How would the results of the 2011 election play out, by province and nationally, if every vote counted equally? That is, if a model of proportional representation were in place?
All MPs are personally elected
We still elect local MPs. Voters unrepresented by the local results top them up by electing regional MPs. The total MPs match the vote share. Will we voters have no voice in choosing the individual that will represent us regionally? To prevent any concern about that, let’s use the open-regional-list mixed member proportional (MMP) model recommended by the Law Commission of Canada in 2004.
You have two votes. The first is for your local MP, as today. The second is for your party’s regional candidate you like best. This model still leaves almost two-thirds of MPs elected from local ridings. The other one-third are elected from regions averaging 14 MPs (nine local, five regional). If a party’s voters have managed to elect only a few local MPs in that region or none at all, that party gets additional “top-up” seats. The regional candidate with the most votes gets any regional seat needed to top-up the local results to make every vote count equally. (More details below.)
This simulation is only if people voted as they did on May 2, 2011. In fact, if voters knew every vote would count, more would have voted -- often 6% or so more -- and some would have voted differently. We would have had different candidates - more women, and more diversity of all kinds. We could have different parties.
Winner-take-all gave Canada a House of Commons in 2011 of 166 Conservatives, 103 New Democrats, 34 Liberals, 4 Bloc Québécois, and one Green.
The fair result
Instead, the proportional results would have been 127 Conservatives, 97 New Democrats, 56 Liberals, 17 Bloc Québécois, and 11 Greens.
The majority of Canadians voted NDP, Liberal or Green. An NDP-Liberal-Green coalition government would have a clear majority; or so would a Conservative-Liberal coalition government. Either way, that's a strong, stable majority in Parliament elected by a majority of voters, rather than "the tyranny of the minority" when 40% of the voters elect 54% of the MPs with 100% of the power.
The provincial results are even more telling. Our political diversity in each province is fully represented. Voters would be free to vote for their first choice, not having to vote for the "lesser of evils." But even on the votes as cast May 2, this would be the end of the “regional silos” that Canada’s politics have fallen into.
A new politics
An exciting prospect: voters have new power to elect who they like. New voices from new forces in Parliament. No party rolls the dice and wins an artificial majority. Cooperation will have a higher value than vitriolic rhetoric. Instead of having only a local MP -- whom you quite likely didn’t vote for -- you can also go to one of your diverse regional MPs, all of whom had to face the voters. Governments will have to listen to MPs, and MPs will have to really listen to the people. MPs can begin to act as the public servants they are. And all party caucuses will be more diverse.
The models in Ontario and PEI which failed referendums had closed province-wide lists for the additional “top-up” MPPs. This failure was no surprise to those who wrote the Jenkins Commission report in the United Kingdom. Jenkins said top-up MPs locally anchored to small areas are “more easily assimilable into the political culture and indeed the Parliamentary system than would be a flock of unattached birds clouding the sky and wheeling under central party directions.”
It's not just Liberal voters and Green voters who would benefit.
The Conservative caucus would be more representative with nine more MPs from underrepresented areas. Instead of Conservative voters electing no one from the west two-thirds of Québec, they'd have three MPs from Montréal/Laval, one more from the South Shore (Montérégie), and one more from the North Shore and western Québec where Lawrence Cannon lost his seat. And they'd have two more from central and eastern Quebec, and second MPs from both Newfoundland and PEI.
NDP voters in areas where they elected too few or no MPs would have elected 21 more MPs: five in Saskatchewan, four more in Alberta, two more in Manitoba, three more in Eastern Ontario, three more in the GTA, one more in each of West Central Ontario and Southwest Ontario, and two more in New Brunswick.
Liberal voters unrepresented in Western Canada, Ontario outside Toronto, and Quebec outside Montreal would have elected 24 more MPs. And Green voters everywhere would have elected 10 more MPs.
In this model, all MPs are locally accountable. Generally each group of three local ridings becomes two larger ones. Voters can go to their local MP or one of their competing diverse regional MPs (about five regional MPs). Voters for all parties have representation in their region.
For a similar analysis, but with smaller regions, see this post.
Province by province
Alberta’s diverse voters would be fully represented.
Instead of Alberta Liberal voters electing no MPs, they would have elected an MP from Edmonton and the north half of Alberta, and another from Calgary and the south half of Alberta. So would Alberta Green voters. Instead of Alberta NDP voters electing only one MP, they would have elected two more MPs from Edmonton and the north half of Alberta, and two from Calgary and the south half. Alberta Conservative voters would have elected 19 MPs rather than 27.
Ontario’s diverse regions and voters would be fully represented. They would have elected 67 local MPs and 39 regional MPs.
