Friday, July 17, 2009

Why didn’t more Liberals speak up in 2008?

As noted in a previous post, with a democratic voting system, a proportional House of Commons elected as voters voted in 2008 would have given Liberal voters 26 more MPs from regions where they were unrepresented or under-represented.

That‘s nine more from the West, ten more from Ontario outside the GTA, and seven more from Quebec outside Montreal. Liberals need the recommendation of the Law Commission of Canada.

Chronic Liberal under-representation

Was this a one-time problem? No, a chronic one.

In 2006, with a democratic voting system Liberal voters would have elected 18 more MPs from regions where they were unrepresented or under-represented. That‘s eight more from the West, five more from southern Ontario outside the GTA, and five more from Quebec outside Montreal.

Chronic federalist under-representation

In 2008, 49 of Quebec’s MPs were Bloc members, and only 26 were federalists (14 Liberals, 10 Conservatives, 1 NDP, and 1 independent). With a democratic voting system in 2008 Quebec voters would have elected 17 more federalists. That‘s 43 federalists (17 Liberals, 16 Conservatives, 8 NDP, 1 Green, 1 independent) and only 32 Bloc MPs.

Was this a one-time problem? Again, not at all.

In 2006, Quebec federalist voters would have elected 17 more MPs: seven Conservatives, six New Democrats, three Greens and one Liberal. And that's chronic. See the Bloc Bonus and other chronic bonuses.

So why don’t more Liberals speak up?

Many Liberal activists in the West like Anne McLellan know all this very well; they've been dealing with it since 1972. So do Liberal activists in Quebec.

So why don’t more Liberal activists promote electoral reform?

Because in 2006 Liberal voters would have elected seven fewer MPs from Toronto and five fewer from Peel/York. Just as, in 2008, Liberal voters would have elected eight fewer MPs from the City of Toronto and four fewer from Peel/York.

Now, the best Toronto Liberal reformers have a national vision.

However, others think 12 fewer Liberal MPs from the GTA are more important than 17 more federalist MPs from Quebec. They think 12 fewer Liberal MPs from the GTA are more important than 18 or 26 more Liberal MPs from regions like Alberta where Liberal voters were unrepresented or under-represented.

Do these Toronto-centred folks really run the Liberal Party?

Perhaps not. When John Gerretsen was elected MPP for Kingston in 1995, he found himself the only Liberal elected between Toronto and Ottawa, facing a very conservative majority government elected by a minority of voters. A familiar position for Ontario Liberals, who had faced fake-majority governments for 42 of the previous 53 years. Proportional representation was in Ontario Liberals' interest, and Gerretsen started working for it. Unfortunately, by 2005 some of them had started to forget this. It is also in Quebec Liberals' interest, where the skewed demographics give the PQ the same bonus the Bloc gets; that's how the PQ won the 1998 election with fewer votes than the Liberals.

Open list

As noted in previous posts, I prefer regional "top-up" MPs elected personally under the "open list" model recommended by the Law Commission of Canada. You would have two votes, and more choice. "Open list" means that voters can vote for whoever they like out of the regional candidates nominated by the party's regional nomination process. Like this ballot, designed by Elections PEI, which PEI voters chose as the winning system in their plebiscite in November 2016. The party would win enough regional "top-up" seats to compensate for the disproportional local results we know all too well. Those regional seats would be filled by the party's regional candidates who got the highest vote on the regional ballot. Each province would keep the same number of MPs it has today.


Raymond said...

Hi Wilf,

It should probably be explained that the sample MMP ballot does not show the typical first-past-the-post ballot but an "alternative vote" version. The 2nd vote is not exactly an open-list vote, but a "flexible-list" vote where a candidate can move up the party rankings by receiving a significantly high percentage of the party vote.

The mid-sized regions of your electoral models for Canada seems to work well.


Wilf Day said...

Indeed, the sample ballot I posted is from the Jenkins Report in the UK, which proposed the alternative vote for the local MPs. This is a complexity which I do not advocate. And the right-hand part is the "open-list" variation known as "flexible list." Either pure open-list or flexible list would mean all MPs face the voters.

The German province of Bavaria is the only jurisdiction which uses MMP with open-lists. They use first-past-the-post for local MP, and pure open-list for regional MP. Therefore their ballot is even simpler than Jenkins' model. But being in German, I didn't show it.

