Canada’s new Minister for Democratic Institutions, Maryam Monsef, was interviewed by Peter Mansbridge. He says "People want the system changed. How are you going to go about that?" She replies: "Yes, Canadians voted for real change, for a government that puts their needs ahead of the party's. A government that celebrates our diversity, and not takes a divisive approach. . . . I hope that Canadians will be proud of their politicians and their country because of the kind of work we do and the respectful manner that we go about it."
What would respect for Canada’s political diversity look like?
Let’s start by looking at Green Party voters.
Green votes were half of Green support
After Elizabeth May took part in the Maclean’s debate, EKOS found Green Party support at 7.3%. Other polls found it as high as 7.0% at times.
But on Election Day only 3.4% of voters cast ballots for the Green Party. Maybe half the potential Green Party voters either stayed home discouraged that their diversity would be disregarded, or jumped on the Liberal bandwagon, outside some BC ridings. The Green vote declined from 2011 levels in every province west of Quebec but BC.
Even with support at 3.4%, they cast enough ballots that, with a proportional voting system, they would have elected six MPs (listed below).
No more strategic voting
The biggest result of using PR would be to end strategic voting, and to let every voter help elect an MP representing his or her first choice of views.
What if a fair voting system respected the wishes of Green Party supporters to cast votes that are not only counted, but count to elect their first choice?
If the Green vote doubled
If proportional representation added enough new voters to double the Green Party vote, they could have elected about 26 Green Party MPs including Elizabeth May (listed below).
That projection of 26 MPs assumes a model with about 12 MPs per region, in 30 regions in the ten provinces across Canada, with 38.2% of MPs elected in regions to top-up the disproportional local results. As shown in this six-minute video.
But that’s not the only option.
If the government prefers a more moderate model, with regional MPs more locally accountable, and slightly fewer regional MPs, they might prefer a model inspired by the UK’s Jenkins Report: about 8 MPs per region in 42 regions, with 35.5% of MPs elected in regions.
Under that model, on the votes cast in 2015 Green voters would have elected only four MPs (listed below).
If enough new voters doubled the Green Party vote, they would have elected about 16 Green Party MPs including Elizabeth May. Not as good as 26, but reason enough for Greens to support the model.
MPs on the 2015 votes:
Under either model, on the 2015 votes Green voters would have elected two more MPs from BC like Finance Critic Ken Melamed or Climate Change Critic Claire Martin, and Arts, Culture and Heritage critic Jo-Ann Roberts or Transportation Critic Frances Litman (whoever got the most support from Green Party voters in their region). And one in Ontario, like Infrastructure and Community Development Critic Gord Miller from Guelph.
On the larger-region model they would also have elected an MP from Manitoba like Environment Critic Andrew Park, and an MP from the south half of the Lower Mainland like Abbotsford teacher Stephen Fowler. (This projection uses an MMP model with 30 regions of about 12 MPs each, using the “highest remainder” formula. I used a threshold of 2.5%, reflecting the result of a 5% threshold with a doubled vote. Perfect province-wide proportionality with no threshold would also have let Green Party voters in Ontario elect two more MPs, two in Quebec, one in Saskatchewan and one MP in Alberta.)
MPs if the vote doubled
With the Green vote doubling, with either model Ontario Green voters would have elected five more Green Party MPs like Democratic Reform Critic and MP Bruce Hyer, Small Business Critic Jean-Luc Cooke or noted constitutional lawyer Deborah Coyne, Hamilton engineer Peter Ormond, London environmental consultant Carol Dyck, and Lindsay teacher Bill McCallum.
New Brunswick Green voters would have elected a Green Party MP like Labour and Employment Critic Mary Lou Babineau. From Nova Scotia, an MP like interim provincial leader Brynn Nheiley. From Alberta, an MP like Rocky View software developer Romy Tittel. From BC, two more MPs like Urban Affairs and Housing Critic Wes Regan from Vancouver, and South Shuswap small businessman Chris George.
With the larger region model Green voters would also have elected three more Ontario MPs, like Public Works and Government Services Critic Christopher Hill or Immigration and Citizenship Critic Linh Nguyen from Mississauga; Social Service Critic Vanessa Long from Newmarket; and Toronto theatre director Chris Tolley. And another Alberta MP like Calgary project manager Natalie Odd.
In Quebec, even a doubled Green vote would have been below 5%, but if the threshold was only 4% they would have elected four MPs like Quebec Advocate Cyrille Giraud from Montreal, media personality JiCi Lauzon in Longueuil, former municipal councillor Corina Bastiani in Sorel, and Science and Technology Critic Colin Griffiths from Gatineau.
Similarly, with a threshold of only 4%, Saskatchewan Green voters would have elected an MP like Saskatoon energy engineer Mark Bigland-Pritchard.
But Greens have generally been willing to accept the challenge of meeting a 5% threshold. Once our voting system respects Canada’s political diversity, it’s all up to the voters.
How would regional MPs represent constituents?
Regional MPs would cover several ridings each. Just the way it’s done in Scotland.
Fair Vote Canada supports only models that ensure all MPs have faced the voters (no closed lists.)
Many Canadians want a simple, easy to understand ballot.
The Scottish ballot, vote for local MP and for a party, qualifies.
But many people hate closed party lists.
How to square the circle?
Well, one example of how to do it is the Law Commission of Canada recommendation: your second vote is for a party, and if you want to look at the list of 12 regional candidates under the party name, you can choose one if you wish. Simple but flexible.
Page 105 of the Law Commission Report said:"Based on the feedback received during our consultation process, many Canadian voters would also most likely desire the flexibility of open lists in a mixed member proportional system. In essence, allowing voters to choose a candidate from the list provides voters with the ability to select a specific individual and hold them accountable for their actions should they be elected."
And page 109:"We believe that a flexible list system represents a reasonable compromise for the Canadian context. Elections Canada or other government body should therefore develop a methodology for determining which candidate or candidates should be awarded each list seat. Implementing a flexible list would send a signal to voters about their primacy in the process of determining who gets elected. It would also support voters who decide to trust a political party’s choice of list candidates by allowing them to vote for the party slate.
Within the context of a mixed member proportional system, Parliament should adopt a flexible list system that provides voters with the option of either endorsing the party “slate” or “ticket,” or of indicating a preference for a candidate within the list."
This all satisfies Fair Vote Canada's principles:
"Positive voter choice: We need fair and unrestricted competition among political parties presenting democratically-nominated candidates. A democratic voting system must encourage citizens to exercise positive choice by voting for the candidate or party they prefer. They should not find it necessary to embrace negative or strategic voting – to vote for a less-preferred candidate to block the election of one even less preferred. Never should citizens be denied representation simply because their preferred candidate cannot win a single-member riding."