Tuesday, September 20, 2022

If every vote counted, what risks would change?

If the Liberals had kept their 2015 promise to make every vote count, and Canada had Proportional Representation for the 2025 election, there would be no risk of Pierre Poilievre or anyone else winning an accidental majority with only 35 or 40 per cent of the votes.

Sadly, not going to happen for 2025. Justin Trudeau is no longer listening to Liberals who wanted PR in 2015, although at least 28 of them are still in his caucus.

For an election after redistribution, the risk goes up slightly. There will be 343 ridings, five more than today. But most of the ridings will be reconfigured, to reflect shifts in populations. The biggest winner is Alberta, with three new MPs. And the biggest winners, on the current proposals of the 10 Boundaries Commissions, on the votes cast in 2021, will be the Conservatives with five more MPs, and the NDP also with five more MPs. The Bloc will gain two, while the Liberals will lose seven. But the Conservatives will still be 48 seats away from a majority, only three fewer than in 2021.

https://www.ipolitics.ca/news/analysis-tories-bloc-ndp-gain-and-liberals-lose-under-redistribution

Toronto is complaining

The redistribution will cost Toronto a seat, since it is not growing as fast as the rest of Ontario. But at the Boundaries Commission hearings for Toronto Sept. 29, the outrage was almost universal: how can Toronto accept losing a seat? Of course, in 2021 Toronto voted 52% Liberal and elected 100% Liberal MPs, so many Toronto voters have more than one reason to be outraged.

A “Dose of Proportionality.”

But what would happen if the Liberals listened to what Justin’s father said in 1980? How about a “dose of proportionality?” A temporary step towards proportional representation. Like the recommendation of the Pépin-Roberts Commission in 1979 (the “Task Force on Canadian Unity”) which proposed electing an additional 60 MPs to top-up the results from each province, keeping the present ridings. Pierre Trudeau endorsed that in 1980, but couldn’t get it past his nervous backbenchers.

A modest 42 additional MPs is the number of additional MPs the late Mauril Bélanger liked. He was MP for Ottawa-Vanier for 21 years, one of the Liberal MP supporters of proportional representation, and the man whose bill changed "in all thy sons command" to "in all of us command."

These extra 42 MPs would give all parties MPs from almost every region, if that party got over 5% in the province. Not full proportional representation, but “PR-lite,” a “dose” of PR. This will make every vote count to some extent, and will also make accidental majority governments far less likely. 

More diversity

Both larger parties will have more incentive to pivot to more diverse vote bases.

The 12 new Conservative MPs would be five in Quebec, two in Atlantic Canada, two in Toronto, one in Peel—Halton, one in Vancouver, and one on Vancouver Island, more geographically diverse. The six new Liberal MPs would be two in Alberta, one in the BC Interior, one in Southwestern Ontario, one in Northern and Central Ontario, and one in Eastern Quebec, again more geographically diverse. 

Less risk of accidental majorities

Is 42 extra MPs really enough to make a difference? On the votes cast in 2021 on the new Boundaries, it looks like the 42 extra MPs would be 16 for the NDP, 12 for Conservatives where their voters are badly unrepresented, six Liberals, seven PPC, and one Green. That’s only seven PPC in the six provinces where they got more than 5% of the votes (Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick). Not the 14 MPs they would have gotten in those six provinces under full PR.

With the additional 42 MPs, the Conservatives would be 9 seats further away from an accidental majority, 57 seats away, and the Liberals would be 14 seats further away from an accidental majority, 34 seats away. And Canada would be 24 MPs further away from being locked into a two-party system. 

Happier Toronto

Toronto voters would elect three more MPs, the best runners-up from parties underrepresented in Toronto. On the votes cast in 2021, that’s the NDP’s Alejandra Bravo, and two Conservatives like Joel Yakov Etienne and Indira Bains.   

Technical note: I am using 21 regions, each with an average of 16 local MPs and 2 regional MPs for top-up seats awarded to the party most unrepresented in the region. 


Friday, June 3, 2022

What would Ontario's 2022 election look like if we used proportional representation?

The people of Ontario just reminded all of us very powerfully of why we need PR! So did the Toronto Star editorial supporting it, a first.

If every vote in Ontario had counted in 2022, what would that look like?

No one man would have a one-party government elected by only 40.8% of the votes.

On the votes cast in 2022, with proportional representation our Ontario legislature should have 53 PC MPPs, 31 New Democrats, 31 Liberals, and 8 Greens.