Unknown said...

Ross Mallov - In Baden Wurttemberg they have a different system. They have no party list.

The "top up" seats go to the losing candidates with the most votes. Say the Liberals got 30% of the vote in a 100 seat Ontario, but won only 25 ridings. 75 Liberal candidate lost, and they need 5 more seats. the 5 candidates (of the 75) with the highest number of votes get the top up seats.

It is as simple as it gets. It leaves control completely with the local voters. Their votes determine who fills the top up seats. Your vote could give your favourite candidate a second chance at a seat.

this model could be applied within each province, or within each region of Ontario or Québec.

Wilf Day said...

Yes, Ross, the Baden-Wurttemberg no-list model is quite feasible for Canada. It could be used with the same regions as the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) model I described.

Baden-Wurttemberg uses 70 districts in four regions for electing 120 members of their legislature. Each party’s proportion of votes in each of the four regions determines its share of seats in that region (if it gets over 5%). Seats go initially to candidates finishing first, and any seats still unfilled go to the remaining candidates with the highest vote totals. In other words, voters in each region unrepresented by the local results elect additional members to represent them, as in any MMP model. With no-list MMP, those additional “top-up” members are simply the runner-up local candidates for that party in that region who got the highest votes. Thus, one may vote for a candidate who has no reasonable chance of winning the district in the knowledge that this vote (a) will count towards the party’s overall total (thus increasing its chance of winning regional seats); and (b) will increase the likelihood that this candidate will fill one of the party’s regional seats – the vote is doubly not-wasted.

The Ontario Legislature’s Select Committee on Electoral Reform in 2005 were so interested in this option that they sent four MPPs to Stuttgart to find out about it, as well as visiting Edinburgh and Dublin.

At pages 63-69 they note one problem: “As of the 2001 election in Baden-Württemberg, 25 districts have one deputy, 33 districts have two deputies, 11 districts have three deputies, and one district (Nürtingen) has four deputies.” The additional members are elected by votes across the region, but had won a nomination in only their home district. They are accountable to both the region and their local riding. That’s normal in Germany; would Canadians buy it?

A second problem: “The web site of the Baden-Württemberg Landtag notes that the proportion of female legislators has been rising steadily but as yet has only reached 22%.” With no regional nomination process, a party cannot so easily nominate a balanced group of candidates with fair numbers of women and minorities.

Other than the 2005 Ontario Select Committee, no one in Canada has taken much interest in this model. It’s not my favourite, but it’s a good one well worth considering. Personally I prefer the thought of party members in a 14-MP region voting to nominate and rank a group of 5 to 10 regional candidates, as well as nominating locally their 9 local candidates. But all-local has its merits too.

Unknown said...

Doesn't Baden Wurttemberg have a 2 vote system?

Wilf Day said...

No, Ross, and that’s interesting.

Germany started with a one-vote MMP ballot, but changed to the two-vote ballot in order to make MPs more personally accountable and give voters more choice. With two-vote, you can vote for the best local candidate regardless of party, since only your second vote counts toward the partisan make-up of the House. If your party’s local candidate is past his or her best-before date, vote for someone else. About 35% of New Zealand voters split their ballots this way. You’d think it would be an improvement on Baden-Wurttemberg’s model.

Baden-Wurttemberg invented their local variant of MMP very early on, and never changed to the two-vote ballot for provincial elections after federal elections were changed. Maybe the government just wanted to favour large parties? (The one-vote ballot can tend to make voters vote for prominent local candidates who tend to be from large parties.)

But also, I suppose it was simpler. They didn’t want a closed-list model. The second ballot could have been a regional open-list ballot like Bavaria next door. You could have voted for your party’s candidate in the region you prefer. The second ballot, in Bavaria, is a bit large: you find your party’s column, look down the 20 or so names on the list, and find the one you want to vote for. Open-list in too-large regions expects voters to learn about too many candidates, which would probably cause them to vote for the only candidates which they have heard of. Being known across a region must have been considered less important in Baden-Wurttemberg than doing well in your local riding.

Another question: would the party hold a regional convention to elect the regional candidates? Baden-Wurttemberg likes every candidate to be nominated locally. They could have switched to a two-ballot model where the 20 regional candidates were simply the same people who had won local nominations. But they didn’t.