Tuesday, February 23, 2016

With proportional representation, will my region lose representation?

With proportional representation, will my local region lose representation? Will my MP be from somewhere away?

This is a common fear of the 48% of Canadians who live outside Canada’s eight big metropolitan areas.

Pure proportional representation is not feasible

Pure proportional representation is not feasible for Canada. In fact it is not even possible constitutionally. Israel and the Netherlands have pure proportional representation, with all MPs elected from nation-wide closed party lists. Both the Hon. Stéphane Dion and the Law Commission of Canada have shown clearly why it should be rejected for Canada.

MPs remain accountable

Proportional representation systems can include models ensuring that all Members of Parliament remain personally accountable to their constituents.

The model I am describing is the made-in-Canada model designed and recommended by the Law Commission of Canada, where you have two votes: one for the candidate you like best for local MP, and one for the regional candidate you prefer of the party you want to see in government.

Your region will not lose representation

Your region will not lose representation: it will have just as many MPs as it does today.

You are guaranteed two things which equal better local representation:

1.         A local MP who will still put your area at the top of her priority list.
2.         An MP whose views best reflect your values, someone you helped elect in your local riding or your local region.

Examples of regions

I am using regions which typically have 11 MPs each: seven local and four regional. This keeps all MPs accountable to a local riding or local region.

The Atlantic provinces will lose nothing, since each province keeps the same number of MPs it has today. The 483,835 Atlantic voters who voted Conservative or NDP will gain representation. (See footnote as to Greens.)

In Ontario, my simulation uses 10 regions. Northern Ontario keeps its nine MPs (six local MPs, three regional MPs). Southwestern Ontario (London—Windsor) keeps its 11 MPs, as does West Central Ontario (Barrie—Bruce—Guelph) with 10 MPs, South Central Ontario (Hamilton—Waterloo—Niagara) with 16 MPs, Peel—Halton with 16 MPs, North York—Etobicoke with 13 MPs, Central Toronto—Scarborough with 12 MPs, York—Durham with 15 MPs, Mid-Eastern Ontario (Kingston—Peterborough) with nine MPs, and Ottawa—Cornwall with 10 MPs.

Manitoba keeps its 14 MPs. My simulation lets Winnipeg keep its eight, and the rest of Manitoba keep its six (four local MPs, two regional MPs).

Saskatchewan keeps its 14 MPs. The nine local MPs will give each part of the province representation.

In Alberta, my simulation lets the Calgary metropolitan area keep its 11 MPs, the Edmonton metropolitan area keep its 11 MPs, and the rest of Alberta keep its 12 MPs (the seven or eight local MPs will give each part of the province representation).

In BC, my simulation lets the Lower Mainland keep its 26 MPs, the Interior and North keep its nine MPs, and Vancouver Island keep its seven MPs.

In Quebec, my current example lets the region of Outaouais—Abitibi-Témiscamingue—Nord keep its six MPs, the Montreal—West region keep its six MPs, the region of Laval—Laurentides—Lanaudière keep its 13 MPs, the region of Montreal-est keep its 12 MPs, the Longueuil— Montérégie-centre—Suroît region keep its 12 MPs, the region of Estrie—Mauricie—Centre-du-Québec—Montérégie-est keep its 11 MPs, the Quebec City—Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean—Côte-Nord region keep its 11 MPs, and the Chaudière-Appalaches—Bas-Saint-Laurent—Gaspésie region keep its seven MPs.

My Riding Will Get Bigger with PR: How Will That Work in Practice? Won't My MP be Farther Away?

For voters:

Outside metropolitan areas, Local MPs and Regional MPs will both have more than one office, as many MPs already do, if you just want service from the closest MP.

But you will now have several MPs competing to serve you. You can get representation or service from an MP you helped elect, whose values are closer to yours.

Your Regional MPs will likely hold office hours rotating across their region, just as they do in Scotland. They will want to serve constituents in all parts of the riding. They'll have to work harder, which they may not like. But if their party does better in the next election, it will elect more Local MPs in your region, so it may very well not get any Regional MPs in the next election. That’s why your Regional MP is working as a shadow Local MP: he or she may be a Local MP next time.

For candidates:

Yes, the riding is larger, but in return, voters have competing MPs. Yes, you are running in a larger local riding, but in return, if the party does badly in local ridings in your region it will elect some regional MPs, so don't complain about competition from the regional MPs: one day, you may be one.

Yes, MPs represent everyone who wants their help. Both local MPs and regional MPs do that. Many voters didn't want the previous MP to speak for them. We have diverse voices, and we need diverse MPs.

Will proportional representation swamp the rural voice? No, as shown here. 

Does it still work proportionally?
If Canada in split up into 32 little local regions, does every vote still count? If only 38% of the MPs are regional MPs, is that enough to make it a real proportional representation system?