GTA voters would, rather than electing only seven Liberal MPs, have elected 13 Liberal MPs – three from Peel-Halton, three from York-Durham, and seven from the City of Toronto. They would have elected 11 New Democrat MPs rather than only eight – two from Peel-Halton, two from York-Durham, and seven from the City of Toronto. They would have elected two Green Party MPs -- one from the City of Toronto, one from York-Durham. They would have elected 20 Conservative MPs rather than 31.
For the 17 MPs of Eastern Ontario (Ottawa to Peterborough), instead of 13 Conservatives, one New Democrat, and three Liberals, voters would have elected eight Conservatives, four New Democrats, four Liberals, and one Green.
For the 20 MPs of West Central Ontario (Hamilton-Niagara-Waterloo-Simcoe), instead of 15 Conservatives, four New Democrats, and one Liberal, voters would have elected 10 Conservatives, five New Democrats, four Liberals, and one Green.
In Southwestern Ontario (London-Windsor-Owen Sound), instead of 11 Conservative MPs and three New Democrats, voters would have elected seven Conservatives, four New Democrats, two Liberals, and one Green.
In Northern Ontario, instead of three Conservative MPs and six New Democrats, voters would have elected two Liberals along with three Conservatives and four New Democrats.
BC voters would have been fully represented, with 23 MPs from local ridings and 13 more regional MPs.
In the Lower Mainland Liberal voters would have elected four MPs rather than two, Green voters would have elected an MP, Conservative voters would have elected ten MPs rather than 12, and NDP voters would have elected six MPs rather than seven. Similarly, in the rest of BC Liberal voters would have elected one MP rather than none, Green voters would have elected another MP, while Conservative voters would have elected seven MPs rather than nine.
In Saskatchewan, NDP voters would have elected five MPs rather than none, while Conservative voters would have elected eight MPs not 13.
In Manitoba, New Democrat voters would have elected four MPs rather than two, and Liberal voters would have elected two MPs not just one, while Conservative voters would have elected three fewer.
In summary, across the West that would mean 25 NDP MPs rather than 15, ten Liberal MPs not just four, and five Green MPs not just one.
In Nova Scotia, Green voters would have elected an MP, while Liberal voters would have elected three not four.
In New Brunswick, NDP voters would have elected three MPs not just one, and Liberal voters would have elected two MPs not just one, while Conservative voters would have elected five MPs not eight.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, Conservative voters would have elected a second MP, while Liberal voters would have elected three MPs not four.
In P.E.I. Conservative voters would have elected a second MP, while Liberal voters would have elected two MPs not three.
Québec’s diverse regions and voters would have been fully represented.
For the 21 MPs from Montréal and Laval, voters would have elected four Bloc MPs not just one, three Conservative MPs, eight NDP MPs not 13, and six Liberal MPs not seven.
For the 12 MPs from Montérégie, voters would have elected three Bloc MPs, one Liberal and one Conservative. NDP voters would have elected the seven local MPs, not all 12.
For the 14 MPs from Laurentides, Lanaudière, Outaouais and Abitibi, voters would have elected three Bloc MPs, one Liberal and one Conservative. NDP voters would have elected nine MPs, but not all 14.
For the 10 MPs from Estrie-Centre-du-Québec-Mauricie, voters would have elected three Bloc MPs not just two, two Conservatives not just one, and one Liberal. NDP voters would have elected four MPs not seven.
For the 18 MPs from the region of Québec City and eastern Québec, voters would have elected four Bloc MPs not just one, five Conservatives rather than four, and two Liberals. NDP voters would have elected seven MPs not 13.
I’ve posted an example of who might have been elected.
The Law Commission of Canada recommended a Mixed Member Proportional model (MMP) with open regional lists, as did the Jenkins Commission in the UK. In Quebec it is called the mixed compensatory system.
MMP is used in Scotland, Wales, New Zealand and Germany. This model was described in more detail by Prof. Henry Milner at an electoral reform conference Feb. 21, 2009. A similar "open-list" model is used in the German province of Bavaria and was proposed by Scotland's Arbuthnott Commission in 2006.
By having only 36% of MPs elected regionally, the results are not perfectly proportional, but very close. If we had used province-wide totals with perfect proportionality the results would have been: 126 Conservative, 94 New Democrats, 59 Liberals, 18 Bloc, and 11 Greens. In this simulation, after adjustments due to having 64% local seats, the results are: 127 Conservatives, 97 New Democrats, 56 Liberals, 17 Bloc, and 11 Greens. The effect on the balance of parties in the House is the same. In return for slight deviations from perfect proportionality, all MPs are “locally anchored” and accountable. A very good trade-off.
If there was a legal threshold of 5% in each province, the Greens would have no MPs from Ontario and Nova Scotia, getting only 5 MPs not 10. (However, if every vote counted, there would be no need for negative "strategic voting," so I expect the Greens would have gotten more than 5% there.)