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 top-up seats).

Did your vote count?

In 2022, 54% 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 43.03% turnout was the lowest since Confederation. But in 2020 New Zealand, where every vote counts, saw an 82% turnout elect a new government with two-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?

See how it works in Scotland.

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 30-MPP bonus for the PCs that our skewed system foisted on those voters by throwing 54% of their ballots in the trash.

Liberal voters would be fairly represented, with 31 MPPs holding the balance of power, as would Green voters with eight MPPs. See details below.

Competing MPPs:

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.

Note: this is only a simulation

In any election, 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." 

York—Durham 

This was the stronghold of Doug Ford’s false majority. PC voters cast only 49% 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 a New Democrat regional MPP such as Sarah Labelle, four Liberal regional MPPs (maybe Steven Del Duca, Amber Bowen, Kelly Dunn and Sandra Tam), and a Green MPP (such as teacher Julie Stewart), along with eight PCs. 

Peel—Oakville

Voters electing 13 MPPs from Peel Region and Oakville would, instead of electing only PCs, have elected three or four Regional Liberal MPPs (maybe Alison Gohel, Dipika Damerla, Imran Mian or Elizabeth Mendes), and two New Democrats (maybe incumbent MPPs Gurratan Singh and Sara Singh), along with about seven 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 an NDP regional MPP (such as Neethan Shan), another Liberal MPP (maybe Arlena Hebert), and a Green MPP such as architect Sheena Sharp, along with five PCs.

Voters electing 13 MPPs from Toronto—Etobicoke-York would have elected three more Liberals (such as Lee Fairclough, David Morris, Noel Semple or Nathan Stall) and a Green (deputy leader Diane Saxe), along with five New Democrats and three PCs. 

Mid-East Ontario (Kingston—Peterborough)

Voters electing eight MPPs from Mid-East Ontario would, instead of electing only one Liberal and seven PCs, have elected a Liberal regional MPP (such as Greg Dempsey), along with two New Democrats (maybe Kingston’s Mary Rita Holland and Peterborough’s Jen Deck) and four local PC MPPs. 

Eastern Ontario (Ottawa—Cornwall)

Voters electing 11 MPPs from Eastern Ontario would, instead of electing only two New Democrats, have elected a regional NDP MPP (maybe Ottawa’s Melissa Coenraad or Lyra Evans) and a Green such as teacher Cody Zulinski, along with three Liberals and four PCs. 

Central West (Waterloo—Bruce—Simcoe)

Voters electing 15 MPPs from Central West Ontario would, instead of electing only two New Democrats and a Green but no Liberals, have elected another New Democrat MPP such as Karen Meissner and three Liberals such as Jeff Lehman, Ted Crysler, and Selwyn Hicks or Surekha Shenoy, along with Green leader Mike Schreiner and a second Green MPP (Matt Richter), and seven local PC MPPs. 

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 (such as Mariam Manaa and Sameera Ali) and a Green regional MPP like Sandy Crawley (former national President of ACTRA), along with four New Democrat MPPs, five PCs, and independent Bobbi Ann Brady. 

Southwest (London—Windsor)

Voters electing 12 MPPs from Southwest Ontario would, instead of electing no Liberal MPP, have elected two regional Liberal MPPs (maybe London’s Kate Graham and Windsor councillor Gary Kaschak or former St. Thomas Mayor Heather Jackson), along with four New Democrats and six PCs. 

Northern Ontario

Voters electing 12 MPPs from Northern Ontario would, instead of electing only no Liberal MPP, have elected two regional Liberal MPPs such as Rob Barrett, Selby Ch’ng or David Farrow, along with five New Democrat MPPs and five PCs.

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 but unlikely, the Liberals had promised not to do this.

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 even less likely.

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 2011).

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 provincial level;

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 Party vote.

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 list. 

Updated: An 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.

How big will the Legislature be?

Yes, that's only 76 local MPPs. So the local ridings are larger, unless we have a larger Legislature. That's the only downside of the mixed-member proportional system. The 2007 Ontario Citizens Assembly decided to add 22 MPPs. Local ridings would still have to be larger, but a bit less so. Politicians hate to suggest adding more politicians. A Citizens Assembly will find it easier. 

Technical Notes:

1.    Because of rounding errors when Ontario is divided into ten regions, the simulation above happens to give the PCs a bonus of two seats and the NDP a bonus of one, two from the Liberals, one from the Greens. The overall results are still very close to proportionality.

