Saturday, March 25, 2023

A first incremental step to proportionality in 2025, along with a Citizens Assembly.

Will the Liberals accept the NDP motion for a Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform? Well, for two weeks they filibustered the NDP motion for Katie Telford to be questioned. But when Jagmeet stood his ground “very firmly” the Liberals blinked, showing the Liberal-NDP confidence and supply agreement was solid. The Liberal MPs on the PROC Committee already voted for a Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform. They should be expected to do so again. 

Now that the CASA agreement seems on track to continue to 2025, the next election will likely be under the new Boundaries, which apply to any election called after April 2024, more or less. 

A Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform will be no help in a 2025 election. Could the Liberals accept an additional element: a small first step? The NDP and Greens already offered this option in their Supplementary Opinion to the ERRE Report: “The government could decide to take an incremental approach by adding regional compensatory MPs in groups of 30-45 over the next three or four elections.” 

The Liberals don’t want to risk the Conservatives getting unbridled power without a majority of votes. The Conservatives similarly don’t want the Liberals to have unbridled power without a majority of votes. An incremental step would give Parliament more diverse voices, give voters more choices, reduce toxic partisanship, and reflect the democratic value of making every vote count, to a limited extent. 

The new Boundaries are for 343 Electoral Districts, an increase of only 5 from the current 338. However, the population of Canada increased by 10.501% from 2011 to 2021. That could easily justify adding 35 seats, not just 5. Therefore, the first step could be adding 30 regional compensatory seats. 

The 30 additional seats would be layered over the 340 Districts in the 10 provinces (plus 3 in the Territories), established by the current Boundaries Commissions (see list below). The additional MPs would go to the most unrepresented voters in each region. The ballot would not change.

What would that look like?

A real PR system would likely have a 5% threshold. An incremental step is aimed at major parties, so it would want to use a higher threshold. I am using 8%. Compared to 5%, this costs the PPC four seats. (Bloc Québecois voters are represented in each Quebec region now.) 

We do not yet know the transposed results on the new 343 districts, so I’ll have to start with the 2021 results. I allocate the 30 additional seats by the Swedish method: an “adjustment seat” to the most unrepresented party in the region. Each party has a quotient in each region, which is its number of votes in the region divided by (2n+1), where n is the number of MPs elected. If a party has no MP in the region, its quotient simply is the number of votes it received. In a region, the party with the highest quotient is awarded an additional seat, and a new quotient is then calculated for that region before the next seat is distributed. A region can thus receive more than one additional seat. 


My simulation gives the 30 additional MPs to three parties: the NDP 20 in eight provinces, the underrepresented Conservatives 6 (2 Montreal, 2 Vancouver, 1 GTA and 1 PEI), and the underrepresented Liberals 4 (2 BC outside Vancouver, 1 Alberta, and 1 Eastern Quebec). Adding those 30 MPs to the 2021 results, we get 163 Liberals, 125 Conservatives, 45 NDP, 33 Bloc, and 2 Greens. A majority of the 368 seats is 185. The risk of any one party getting 185 is reduced. 

With only 30 additional MPs, I assume they would be the “best runners-up” in each region, the defeated candidates with the highest % of support.  All three parties would have a more representative caucus. I make the additional 30 MPs 18 women and 3 indigenous. 

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." 

For the Liberals that would be one from Alberta like Ben Henderson, Edmonton City Councillor since 2007, who ran in Amarjeet Sohi’s old seat. One from the BC Interior like Kelowna’s Tim Krupa, who went from Kelowna to an MBA at Oxford, worked in the PMO for three years, and on to Harvard and the CPP, giving a voice in caucus (and cabinet?) to the BC Interior where the Liberals were shut out. Another from BC like Dr. Nikki Macdonald, University of Victoria Professor and environment leader. And one from Eastern Quebec like their new star candidate, well-known unionist Ann Gingras, long-time President of the CSN’s regional council, previously a critic of the Liberals but recruited this time by Justin Trudeau himself. 

The Conservatives would not have lost two of their Vancouver incumbents: Alice Wong and Tamara Jensen, and their Richmond Hill incumbent Leona Alleslev. They would have gained their star Montreal candidate, Frank Cavallaro, a household name across Montreal as a radio journalist and the main weather presenter at CFCF-CTV Montreal for 17 years, and another Montreal candidate Terry Roberts, along with former banker Jody Sanderson in PEI. 

The NDP would have elected Edmonton Métis union labour relations officer Charmaine St. Germain and former Edmonton school trustee Heather MacKenzie, Executive Director of Solar Alberta. Saskatoon’s Robert Doucette, former president of the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan. From Winnipeg, community development worker Melissa Chung-Mowat, a second generation Chinese Canadian and a Métis woman. Sudbury’s Nadia Verrelli, university professor. In Toronto, Alejandra Bravo (now a city councillor); school trustee Norm Di Pasquale; and former FoodShare Director Paul Taylor, with origins in Saint Kitts. London engineer Dirka Prout, with origins in Trinidad. CUPE economist Angella MacEwen. Former Queen’s professor, Guyanese-born Vic Sahai. Former MPs Tracey Ramsey and Malcolm Allen. Montreal star candidate Nimâ Machouf; lawyer and former Montreal MP Ève Péclet; former Quebec MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau; and Tommy Bureau in Quebec City. Moncton’s Serge Landry, Canadian Labour Congress Representative. Former MLA Lisa Roberts in Halifax. Mary Shortall, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. 

The provincial breakdown would be:

British Columbia 43+4 (in 2 regions)

Alberta 37+3

Saskatchewan 14+1

Manitoba 14+1

Ontario 122+10 (in 4 regions)

Quebec 78+7 (in 3 regions)

New Brunswick 10+1

PEI 4+1

Nova Scotia 11+1

Nfld & Lab.  7+1


Before the 2021 election, I described another variation of a compromise model: 

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