(This post was updated March 19, 2016.)
The Law Commission of Canada recommended in 2004
“adding an element of proportionality to Canada’s electoral system, as inspired
by the systems currently used in Scotland and Wales.”
I’m not talking about classic “list-PR” with candidates
appointed by central parties. Every Member of Parliament represents
actual voters and real communities.
Pour information en français, voir la page 5: La Commission du droit du Canada recommande un système mixte. Ou le texte entier en français. Ou vous trouverez ci-dessous La solution démocratique existe.
Fair Vote Canada says “Never
should citizens be denied representation simply because their preferred
candidate cannot win a single-member riding.” Once every vote counts,
voters will be free to vote for their real first choice. More voters will find
it worthwhile to vote. Turnout is 5 to 6 points higher in countries where the
electoral system is proportional, says research published by Elections
The Law Commission recommended a mixed member system. We still elect local
MPs. Voters unrepresented by the local results elect regional MPs. This tops up
the local results so the total MPs match the vote share.
You can cast a personal vote for the regional
candidate you prefer. The region is small enough that the regional MPs are
accountable: it’s personal.
You have two votes. With your first, you help elect a local MP as we do
today. With the second, you also help elect a few regional MPs to top-up the
local results so that every vote counts: it’s proportional.
You have competing MPs: a local MP, and a few regional MPs from a
“top-up region” based in their area. Scotland uses regions of 16 MPs, Wales 12.
In Canada a typical region would have 11 to 14 MPs: seven to nine local plus
four or five regional “top-up.” Generally, eight present ridings become
five larger ridings, or nine become six. Local ridings are usually 50% or 60% bigger than today.
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.”
With top-up regions of 11 to 14 MPs each, the results are very
close to perfect proportionality. Similarly, the New Brunswick Commission on Legislative Democracy also
recommended regions of 14 MLAs, nine local and five regional.
Fair Vote Canada says “The supporters of all candidates and political
parties must be fairly represented in our legislatures in proportion to votes
Polls show at least 70 per cent of Canadians support
Back in 2007, Ontario voters did not support a
proposal for the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system modelled on the one
used in Germany and New Zealand, with closed lists. But this recommendation is
for a Personal MMP model.
The Law Commission recommended that your second vote should let you
choose either a party or one of the regional candidates nominated by parties.
If that candidate is a party candidate, this vote counts as a vote for your
party. This is commonly called “open list” rather than “closed list.” The
parties' regional votes are then counted to give the level of support for each
party in the region. The result is that all MPs have faced the voters, and no
one is guaranteed a seat.
The Law Commission 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."
No central party direction
The models in Ontario and PEI which failed referendums had closed
province-wide lists for the additional “top-up” MPPs. This
failure was no surprise to the Jenkins Commission. Jenkins said top-up MPs locally
anchored to small areas 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.”
Local MPs become more independent
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.
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
Power to the voters
An exciting prospect: voters have new power to elect who they like. New voices
from new forces in Parliament, more voter choice. No one party rolls the dice
and wins an artificial majority. Cooperation will have a higher value than
cheerleading or vitriolic rhetoric. One-party dominance by the Prime Minister’s
office will, at last, be out of fashion. 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 supposed to be.
2015 across Canada it took 37,733 votes to elect a Liberal MP, yet in Alberta
it took 118,354 votes to elect each of the four Liberal MPs, and in
Saskatchewan 131,681 Liberal voters elected only Ralph Goodale. It took 56,703 voters to elect a Conservative
MP, yet in Metropolitan Montreal 240,074 Conservative voters elected no one,
nor did 249,136 in Atlantic Canada.
in 2011 it took 35,147 votes to elect a Conservative MP, yet 129,310
Liberal voters in Alberta elected no one. Nor did Metropolitan Montreal’s
222,396 Conservative voters. Nor did 147,214 NDP voters in Saskatchewan.
As Stéphane Dion says “I
do not see why we should maintain a voting system that makes our major parties
appear less national and our regions more politically opposed than they really
Who would those regional MPs be? First, each party would hold regional
nomination meetings and/or vote online to nominate their regional candidates.
