Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Is proportional representation unconstitutional?

Some skeptics of proportional representation object that the preamble to our 1867 Constitution says we have “a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom,” which they assume meant winner-take-all elections in single member districts.

Yes, it recited “Whereas the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have expressed their Desire to be federally united into One Dominion under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom.”

This is a red herring occasionally, but rarely, raised. Most political scientists say this referred to responsible government, the parliamentary system as opposed to the American Presidential model.

Did it extend to the voting system? Prof. Dennis Pilon says no, and I agree.

1. Parliament has exclusive power

First, by section 44 of the 1982 Constitution Act, Parliament may exclusively make laws amending the Constitution of Canada in relation to the House of Commons. Provincial consent is not required. In 1867 we did not yet even use the secret ballot. Canada has made many changes to our voting system since then.

If winner-take-all single district elections were somehow entrenched in the constitution, they would equally be entrenched for provincial parliaments. But, similarly, section 45 of the 1982 Constitution Act says the legislature of each province may exclusively make laws amending the constitution of the province. That’s why Quebec's Charest government, in 2004, found no problem proposing a PR model similar to that introduced for Scotland's parliament -- in fact they pointed to that as a reason for it being acceptable for Quebec. That’s why BC, PEI and Ontario could legally vote on changing their voting system. That's why Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton were able to use the Irish STV system with multi-member districts for provincial elections from 1920 or 1926 to 1955 or 1958.

2. The UK was not wedded to winner-take-all elections in single member districts

Second, it’s a fallacy that the UK, in 1867, had nothing but single-member districts. In 1832 by the Great Reform Act about 62 ridings were represented by two MPs. Seven counties were now to have three MPs each instead of two. London had four MPs.

By 1867, four UK cities had three MPs each instead of two, but voters could only vote for two candidates. In London they could vote for only three of the four. This "limited vote" was an early attempt at a semi-proportional system. In 1868, for example, London elected three Liberals and one Conservative, while in 1874 it was three Conservatives and one Liberal. Also, in many two-member counties and boroughs the two main parties agreed to nominate one candidate each.

This all continued until 1885 when a new Reform Act provided that the majority of MPs would be elected in single-member constituencies. Canada had a number of two-MP ridings in 1867. And in 1885 Ontario copied the UK's "limited vote" in a Toronto riding with three MPPs, where voters voted for two, giving the minority one MPP, a model they kept for two elections.

The UK adopted proportional representation for Northern Ireland in 1920, and more recently for Scotland and Wales. Nothing unparliamentary about it

3. It’s only a preamble

Third, the Supreme Court of Canada, [1981] 1 S.C.R. 753, said "What, then, is to be drawn from the preamble as a matter of law? A preamble, needless to say, has no enacting force but, certainly, it can be called in aid to illuminate provisions of the statute in which it appears. Fed­eral union "with a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom" may well embrace responsible government and some common law aspects of the United Kingdom's unitary constitu­tionalism, such as the rule of law and Crown prerogatives and immunities."

This is the common interpretation. Peter Hogg (Constitutional Law of Canada, looseleaf (Toronto: Carswell, 1992) at 9-3) has referred to Canada's system of parliamentary government, sometimes called responsible government, as "probably the most important non-federal characteristic of the Canadian Constitution." In responsible government, the executive is responsible to the legislature for its actions. But even if an executive that is responsible to the legislature is part of the Constitution, this does not mean that the way in which individuals are elected to the legislature is also part of the Constitution.

As the federal government argues in the current Supreme Court reference on the Senate "Thus, for example, although the preamble to the Constitution Act, 1867 refers to a “Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom,” there is no compelling reason to read that clause as demanding an inquiry into what the 1867 framers thought that term meant in respect of the Senate, and then treating any deviation from the 1867 vision as requiring a more exacting amending procedure. In 1867, Sir John A. Macdonald foresaw an Upper Chamber of prosperous gentlemen of substance in the Upper House; he did not want an Upper House of landed nobility as found in Great Britain. But neither vision accords with contemporary expectations of who should sit in the Senate. The British themselves have repeatedly reformed their upper house to reflect modern democratic ideals."

4. It’s not arguable

Fourth, many books have been published on the pros and cons of proportional representation. For example, Prof. Dennis Pilon (“The Politics of Voting,” p. 76) shows the untruth of this claim. If an academically sound, or legally sound, argument on this point existed, I think I would have read it. But to the contrary, the Law Commission of Canada, in its 2004 Report, did not even find it necessary to discuss this argument. They stated "This Report aims to add corrective features to our electoral rules that do not involve constitutional amendments, and hence do not deal with Senate reform." These are top legal scholars. They would not overlook an arguable point.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Ten Canadian Commissions, Assemblies and Reports that have recommended proportional representation

One reason over 70% of Canadians support moving toward an element of proportionality in our voting system is the weight of expert evidence. Ten different Commissions, Assemblies and Reports in the past eleven years have unanimously recommended it.

