Friday, March 17, 2017

If PEI used MMP, how would it work out?

If PEI used the Mixed Member Proportional system they voted for, how would it work out?

In 2016, PEI voters voted in favour of changing their voting system to the Mixed Member Proportional system (MMP). But the PEI government has refused to honour the vote. As a result, the Vote Yes PEI movement seems to have momentum.

How MMP works

You have two votes. Your first vote allows you to choose who you believe will be the best local representative, just as we do today. Your second vote allows you to choose your preferred party by voting directly for one of their candidates for Island-wide representative. This second vote counts as a vote for that candidate’s party. It helps elect Island-wide representatives for top-up seats.

PEI would still have 27 MLAs. That will now become 18 local MLAs and 9 Island-wide MLAs, to top-up the local results so the overall result will match the share of the votes cast for that party. Every vote will count and help elect an MLA.

That’s how the legislatures in Scotland and Wales are elected. How will the 9 province-wide MLAs serve constituents? See how it works in Scotland.

Competing MLAs:

You have a local MLA who will champion your community, and nine competing province-wide MLAs, normally including one whose views best reflect your values.

So you can vote for the local candidate you like best regardless of party, without hurting your party, since it's the party 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 MLAs 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 MLAs bring with them into the Legislature, thus strengthening their independence.

PEI’s 2015 election:

If this MMP system had been used in the 2015 election, how would it have worked out?

First of all, we would not see the Premier’s office having 100% of the power from 41% of the vote. The MLAs would have more power.

As Prof. Dennis Pilon says in this video : "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."

But let’s take the votes actually cast in 2015. Liberal voters would have elected 11 local MLAs, such as Pat Murphy, Robert Henderson, Sonny Gallant, Paula Biggar, Tina Mundy, Heath MacDonald, Jordan Brown, Richard Brown, Robert Mitchell, Wade MacLauchlan, and Allen Roach.

Progressive Conservative voters would have elected seven local MLAs such as Matthew MacKay, Jamie Fox, Brad Trivers, Sidney MacEwen, James Aylward, Darlene Compton, and Steven Myers.

By the percentage of the vote, Liberal voters deserved to elect 11 of the 28 MLAs, so they need no top-up Island-wide MLAs. PC voters deserved to elect 10 MLAs, so they elect another three MLAs as Island-wide MLAs. Who is elected? The three PC candidates on the Island-wide ballot who got the most votes (after crossing off those who already won a local seat). That might have been Colin LaVie, John Griffin, and Linda Clements or Rob Lantz.

Green Party voters deserved to elect 3 MLAs. Maybe they would have been Peter Bevan-Baker, Lynne Lund, and Ranald MacFarlane.

NDP voters deserved to elect 3 MLAs, the three NDP candidates on the Island-wide ballot who got the most votes. Maybe they would have been Michael Redmond, Jacqueline Tuplin, and Scott Gaudet.

Will rural communities lose out?

When party members across PEI nominate the list candidates, the party will want to ensure a diverse list that will appeal to rural voters, women, francophones, and other under-represented communities. When every vote counts, living in a “safe seat” no longer means you are ignored.

Who would form the government?

Who would form the government? It takes 14 votes to pass legislation. A stable government would be a coalition between the Liberals and either the Greens or the NDP. If the Liberal insisted on trying to govern alone, another option would be a coalition of the PCs plus Greens plus NDP.

A third option, if coalitions were not possible, would be a minority government with a “confidence-and-supply agreement” where the junior partner was free to move amendments and vote against government bills with the exception of budget bills and matters of confidence. That’s what BC has today, while New Zealand has a coalition minority government with a confidence-and-supply agreement which is working very well. If all else fails, the Liberals might form a minority government and bargain with the Greens and NDP case-by-case to get support from one or the other.   

2011 election

If this MMP system had been used in the 2011 election, how would it have worked out?

On the votes cast in 2011, the Liberals got over 50%, so they would have a majority government. With 51.4% of the vote they would have 14 MLAs. If they elected 14 Local MLAs as I think they would have, they would have elected no Island-wide top-up MLAs. PC voters would have elected four Local MLAs and seven Island-wide MLAs. Green and NDP voters would have elected one Island-wide MLA each. However, when every vote counts, and voters have more choices, will one party still get over 50%? Could be doubtful.

The 2007 election would have been just like 2011. But again, when every vote counts, and voters have more choices, will one party still get over 50%? 

2000 election

An interesting change would have been the 2000 election when PC Premier Pat Binns won every seat but one. Under MMP he would have won 17 of the 18 local seats, but Liberal voters would have elected 8 MLAs: one local, and seven Island-wide. NDP voters would have re-elected Herb Dickieson as well as electing one other MLA like Gary Robichaud, giving the legislature a real and more diverse opposition.

Federal elections

If this MMP system were used for federal elections, in the larger provinces the top-up MPs would not be province-wide representatives. They could be from regions such as 12 MPs: eight local and four regional. Find out more about MMP.

(Note: this blog post was updated April 1, 2019.)