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.


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.