Prelude: Quebec, 1984

The first such report was when René Lévesque decided in 1981 to introduce proportional representation for Quebec, after four elections had produced odd results. In 1984 the Electoral Representation Commission (an agency that reports to the Chief Electoral Officer of Quebec) tabled a report recommending that the first-past-the-post system be replaced by a voting system that would allow all Members to be elected proportionally. The PQ caucus decided not to proceed. However, ever since then, many people in Quebec have wanted to revive Lévesque’s democratic legacy.

  1. The Law Commission of Canada
The independent Law Commission of Canada conducted a three-year study on electoral reform. It involved 15 public consultations, ten research papers, and 16 meetings and panels. In 2004 they delivered a 209-page Report recommending a made-in-Canada system.

It recommended a mixed system quite like that of Scotland’s Parliament. A majority of MPs will still be directly elected in local single-member ridings accountable to them. At least a third of MPs will be elected from regions to “top-up” the local results, so that the overall result reflects the share of votes cast for each party.

You have two votes: one to simply choose your local MP, and one for your regional MP which counts as a vote for the party you want in government. Unlike Scotland, for regional MP voters could choose a candidate from those nominated by party members in their region, or could simply vote for the regional slate as ranked by the party members’ nomination process.

The Law Commission model was inspired by that used in Scotland and Wales. In Scotland, the regions have a total of 16 MPs; in Wales, 12. For example, a region might have 14 MPs -- nine local MPs, and five regional “top-up” MPs who campaigned in your region and will compete with your local MP to serve you. It maintains the link between citizens and their representatives. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, which each have 14 MPs, and in the Atlantic provinces, the “region” would be the whole province.

Like all proportional systems, it will let every vote count, and promote consensual, cooperative and cross-party law-making. Since each province would still have the same number of MPs, no constitutional amendment would be needed.

  1. Quebec’s Estates-General on the Reform of Democratic Institutions
While the Law Commission was working, the Quebec Government published a discussion paper in October 2002 on The Reform of the Voting System in Quebec. Even though the PQ government had been elected with fewer votes than the opposition Liberals, Premier Bernard Landry persuaded his party to finally take action on this last item of Lévesque’s unfulfilled democratic legacy.

In 2002-3 Quebec’s Estates General on the Reform of Democratic Institutions (the Béland Commission) visited 20 towns in Quebec and held 27 public hearings, and in February 2003 brought 825 people together to deliberate on these issues. They voted, by a 90% vote of those 825 people, for proportional representation, while only 10% wanted to retain First Past The Post. Their preferred model was a mixed member proportional representation model, that would add regional “top-up” MNAs to correct for proportionality. In March 2003 they presented their Report.

  1. Prince Edward Island
In January 2003, the Government of Prince Edward Island appointed the Hon. Norman Carruthers, a retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island, to examine options for reform of the Island’s electoral system. In December 2003, Justice Carruthers presented his report recommending a Mixed Member Proportional System (MMPS) based on the system now in use in Germany, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales. In a plebiscite held in November 2005 with a very low turnout, voters opted to retain the province’s FPTP system.

  1. BC Citizens Assembly
The British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform was an independent non-partisan assembly of citizens who met to examine the province’s electoral system.” The Assembly had 160 members: 80 women and 80 men. Two were Aboriginal people and the rest were chosen from each of British Columbia’s 79 electoral districts by draw. The Assembly spent nearly one year deliberating on whether British Columbia should change its electoral system.

It recommended a proportional voting system. Its Report in December 2004 proposed the single transferable vote (STV) system, used in Ireland, for British Columbia. The STV proposal was put to the voters of British Columbia as a referendum question at the provincial election held in May 2005. It gained 57% support across British Columbia, and was approved in 77 out of 79 ridings. Because it did not have 60% support, the government did not proceed with it.

  1. Quebec government study
In July 2003 the new government of Jean Charest began work on a mixed member system, aided by the 140-page Report of Prof. Louis Massicotte.

After 14 months work, in December 2004 the Quebec government presented a draft bill proposing a new mixed electoral system like the Law Commission recommendation but with very small regions. The 127 Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) would be 77 members elected locally, and 50 in “top-up” regions helping to ensure that the number of seats a party wins is proportional to the percentage of votes cast for it. The regions would mostly comprise only five MNAs each: three constituencies and two regional seats. Unlike the Law Commission model, voters would still cast only one vote. The candidate with the most votes in the local riding would be elected, as is currently the case. The remaining regional seats would be awarded to under-represented parties.

