of Green support

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

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

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

No more strategic voting

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

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

If the Green vote doubled

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

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

But that’s not the only option.

Moderate model

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

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

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

MPs on the 2015 votes:

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

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

MPs if the vote doubled

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Many Canadians want a simple, easy to understand ballot.

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

But many people hate closed party lists.

How to square the circle?

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

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

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

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

This all satisfies Fair Vote Canada's principles:

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