Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What would PEI's election results be with proportional representation?

Prince Edward Island voters cast 81,988 votes yesterday. But only 46% of voters — 38,042 — helped elect an MLA. The other 54% of voters — 43,956 — found their votes did not count toward the result.

I’m not talking about classic “list-PR” with candidates appointed by central parties. I’m talking about the model designed by the Law Commission of Canada, where every Member of Parliament represents actual voters and real communities. The majority of MLAs will be elected by local ridings as we do today. The others are elected as districtMLAs, topping-up the numbers of MPs from your district so the total is proportional to the votes for each party. You can cast a personal vote for a candidate within the district list. The district is small enough that the district MPs are accountable.

If every vote had counted, the 41% of Islanders who voted Liberal would have elected 11 MLAs, 41%. The 37% who voted Conservative would have elected 10 MLAs, or 37%. The 11% who voted NDP and the 11% who voted Green would have elected three MLAs each, 11%.

Using the mixed-member system recommended by Norm Carruthers, or the similar systems proposed by the New Brunswick Commission on Legislative Democracy and the Law Commission of Canada, that would likely have meant 16 local MLAs elected from 16 local ridings a bit larger than today, and another 11 MLAs elected on a “top-up” basis by voters whose votes elected no one yesterday.

Let’s say PEI used three districts.

The Eastern District, instead of electing five Conservative MLAs and three Liberals, would have elected three from each party, plus an Island New Democrat – no doubt party leader Mike Redmond – and a Green MLA. The Greens’ Eastern District MLA would have been the candidate with the most support across the District, maybe musician Samantha Saunders or chef Nicholas Graveline.

The Western District, instead of electing seven Liberals and only three Conservatives, would have elected four of each, and a New Democrat and a Green. The district MLAs might have included New Democrat Jacqueline Tuplin, President of the Aboriginal Women's Association, Green businesswoman Lynne Lund or farmer Ranald MacFarlane, and Conservative businessman John Griffin or proud Acadian Debbie Montgomery.

The Charlottetown District, instead of electing eight Liberals and one Green, would have elected four Liberals, three Conservatives, a Green and a New Democrat. That might have included Conservative leader Rob Lantz, businesswoman Linda Clements, and realtor Jim Carragher or mental health advocate Dianne Young. No doubt the New Democrat would have been Gord McNeilly (who almost won yesterday).  

The result might have been a Liberal-NDP coalition government with 14 MLAs, or a Liberal-Green coalition government with 14 MLAs. Laws passed by such a government would have the support of a true majority of MLAs representing a true majority of voters. PEI would not risk having a one-man or one-party government, such as has been seen elsewhere.

Polls show more than 70% of Canadians support proportionalrepresentation for Canadian elections. Canada’s Liberal Party has opened the door to start implementing PR within one year of the 2015 election. The NDP and Greens fully support PR.

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