6.    New Brunswick’s Commission on Legislative Democracy

Bernard Lord, Premier of New Brunswick, established the Commission on Legislative Democracy in December 2003 to study democratic reform in New Brunswick. In its Report in January 2005 the Commission recommended a regional MMP system that would combine 36 single-member riding seats with 20 regional “top-up” PR seats, elected within four approximately equal-sized, multi-member, regional districts. The Commission proposed that each of the four regions would elect five MLAs, and that parties must receive at least 5% of the list vote on a province-wide basis to be eligible to win any list seats. The government agreed to hold a referendum in May 2008 on changing the province’s electoral system to a form of MMP representation. Bernard Lord said it should be decided by a 50% majority, "the normal way decisions are made in a democracy."
However, in 2006 Bernard Lord’s government was defeated (ironically, in a “wrong-winner” election where his PCs got more votes than the Liberals but fewer seats), and the new government did not proceed.

  1. Quebec Citizens Committee Report
A parliamentary Select Committee of the National Assembly began proceedings in November 2005, and sat jointly with a randomly selected Citizens’ Committee. They were to study and make recommendations on the draft bill introduced in December 2004. They held public consultations in 16 cities across Quebec beginning in January 2006, when 379 groups and individuals made presentations.

In April 2006 the Citizen’s Committee presented to the National Assembly a detailed report in which it rejected the government bill and proposed a MMP system similar to that used in Germany, with a two-vote system. Voters would, with their first ballot, elect 60% of the Assembly members. The other 40% of the members would be elected by the second ballot pertaining to the elector’s choice of party. The Citizens’ Committee faulted the bill particularly for proposing very small regions with high thresholds which would not accurately reflect the popular vote, and a single-vote system that would perpetuate the practice of strategic voting.

  1. Quebec Select Committee Report
The Select Committee recommended the mixed compensatory system proposed, but with changes to give greater consideration to the multiplicity of political expressions.  

  1. Ontario’s Citizens Assembly
In November 2004, Premier McGuinty announced that a citizens’ assembly would be created to examine the FPTP electoral system and to recommend possible changes. A referendum would be held if an alternative electoral system was recommended by the citizens’ assembly. The selection process for the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, 103 randomly selected citizens, was not completed until June 2006. Members of the Assembly began meeting in September 2006 with a mandate to examine current and prospective electoral systems through public meetings and written submissions.

In a report in May 2007, the Assembly recommended a MMP system combining members of provincial parliament elected in local districts and members elected for the whole province from closed province-wide party lists. The government held a referendum on this recommendation in conjunction with the general election in October 2007.
The Citizens’ Assembly proposal garnered only 37% of the popular vote. This failure was no surprise to fans of the UK’s Jenkins Commission, which 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.”

10.   Quebec’s Chief Electoral Officer’s Report

In December 2007 the Report of Quebec’s Chief Electoral Officer on a compensatory mixed system was made public. It reviewed a number of options for the design of a mixed proportional model for Quebec, leaning towards a nine-region model with an open list system giving voters the choice of using their second ballot to vote for a party or one regional candidate.

With all this evidence, no wonder polls have shown for more than ten years that at least 70% of Canadians support moving towards a system of proportional representation in Canadian elections.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Can we have gender parity in politics with no Parity Law?

Only 25% of Canada’s MPs today are women. To get more women elected, Fair Vote Canada does not propose any kind of quota system. In fact, some FVC members oppose any kind of quota system: the choice is up to voters.

But even with no quota system, a mixed member proportional system would let Canadian voters elect about 44% women MPs, if voters want to. And they do: polls show that 90% of Canadian voters want to see more women elected. (I didn’t set a 44% target; that’s how the numbers turned out, as shown below.)

I am not predicting this WILL happen. I am saying it COULD happen, if voters vote for women as they say they want to do. And it would happen naturally, as shown below.

Take the Nova Scotia Liberals. In 2011, they happened to nominate men in all 11 ridings.

If the proportional system recommended by the Law Commission of Canada were in effect in 2015, Nova Scotia Liberals would nominate seven local candidates (in larger ridings), and hold a regional nomination process to nominate as many as 12 regional candidates: the seven already nominated locally, and up to five more regional-only candidates. Given seven men nominated for the seven local ridings, would their regional nomination meeting, choosing up to five additional candidates at once, nominate no women? They would surely nominate two or more additional women, naturally, even without a parity quota system.

France’s Parity Law

In France, in 1996, women made up a very low proportion of their National Assembly members: lower than in any other European country except Greece.
Ten prominent women politicians from both sides of the political spectrum published a manifesto demanding that the concept of political parity be enshrined in the French constitution. In the 1997 legislative elections, the number of women députés dropped to less than 11%.

