If every vote in Ontario had counted in 2018, what would that look
No one man would have a one-party government elected by only 40.5% of
On the votes cast in 2018, with proportional representation our Ontario
legislature should have 51 PC MPPs, 42 New Democrats, 25 Liberals, and 6
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
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 MPPs for the top-up seats (as above). The ballot would look like this ballot that PEI voters chose in their 2016 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 MPPs 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 NDP Caucus 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
Liberal voters would be fairly represented, with 25 MPPs holding the
balance of power, as would Green voters with six MPPs. See details
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.
This was the stronghold of Doug Ford’s false majority. PC voters cast
only 50% of the votes in York Region and Durham Region, yet elected 14
of the 15 MPPs. With MMP, instead of electing only one NDP member, they
would have also elected three New Democrat regional MPPs (such as Niki
Lundquist, Melissa Williams and Nerissa Cariño or Joel Usher
or Dave Szollosy), and three Liberal regional MPPs (maybe Steven
Del Duca, Joe Dickson and Helena Jaczek), along with eight PCs.
Voters electing 13 MPPs from Peel Region and Oakville would, instead of
electing only three NDP members and 10 PCs, have elected three Regional
Liberal MPPs (maybe Charles Sousa, Kevin Flynn, and Dipika Damerla), and
one more New Democrat (maybe Nikki Clarke or Jagroop Singh), along with
six Progressive Conservatives.
City of Toronto
Voters electing 12 MPPs from North York-Scarborough would, instead of
electing only one New Democrat and three Liberals, have elected two NDP
regional MPPs (such as Felicia Samuel and Zeyd Bismilla) and another
Liberal MPP (maybe Mike Colle), along with five PCs.
Voters electing 13 MPPs from Toronto—Etobicoke-York would, instead of
electing only NDP and PC MPPs, have elected three Liberals and a Green,
along with six New Democrats and three PCs.
Mid-East Ontario (Kingston—Peterborough)
Voters electing eight MPPs from Mid-East Ontario would, instead of
electing one New Democrat and seven PCs, have elected two Liberal
regional MPPs such as Jeff Leal and Sophie Kiwala), along with another
New Democrat (maybe Peterborough’s Sean Conway or Belleville’s Joanne
Belanger) and four local PC MPPs.
Eastern Ontario (Ottawa—Cornwall)
Voters electing 11 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 five PCs.
Central West (Simcoe—Bruce—Waterloo)
Voters electing 15 MPPs from Central West Ontario would, instead of
electing only two New Democrats and a Green but no Liberals, have
elected two more New Democrat MPPs and two Liberals, along with Green
leader Mike Schreiner and a second Green MPP, and seven local PC
Central South (Hamilton—Niagara—Brantford--Burlington)
Voters electing 13 MPPs from Central South Ontario would, instead of
electing no Liberal or Green MPP, have elected two regional Liberal MPPs
(maybe Indira Naidoo-Harris and Jim Bradley) and a Green regional
MPP, along with five New Democrat MPPs and five PCs.
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, along with five New Democrats
and five PCs.
Voters electing 12 MPPs from Northern Ontario would, instead of
electing only one Liberal MPP and three PCs, have elected a regional
Liberal MPP and a regional PC MPP along with six New Democrat
NDP caucus already had good diversity of women and black candidates, but only
one aboriginal. Top-up MPPs elected to regional seats will better represent
groups that have been historically under-represented. In the above simulation,
even the NDP would have 16 regional MPPs. Ontario will have the kind of
diversity around the table that we need to be more focussed on major policy issues.
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
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
Ontario NDP Policy (Convention)
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
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
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
Ontario NDP government will convene a Citizen's Assembly (an independent group
of citizens) that will be mandated to develop a made-in-Ontario model of MMP.
The group will be supported in its work by a panel of experts and
representatives of Ontario's major parties. The CA will also be mandated
to make recommendations to the government on timelines, implementation and
ratification for the change to an MPP voting system.
Because of rounding errors when Ontario is divided into ten
regions, the projection above happens to give the PCs a bonus of 1, at
the cost of the Greens. The overall
results are still close to proportionality.
I have also done a simulation with the Green vote doubling. Once every vote
counts, with no more strategic voting, that’s likely what would happen. That
would mean Green voters would have cast 8.9% of the votes, and should elect
11 MPPs. Sure enough, my simulation shows Green voters electing a regional
MPP in each of the 10 regions. In Central West (Simcoe-Bruce-Wellington)
they would elect Mike Schreiner and a second MPP.
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
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.
many MPPs should Ontario have?
the advantages of a Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform is to decide this question,
since elected politicians are too nervous about recommending more MPPs.
2002 Jack Murray’s Ontario NDP PR Task Force was dealing with Mike Harris
having cut the number of MPPs by 27. The Task Force recommended restoring the
27 MPPs and adding “some” additional MPPs to enhance democracy, in the interests
of proportionality. It suggested at least 30 percent of MPPs be regional top-up
MPPs, and mentioned Wales where 33% are regional top-ups. In fact most experts
recommend 40%. Scotland has 43%. New Zealand has 40%. The 2007 Ontario Citizens
Assembly struggled with this issue, and ended up recommending the 103 seats be
reduced to 90, and the total be increased to 129, with 39 top-up MPPs (30%).
MMP system for Ontario kept the present 124 ridings and added 30% top-up seats,
that would mean 177 MPPs, 53 top-up. If the ratio was 40%, that would be 207
MPPs, 83 top-up, which no one has proposed. So the calculations above assume the present 124 MPPs
continue, with local ridings reduced to 76 seats, plus 48 regional top-up seats
(39%). I hope a Citizens Assembly would increase the number of MPPs.
this post was updated May 17, 2022.)