Tuesday, June 12, 2018

What if every vote in Ontario had counted in 2018?

If every vote in Ontario had counted in 2018, what would that look like?

No one man would have a one-party government elected by only 40.5% of the votes.

On the votes cast in 2018, with proportional representation our Ontario legislature should have 51 PC MPPs, 42 New Democrats, 25 Liberals, and 6 Greens.

Rural and urban voters in every region of Ontario would have effective votes and fair representation in both government and opposition. That’s a basic principle of proportional representation.

For example, let’s see what would happen using the mixed-member proportional system with open lists in ten regions. The regions would have an average of 12 MPPs each (seven local MPPs, five regional MPPs elected to top-up seats).

Did your vote count?

In 2018, 52% of Ontario votes were not effective to help elect an MPP, as the First-Past-The-Post system threw them in the trash.

And who can say what a real democratic voting system would have given Ontario? This year’s 58% turnout was the highest in five Ontario elections. But last year New Zealand, where every vote counts, saw a 79% turnout elect a new government with three-party support.

The open-list MMP system: Every MPP represents actual voters and real communities

We’re not talking about a model with candidates appointed by central parties. We’re talking about the mixed member system designed by the Law Commission of Canada and endorsed by the Ontario NDP Convention in 2014, where every MPP represents actual voters and real communities. The majority of MPPs will be elected by local ridings as we do today, preserving the traditional link between voter and MPP. The other 39% are elected as regional MPPs, topping-up the numbers of MPPs from your local region so the total is proportional to the votes for each party.

You have two votes. One is for your local MPP. The second helps elect regional MPs, topping-up the numbers of MPs from your local region so the total is proportional to the votes for each party. The ballot would look like this ballot that PEI voters chose at their recent plebiscite.

Unlike the closed-list MMP model Ontario voters did not support in 2007, you can cast a personal vote for a candidate within the regional list. This is commonly called “open list.” All MPPs have faced the voters. No one is guaranteed a seat. The region is small enough that the regional MPPs are accountable.

How would regional MPs serve residents?

Ontario’s Rural-Urban Divide
Our winner-take-all voting system exaggerates Ontario’s regional differences, especially the rural-urban divide.

Ontario’s suburban, small-town and rural voters somehow combined to make Doug Ford an all-powerful premier. But his majority in this year’s Ontario election came from our winner-take all voting system, not from voters. It came from the 31-MPP bonus that our skewed system foisted on those voters by throwing 51% of their ballots in the trash.

Take the 43 ridings in Toronto’s suburbs and the GTA. They elect more than one-third of Ontario’s MPPs. Voters for Doug Ford’s PCs swept them, electing all but seven. But only 45% of those voters voted PC. A proportional system would have let voters elect 12 New Democrats, not just six; 10 Liberals, not just one; and a Green Party MPP. Instead of 36 PC MPPs, they would have had 20.

What’s more, the PC heartland, the blue belt running from Cornwall to Barrie to Chatham, is not nearly as blue as it looks. Those 37 ridings elected 33 PC MPPs, all but four, yet they voted only 48% PC. A proportional system would have let those voters elect 11 NDP MPPs, not just three; five Liberals rather than zero; and three Greens, not just one, leaving the PCs with 18.

Conversely, Ontario’s urban cores (electing 12 MPPs in Toronto, nine in Hamilton-Niagara, five in Ottawa, and three each in London and Windsor) voted 29% PC but elected only four MPPs to Doug Ford’s caucus. A proportional system would have added five more. Picture the governing caucus with two more MPPs from Central Toronto (south of the 401, between Scarborough and Etobicoke) like Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, Andrew Kirsch, Gillian Smith, Jon Kieran or Mark DeMontis. With former MP Susan Truppe from London, an MPP like April Jeffs from Niagara Region and an MPP like Chris Lewis from Windsor-Essex.

The Official Opposition would also be more representative, with MPPs like Sean Conway from Peterborough, Joanne Belanger from Belleville, Bonnie Jean-Louis and Chandra Pasma from the Ottawa area, Sarnia’s Kathy Alexander, Bruce County’s Jan Johnstone, Barrie’s Pekka Reinio, Orillia’s Elizabeth Van Houtte, Brantford’s Alex Felsky, Whitby’s Niki Lundquist, Newmarket‘s Melissa Williams, and Georgina’s Dave Szollosy.

Liberal voters would be fairly represented, with 25 MPPs holding the balance of power, as would Green voters with six MPPs. See details below.

Competing MPPs:
You have a local MPP who will champion your community, and about five competing regional MPPs, normally including one whose views best reflect your values, someone you helped elect in your local district or local region

Voters electing 15 MPPs from York Region and Durham Region would, instead of electing 14 PCs and only one NDP member, have elected three New Democrat regional MPPs (maybe Monique Hughes and Niki Lundquist, Melissa Williams or Dave Szollosy or Nerissa CariƱo or Joel Usher), and three Liberal regional MPPs (maybe Steven Del Duca, Joe Dickson and Helena Jaczek), along with eight PCs.

Voters electing 15 MPPs from Peel and Halton Regions would, instead of electing only three NDP members and 12 PCs, have elected four Regional Liberal MPPs (maybe Charles Sousa, Kevin Flynn, Indira Naidoo-Harris and Dipika Damerla), one Green (maybe Eleanor Hayward), and one more New Democrat (maybe Nikki Clarke or Jagroop Singh), along with six Progressive Conservatives.