The campaign caught fire. In 1999 France adopted constitutional amendments known as the ‘Parity Law,’ mandating that political parties put forward equal numbers of male and female candidates. It has worked very well in the regional assemblies and the municipal councils, all elected by proportional representation. In the National Assembly it was difficult since they are all from single-member districts, but still, various incentives have brought the number up to 26.9%.

Quebec likes the Parity Law

This campaign echoed loudly in Quebec. When the Charest government proposed a mixed proportional system in 2004, it included financial incentives for parties presenting women as more than 40% of their candidates, as a temporary measure; to terminate when women made up 50% of the members of the National Assembly.

That proposal never proceeded. However, Quebec’s counterpart to Fair Vote Canada, the Mouvement pour une démocratie nouvelle, proposes a model of proportional representation that would include Quebec’s own Parity Law. Again, it’s a mixed proportional model with 78 local MNAs and 50 “top-up,” regional MNAs from eight regional lists. But the lists must be “zippered” (alternating men and women), four of them must start with a woman, and they are closed lists to stop the voters upsetting the parity rule. And like the Charest plan, the MDN model has financial incentives to present more women candidates in the local ridings.

Remove the barriers

Fair Vote Canada’s principles include “Fair representation: To reflect in the legislatures the diversity of society we must change the voting system and related laws to remove barriers to the nomination and election of candidates from groups now underrepresented including women, cultural minorities and Aboriginals.”

The “barrier” is the fact that all candidates today are nominated one at a time, preventing party members from nominating a balanced group. What nomination meeting, nominating five people, would choose to nominate only one woman, or no cultural minorities?

Fair Vote Canada doesn’t propose a Parity Law

Fair Vote Canada does not propose a Parity Law. However, polls show that 90% of Canadian voters want to see more women elected.

How could women likely do?

If voters can vote for a local MP and for their favourite of their party’s candidates for regional MP, how might women do?

I’ve prepared a simulation, on the votes cast in 2011 for those candidates, of the 338 MPs to be elected in 2015, using the personalized mixed proportional system recommended by the Law Commission of Canada, with regions of about 14 MPs.  Let’s see who I think could be elected, if voters take the opportunity to elect more women. Grand total: 151 women, 190 men.

With fewer, larger, local ridings, a handful of MPs actually elected in 2011 would have failed to win local nominations. That’s why elected MPs are always nervous of proportional representation. But this gives more choice for voters electing regional “top-up” MPs. They will generally elect more women, as long as the parties have nominated some women as regional candidates. In my simulation, I assume they would.


From Central Toronto and Scarborough, with 13 MPs we will have five New Democrats, four Liberals, three Conservatives, and a Green. Suppose the eight local MPs were New Democrats Jack Layton, Olivia Chow, Peggy Nash, Mathew Kellway, and Rathika Sitsabaiesan; Liberals Bob Rae and John McKay; and Conservative Roxanne James. Two regional Liberal MPs could be Maria Minna and Michelle Simson (or Gerard Kennedy). Two regional Conservative MPs could be Theresa Rodrigues and Harry Tsai (or Marlene Gallyot). The Green could be Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu. (8:5)

From Northern Toronto and Etobicoke, with 12 MPs we will have five Liberals, five Conservatives, and two New Democrats. Suppose the seven local MPs were Liberals Carolyn Bennett, Judy Sgro, and Kirsty Duncan; and Conservatives Joe Oliver, Mark Adler, John Carmichael and Bernard Trottier. Two regional Liberal MPs could be Michael Ignatieff and Martha Hall Findlay. The one Conservative regional MP could be Maureen Harquail (or Priti Lamba). Two regional NDP MPs could be Mike Sullivan and Mary Hynes. (6:6)

York and Durham Region’s 15 MPs will be eight Conservatives, four Liberals and three New Democrats.  Suppose the nine local MPs were Conservatives Peter Van Loan, Julian Fantino, Peter Kent, Lois Brown, Paul Calandra, Jim Flaherty, Bev Oda, and Chris Alexander; and Liberal John McCallum. Three regional Liberal MPs could be Mark Holland, Karen Mock, and Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux (or Bryon Wilfert). Three regional NDP MPs could be Chris Buckley, Nadine Hawkins and Sylvia Gerl (or Trish McAuliffe). (6:9)

Peel—Halton’s 16 MPs will be eight Conservatives, five Liberals and three New Democrats. Suppose the nine local MPs were Conservatives Lisa Raitt, Bal Gosal, Robert Dechert, David Tilson, Mike Wallace, Stella Ambler, Eve Adams, and Kyle Seeback; and New Democrat Jagmeet Singh. Five regional Liberal MPs could be Bonnie Crombie, Andrew Kania, Navdeep Bains (or Paul Szabo), Ruby Dhalla and Connie Laurin-Bowie. Two regional NDP MPs could be Michelle Bilek and Waseem Ahmed. (7:9)

