Ontario’s election and the failure of the MMP proposal

As has been discussed extensively already in the previous thread (the comments to which have been very interesting), the voters of Ontario rejected a proposal to change their provincial electoral system to MMP. It was not even a close call; a change to MMP would have required the support of 60% of voters (and majorities in 60% of the districts). It received the support of only 36.6%.

The support MMP achieved was somewhat less than what the incumbent Liberal party obtained in the parliamentary elections, which was 42%. Yet that 42% has translated into 71 of 107 seats, or more than 66% (one seat less than a two-thirds majority). This represents a four percentage-points decline in popular support for the Liberals. In 2003 the party also won 71 seats, though out of a total then of 103.

The Conservative party also lost votes, going from 34.6% in 2003 to 31.7% now. It will have 26 of the 107 seats (compared to 25 of 103 in 2003). Its leader, John Tory, was defeated in his own district.

The big vote winners in this election were the New Democrats and Greens, especially the latter. The Green party won 8% in this election, about double what it had before. And, while the NDP would be the closest party to the Greens on many programmatic questions, the party’s vote surge did not come at the NDP’s expense, as the NDP votes went from 14.7% to 16.8%. The NDP also gained seats (from 7 to 10).

The Greens, of course, won no seats. They came closest in the district of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, where their candidate won 35% of the vote, but was defeated easily by a Conservative with 46%. (Do any of my readers know anything about this district? I am intrigued by the sort of place where a Green could get more than a third of the vote! Update: We now have such information in the comments!)

As far as the trusty seat-vote equation is concerned, this is a somewhat unremarkable result. Supporters of MMP will point to the huge manufactured majority, or to the Greens vote gain with no seats, and say, see, we told you so! But it is ho hum. Given this number of voters in the province, this number of seats in the legislature, and these vote totals for the various parties, we would expect a party with 42% of the votes to have won around 69 seats. So it won 71. Yawn. We would expect the Conservatives to have won around 34. So, they were a bit under-represented, relative to expectations, but 8 seats not won out of 107 is hardly enough to prevent the main opposition from functioning.

The NDP is, of course, considerably over-represented. Oh sure, it got only 9.3% of the seats on nearly 17% of the vote. But a third party with just over half the votes of the second party “should” win no more than 4 seats. Luckily for the NDP, it is adapted to FPTP in Ontario. It is sufficiently concentrated to win several seats. In fact, the 7% of seats it won in 2003 was its worst showing in many years. It won as many as 14% of the seats as recently as 1995, ((I am using seat percentages here, rather than actual numbers, because the size of Ontario’s parliament has been something of a moving target in recent years.)) and actually had a majority in 1990, on a mere 37.6% of the votes–talk about being adapted to FPTP! It is the Greens, on the other hand, who are the maladapted party, with a voter base far too dispersed to win any seats. ((Ontario has a very small parliament, for its population size. By the cube-root law, it “should have” around 200, or double the current size. But even such a big increase would have made little difference in the expected seat balance in this election. Of course, in the real world, it might have made one Green seat possible and might have put the Conservatives closer to their expected share. I would guess that a doubling of the size of the parliament would be an even tougher sell than MMP–which was to include a 20% increase in the size of parliament (or to about where it was as recently as 1995). ))

Ontario was never a case I considered ripe for electoral reform of the PR variety. In fact, in my paper on the topic of reform in FPTP systems (forthcoming in an Oxford volume edited by André Blais), I state that Ontario is a surprising case of an electoral reform process. Unlike British Columbia (where an STV proposal won 58% in 2005, though it likewise needed 60%) and New Zealand (where voters adopted MMP in a 1993 referendum)–or even PEI ((in P.E.I., a proposal for MMP was defeated in a referendum. Click the link on the province name for discussion.)) and New Brunswick ((In New Brunswick, a planned referendum on a proposal for MMP has been called off. Click the link on the province name for discussion.)) –Ontario had no record of significant anomalies to put electoral reform on the policy agenda in the first place. There is none of the “inherently” bad performance that we can expect from FPTP systems, whereby they may seriously under-represent the party that gets the second most votes such that the opposition is decimated, or over-represent it such that it, rather than the leading vote-winner, gets to form the government.