These would often be the same people nominated locally, plus a few additional
regional candidates. The meeting would decide what rank order each would have
on the regional ballot. But then voters in the region would have the final
Fair Vote Canada says “A democratic voting system must encourage
citizens to exercise positive choice by voting for the candidate or party they
No constitutional amendment needed
Each province still has the same number of MPs it has today. No constitutional amendment is
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?
One thing we know for sure: it is extremely
unlikely that voters would vote exactly as they did in 2015 or in 2011.
Meanwhile, I’ve done projections on the votes cast
in 2015 and 2011.
the votes cast in 2011 (transposed by Elections Canada to the new boundaries),
of the 338 MPs to be elected in 2015, under our skewed winner-take-all system
Conservative voters would elect 188 MPs, NDP voters 109 MPs, Liberals 36 MPs,
Bloc four, Greens one. On this projection Conservative voters would have elected
139 of those 338 MPs, very close to the perfectly proportional result (140).
NDP voters would elect 108 (not 104), Liberal voters the correct 64, Bloc
voters 17 (not 19), Green voters 10 (not 11, not counting Quebec Green votes
who were below 3%). (As recommended by the Law Commission, the Territories
would have two MPs each, making 341 MPs in total: 140 Conservatives, 108 NDP,
Liberals 66, Bloc 17, Greens 10.)
the votes actually cast in 2015, on this projection 142 Liberal voters would
have elected 142 MP, Conservatives 105, NDP 72, Bloc 15, Green 4.
In order to keep local representation, we keep an average of 62% of all MPs
as local MPs, at least 58% in each region.
The “top-up regions” would range in size from six MPs to 15. Outside
Newfoundland & Labrador and PEI, the top-up regions would average 11 MPs each;
mostly between 9 and 14. That means 32 regions for 335 MPs (plus the
Territories). In all, the 335 are 210 local MPs and 125 regional
MPs, 37% regional.
Many people want all MPs accountable to real communities, or as Jenkins put it, locally
anchored to small areas. Scarborough voters should not be represented by an
MP from Etobicoke.
could have ten regions, such as: one for Central Toronto—Scarborough with 12
MPs, one for North York—Etobicoke with 13 MPs, one for York—Durham Regions with
15 MPs, and one for Peel—Halton with 16. Northern Ontario could keep its nine
MPs (six local MPs, three regional MPs), Southwestern Ontario (London—Windsor) could
have 11 MPs, West Central Ontario (Barrie—Bruce—Guelph) with 10 MPs, South
Central Ontario (Hamilton—Waterloo—Niagara) with 16 MPs, the Ottawa Valley
(Ottawa—Cornwall) with 10 MPs, and Central East (Kingston—Peterborough) with
BC could have four regions: one for Vancouver—Burnaby—North Shore—Maple
Ridge, one for Surrey—Richmond—Abbotsford—Langley, one for the Interior, and
one for Vancouver Island.
Alberta could have three regions: one for metropolitan Edmonton’s 11
MPs, one for metropolitan Calgary’s 11 MPs, and one for Southern and Northern
Alberta’s 12 MPs.
could have eight regions, such as: Montreal—West keeps its six MPs, Montreal-est
keeps its 12 MPs, Laval—Laurentides—Lanaudière keeps its 13 MPs, Outaouais—Abitibi-Témiscamingue—Nord
keeps its six MPs, Longueuil— Montérégie-centre—Suroît keeps its 12 MPs, Estrie—Mauricie—Centre-du-Québec—Montérégie-est
keeps its 11 MPs, Quebec City—Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean—Côte-Nord keeps its 11
MPs, and Chaudière-Appalaches—Bas-Saint-Laurent—Gaspésie keeps its seven MPs.
could let Winnipeg keep its eight MPs, and the rest of Manitoba keep its six MPs
(four local MPs, two regional MPs).
In Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada, the “top-up region” is
the whole province.