Hamilton—Waterloo—Niagara’s 18 MPs will be eight Conservatives, five New Democrats, four Liberals and a Green. Suppose the 11 local MPs were Conservatives Rob Nicholson, Diane Finley, Gary Goodyear, Stephen Woodworth, Harold Albrecht, David Sweet, Dean Allison and Phil McColeman; New Democrats David Christopherson and Chris Charlton; and Liberal Frank Valeriote. Three regional NDP MPs could be Susan Galvao, Malcolm Allen, and Heather Kelley (or Wayne Marston, Marc Laferriere, Bobbi Stewart or Nancy MacBain.) Three regional Liberal MPs could be Karen Redman, Marie Bountrogianni, and Andrew Telegdi (or Bev Hodgson, Andrew Gill or Dave Braden). The Green regional MP could be Cathy MacLellan.  (7:11)

Ottawa—Cornwall—Pembroke’s 11 MPs will be five Conservatives, three Liberals, two New Democrats and a Green. Suppose the seven local MPs are Conservatives John Baird, Pierre Poilievre, Royal Galipeau, Cheryl Gallant and Guy Lauzon (or Gordon O'Connor or Pierre Lemieux); Liberal Mauril Bélanger; and New Democrat Paul Dewar. The two Regional Liberal MPs could be Anita Vandenbeld and David McGuinty (or David Bertschi or Julie Bourgeois). The NDP Regional MP could be Marlene Rivier. The Green Regional MP could be Jen Hunter (or Caroline Rioux). (4:7)

London—Windsor—Bruce’s 14 MPs will be seven Conservatives, four New Democrats, two Liberals, and a Green. Suppose the nine local MPs are Conservatives Ed Holder, Dave MacKenzie, Gary Schellenberger, Larry Miller, Patricia Davidson, Dave Van Kesteren, and Jeff Watson; and New Democrats Irene Mathyssen and Joe Comartin. Two regional New Democrats could be Brian Masse (or Brian White or Grant Robertson) and Ellen Papenburg (or Karen Gventer.) Two regional Liberal MPs could be Glen Pearson and Kimberley Love (or Gayle Stucke or Matt Daudlin). The Green regional MP could be Emma Hogbin. (5:9)

Central and Mid-East Ontario’s 13 MPs will be seven Conservatives, three New Democrats, two Liberals, and a Green. Suppose the eight local MPs are Conservatives Tony Clement, Kellie Leitch, Daryl Kramp, Rick Norlock, Barry Devolin, Patrick Brown, and Scott Reid (or Gord Brown); and Liberal Ted Hsu. Three regional New Democrats could be Dr. Wendy Wilson, Dave Nickle (or Michael McMahon), and Lyn Edwards (or Myrna Clark). One regional Liberal could be Kim Rudd or Betsy McGregor. The Green regional MP could be Valerie Powell (or Erich Jacoby-Hawkins). (5:8)

Northern Ontario’s nine MPs will be four New Democrats, three Conservatives, and two Liberals. Suppose the six local MPs are New Democrats Charlie Angus, Claude Gravelle, Carol Hughes and John Rafferty, and Conservatives Greg Rickford and Bryan Hayes. The two regional Liberal MPs could be Carol Hartman and Moe Comuzzi-Stehmann (or Anthony Rota). The regional Conservative MP could be Lynne Reynolds. (4:5)

Ontario total: 52 women, 69 men.


Montreal-Laval’s 22 MPs will be nine New Democrat MPs, six Liberals, four Bloc Quebecois and three Conservatives. Suppose the 13 local MPs are New Democrats Thomas Mulcair, Hélène Laverdière, Alexandre Boulerice, Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, Hélène LeBlanc, Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, François Pilon, Rosane Doré Lefebvre, and Alain Giguère; and Liberals Justin Trudeau, Denis Coderre, Stéphane Dion, and Irwin Cotler (or Marc Garneau).  The regional Bloc MPs could be Gilles Duceppe, Maria Mourani, Daniel Paillé, and Nicole Demers (or Vivian Barbot or Ginette Beaudry.)  The regional Conservative MPs could be Gérard Labelle, Larry Smith, and Svetlana Litvin. The regional Liberal MPs could be Marlene Jennings and Lise Zarac (or Karine Joizil or Eva Nassif). (10:12)

Rive-Sud—Suroît’s 12 MPs will be seven New Democrats, three Bloc, one Liberal and one Conservative. Suppose the seven local MPs are New Democrats Sadia Groguhé, Pierre Nantel, Matthew Dubé, Marie-Claude Morin, Hoang Mai, Anne Minh-Thu Quach, and Jamie Nicholls. The three regional Bloc MPs could be Carole Lavallée, Carole Freeman and Luc Malo. The regional Liberal MP could be Alexandra Mendès. The regional Conservative MP could be Jean-Guy Dagenais (or Nicole Charbonneau Barron). (6:6)