2. This simulation assumes there is a threshold of 3%, 4% or 5% for a party to elect a regional MPP for a top-up seat; the New Blue Party got only 2.7%. However, if we impose no threshold, the New Blues got enough votes in Central West that they could have elected a MPP, either leader Jim Karahalios or his wife Belinda.

3.    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 calculation.

4. The purpose of the compensatory regional seats is to correct disproportional local results, not to provide a parallel system of getting elected. The Law Commission of Canada 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. The UK’s Jenkins Commission 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.


Sunday, March 6, 2022

Can anything be done before the next federal election?

Public opinion favours making every vote count: 76% of voters support moving to proportional representation in Canada. And 80% support the idea of a national citizens’ assembly to make recommendation for a made-in-Canada Proportional Representation system. Yet today we face a roadblock in Ottawa.

The current inaction is unstable. Something will trigger action. We need to be ready.

Suppose the Liberals decide not to risk a Poilièvre-led Conservative Party getting a false majority. Can anything be done before the next election? How about a “dose of proportionality?” A temporary step towards proportional representation. Like the recommendation of the Pépin-Roberts Commission in 1979 (the “Task Force on Canadian Unity”) which proposed electing an additional 60 MPs to top-up the results from each province, keeping the present ridings. Pierre Trudeau endorsed that in 1980, but couldn’t get it past his nervous backbenchers.

Suppose a national Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform recommended in 2024, after at least a year’s hearings and deliberations, a new voting system for Canada. We are now about to start public hearings to set up new electoral districts. Whatever model is chosen by the Citizens Assembly will require new electoral boundaries, another round of hearings, which need to wrap up seven months before a 2025 election, if the election can even wait that long. Not enough time.

A modest 42 additional MPs is the number of additional MPs the late Mauril Bélanger liked. He was MP for Ottawa-Vanier for 21 years, one of the Liberal MP supporters of proportional representation, and the man whose bill changed "in all thy sons command" to "in all of us command."

These extra MPs will give all parties MPs from almost every region, if that party got over 5% in the province. Not full proportional representation, but “PR-lite,” a “dose” of PR. This will make every vote count to some extent, and will also make accidental majority governments far less likely.

Is 42 extra MPs really enough? Would it have prevented a Harper false majority in 2011? Checking the 2011 results, those 42 MPs would have been 17 Liberals, 11 New Democrats, 4 Greens, 5 Bloc, and 5 Conservatives (from Atlantic Canada and Quebec). Harper would have had 171 MPs out of 350, four short of half.

The 2021 election left many Liberal voters from Alberta and Saskatchewan unrepresented, along with many Conservative voters in Quebec, the GTA, BC and PEI. My simulation takes a group of, typically, about 17 present ridings, and gives them two additional MPs. Voters for the most unrepresented party in that region elect an additional MP. The winning candidate is the candidate of that party in that region who got the highest level of support without being elected locally (“best runner-up.”) The Atlantic Provinces get only one additional MP each, while the four larger provinces are divided into regions.

If we had elected an additional 42 MPs last year, on the votes cast then in 22 regions across Canada, look at the variety they would have added: Sure, almost half are from the NDP, but 22 others are from other parties.

Four more Liberals. One from Alberta like Edmonton councillor Ben Henderson. One from Saskatchewan like Sean McEachern (Ralph Goodale’s successor). One from the BC Interior like Tim Krupa. One from Eastern Quebec like star labour candidate Ann Gingras.

Ten more Conservatives. Five from Quebec. Two from the GTA, one from the BC Lower Mainland like Alice Wong, one from Vancouver Island like town councillor Shelley Downey, and one from PEI. A more balanced caucus.

One more Green, from the BC Lower Mainland, where their strongest candidate was Dr. Cheryl Matthew, indigenous policy expert, of the Simpcw First Nation.

Seven of the Peoples Party of Canada: four in Ontario, one in Manitoba (the man who came second to Candice Bergen), and two in Alberta.

And 20 New Democrats: two from Toronto, two more from Montreal and two more from the rest of Quebec, seven from other Ontario regions, one more from Alberta, one from the BC Lower Mainland, one from Saskatchewan, one more from Manitoba, and one from each of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

But Fair Vote Canada’s rural and small-urban caucus says 40 percent of Canadians live in population centres below 100,000 people, share common concerns and value having local representation to champion our area. So we note that those 20 additional NDP MPs would be 12 from the big cities, plus Elaine Perez from Lethbridge, Janine Seymour from Kenora, Aisha Jahangir from Guelph, Shailene Panylo from Oshawa, Vic Sahai from Kingston, Ruth Ellen Brosseau from Berthier—Maskinongé, Serge Landry from Moncton, and Mary Shortall from Newfoundland.