The only “contingent” factor, among those I identify in my academic work on reform in FPTP systems, that was present in Ontario was the coming to power of a party that had long been out of power. Before 2003, the Liberals had spent decades out of power, aside from 1985-90. In 1985 they formed a minority government despite having the second highest seat total, which in turn they had despite having the most votes (in the only somewhat anomalous election in the province). In 1987 they won a very large majority, only to be voted out after one full term. So, it is not surprising that such a party might come to power (as it did in 2003) with a program of “Democratic Renewal” and that it might even want to open up the question of whether to change an electoral system that, if not systematically biased, had not let the party exercise even a share of power (aside from 1985-90) despite its being a party that regularly won 30% or more of the vote.

In other words, the systemic factors predicting a reform process in Ontario were always weak. But there was some partisan-interest factor at work for the Liberals. The problems with partisan-interest factors, of course, are that they (1) may make it harder to convince voters who favor other parties to think reform is also good for them, and (2) the very interest-based factors may shift if the party starts doing better. This is clearly a good time to be a Liberal in Ontario. It is an even better time to be a Liberal under FPTP. And, apparently it is a good time to be an Ontarian: In the absence of systemic factors (whether the electoral system itself, or perceived policy failures and government mandate violations, as during New Zealand’s reform process), there was no general ill feeling towards politics-as-usual to impel voters to vote for reform simply because there is “something wrong.”

The result for the MMP referendum was by no means foreordained. The province has a multiparty system, for which some form of PR would make a lot of sense. Its Citizens Assembly was a model of civic participation, and its 103 members crafted a really sound proposal. But they faced an uphill battle. The result is not a surprise. However, the proposal is out there, and isn’t going to be totally forgotten. If the Greens’ success was not a blip, or if the Liberals are reelected again in 2011 despite losing the party vote (which would be very much within the realm of the possible), or the Conservatives come to power and are perceived to have done so only because of a divided center-left, the supporters of MMP will have their “we told you so!” moment. Maybe somehow the proposal, or something similar, would be dusted off and be put to another vote.

I do not think electoral reform is dead in Ontario. But it is certainly dormant.

27 thoughts on “Ontario’s election and the failure of the MMP proposal

  1. Your analysis makes a lot of sense to me. I do have some hope that a second-term Liberal government will do some silly things and annoy people….and thus keep the electoral reform issue alive for the next few years. Most people won’t have voted for whatever it is they do……especially if they do things no one voted for.

  2. I have in-laws in the riding just beside Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, but I live in Ottawa, Ontario.

    Huron – Bruce (034)

    I was up visiting my inlaws for Thanks Giving, the weekend before the election, and my wife and I commented on the number of Green Party signs we saw after dinner.

    What my in-laws said was the people in the riding are angry with both the PC party (faith based education issue) and the Liberals for all the broken promises and the vote is somewhat of a protest, but that is not the entire reason. The anger runs abit deeper and involves changes made by the PC party under Mike Harris that changed certain municipal ridings etc.

    That doesn’t explain why the people choose Shane.

    Shane Jolley – GRN is also (from what they said) a well respected small business owner in the area who from his website takes quite an interest in the area developing.

    If I remember correctly his wife is a local Veterinarian (believe that my inlaws might be taking both their pets and so livestock to her) and alot of people in the area know and like her and him.

    The riding is mainly rural (farming) with Owen Sound being the largest city, several smaller ones and small towns dotted everywhere. When Shane decided to run for the Green Party he gave the electorate a Party they could park their vote with because they trust him and his wife.

    Send me an email if you want more detailed information. I can forward your questions to my in-laws.