Yes, but not quite perfectly. The exceptions are:

  1. New Brunswick has never in its history elected all ten MPs from one party, as it did in 2015. With a mixed-member PR model, New Brunswick voters elect six local MPs and four provincial MPs. Although 51.6% of those voters cast Liberal ballots, that’s not quite enough to justify electing six of the ten MPs. Liberal bonus: 1 MP.
  2. Toronto voters also elected Liberals in every riding, with 52.2% of the votes. This model gives Toronto 15 local MPs and 10 regional MPs. Liberal bonus: 2 MPs.
  3. Vancouver Island voters elected six NDP MPs with 33.3% of the vote, plus Elizabeth May, This model gives them four local MPs and three regional MPs. NDP bonus: 1 MP.
  4. Nationally, Green Party voters cast 3.4% of the votes. If Germany’s 5% threshold were applied, they would elect no MPs outside BC where they got 8.2% and should elect three MPs. With no threshold they should elect ten MPs. Because of the smallish regions this model gives them five MPs.
As well, with any calculation you get rounding anomalies. With the points above, they happen to add up as follows: Liberal bonus 5, NDP bonus 3, from Greens 5, from Conservatives 3.

Final result: on the votes cast last October, instead of Liberal voters electing 184 MPs (54% of them) with only 39.5% of the votes, they would have elected 142 (5 more than the perfectly proportional 137). Conservatives 106 (seven more than last October), NDP 70 (26 more than last October), Bloc 15 (five more than last October), and Green five (four more than last October.)

Make Every Vote Count

Why would any Liberal MP vote for this? They might remember that Stephen Harper won a false majority in 2011, and a huge number of Canadians voted Liberal last October on their promise to Make Every Vote Count. Never again should Canadians see a one-man one-party government win unbridled power with support from only 39% of the voters.

And they might think of the 15 missing members of their caucus, who would have been elected by 1,388,076 unrepresented or under-represented Liberal voters (see footnote on Liberals).
More people would vote, and vote differently

As Prof. Dennis Pilon says: "Now keep in mind that, when you change the voting system, you also change the incentives that affect the kinds of decisions that voters might make. For instance, we know that, when every vote counts, voters won't have to worry about splitting the vote, or casting a strategic vote. Thus, we should expect that support for different parties might change."

And when every vote counts, turnout will be higher -- perhaps 7% higher. So, when voters have more choice, the results will be far more representative of our diverse population and their diverse views. Who can say what would be the result of real democratic elections?

You have two votes and more choice

With two votes, you can vote for the party you want in government. And you can also vote for the local candidate you like best regardless of party, without hurting your party, since it's the second (regional) ballot that determines the party make-up of the legislature. About 32% of voters split their ballots this way in New Zealand with a similar system.
Local MPs become more independent

This makes it easier for local MPs to get the support of people of all political stripes. They can earn support for their constituency-representation credentials, not just for their party. This boosts the kind of support MPs bring with them into the House of Commons, thus strengthening their independence.

Democratic nominations

How would regional candidates be nominated? Just like local candidates, except the nomination meeting is choosing more than one candidate. Party members will likely nominate a balanced group of candidates including women, minorities and indigenous people. It could be done on-line, and with live conventions. Likely party members in each region would decide to nominate the same candidates already nominated in the local ridings, and some additional regional candidates. 

Candidates should be democratically nominated in order to qualify for election expense rebates.

Polls show over 70% of Canadians support proportional representation.

More flexibility

With any proportional model, the new boundaries will be set by new Boundaries Commissions. But they can have more flexibility. Since the overall partisan make-up of Parliament is based on the regional ballot totals across the region, making remote ridings like Labrador and Kenora exceptionally small is no longer such an issue.

Footnote on Liberals

Liberal voters now unrepresented or under-represented – 1,388,076 of them -- would have elected more MPs.

In Calgary, the 210,129 under-represented Liberal voters would have elected two more MPs like Nirmala Naidoo and Matt Grant or Kerry Cundal. In Edmonton, the 163,063 under-represented Liberals would have elected another MP like Karen Leibovici. In the rest of Alberta, the 100,251 unrepresented Liberals would have elected two MPs like Kyle Harrietha from Fort McMurray and Chandra Kastern from Red Deer or Ryan Maguhn from Hinton or Glen Allan from Medicine Hat.

In the BC Interior and North, the 163,975 under-represented Liberals would have elected two more MPs like Karley Scott and Tracy Calogheros  or Cindy Derkaz. On Vancouver Island, the 100,557 unrepresented Liberals would have elected an MP like David Merner or Carrie Powell-Davidson.  

In Saskatchewan, the 131,681 under-represented Liberals would have elected two more MPs like Tracy Muggli from Saskatoon and Della Anaquod from Regina or aboriginal leader Lawrence Joseph.

In Manitoba outside Winnipeg, the 81,827 unrepresented Liberals would have elected an MP like Rebecca Chartrand or Brandon’s Jodi Wyman.   

In southwest Ontario, the 207,203 under-represented Liberals would have elected two more MPs like Chatham’s Katie Omstead and Lori Baldwin-Sands from St. Thomas or Windsor’s Frank Schiller. In west-central Ontario, the 229,390 under-represented Liberals would have elected two more MPs like Brian Tamblyn in Barrie and Allan Thompson in Huron or Kimberley Love in Owen Sound or Orillia’s Liz Riley.
Footnote on Greens

Many people expect the Green vote to double once ever vote counts. In that case, an ideal PR system would let Green voters elect 22 MPs. How many would this model let them elect? Well, 24 MPs. Rounding anomalies can even help a small party sometimes.

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