And the 12 from the big cities would be 8 diverse women and 4 men: climate-change activist Anjali Appadurai in Vancouver, Métis candidate Robert Doucette in Saskatoon, Métis candidate Melissa Chung-Mowat in Winnipeg, Unifor Women’s Director and former MP Tracey Ramsey in Windsor, former MP Malcolm Allen in Hamilton, Broadbent Institute Director Alejandra Bravo and FoodShare Director Paul Taylor in Toronto, CUPE Economist Angella MacEwen in Ottawa, Iranian-born international health specialist Nimâ Machouf and lawyer (former MP) Ève Péclet in Montreal, CSN union staffer Tommy Bureau in Quebec City, and former MLA Lisa Roberts in Halifax.

An accidental false majority government is far less likely.  

Seven from the Peoples Party? That’s a good thing, but only half the 14 they would have elected under full PR (with 380 MPs) from the five provinces where they got over 5%. “The far-right has not taken power in Europe. What has been presented as a weakness of proportional representation is its strength. It does allow for far-right parties to win seats in parliaments, but that comes with consequences. These parties are then out in the open, no cover of silence, and exposed to the scrutiny of the public, media and other political parties. And we can learn without agreeing to the party intents, why some people support or join these kind of groups. Without knowing why, you can never address the circumstances why people do.” In Germany, the AfD party has seats in the federal parliament and 16 state legislatures. That’s 17 governing coalitions, and all 17 excluded the AfD.

(Note: this post was revised April 12, 2022.)
 

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Many Liberals want a moderate proportional system. So here it is.

Back in 2013, when Justin Trudeau and Joyce Murray were both running to become Liberal leader, the Leadership Debate was March 3, 2013. Joyce Murray says to Justin Trudeau “If you were actually listening to Canadians you would know that two-thirds of Canadians want proportional representation so that their vote counts, and so that we don’t have the divisive toxic system that we have today, so if you were listening to Canadians you would be going after proportional representation . . ."

Justin Trudeau replies "The problem with proportional representation is that every different model of proportional representation actually increases partisanship, not reduces it . . . I understand people want proportional representation, but too many people don’t understand the polarization and the micro-issues that come through proportional representation." (Watch the video at 43:30).

He was not the only Liberal worried about micro-issues and micro-parties. Liberal PR supporters like Stéphane Dion also wanted a “moderate“ PR model.

So when Fair Vote Canada made submissions to the ERRE (Special Committee on Electoral Reform), the MMP model we recommended, with open regional lists, had regions of only about eight MPs. That’s 42 moderately proportional regions across the country. We said “The aim in defining these top-up regions should be to ensure that all MPs are accountable to real communities, or as the Jenkins Commission put it, locally anchored to small areas.”

On the votes cast in 2021, would this have elected 17 MPs from the Peoples’ Party of Canada? Only 8, actually: 3 in Alberta, 3 in Ontario, 1 in New Brunswick, and 1 in Manitoba (the candidate who came second to Candice Bergen, which explains a lot.)

That’s a good thing. “The far-right has not taken power in Europe. What has been presented as a weakness of proportional representation is its strength. It does allow for far-right parties to win seats in parliaments, but that comes with consequences. These parties are then out in the open, no cover of silence, and exposed to the scrutiny of the public, media and other political parties. And we can learn without agreeing to the party intents, why some people support or join these kind of groups. Without knowing why, you can never address the circumstances why people do.” In Germany, the AfD party has seats in the federal parliament and 16 state legislatures. That’s 17 governing coalitions, and all 17 excluded the AfD.

Exaggerated regional differences

The Liberals in 2021 saw more than 350,000 Liberal voters in Alberta and Saskatchewan represented by only two MPs when they deserve seven.

The Conservatives saw more than 500,000 Conservative voters in the City of Toronto and Peel and Halton regions represented by no one but Liberal MPs when they deserved to elect 11 MPs.

And we all saw 1.3 million Bloc Quebecois voters elect 32 MPs while more than three million NDP voters elected only 25 MPs.

Details are here.