  3. Sorry I’ve been too busy with the referendum campaign to report to your blog readers.

    When you note “the very interest-based factors may shift if the party starts doing better” this is certainly the elephant in the room. Did the Liberals really decide last May to let their child be still-born? (Since many Liberals are Catholics, that’s a provocatively-worded question.)

    Commentators are about to start weighing in on who is at fault for the lack of public education. Elections Ontario spent $6.8 million on full-page ads and funny TV spots saying “Make Sure You Understand the Question.” (What question? Well, we can’t actually tell you why the Citizens’ Assembly recommended MMP or how they thought it would work, because we’re neutral.)

    What’s unclear is how many commentators will say it can’t end here, just as some Liberals started saying in the final two weeks as confusion mounted: “this is obviously an unsatisfactory process, this can’t be the end of it.” Were they sincere and influential? Stay tuned.

    When you call the Citizens’ MMP proposal “really sound,” Northern Ontario voters clearly would disagree. They would have preferred 153 MPPs, with the North’s 11 constituencies unchanged. Better yet, some kind of guarantee that the North would have 10% of the at-large MPPs, either by a regional model like Scotland’s or by a mandated democratic regional nomination system like Germany’s. This could have been solved by the parties themselves, but the rushed timing meant that they were only starting to respond to the question “how will you nominate at-large candidates?” in the final two weeks.

    Democratic conservative fans of PR kept asking why the Citizens didn’t adopt the Baden-Wurttemberg list-free model (best runners-up). The fact that this would have given some constituencies two or more MPPs may not have been a problem: with only 30% at-large MPPs, only some of them would have two MPPs under any model. A bigger problem would have been a method like Baden-Wurttemberg’s four-region calculation to ensure not all of, for example, the handful of Green MPPs would be from Toronto where they might have had the highest votes. The North, of course, has to be a region. Toronto or the Greater Toronto Area has to be one. The rest of the province is only two regions? But if you go to eight regions as Scotland has, regional sweeps leave big holes in the proportionality. And Baden-Wurttemberg has fewer elected women than any other German province, since all candidates are nominated one at a time locally. Depite these issues, a “best runner-up” model would have done better in the referendum.

  4. Henry Milner, a political scientist who has written extensively about elections and electoral reform in Canada, has a letter in Friday’s Star about the failure of MMP.

    He says that if the list had been regionalized instead of provincial, the proposal would not have been so vulnerable to the attacks claiming that the list MPPs would be beholden to party HQ.

    Thanks to Jacob Christensen for the tip.

  5. Someone once commented that party leaders pick candidates, but this is largely untrue.

    All parties tend to let the local riding associations run the show without much oversight, which leads to a lot of packing.

    However, some parties allow leaders to veto the local process, and others permit leaders to ‘parachute’ a candidates into ridings, which is done sparingly. In the last couple decades, parachuting has been increasingly frowned upon in some places. Such ‘star’ candidates are having less success.

    As for the 8% Green vote, it swells when conservatives don’t want to vote (Progressive-)Conservative. In Ontario in 2007 and federally in 2004, the increased Green vote played a significant role in keeping Liberal governments in power.

  6. The chorus of complaints of “appointed party hacks in list seats” (one such complaint was made, straight-faced, on national TV by a Liberal apparatchik Senator, himself appointed until age 75) led to a new interest, in the last few weeks of the referendum campaign, to list-free MMP as used in Baden-Wurttemberg. Of course no one knows about Baden-Wurttemberg, and no one even knows what to call their model, but people kept spontaneously inventing it, which I found interesting.

    The Citizens’ Assembly members did consider it — their staff called it “near winner” MMP, I wonder where that name came from? — but didn’t pursue it. They knew the main disadvantage: near winner “could make it more difficult to achieve better demographic representation.” However, it would create “greater accountability as voters would have a more direct vote for those who are chosen to represent them.” As the post-mortem continues here and attention shifts to the federal scene, I expect this will be debated further.