City of Toronto
Voters electing 12 MPPs from Northern Toronto—Etobicoke-York would, instead of electing only two Liberal MPPs, three NDP MPPs, and seven PCs, have elected three Liberals and four New Democrats, along with five Progressive Conservatives. Maybe Liberal Mike Colle and New Democrat Phil Trotter would have been elected as regional MPPs.

Voters electing 13 MPPs from Central Toronto-Scarborough would, instead of electing only one Liberal, have elected two Liberal regional MPPs (maybe Jess Spindler and Arthur Potts), along with six New Democrats and four PCs.

Suppose Toronto is three regions, including the eight MPPs from Downtown Toronto, where the NDP swept all eight seats. The PCs deserved to elect two regional MPPs downtown, like Andrew Kirsch and Gillian Smith.  

Central East (Kingston—Peterborough)
Voters electing nine MPPs from Central East Ontario would, instead of electing one New Democrat and eight PCs, have elected a Liberal regional MPP (maybe Jeff Leal or Sophie Kiwala), a Green regional MPP (maybe Robert Kiley, shadow cabinet critic for Citizenship and Immigration), along with another New Democrat (maybe Peterborough’s Sean Conway) and five local PC MPPs.

Eastern Ontario (Ottawa—Cornwall)
Voters electing ten MPPs from Eastern Ontario would, instead of electing only one New Democrat, have elected two regional NDP MPPs (maybe Ottawa’s Chandra Pasma and Bonnie Jean-Louis or John Hansen) along with three Liberals and four PCs.

Central West (Simcoe—Bruce—Wellington)
Voters electing ten MPPs from Central West Ontario would, instead of electing no New Democrats and no Liberals, have elected three regional New Democrat MPPs (maybe Barrie’s Pekka Reinio, Bruce County's Jan Johnstone, and Orillia’s Elizabeth Van Houtte) and a Liberal (maybe Gerry Marshall), along with Green party leader Mike Schreiner and five local PC MPPs.

Central South (Hamilton—Waterloo—Niagara—Brantford)
Voters electing 16 MPPs from Central South Ontario would, instead of electing no Liberal or Green MPP, have elected two regional Liberal MPPs (maybe Jim Bradley and Kathryn McGarry) and a Green regional MPP (maybe Kitchener’s Stacey Danckert, finance critic, or David Weber) along with seven New Democrat MPPs and six PCs.

Southwest (London—Windsor)
Voters electing 12 MPPs from Southwest Ontario would, instead of electing no Liberal or Green MPP, have elected a regional Liberal MPP (maybe London’s Kate Graham) and a Green (maybe Perth—Wellington’s Lisa Olsen or London’s Carol Dyck).

Northern Ontario
Voters electing 12 MPPs from Northern Ontario would, instead of electing only one Liberal MPP and three PCs, have elected a regional Liberal MPP (maybe Glenn Thibeault from Sudbury) and a regional PC MPP (maybe Yvan Genier from Timmins) along with six New Democrat MPPs.

A projection
This projection assumes voters voted as they did in 2018. But, 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."

What sort of government would Ontario have had?
Cooperation between parties representing a majority can get a lot of good things done. This is the norm in most western democracies.

The Ontario government might have been:

1. A minority PC government with a supply-and-confidence agreement (like the Accord in Ontario in 1985) with the Liberals, ensuring a stable government for four years (giving the Liberals time to rebuild). Possible but unlikely.
2. A minority NDP government with a supply-and-confidence agreement (like the Accord in Ontario in 1985) with the Liberals, ensuring a stable government for four years (giving the Liberals time to rebuild). More likely than option 1.
3. A coalition government between the NDP and the Liberals. Less likely in today’s climate, more likely under PR when the public is more used to cooperation between parties representing a majority.
4. A coalition government between the PCs and the Liberals. Possible but less likely, even after the public is more used to cooperation between parties representing a majority.
5. A minority government with no agreement or Accord, relying on support from one or more other parties issue by issue. Possible but less stable (although Bill Davis made it work for four years from 1977 to 1981). Today, it would be very unstable because the minority government would be looking for an excuse to roll the dice and try for an accidental majority. Under PR, when an accidental false majority would not be possible, everyone might want to make it work (as happened in Scotland for four years from 2007 to 2011).

Ontario NDP Policy
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Ontario NDP reaffirms its endorsement of a system of proportional representation for Ontario.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the proposed system of voting incorporate the following characteristics:
a) preservation of the traditional link between voter and MPP by keeping constituency seats;
b) two votes: one for a local constituency candidate and one for a Party's list of candidates;
c) Party lists to be developed and applied at a regional rather than provincial level;
d) restoration and enhancement of democracy through the provision of additional seats in the Legislature;
e) additional seats to be filled from Party Lists so as to offset disproportionality between the constituency elections and the popular Party vote.
f) voters to have the option of either endorsing the party’s regional list, or casting a personal vote for a candidate within the regional list.

Technical Notes:
1.    Because of rounding errors when Ontario is divided into ten regions, the above projection gives the PCs a bonus of 1 and the NDP a bonus of 2, at the cost of the Liberals (2) and the Greens (1). The overall result is still close to proportionality.

2.    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-MPP region, if Party A deserves 3.2 MPPs, 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.

3.    The purpose of the compensatory regional seats is to correct disproportional local results, not to provide a parallel system of getting elected. The Law Commission recommended that the right to nominate candidates for regional top-up seats should be limited to those parties which have candidates standing for election in at least one-third of the ridings within the top-up region. Jenkins recommended 50%. This prevents a possible distortion of the system by parties pretending to split into twin decoy parties for the regional seats, the trick which Berlusconi invented to sabotage Italy’s voting system. 

     (Note: this post was updated January 22.)

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