Every vote counts
this projection, in the votes cast in 2015, 1,388,076 Liberal voters now
unrepresented or under-represented would have elected 14 more MPs in western
Canada and even in southwest and west-central Ontario.
2011 Liberal voters, even on the low 2011 vote, would have elected MPs in almost
all the regions where they were shut out in 2011: the three regions of Alberta,
the five regions of Quebec off Montreal Island,
Surrey—Richmond—Abbotsford—Langley in BC, and Peel—Halton,
Hamilton—Niagara—Brant, Southwestern Ontario and Northern Ontario.
NDP voters in 2011 would have elected MPs where they were shut out: in
York—Durham, Peel—Halton, Central East Ontario, Central West Ontario,
Saskatchewan, Calgary, and South and North Alberta.
Party voters in 2011 would have elected an MP in Nova Scotia, Central Toronto—Scarborough,
Peel—Halton, the Ottawa Valley, West Central Ontario, Calgary,
Vancouver—Burnaby—North Shore—Maple Ridge, Surrey—Richmond—Abbotsford—Langley,
and the BC Interior.
voters in 2011 would have elected six Quebec MPs in regions where they were
Clearly this would allow fair representation of Canada’s political
diversity in each region.
Would this model also help reflect in Parliament the diversity of
society, removing barriers to the nomination and election of candidates from
groups now underrepresented including women, cultural minorities and
Aboriginals? Polls show that 90% of Canadian voters would like to see more
women elected. If they can choose from several of their party's regional
candidates, they'll almost certainly elect more women. And as long as a party
is nominating at least five regional candidates, you can expect them to nominate a diverse group.
With five regional MPs from a region, and nine local MPs, a major party would
want more than five regional candidates, since any candidates who win local
seats are removed from contention for regional seats.
How would regional MPs serve residents? See how it works in Scotland.
This model was described in more detail by Prof.
Henry Milner at an electoral reform conference Feb. 21, 2009, where he
recommended 14-MP regions. A comparable "open-list" model is used in
the German province of Bavaria and was proposed by Scotland's Arbuthnott
Commission in 2006.
The Commission's "demonstration model" is NOT their recommendation.
The Law Commission says their recommendation's inspiration is Scotland and
Wales, which have "top-up" regions with 16 MPs (Scotland) and 12 MPs
(Wales). To show how the calculation method worked, their "demonstration
model" showed Quebec in only two regions, Ontario in only three, and BC
and Alberta as single regions, making regions with about 35 MPs each, with at
least 12 regional MPs. But then they said voters should be able to vote for the
regional candidate they prefer. That would be a "bed-sheet ballot"
with such large regions. So actually, Canada would likely have regions no larger than about 14
MPs: nine local, five regional "top-up." More accountable.
32 regions are large enough that every major party would be represented in
almost every region. In the simulation, we see only two exceptions in 2015: Conservative
voters would have elected no MP from Outaouais—Abitibi-Témiscamingue—Nord, nor
NDP voters from PEI.
in 2011, due to the Liberal weakness that year, Liberal voters would have elected
no MP among the nine from the BC Interior (but another 2,100 votes would have
done it) and the seven from Vancouver Island (where 6,200 more Liberal voters
would have elected an MP), and NDP voters elect no MP among the four from
Prince Edward Island.
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 the 5% threshold. Similarly it offsets any small region sizes like Vancouver
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. 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.
- Chaque vote est respecté équitablement, partout et pour toutes les opinions politiques.
- Chaque parti obtient sa juste part de sièges, ni plus ni moins que selon la volonté de la population.
- L’Assemblée nationale réunit ± 128 membres – tous légitimement élus – et qui se font connaître, dans leurs régions respectives, durant la campagne électorale.
- Dans chaque région, la population continue d’être représentée par autant ou plus de personnes élues qu’actuellement.
- L’Assemblée nationale est conforme aux valeurs égalitaires de la société québécoise et tient compte de la diversité ethnoculturelle de la population.
- Le bulletin de vote permet de faire un choix clair et simple:
- choisir une personne pour représenter sa circonscription;
- choisir un parti pour ses idées et pour son équipe régionale.