Friday, December 9, 2016

The open-list Mixed Member Proportional system for which the Electoral Reform Committee found consensus.

The multi-party Electoral Reform Committee had a great deal to say about the Mixed Member Proportional System.

This could be the best model for Canadian democratic proportional representation.

The Committee found consensus on proportional representation

In Recommendations 1, 2 and 12, the Committee acknowledged that, of those who wanted change, the overwhelming majority of testimony was in favour of proportional representation. The Committee recommends that the Government should develop a new electoral system with a minimal level of distortion between the popular will of the electorate and the resultant seat allocations in Parliament, but not sever the connection between voters and their MP.

The Liberal minority report did not even mention the alternative of the ranked ballot in single-member ridings. At the press conference on the filing of the Committee Report, Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia (Chair of the Committee) confirmed "no one wants the ranked ballot." A huge step forward.

This is all consistent with the Mixed Member Proportional system, with open lists for the regional top-up MPs. You have two votes. Your first vote is for your Local MP. Your second vote is for a candidate for Regional MP. This counts as a vote for that candidate’s party. It helps elect region-wide MPs for top-up seats.

The Committee’s Report found consensus on open-list MMP.

Most individuals who favoured reform expressed support for this system (MMP).” “A majority of participants who advocated for electoral system change proposed the adoption of an MMP system, suggesting that it maximizes voter choice.” “Moving to an MMP system would keep the electoral system relatively simple. The local representation factor seems very familiar and similar to what [we] know with the current first-past-the-post system. It feels relatively simple and accessible on the ballot.” “Most respondents to the e-consultation strongly supported or supported the view that voters should determine which candidates get elected from a party’s list.”

The Report also discussed the details of MMP design: “In 2004, the Law Commission recommended two-thirds of MPs be elected in constituency races and the remaining one-third be elected from provincial or territorial party lists. The Commission noted that avoiding increasing the size of the House of Commons was a priority in determining said ratio.” “One way some countries with MMP systems have addressed the threat of the election of “fringe” or “extremist” parties is through the use of thresholds. For example, to be eligible to receive a share of the party vote seats in New Zealand, a party must garner at least 5% of the national vote.” Prof. Tanguay noted a built-in kind of threshold with MMP: “You'd need, probably, at least 10% of votes in a region to get one of those list seats.” As for the three Territories, “Some suggested adding a second compensatory MP to each territory to allow for some degree of proportionality” as the Law Commission recommended in 2004.

Further details are found in the Supplementary Report of the NDP and Green Party: “(MMP) with 2/3 of the House of Commons elected to represent direct constituencies, and 1/3 elected as regional compensatory members.” A group of three ridings will become two larger ridings each 50% bigger: “As such, since it would not affect current riding boundaries, a full riding redistribution would be unnecessary.”

The six smaller provinces have 60 MPs, an average of ten each. Local regions of about ten MPs match Prof. Tanguay’s comment above. The Hon. Stéphane Dion has advocated regions of similar size, to prevent creating different political micro-climates in different regions.

An MMP model with 34 local regions, with an average of 9.85 MPs each for the 335 MPs from the ten provinces, plus six MPs for the Territories, looks very practical.

Every region is represented

As Stéphane Dion likes to say “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.” And 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.”

In all 34 regions, on the votes cast in 2015, voters for all major parties have a representative. For example, Liberal voters who are not represented today in Vancouver Island, South and Central Alberta, Northern Alberta, Windsor—Sarnia, and Barrie—Owen Sound will elect MPs. So will Conservative voters in Atlantic Canada, Montreal and the western 72% of Quebec, Toronto, Peel Region, Northern Ontario, the north half of metropolitan Vancouver, and Vancouver Island.

How will regional MPs operate? 

Most regional MPs will each cover several ridings. Take Saskatchewan as an example. On the votes cast in October 2015, Liberal voters there would have elected two regional MPs. They might be based in Saskatoon and Prince Albert, but they would likely have additional offices in North Battleford and elsewhere, just as MP Kelly Block has offices in Martensville, Humboldt and Rosetown. This is just the way it’s done in Scotland, where each regional MP normally covers three local ridings, and holds office hours rotating across them. 

Even the Ministry of Democratic Institutions noted (no longer on-line) “Of the 34 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada is one of only three that continue to use the FPTP system to elect legislators.” The rest mostly use proportional representation and have stable majority coalition governments like Germany.

Not my model

The model I am describing is not my personal model. I would use more than 33% regional MPs. This is the model I have taken from the reports outlined above.

Is one-third regional MPs enough?    

My simulation of this model on the votes cast in 2015 results in 145 Liberals (a bonus of 8 MPs over the perfectly proportional result), 107 Conservatives (short 3), 69 NDP, 15 Bloc, and 5 Greens (short 5). Not perfect, but reasonably proportional.

Prof. Byron Weber Becker has run the model on his software. It has a Gallagher Index of 2.94, and a Composite Gallagher Index of 4.25.

Looking at provinces, Ontario shows a Liberal bonus of 4, 2 from the Greens, 1 from the Conservatives, 1 from the NDP. This is because of the Liberal sweep of Toronto, Peel Region and Oakville, where 52% of the vote gave them all 37 MPs. With only 33% compensatory MPs, the Liberals get a bonus of 4 MPs there, 3 from the Conservatives, 1 from the NDP. But another region gives the Conservatives a bonus, and the other eight regions of Ontario show fully proportional results.

