Sunday, March 2, 2014

How would proportional representation work in Peel and Halton?

How would proportional representation work in Peel and Halton?

Polls show more than 70% of Canadians support proportional representation for Canadian elections, and the Liberal Party of Canada has opened the door to start implementing it within one year of the 2015 election.

So this is no longer an academic discussion. This is a practical discussion: if Canada gets PR, how would it work in Peel Region and Halton Region?

Mixed Proportional

With the Mixed Proportional system, you have two votes. With one, you help elect a local MP as we do today. With the other, you vote for the party you want to see in government, and for your favourite of your party’s regional candidates. In this way, you also help elect a few regional MPs to top-up the local results so that every vote counts: it’s proportional. You can vote for the regional candidate you prefer: it’s personal. There would be no closed lists. Voters would elect all the MPs.

You can vote for the candidate you like best for local MP without hurting your party, since the party make-up of parliament is set by the party votes. In New Zealand, 30% of voters split their votes that way.

Voters would elect more than one MP, so they would have competing representatives, likely including someone they helped elect. Every vote counts. Fair Vote Canada says rural and urban voters in every region should have fair representation in both government and opposition.

Two models

In 2015 Peel and Halton will have 14 MPs (16 if you include Burlington and Dufferin—Caledon), including four new ridings: Brampton Centre and South, Mississauga Centre, and Milton.

It could be two regions, in the model discussed here: BramptonMississauga East will have seven MPs, including new Brampton Centre and South. Mississauga SouthwestHalton will have seven, including new Mississauga Centre and Milton.

Or it could be a single region, in the model discussed here.
BramptonMississauga East

In 2011 those voters elected five Conservative MPs, no one else. Yet those voters voted only 42% Conservative, 33% Liberal, 22% New Democrat, and 3% Green. If every vote counted equally, in 2015 Conservative voters would elect three MPs, Liberal voters two MPs, and New Democrat voters two MPs.

Mississauga SouthwestHalton

In 2011 those voters elected five Conservative MPs, no one else. Yet those voters voted only 49% Conservative, 32% Liberal, 15% New Democrat, and 3% Green. If every vote counted equally, in 2015 Conservative voters would elect four MPs, Liberal voters two MPs, and New Democrat voters one MP.


Across the whole region, in 2011 these voters elected 12 Conservative MPs, no one else. Yet those voters voted only 48% Conservative, 30% Liberal, 18% NDP, and 4% Green.  If every vote counted equally, in 2015 Conservative voters would elect eight MPs, Liberal voters five MPs, and New Democrat voters three MPs.

But this is on the votes cast in 2011. When every vote counts, turnout will be at least 6% higher, and no one will have to cast a “strategic vote.” Another 3,000 Green voters would have been enough to elect a Green MP. Who can say what would be the result of real democratic elections?

The majority of these MPs would still be local MPs. The other would be regional MPs, topping up the results to make them match the vote shares.

In the first model, based on the UK’s Jenkins Commission Report, the local MP is elected by a preferential ballot. In Brampton (Bramalea-Gore-Malton) that would have meant an NDP MP, Jagmeet Singh. So, in the region of Brampton—Mississauga East, maybe there would be three local Conservative MPs, and one NDP.  In that case, you would also see two regional Liberal MPs and one regional NDP MP. In the region of Mississauga Southwest—Halton, likely there would have been four local MPs, all Conservative, and three regional MPs: two Liberal, and one New Democrat.

In the second model, adding Burlington and Dufferin—Caledon, we would see eight local Conservatuve MPs and one NDP, plus five regional Liberal MPs and two NDP.   

How would party members from these regions nominate and rank a group of regional candidates? It could be done on-line, and with live convention sites in Brampton and in Oakville, or in Mississauga. Likely party members would nominate the same candidates nominated in the local ridings, and some additional regional candidates. But voters would have the final say, since they can vote for their party’s regional candidate they prefer.

The result is this: on top of having local MPs, voters would also elect regional MPs. With two regional Liberal MPs in Brampton—Mississauga East, it might be two of those who got the most votes in 2011: Peter Fonseca, Navdeep Bains and Andrew Kania. The regional NDP MP might have been Manjit Grewal or Waseem Ahmed. With two local Conservative MPs from the present huge ridings of Brampton Springdale and Brampton West, both slated to be split in 2015, Kyle Seeback and Parm Gill would still expect to be local MPs, along with Eve Adams.

In Mississauga Southwest—Halton, the two regional Liberal MPs might have been Bonnie Crombie and Paul Szabo. The regional NDP MP might have been Michelle Bilek, or Pat Heroux or Aijaz Naqvi. Stella Ambler, Lisa Raitt, Terence Young, and Robert Dechert or Brad Butt would still be local MPs.

In the second model, the same Peter Fonseca, Navdeep Bains, Andrew Kania, Bonnie Crombie and Paul Szabo would likely be regional Liberal MPs, along with two NDP regonal MPs. The local Conservative MPs would, again, likely be Stella Ambler, Lisa Raitt, Terence Young, Kyle Seeback and Eve Adams, along with Mike Wallace, David Tilson or Parm Gill, and Robert Dechert or Brad Butt. 
How would regional MPs operate? The regional MPs would cover several ridings each. Just the way it’s done in Scotland. Many regional MPs would need several offices, just as David Tilson already has offices in Bolton and Orangeville.

Canada-wide consequences.

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. Parliament would reflect the diverse voters of every province.

With this kind of power-sharing, Canada would look quite different.

If we had a Proportional Representation voting system, here are only a few of the things Canadians could have accomplished over the past twenty years:

Ø Engaged and motivated voters

Ø A reinvigorated democratic system

Ø More women MPs and a fair mix of party representation

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, 103 NDP, 64 Liberals, 18 Bloc, and 13 Green.

With these mixed models, the projected results are 141 Conservatives, 107 or 108 NDP, 65 or 67 Liberals, 15 or 17 Bloc, and 8 or 9 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 or nine more Quebec MPs, one more in Newfoundland, one more in PEI, and one more on Vancouver Island.

Our electoral system is broken and people know it:

Ø Disengaged citizens are rejecting their right to vote

Ø A dysfunctional conflict-oriented political process

Ø An unelected Senate that rewards loyal party members with expensive perks

Ø Majority governments with minority voting results

Poll results on proportional representation

Environics asked “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 +/- 3.10%, 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.

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