The 15 MPs from Laurentides--Lanaudiere—West and North Quebec will be nine New Democrat MPs, three Bloc MPs, two Conservatives and one Liberal. Suppose the nine local MPs are Françoise Boivin, Nycole Turmel, Pierre Dionne Labelle, Manon Perreault, Romeo Saganash, Francine Raynault, Christine Moore, Mathieu Ravignat, and Charmaine Borg. The three regional Bloc MPs could be Pierre Paquette, Johanne Deschamps and Monique Guay. The two regional Conservative MPs could be Lawrence Cannon and Lucie Leblanc (or Nancy Brassard-Fortin). The regional Liberal MP could be Marcel Proulx. (9:6)

The 11 MPs of Estrie—Montérégie-Est—Centre-du-Québec—Mauricie will be five New Democrats, three Bloc MPs, two Conservatives, and Liberal. Suppose the seven local MPs are New Democrat MPs Robert Aubin, François Choquette, Ruth Ellen Brosseau, Jean Rousseau, and Pierre Jacob; Bloc MP Louis Plamondon ; and Conservative MP Christian Paradis. The two regional Bloc MPs could be France Bonsant and Paule Brunelle (or André Bellavance). The regional Conservative MP could be Mélisa Leclerc. The regional Liberal MP could be Francine Gaudet (or Denis Paradis). (5:6)

The 18 MPs of Quebec City and East Quebec will be seven New Democrats, five Conservatives, four Bloc MPs and two Liberals. Suppose the 11 local MPs are New Democrats Raymond Côté, Anne-Marie Day, Alexandrine Latendresse, Élaine Michaud, Jonathan Genest-Jourdain, Dany Morin, and Guy Caron; Conservatives Maxime Bernier, Steven Blaney and Denis Lebel; and Bloc MP Jean-François Fortin. The regional Conservative MPs could be Josée Verner and Sylvie Boucher. The regional Bloc MPs could be Christiane Gagnon, Robert Bouchard and Danielle-Maude Gosselin. The regional Liberal MPs could be Nancy Charest and Jean Beaupré. (8:10)

Total Quebec MPs: 38 women, 40 men.  

British Columbia

The Lower Mainland’s 26 MPs will be 12 Conservatives, eight New Democrats, five Liberals, and a Green. Suppose the 16 local MPs are Conservatives Kerry-Lynne Findlay, James Moore, Ed Fast, Alice Wong, Nina Grewal, Wai Young (female), Randy Kamp, Andrew Saxton, John Weston, Russ Hiebert (or Mark Warawa) and Mark Strahl; New Democrats Libby Davies, Jinny Sims, and Peter Julian; and Liberals Joyce Murray and Hedy Fry. Five regional NDP MPs could be Don Davies, Gwen O'Mahony, Kennedy Stewart, Karen Shillington (or Meena Wong or Susan Keeping), and Fin Donnelly (or Jasbir Sandhu). Three regional Liberal MPs could be Ujjal Dosanjh, Sukh Dhaliwal, and Wendy Yuan (or Pam Dhanoa or Taleeb Noormohamed). One regional Conservative MP could be Dona Cadman (or Diana Dilworth, Deborah Meredith, Trang Nguyen (female), Mani Fallon, Jennifer Clarke, or Irene Yatco). The regional Green MP would no doubt have been Adriane Carr. (13:13)

The BC Interior’s nine MPs will be five Conservatives, three New Democrats and a Green. Suppose the six local MPs are Conservatives Cathy McLeod, Ron Cannan, Dan Albas, Bob Zimmer (or Dick Harris) and David Wilks (or Colin Mayes); and New Democrat Nathan Cullen. Two regional NDP MPs could have been Lois Boone and Alex Atamanenko. The regional Green MP could have been Alice Hooper. (3:6)

Vancouver Island’s seven MPs will be three New Democrats, three Conservatives and a Green. Suppose the four local MPs are New Democrats Denise Savoie, Jean Crowder, and Randall Garrison; and Conservative John Duncan. The two regional Conservative MPs could be James Lunney and a woman regional candidate (or Gary Lunn or Troy DeSouza). The regional Green MP is, of course, Elizabeth May. (4:3)

BC Totals: 20 women, 22 men.