New Brunswick shows a pattern similar to Toronto: a sweep on 51.6% of the vote, resulting in a Liberal bonus of 1 MP from the Conservatives. Conversely, the NDP sweep of six of Vancouver Island’s seven seats means BC shows an NDP bonus of 1 from the Conservatives.

Quebec is close to perfect: a Liberal bonus of 2 and a Conservative bonus of 1, 2 from the Greens, 1 from the NDP. In Alberta’s four regions, rounding anomalies give the Liberals and NDP a bonus of 1 each, 1 from the Conservatives, 1 from the Greens.

What if the Green vote doubles?

Another way to test whether 33% regional MPs is enough, is to project the outcome if the Green Party vote doubles, as they expect it would under PR.

A projection showing their vote doubled from non-voters (everywhere but in Elizabeth May’s riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands) shows them electing the correct 22 MPs. They elect MPs in every province but Newfoundland & Labrador and P.E.I. Again, the sweeps in Toronto and New Brunswick give the Liberals a bonus of 11 MPs, of which 7 are from the NDP, 2 from the Bloc, and 2 from the Conservatives. Not perfect, but reasonably proportional.

Which ridings would change?

Every local region, with about 10 MPs per region, will still have the same number of MPs as it does today. Those MPs will become 67% local, 33% regional. Wherever possible, three present ridings will become two larger ridings 50% larger. In my simulation, I use 14 nine-MP regions, 6 twelve-MP regions, 4 six-MP regions, and one 15-MP region. The Boundaries Commissions will make short work of this. Exceptions will be in only about 14% of ridings, about 38 of the present 275 in the larger provinces. Seven ridings could be “grandfathered:” the three for the Territories, and four more remote and aboriginal ridings.

Law Commission of Canada

In 2004 the Minister of Justice, the Hon. Irwin Cotler, tabled the Law Commission of Canada’s Report recommending a mixed member proportional system, just as outlined above. MMP is used in Germany, Scotland, New Zealand, and other jurisdictions. 

The Law Commission recommended one vital improvement: no closed lists. All MPs are elected and have faced the voters. If voters for a party are entitled to elect a regional MP, it will be the party’s regional candidate who got the most votes across the region. 

You have two votes. With your first vote, you help elect a local MP as we do today. With the second, you also help elect a few regional MPs: it’s proportional. You can cast a personal vote for the regional candidate you prefer: it’s personal. Using a ballot like the one that won the PEI referendum in 2016.

The regional candidates will be democratically nominated in 34 local regions, each small enough to make them accountable, not by the province-wide lists that Ontario voters rejected in their 2007 referendum.

Ranked ballots?

Could this model use a ranked ballot to elect the local MPs? In most ridings this would make no difference, but it would increase the Liberal bonus to the extent that the Gallagher Index would be 5.93, higher than the target of 5, with a Composite Gallagher Index 6.82. Not recommended.

Technical note

The calculation for any PR system has to choose a rounding method, to round fractions up and down. I have used the “largest remainder” calculation, which Germany used until recently, because it is the simplest and most transparent. In a 10-MP region, if Party A deserves 3.2 MPs, Party B deserves 3.1, Party C deserves 2.3, and Party D deserves 1.4, which party gets the tenth seat? Party D has a remainder of 0.4, the largest remainder. In a region where one party wins a bonus (“overhang”), I allocate the remaining seats among the remaining parties by the same calculation.    

Appendix - the regions

My simulation using this model lets voters elect 220 local MPs and 115 regional MPs in 34 regions, plus two each from the three Territories.

The regions are:

Toronto Central—Scarborough 13, North York—Etobicoke 12, York—Durham 15, Mississauga—Brampton—Oakville 12, Hamilton—Niagara—Halton 12, Central Ontario (Barrie—Owen Sound) 8, Waterloo—Brantford—Wellington—Dufferin 9, London—Oxford—Norfolk 6, Windsor—Sarnia 6, Central East (Peterborough—Kingston) 9, Eastern Ontario 10, Northern Ontario 9.

Montréal-est 9, Montréal-ouest 9, Laval—Lanaudière 9, Laurentides—Outaouais—Abitibi-Témiscamingue—Nord 11, Rive-sud 9, Montérégie-est—Bécancour—Estrie 9, Québec City—Mauricie—Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean—Côte-Nord 13, Chaudière-Appalaches—Bas-Saint-Laurent—Gaspésie 9.

Calgary 10, South-Central Alberta 9, Edmonton 9, North Alberta 6.

British Columbia:
Vancouver—Burnaby—Coquitlam—Maple Ridge 12, Surrey—Fraser Valley—Richmond—Delta 12, Vancouver Island, North and West Vancouver 9, BC Interior and North 9

Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador, and Prince Edward Island: each are one region.

2019 simulated result

As I said, my simulation of this model on the votes cast in 2015 resulted in 145 Liberals (a bonus of 8 MPs over the perfectly proportional result), 107 Conservatives (short 3), 69 NDP, 15 Bloc, and 5 Greens (short 5). Not perfect, but reasonably proportional.

The simulated result of the 2019 election was similarly close to proportional: 125 Liberals (a bonus of 8), 118 Conservatives (short 1), 53 NDP (short 3), 26 Bloc, 18 Green (short 4), and  one Independent. This is because one-third regional MPs is not quite enough, but with 341 MPs, a Liberal-NDP coalition government would have a majority. Both parties would have seats in every province, except no NDP MP from PEI. And the Greens would have MPs from every province except Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland & Labrador.

(This post revised Sept. 16, 2020.)

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