Thursday, September 11, 2014

How would proportional representation work in Simcoe, Muskoka and Dufferin?

NOTE:  This post has been replaced by “How would proportional representation work in Central Ontario?” Please refer to the new post. Please do not quote the post below, which I have left up for reference only.

How would proportional representation work in Simcoe County, Muskoka and Dufferin County, for federal elections?

Polls show more than 70% of Canadians support proportional representation for Canadian elections. Canada’s Liberal Party has opened the door to start implementing PR within one year of the 2015 election. The NDP and Greens fully support PR.

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

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 vote, you can vote for the party you want to see in government, and for your favourite of your party’s regional candidates. So you 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 are no closed lists. Voters elect all the MPs.

This open list method was recommended both by our Law Commission and by the Jenkins Commission in the UK. Jenkins’ colourful explanation accurately predicted why closed lists would be rejected in Canada: additional members locally anchored 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.”

These two models both 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. 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.”

Two models: the Law Commission model

Under the Law Commission of Canada`s model, the 13 MPs Central East Ontario voters will elect in 2015 could be in one “top-up” region with eight local MPs, from larger ridings. The other five would be regional MPs, topping up the total results to make them match the vote shares. All as described here.

Or perhaps the 15 MPs Simcoe, Muskoka and York Region will elect could be in a top-up region, rather than the York—Durham  alignment described here. (Note: for the Law Commission model, I’m assuming the riding of Dufferin--Caledon is part of the Peel—Halton region, described here.)

Two models: the Jenkins model

Under the “moderate” model inspired by the UK`s Jenkins Commission Report, the eight MPs to be elected from Simcoe County, Muskoka, Guelph and Wellington County could be in one top-up region with five local MPs and three regional MPs.

So what would that look like?

When every vote counts, turnout will likely be at least 6% higher, and no one will have to cast a “strategic vote.” Who can say what would be the result of real democratic elections?

Meanwhile, I’ve done projections on the votes cast in 2011.

Barrie—Guelph region

On the votes cast in 2011, the winner-take-all results in this region would be seven Conservative MPs and one Liberal. Yet those voters cast only 53% of their votes for Conservatives, 18% Liberals, 17% NDP, and 7% Green. If every vote counted equally, on those votes on the 2015 boundaries Conservative voters would elect four MPs, Liberal voters two MPs, New Democrat voters one, and Green voters one.

Since I’m projecting from the 2011 votes, I’ll start with the 2011 candidates. Suppose the five local MPs were Conservatives Tony Clement, Kellie Leitch, Patrick Brown, and Michael Chong or David Tilson; and Liberal Frank Valeriote. In that case, Liberal voters would also elect a regional MP such as Steve Clarke from Orillia. New Democrat voters would elect a regional MP such as Barrie’s Myrna Clark or Parry Sound’s Dr. Wendy Wilson. Green voters would elect a regional MP such as Ard Van Leeuwen from Caledon or Valerie Powell from Coldwater.

Regional candidates

How would party members nominate and rank a group of regional candidates? It could be done on-line, and with live conventions. Likely party members in each region would decide to nominate the same candidates nominated in the local ridings, and some additional regional candidates. (In Nova Scotia in 2011, in all 11 ridings the Liberals nominated only men. Additional regional candidates would surely have included some women, and since polls show 90% of Canadians want to see more women elected, we’ll elect women when given the chance.)

But voters would have the final say, since they can vote for their party’s regional candidate they prefer.

For local MP, you can vote for the candidate you like best without hurting your party, since the party make-up of parliament is set by the party votes. In New Zealand, 35% of voters split their votes that way.

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.”

What would regional MPs do?

How would regional MPs operate? Just the way it’s done in Scotland. The regional MPs would cover several ridings each. Many regional MPs would need several offices, just as  Kellie Leitch already has offices in Alliston and Collingwood, and Bruce Stanton has offices in Orillia and Midland.

Canada-wide consequences.

With the new 30 MPs, on the 2011 votes transposed by Elections Canada onto the new boundaries, the winner-take-all results for the 338 MPs would be 188 Conservative, 109 NDP, 36 Liberal, 4 Bloc, and 1 Green.

When every vote counts, the result is: 140 Conservatives, 104 NDP, 64 Liberals, 19 Bloc, and 11 Green, using full proportionality on province-wide totals.

With these two mixed models, the projected results are 140 or 141 Conservatives, 106 or 108 NDP, 63 or 64 Liberals, 15 or 17 Bloc, and 8 or 10 Greens. Close to perfect proportionality, while keeping all MPs accountable to real local and regional communities.

Across Ontario, NDP voters would elect 32 MPs rather than 24, Liberals would elect 31 or 33 rather than 14, and Greens would elect 3 or 5, while Conservatives would elect 53 MPs rather than 83. 

Canadian diversity

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."

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, one more in Northern Ontario, and one more on Vancouver Island.

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 to get more than 50% of the votes was Brian Mulroney in 1984.) Parliament would reflect the diverse voters of every province.

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.

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

Our electoral system is broken and people know it:
Ø Disengaged citizens are ignoring their right to vote
Ø A dysfunctional conflict-oriented political process
Ø Majority governments with minority voting results

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 8-MP region: Conservatives 4.37 MPs; Liberals 1.56; New Democrats 1.48; Greens 0.60. After the first six seats are awarded, the 7th seat goes to the "highest remainder” (the Greens), and the 8th seat goes to the next highest (the Liberals.)

Would second preferences, used in the Jenkins model, have changed any results in 2011? Sometimes, using the EKOS poll taken April 28-30, 2011. Here, the second preferences might have helped Frank Valeriote win the larger Guelph—Wellington riding:

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