Metropolitan Calgary’s 11 MPs will be seven Conservatives, two Liberals, one New Democrat and one Green. Suppose the seven local MPs are Conservatives Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney, Michelle Rempel, Diane Ablonczy, Blake Richards, Deepak Obhrai, and Lee Richardson. The two regional Liberal MPs could be Jennifer Pollock and Janice Kinch (or Josipa Petrunic or Cam Stewart). The regional New Democrat MP could be Holly Heffernan. The regional Green MP could be Heather MacIntosh.

Metropolitan Edmonton’s 11 MPs will be seven Conservatives, three New Democrats and a Liberal. Suppose the seven local MPs are Conservatives Rona Ambrose, Tim Uppal, James Rajotte, Laurie Hawn, Brent Rathgeber, and Mike Lake; and New Democrat Linda Duncan. The two regional NDP MPs could be Ray Martin and Nadine Bailey. The regional Liberal MP could be Mary MacDonald. The regional Conservative MP could be a regional woman candidate (or Peter Goldring).

South and North Alberta’s 12 MPs will be nine Conservatives, two New Democrats and one Liberal. Suppose the eight local MPs are Conservatives Kevin Sorenson, Ted Menzies, LaVar Payne, Earl Dreeshen, Rob Merrifield, Chris Warkentin, Brian Jean, and Jim Hillyer. The regional Conservative MP could be a regional woman candidate. The two regional New Democrat MPs could be Jennifer Villebrun and Mark Sandilands. The regional Liberal MP could be Karen Young.

Alberta Totals: 14 women, 20 men.


Saskatchewan’s 14 MPs will be eight Conservatives, five New Democrats, and one Liberal. Suppose the nine local MPs are Conservatives Gerry Ritz, Lynne Yelich, Andrew Scheer, Kelly Block, Ed Komarnicki, David Anderson, and Garry Breitkreuz; New Democrat Nettie Wiebe; and Liberal Ralph Goodale. The four Regional NDP MPs could be Noah Evanchuk, Darien Moore, Lawrence Joseph, and Valerie Mushinski (or Denise Kouri). The regional Conservative MP could be a regional woman candidate.

Saskatchewan totals: six women, eight men.


Manitoba’s 14 MPs will be eight Conservatives, four New Democrats, and two Liberals. Suppose the nine local MPs are Conservatives Shelly Glover, Vic Toews, Candice Hoeppner (now Bergen), Steven Fletcher, Joy Smith, Merv Tweed, and Joyce Bateman; and New Democrats Pat Martin and Niki Ashton. The two regional Liberal MPs could be Anita Neville and Kevin Lamoureux. The two regional New Democrat MPs could be Rebecca Blaikie and Jim Maloway (or Rachelle Devine). The regional Conservative MP could be Ann Matejicka (or Rod Bruinooge).

Manitoba totals: eight women, six men.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia’s 11 MPs will be four Conservatives, three New Democrats, three Liberals, and a Green. Suppose the seven local MPs are Conservatives Peter MacKay, Gerald Keddy, and Scott Armstrong; New Democrats Megan Leslie, Peter Stoffer, and Robert Chisholm; and Liberal Rodger Cuzner. The two provincial Liberal MPs could be Scott Brison (or Geoff Regan) and a woman provincial candidate. The provincial Conservative MP could be Wanda Webber. The provincial Green MP could be Sheila Richardson.

Nova Scotia totals: four women, seven men.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick’s 10 MPs will be five Conservatives, three New Democrats, and two Liberals. Suppose the six local MPs are Conservatives Rob Moore, Keith Ashfield, Tilly O'Neill Gordon, and Mike Allen; New Democrat Yvon Godin; and Liberal Dominic LeBlanc. The two provincial New Democrats could be Shawna Gagné (or Susan Levi-Peters) and Rob Moir. The provincial Liberal MP could be Kelly Wilson (or Jean-Claude D'Amours). The provincial Conservative MP could be Bernard Valcourt (or Evelyne Chapman).

New Brunswick totals: three women, seven men.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador’s seven MPs will be three Liberals, two New Democrats and two Conservatives. Suppose the four local MPs are Liberals Judy Foote and Gerry Byrne, New Democrat Jack Harris and Conservative Peter Penashue. The provincial Liberal MP could be Siobhan Coady (or Scott Simms). The provincial New Democrat MP could be Shelley Senior (or Ryan Cleary). The provincial Conservative MP could be Fabian Manning.

Newfoundland and Labrador totals: three women, four men.

Prince Edward Island

PEI’s four MPs will be two Conservatives and two Liberals. Suppose the two local MPs are Conservative Gail Shea and Liberal Lawrence MacAulay. The provincial Conservative MP could be Mike Currie (or Donna Profit). The provincial Liberal MP could be Wayne Easter.

PEI totals: one woman, three men.


From Western Arctic: Dennis Bevington, NDP; Sandy Lee (female), Con.

From Nunavut: Leona Aglukkaq, Con; Paul Okalik, Lib.

