Monday, February 11, 2013

What would proportional representation in the House of Commons mean for Central East Ontario?

What would proportional representation in the House of Commons mean for Central East Ontario?

A prime example of the need is the belt of 11 federal ridings outside the GTA from Leeds—Grenville to Simcoe—Grey and Muskoka. In 2011 Conservative voters cast 53% of those votes and elected 91% of those 11 MPs. NDP voters cast 21% and elected no one. Liberal voters cast 19% of those votes but, being concentrated in Kingston, elected one MP. Green Party voters cast 5%. (This is just what I told the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission hearing in Cobourg Nov. 12, 2012.)

Law Commission model

Under the model recommended by the Law Commission of Canada in 2004, every voter in the region would be served by competing MPs. You could choose to go to your local MP for service or representation, or you could go to one of your regional MPs.

With new boundaries from the 2011 census, this belt should elect 13 MPs. With eight local MPs and five regional MPs, if Liberal voters still elected one local MP in Kingston, the results on the votes cast in 2011 would have been seven local Conservative MPs, one local Liberal MP, three regional NDP MPs, one regional Liberal MP, and one regional Green MP (using the highest remainder calculation).  The regional MPs for each party would be the party’s regional candidates who got the most regional votes. How would regional MPs work?

Of course it would also help our region by giving Canada a democratic government. Even with the new MPs for Alberta and elsewhere, on the votes cast in 2011 a proportional result would be 140 Conservatives, 103 NDP, 64 Liberals, 18 Bloc, and 13 Greens.

Our regional Liberal MP might have been Northumberland's Kim Rudd who got 12,822 votes in 2011 or Betsy McGregor from Peterborough (12,664 votes). Our regional NDP MPs might have been Peterborough’s Dave Nickle who got 14,723 votes, Kingston’s Daniel Beals (13,065), and Lindsay’s Lyn Edwards (12,934), or Belleville's Michael McMahon (12,940), Barrie’s Myrna Clark (11,842) or Parry Sound's Dr. Wendy Wilson (11,217). Our regional Green MP might have been Parry Sound’s Glen Hodgson who got 3,776 votes, or Simcoe County’s Valerie Powell (3,489).
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.
As Stéphane Dion says "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."
On this simulation, even 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 Newfoundland, PEI and Vancouver Island.

Moderate model

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.”


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