  7. Enid Lakeman http://tinyurl.com/ywau9v – who was certainly no admirer of closed party lists – criticised the “near winner” system when it was proposed for the UK by the Hansard Society in the 1970s:

    ‘The fatal objection to the “best losers” variant is that it pretends to give the voter some say in selecting the person to occupy a given seat, while in reality doing nothing of the sort. It would even destroy the minimal power which the… voter [in a single-member electorate] now has in that respect.

    ‘Suppose that an MP, in one way or another, has so disappointed the people who voted for him [sic] that some, in the next election, refuse to vote or even vote for a different party. If (and only if) he represents a marginal constituency, those personal votes will be enough to turn him out. But under the [“best loser” system], he would almost certainly be put back again, contrary to his constituents’ wishes. For he would lose by only a small margin, and so be among the “best losers”…’

    – from Power to Elect: The Case for Proportional Representation (London, Heinemann, 1982), p 43.

  8. It seems like Canadians don’t like MMP, but they might like STV better because it doesn’t use close party list seats and it is somewhat similar to FPTP because districts have to be redrawn every so offten. STV districts albeit much smaller is similar in many ways to Regional List PR districts like that of Spain.

    Hopefully British Columbia will vote overwhemingly for STV in 2009. The problem with Canada unlike New Zealand is that the overwheming majority of the population lives in a 200 mile ribbon pushed up against the U.S border and the problem with any system of Proportional Representation is how are rural areas going to be representated. The rural districts cover huge areas with single member districts unless when the country goes over to PR, it is agreed to that rural areas are going to be overrepresented vise a vis the urban areas.

    New Zealand when it went to MMP reassured the South Island at least a minimum of 18 seats and it’s population is spread out and more evenly distributed over the land of the country. Canada is so far flung, the country if it didn’t have the north. Canada is a vertical version of Chile geographically speaking.

    MMP benefits urban areas or the most populated areas the most. One gets that impression with the List PR overlayed accross the entire province.

    STV at least seems similar to FPTP albeit in multi member districts and at least reasuring less populated regions that they are representated and not dominated by the cities.

  9. I would agree with your analysis, Suaprazzodi that STV might be more acceptable to Canadians; it does get rid of the closed-list concern altogether.
    There are two solutions that were suggested in the BC debate that might assuage your concern about rural areas, though. Julian West suggested in his submission to the BC Citizens’ Assembly that it might be possible to have single member “circuits” within an STV system, meaning that members could be formally assigned through some procedure to single member areas corresponding to the older ridings. Another idea would be to have preferential voting across the board, with IRV in rural areas and STV in others, which was Nick Loenen’s proposal.

  10. I would strongly advise against the Loenen proposal. A version was proposed by the British Conservatives in the 1930s. Churchill, then a Liberal, attacked it because it would mean winner-take-all for the Tories in their rural strongholds, but divided delegations under PR in the urban areas where Labour and the Liberals drew their voting support. An urban region covered by one 5-seater would still give two seats to the Tories. A rural region divided into five one-seaters could well see the Libs-Labs win zero seats.

    Similar criticisms were made of New South Wales’ brief experiment with STV in the 1930s (nine urban 5-seaters, fifteen rural 3-seaters), and of the Liberal/ Social Democrat Alliance Constitutional Commission’s recommendations for UK in the early 1980s (mainly 3-4 seats per constituency in rural areas and 5-9 in urban areas), even though these involved few or no single-seaters.

    A variation in district magnitude any wider than two to one is unwise. If a polity still insists in having three-seaters in sparsely-populated rural areas, one way of compensating might be to adjust the quotient by averaging (seats + 1) rather than (seats) simpliciter – ie, a three-seater would contain four (rather than three) times the average quotient of voters, give or take ten per cent, and a five-seater would contain six (rather than five) times the average quotient of voters, give or take ten per cent. This would help equalise the STV election quota within every district.

  11. In last Saturday’s Ottawa Citizen the Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal in the period leading to the referendum, Marie Bountrogianni, agrees with critics.

