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.
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."
In these local simulations, for the names of regional MPPs I use the
local candidates who got the highest percent in the region without winning the
local seat. They would be the most likely winners under open-list MMP, and
would certainly be the winners under no-list MMP.
Toronto and York
PC voters cast only 38.2% of the votes in Toronto and York Region, yet
elected 22 of the 35 MPPs. With MMP, instead of electing only four Liberal
members, these voters would have also elected seven Liberal regional MPPs
(maybe Steven Del Duca, Soo Wong, Arlena Hebert, Lee Fairclough, Jonathan Tsao,
Paul Saguil and Sandra Tam), and two Green regional MPPs (such as Dianne Saxe
and Abhijeet Manay), along with 14 PCs and eight New Democrats.
Voters electing 12 MPPs from Peel Region would, instead of electing only
PCs, have elected three or four Regional Liberal MPPs (maybe Dipika Damerla,
Imran Mian and Elizabeth Mendes), and two New Democrats (maybe incumbent MPPs
Gurratan Singh and Sara Singh), along with about seven Progressive Conservatives.
East Central Ontario (Kingston—Durham Region)
Voters electing 13 MPPs from Mid-East Ontario would, instead of electing
only one New Democrat, one Liberal and 11 PCs, have elected two Liberal
regional MPPs (such as Amber Bowen from Ajax and Peterborough’s Greg Dempsey),
along with two New Democrats (maybe Kingston’s Mary Rita Holland and Whitby’s Sara
Labelle or Peterborough’s Jen Deck), one Green (Haliburton’s Tom Regina or Frontenac’s Dr. Marlene Spruyt) and seven 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 Christian Proulx, along with three
Liberals and four PCs.
Central West (Waterloo—Bruce—Simcoe)
Voters electing 14 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 Elmira’s Karen Meissner or Barrie’s Pekka
Reinio, 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 six local PC MPPs.
Central South (Hamilton—Halton—Niagara—Brantford
Voters electing 15 MPPs from Central South Ontario would, instead of
electing no Liberal or Green MPP, have elected three regional Liberal MPPs
(such as Oakville’s Alison Gohel, Milton’s Sameera Ali and Kaniz Mouli) and a
Green regional MPP like Sandy Crawley, along with four New Democrat MPPs, six
PCs, and independent Bobbi Ann Brady.
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 former St. Thomas Mayor Heather Jackson or Windsor councillor
Gary Kaschak), along with four New Democrats and six PCs.
Voters electing 12 MPPs from Northern Ontario would, instead of electing
only no Liberal MPP, have elected two regional Liberal MPPs such as Shelby
Ch’ng (or Rob Barrett) and 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).
How big will the Legislature be? Yes, that's only 75 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.
1. Because of rounding errors when Ontario is divided
into eight regions, the simulation above happens to give the PCs a bonus of one
seat and the NDP a bonus of one, one 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
3.4 MPPs, Party B deserves 3.1, Party C deserves 2.3, and Party D deserves 1.2,
which party gets the tenth seat? Party A 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.
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
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 Party
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
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 MMP voting system.
updated Nov. 10, 2022.)