Monday, February 11, 2013

How would Central East Ontario voters be represented, with proportional representation in the House of Commons?

How would Central East Ontario voters be represented, with proportional representation in the House of Commons?

A prime example of the need for PR 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.  The regional MPs for each party would be the party’s regional candidates who got the most regional votes across the region.

What would regional MPs do?


How would regional MPs operate? The regional MPs would cover several ridings each. Just the way it’s done in Scotland. They would have more than one office, just as Scott Reid had offices in Napanee and Carleton Place, and Rick Norlock has offices in Cobourg and Trenton.  

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 three 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), Lanark's Doug Smyth (12,174), 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).

Depending on local nominations, the seven Conservative local MPs might be Tony Clement, Kellie Leitch, Patrick Brown, Barry Devolin, Dean Del Mastro or Rick Norlock, Daryl Kramp, and Scott Reid or Gord Brown.
 
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 St├ęphane 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."

Accountable MPs

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.”

Competing MPs

These models let citizens of regions across Canada elect competing MPs: a local MP, and a few regional MPs from a “top-up region” based in your area, likely including someone you helped elect. Every vote counts. Each province still has the same number of MPs it has today. No constitutional amendment is needed. Fair Vote Canada says “We must give rural and urban voters in every province, territory and regional community effective votes and fair representation in both government and opposition.”

Canadian diversity

Of course, proportional representation would mean a lot for Canada. We would not likely have a one party government’s Prime Minister holding all the power. (The last Prime Minister who got more than 50% of the votes was Brian Mulroney in 1984.) Parliament would reflect the diverse voters of every province.
 
If we had used province-wide totals with perfect proportionality the projected results on the 2011 votes with the extra 30 MPs would be: 140 Conservatives, 104 NDP, 64 Liberals, 19 Bloc, and 11 Green.

With these mixed models, the projected results for 338 MPs are 142 or 143 Conservatives, 106 or 107 NDP, 66 or 62 Liberals, 15 or 17 Bloc, and 11 or 7 Greens. Close to perfect proportionality, while keeping all MPs accountable to real local and regional communities.

This is not a partisan scheme. Unrepresented Conservative voters would elect eight more Quebec MPs than in 2011, one more in Newfoundland, one more in PEI, and one more on Vancouver Island.
 
Moderate model

Under the moderate model inspired by the UK’s Jenkins Commission recommendations in 1998, Ottawa's eight MPs would be a "top-up region," and the ten new ridings from Cornwall and Pembroke to Peterborough would be a "top-up region."

With six local MPs and four regional MPs, if Liberal voters still elected one local MP in Kingston, the results on the votes cast in 2011 would have been five local Conservative MPs, one local Liberal MP, two regional NDP MPs, one regional Liberal MP, and one regional Green MP (see technical note.)  Again, the regional MPs for each party would be the party’s regional candidates who got the most regional votes across the region.

Our regional Liberal MP might have been Prescott & Russell's Julie Bourgeois who got 17,705 votes in 2011, Northumberland's Kim Rudd (12,822), or Peterborough's Betsy McGregor (12,664 votes). Our regional NDP MPs might have been Peterborough’s Dave Nickle who got 14,723 votes and Kingston’s Daniel Beals (13,065), or Belleville's Michael McMahon (12,940), or Lanark's Doug Smyth (12,174). Our regional Green MP might have been Northumberland's Ralph Torrie who got 2,733 votes, Lanark's John Baranyi (2,702), or Mary Slade from Leeds (2,460).
 
Depending on local nominations, the five Conservative local MPs might be Dean Del Mastro or Rick Norlock, Daryl Kramp, Scott Reid or Cheryl Gallant, Gord Brown, and Guy Lauzon or Pierre Lemieux.
 
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.

Poll results on proportional representation

Environics asked in 2013 “Some people favor bringing in a form of proportional representation. This means that the total number of seats held by each party in Parliament would be roughly equivalent to their percentage of the national popular vote. Would you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose moving towards a system of proportional representation in Canadian elections?”

Interviewing for this Environics National Telephone Survey was conducted between March 18th – 24th, 2013, among a national random sample of 1,004 adults. The margin of error for a sample of this size is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

Result: support 70%, oppose 18%, depends 6%, don’t know 6%.



The Environics poll showed 93% of Green voters support proportional representation while 4% oppose; 82% of NDP voters support it while 11% oppose; 77% of Liberal voters support it while 15% oppose; 62% of Conservative supporters support it while 28% oppose; and 55% of voters undecided as to party support PR while 19% oppose and 27% said “don’t know” or “depends.”
 
This is not new. Poll results have shown this for 13 years.

Technical note:

The rounding method used in the simulation is highest remainder, for the same reason the Ontario Citizens Assembly chose it: it's the simplest. Germany used to use this too, on the premise that it offset the risk to proportionality of their 5% threshold. Similarly it offsets smaller region sizes.

You might wonder how Green Party voters would deserve an MP. The numbers work out as follows in the 13-MP region: Conservatives 7.06 MPs; New Democrats 2.80; Liberals 2.47; Greens 0.66. After the first eleven seats are awarded, the 12th seat goes to the "highest remainder” (the NDP), and the 13th seat goes to the next (the Green.) In the 10-seat region: Conservatives 5.365 MPs; Liberals 2.225; New Democrats 2.027; Greens 0.382. After the first nine seats are awarded, the 10th seat goes narrowly to the "highest remainder” (the Green.)   

Would second preferences have changed any results in 2011? Sometimes, but not in Central East Ontario, using the EKOS poll taken April 28-30, 2011.