    Fair Vote Ontario has complained that the citizens’ assembly that recommended the proposed mixed member proportional (MMP) system wasn’t appointed until late in the government’s mandate, leaving little time for public education and debate.

    Marie Bountrogianni agreed the citizens’ assembly process should have begun earlier.

    “They have a legitimate point there,” said Ms. Bountrogianni, who didn’t run in the Oct. 10 election. The problem, she said, was that Michael Bryant, who had responsibility for democratic renewal for the first two years of the government’s mandate, was also attorney general and minister for aboriginal affairs.

    “I think something this important perhaps should have been given to someone with fewer responsibilities earlier,” she said.

    By the time she took on the portfolio, there was much to be done and little time in which to do it. “I ran as fast as I could,” she said. “This was my number one and only legislative priority. I spent most of my time on this.”

    She is referring back to the spring of 2005 when the process was held up for months under Mr. Bryant, and then sent to a Select Committee resulting in further unplanned delay. But both Bryant and Bountrogianni voted for MMP in the referendum. “I think it would have been an exciting change,” she said. Will Bryant, still in cabinet, quietly take the blame?

  12. I cannot (infuriatingly) recall where, but I’m certain I’ve read something very like the West proposal for circuits in one of the older books on proportional representation, possibly Enid Lakeman.

    A refinement may be to use the circuits for by-elections and answer one of the frequent critiques of proportional representation, that by-elections are impossible between general elections.

    In normal circumstances, the Australian senate runs on a staggered 6 year term with roughly half the senators elected every 3 years. However there is a provision for both houses to be dissolved in cases of legislative deadlock. Double dissolution elections are quite rare, the last was in 1987, but they do create a situation where all senators face the country and the newly-elected senators have to be divided into long-term and short-term senators.

    The procedure is set out in Australian Senate Practice. The same model could be used to assign the elected MPs for multimember district to particular circuits. By-elections could be held within the circuit between general elections, That would cure both the critique that PR abolishes the constituency link and the critique that by-elections cannot be held when a legislative vacancy happens.

  13. Another possibility would be a Danish solution (they go to the polls tomorrow, Tuesday, by the way), where list PR takes a slight MMP twist.

    Although the parties have considerable flexibility in how they nominate and to what degree they give their own voters the ability to influence which candidates get elected, in most cases the following is true:

    Each candidate is selected in one of 92 nomination districts (opstillingskrædse). They all compete for votes in larger electoral districts (now ten in number) where party proportionality applies (also subject to national levelling). Thus, voters are free to choose among candidates nominated in any district within the larger, upper-tier districts, or to simply vote for a party without indicating a preference. In most cases, party candidates are elected in order of personal votes, although some parties in some upper-tier districts instead will choose either to count votes given straight to the party as support for the candidate standing in the respective nomination district, or to establish a ranked list, which the voters may only influence by letting lesser candidates reach a certain quota of personal votes (party-wise Droop, I believe). There is no requirement that all nomination districts will get someone elected, but there certainly is an incentive in the system for local associations to nominate visible candidates who will seek out personal votes in order to get elected. This also may help counteract somewhat the tendency in open- and flexible-list PR for personal votes to be concentrated at the top of the list, among candidates who would be elected anyway.

    The system is a relic from 1918, when Denmark (outside the capital) had MMP. To promote proportionality, the FPTP element was removed in 1920, but the nomination process was kept at a very local level, in the former single-member constituencies (although the parties were made free to nominate at-large instead). There was major redistricting around 1970 and 2006, tied to local government reforms.

    The Slovenian electoral system has similar traits, though I am not sure of the exact details there. Such “soft MMP” (which is not MMP at all, of course) also applied to the Italian Senate from 1948 to 1993, but there voters were limited to choosing candidates from within the smaller, lower-tier districts (the Regions constituted the upper-tier districts). Curiously, the 1994-2006 system was voted in, by referendum, simply by abolishing the 65 percent hurdle for direct election in the lower-tier Senate districts. The Parliament then tidied up the system and established a roughly similar system for the Camera. But that is another story.