From Yukon: Ryan Leef, Con; Larry Bagnell, Lib

Territories total: 2 women, 4 men

Grand total: 151 women, 190 men.

Note: only five of these women are hypothetical regional-only women candidates.

Note: the federal NDP constitution requires that gender parity apply when electing Officers, Executive members, and Council members. The Council shall create rules and procedure for the nomination of federal candidates. When several regional candidates are nominated at once under the MMP system, undoubtedly gender parity will apply. If the NDP gets eight MPs in a region, and elects three men locally, the five regional MPs will have to be the four women and the one man not winning a local seat, assuming the three local men were among the top eight on the regional list, unless NDP voters use their personal votes to move a fifth woman into the top eight, which could well happen.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Do the NDP’s rookie Quebec MPs have no real experience?

Do the NDP’s rookie Quebec MPs have no real experience?

John Ibbitson echoes today the media myth “the NDP rookies are doing well with no real experience.”

His generally excellent piece in today’s Globe, quoting someone in Montreal saying this, cries for rebuttal on this one point.

Françoise Boivin, Justice Critic, aged 50 at her election, was an experienced lawyer, a former Liberal MP, and an NDP candidate in 2008.

Alexandre Boulerice, Labour Critic, was 38, a senior officer of Quebec NDP, an experienced communications adviser for the Quebec division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and ran in 2008.

Hélène Laverdière, International Development Critic, was 56, a long-time senior foreign-service officer with a Ph.D.

Robert Aubin, Employment Insurance Critic, was 50, a teacher and union rep for his high school for 20 years, nominated well in advance as a regional star in Trois-Rivières and the Mauricie.

Nycole Turmel, Whip, was 68, past president of PSAC, a senior NDP and union activist for 20 years, past associate president (Labour) of the federal NDP.

Pierre Nantel, Canadian Heritage Critic, was 47, a researcher and commentator at TVA and Radio-Canada who had worked with Cirque du Soleil for twenty years.

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, Infrastructure and Housing Critic, was 55, a union officer and co-founder of her union, an archaeologist and museum guide in Montreal with an M.A. in Anthropology.

Phil Toone, Deputy House Leader, was 45, a notary, who ran in 2000 & 2004.

Manon Perreault, Critic for Disability Issues, was 45, a trainer and administrator with her own disability, and had been a municipal councillor for seven years.

Pierre Dionne Labelle, Critic for La Francophonie who has been called the best orator in the House of Commons, was 55, President of the Association des artistes de la musique et du spectacle Laurentides; and a columnist active in an anti-poverty group.

Hélène Leblanc, Critic for Cooperatives, was 53, an agronomist, project manager, teacher and museum guide, who had been a candidate for Projet Montreal for borough councillor.

François Lapointe, Critic for Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions, was 40, a project coordinator, a previous NDP candidate.

Sadia Groguhé, Deputy Whip, was 48. She had been a municipal councillor in France from 1995 to 2000, and anticipated becoming an MP there. She has a master's degree in psychology and worked as a guidance counselor after arriving in Canada in 2005. She was born in Marseille (France) to Algerian parents.

Mathieu Ravignat, Treasury Board Critic, was 38, with an MA in political science, who worked for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council focusing on aboriginal and environmental issues.

Guy Caron, Deputy Critic for Finance and International Trade, was 42, a researcher and economist with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union. He was president of the Canadian Federation of Students in 1994, has a Master's degree in economics, and had run for the NDP in 2004, 2006, and 2008.

Anne-Marie Day, Deputy Critic for Public Works and Government Services, was 57. As President of the Regroupement des groupes de femmes de la Capitale-Nationale, she had signed the first two agreements specifically related to the status of women in the Quebec capital region in 2006 and 2010. Director of a women's employment centre, with a Master's degree in local and regional development, she ran in 2008, and was co-chair of the federal NDP Policy Committee.

Romeo Saganash, Deputy Critic for Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs, was 48, past Deputy Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees, then Director of Quebec relations for it.

Paulina Ayala, Deputy Critic for Consular Affairs, was 48. She had fought in Chile for democracy and respect for human rights as a leader in the student movement and in citizens’ rights organizations under the Pinochet dictatorship, and immigrated to Canada in 1995. A teacher, she was the first Chilean woman elected to the House of Commons.

Hoang Mai, Deputy Critic for Transport, was 38, a lawyer with a Master’s degree in law, who ran in 2008 when he was treasurer of the Quebec wing of the party.

(Notice how many were experienced women?)

Of course, a few of the NDP’s young talented Quebec MPs have made the shadow cabinet as full critics: Matthew Dubé, Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, and Charmaine Borg. But they are the exceptions.

A lot of other talented Quebec rookies are also ready to serve.