  14. OCA Chair George Thomson said publicly May 31 that the OCA should have had more time than BC’s had, rather than a month less. (Fair Vote Ontario told the government more than three years ago that it should have a month longer than BC’s had.) He further stated that, if the 103 Citizens had had another six or eight weeks to deliberate, he felt sure that the basic model would have been the same but he felt some elements might have been different, like regional lists and open lists.

    This gives us the go-ahead to discuss MMP variations.

    The other main problem, in hindsight, is that the Democratic Renewal Secretariat’s original timetable would have wrapped up the OCA 12 months earlier, giving political parties and the media lots of time to discuss how the model would work. As it was, it was not until two weeks before the referendum that the media finally got all three main parties to answer the question “how would you nominate list candidates?” — and all three said “democratically” even as some of their candidates criticized “appointed party hacks on lists.”

    If the enabling legislation had been passed on schedule in the spring of 2005, the entire operation could have been 12 months earlier. The result would have been very different even with the identical model.

    Still more so if the Citizens had realized the likely reaction against a closed province-wide list model, and had gone to an open regional list model — or even Baden-Wurttemberg’s “near-winner” model which the Select Committee had taken a close look at, even making a special trip to Stuttgart.

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    • Thank you, Adam.

      A few things:
      1. What you are proposing is a type of District-Ordered List: fruitsandvotes.wordpress.com/2015/07/26/on-district-ordered-lists-in-reaction-to-eric-greniers-proposal/
      2. I’ve argued before (see above) that this type of system is not as good as regular, two-vote MMP. (While I personally wouldn’t choose PR for the House of Commons anyway, if I had to choose among PR systems I’d probably go with something like the system used by Baden-Wurttemburg’s neighbour, Bavaria: two-vote MMP with open lists).
      3. You write as if additional seats due to overhang are an inevitable feature of the system, but actually they can easily be eliminated by keeping the number of compensatory (list) seats fixed, as in Scotland, Wales and Lesotho.

      • Thanks for the feedback jdmussel, your other article has some interesting info, especially in that it supports Baden-Wurttemberg’s system as the one that is best amongst district ordered list systems:

        “Baden-Württemburg’s best-loser MMP eliminates most of these problems by ensuring each district’s first-placed candidate gets a seat.”

        I don’t feel any of the other arguments against district ordered lists in that article to be very strong. I too would love to see partisanship reduced, and the argument that you might not like your candidate but you like their party as a reason for needing two votes is weak in my opinion. I’m not sure I agree with the contention that “Safe and marginal seats can therefore be expected to exist by virtue of partisan rather than candidate support.” and I’m even less sure Canadian voting history supports that. If a seat is safe it’s usually because you have an incumbent well known in their community, not because the party is strong there, that’s usually why so many rural areas vote Conservative, because their rural candidates really know how to relate to their voters on a personal level. The one example that comes to mind is the orange wave in Quebec in 2011, where everyone voted NDP without even knowing their rookie candidates because they liked Jack and hated the other parties. Even then, they didn’t like the NDP or their policies, they liked Jack. But if you have other clear examples I’d like to hear them.

        A near-winner system with two votes is intriguing, but it still has the issue of overhangs, potentially by a large margin when you look at the 2015 elections results.

        As for Bavaria, I’m not sure they are something to aspire to, “Is Bavaria’s regional ballot too large and complex? In 2003 the number of spoiled or rejected votes was 1.2% for the local vote, 1.9% for the regional vote. Munich, with 58 MPPs, had a ballot with 469 names. No wonder some were rejected.”


        Lastly, I never said additional seats due to overhangs are inevitable, only 1 of my three solutions using near-winner has extra seats due to overhang, the others have our fixed 338 seats. What is inevitable is overhang itself.

        To Alan, clearly you never bothered to read my report. All my solutions start with using the provincial popular vote to determine regional seats. Near-winner solution 3 uses only the provincial popular vote to award top up seats. Solution 2 uses the provincial popular vote to determine top-up seats, then uses the national popular vote to correct overhangs with extra seats where necessary. Solution one also starts with the provincial popular vote, but then changes a few seats to bring it in line with the national vote. This does mean candidates with less votes than other candidates can win a seat, but that’s just what happens if you’re trying to achieve proportionality, I don’t see how that can ever be avoided without having one massive list for one massive region where only the top voted candidates get seats.

        And I’m no expert on the Constitution (believe me I”m going to bone up soon), but I don’t think it’s accurate to say the national popular vote determining the proportion of regional seats is the same thing as voters from outside a province choosing who is elected inside a province. Because they aren’t, the nation-wide popular vote determines only the proportionality, not the actual people voted in, that is determined by the vote totals in each riding. Either way, even if it is an issue, I took that into account in solution 3 by using the provincial popular vote, which still gives a proportional result less than 1% deviated from the national popular vote. Maybe actually give my report a read before criticizing it out of hand.

        I’ve also created a super simplified animation of what near-winner would look like. Needing to be simple of course it glazes over this national popular vote vs provincial popular vote, but I think you’ll find it effective. Please share it, and today is the last day to gett feedback in to the ERRE if you haven’t done so yet.

      • I think the NDP’s landslide in Quebec does support the contention that political parties, rather than individual candidates, are the most important factor, especially in Canada with high levels of party cohesion. Quebec’s support for Layton represented partisan support for a national leader rather than any support for an individual candidate (Layton, remember, was not standing in Quebec, and had led the NDP to poor performances in the province in the past).

        “A near-winner system with two votes is intriguing, but it still has the issue of overhangs”. Overhangs are not inherent to MMP. The Scottish system involves using party votes to calculate list seats using the D’Hondt system, but adding the number of district seats a party has won onto their D’Hondt divisor. So, for example, if the Liberal Party wins 10,000 votes in a district and three directly elected seats, their vote would be divided by four when the party-list seats were calculated (more information here ). This does mean proportionality may not always be exact, but it is relatively proportional, and keeps the House at a fixed size.

        In terms of a large number of candidates on the ballot, that problem could be solved by slicing larger provinces into small regions, electing seven to ten list MPs. That would limit the number of candidates on the list ballot, and it could be further limited by charging a deposit for each candidate. This would, again, reduce proportionality, but it would be better than your proposal, which would not provide any intraparty choice.

        The other issue with your proposal, the constitutional one, would come into effect when you suggest that “as long as a party gets the minimum nation‐wide popular vote for a single seat, that is 0.23% in Canada, it should receive a seat”. It’s my view that such a low effective threshold is a bad idea anyway, as it would encourage party system fragmentation; however, if it is something you want, it would be very difficult for a party with 0.23% to win a seat in a province, given the relatively low number of seats in each province. This issue would be even more serious as the party system fragmented in response to the proportional electoral system. This, as I say, is not inherently bad, but it is an issue that you may wish to address.

      • “If a seat is safe it’s usually because you have an incumbent well known in their community, not because the party is strong there”
        Really? If electoral success proceeds on an individual basis, why aren’t regional results more diverse? Why aren’t individual Liberal candidates more successful in Alberta, for instance? That would be the expectation, as the party label should give no particular advantage to any candidate in any riding. But that’s not what happens; entire regions of Canada are dominated by certain parties – Liberals in the Maritimes, Conservatives in rural areas and particularly the west, Liberals and NDP in the cities, with many safe seats in all of them. This suggests that voters in those regions as a whole like those parties, rather than that individual candidates win seats due to their own popularity. What attracts voters to those parties – ideology, regional interests, attraction to party leaders – is a separate question. Moreover, some of those patterns, in particular the urban votes left, rural votes right pattern is actually very common throughout the democratic west (and regardless of the electoral system). So it would be strange if Canada mimicked this pattern through a different path.
        But let’s suppose what you say is true. If Canadians vote based mainly based on how they like different candidates, what does proportionality matter? If people do not vote on the basis of party preference, it doesn’t make much sense to complain about seat totals not matching party vote totals.
        I don’t think that really conforms with reality or with the goals of your proposed PR reform. What do you want to achieve with PR, if it isn’t (or doesn’t include) improving representation for Green voters, for example? But what options does a Green voter have under your system? Very simple – either vote for a preferred local candidate who stands a chance of winning (in most ridings Conservative or Liberal) BUT give up the chance to increase the number of seats held by the preferred party, OR vote for the preferred party, but give up the power to elect a local riding MP. Yes, the Green voter’s local Green candidate might have a better chance of filling a Green seat elected as a result, but this isn’t likely to reflect very much on that candidate’s popularity – having an open list where voters can choose to voter Green but also to support their favourite Green candidate would do much better.

        A *bit* of disproportionality (overhang) is not a big problem and can even be seen as a moderating virtue, at least when PR is used for the chamber where the government is formed. Obsessing about proportionality can lead to systems prone to fragmentation and instability in the long run.

        Large ballots are not really a problem when you have to cast just one vote on that ballot, and it’s a small price to pay for open lists. Next year, The Netherlands will have had a hundred years of huge ballots, and no-one ever complains about it. A 1.9% spoilt ballot rate is still quite low, especially when compared to the 1.2% on the district vote which you also cited.

    • The constitutional problem for your system is that MPs in Canada sit for particular provinces and territories.

      If you are using the nation‐wide popular vote totals to elect MPs for PEI your system will almost certainly be held unconstitutional by the supreme court. I believe Wilf commented previously that in PEI the out of province votes would override the votes cast in PEI itself under some proposals for national proportionality. An MP for a province has to elected by the electors in that province.

      National proportionality is just not viable in Australia, Canada, or the US without quite major constitutional amendments.

      • Alan, clearly you never bothered to read my report. All my solutions start with using the provincial popular vote to determine regional seats. Near-winner solution 3 uses only the provincial popular vote to award top up seats. Solution 2 uses the provincial popular vote to determine top-up seats, then uses the national popular vote to correct overhangs with extra seats where necessary. Solution one also starts with the provincial popular vote, but then changes a few seats to bring it in line with the national vote. This does mean candidates with less votes than other candidates can win a seat, but that’s just what happens if you’re trying to achieve proportionality, I don’t see how that can ever be avoided without having one massive list for one massive region where only the top voted candidates get seats.

        And I’m no expert on the Constitution (believe me I”m going to bone up soon), but I don’t think it’s accurate to say the national popular vote determining the proportion of regional seats is the same thing as voters from outside a province choosing who is elected inside a province. Because they aren’t, the nation-wide popular vote determines only the proportionality, not the actual people voted in, that is determined by the vote totals in each riding. Either way, even if it is an issue, I took that into account in solution 3 by using the provincial popular vote, which still gives a proportional result less than 1% deviated from the national popular vote. Maybe actually give my report a read before criticizing it out of hand.

        I’ve also created a super simplified animation of what near-winner would look like. Needing to be simple of course it glazes over this national popular vote vs provincial popular vote, but I think you’ll find it effective. Please share it, and today is the last day to gett feedback in to the ERRE if you haven’t done so yet.

      • Constitution of Canada:

        The House of Commons shall, subject to the Provisions of this Act, consist of three hundred and eight members of whom one hundred and six shall be elected for Ontario, seventy-five for Quebec, eleven for Nova Scotia, ten for New Brunswick, fourteen for Manitoba, thirty-six for British Columbia, four for Prince Edward Island, twenty-eight for Alberta, fourteen for Saskatchewan, seven for Newfoundland, one for the Yukon Territory, one for the Northwest Territories and one for Nunavut.

        Your report:

        The nation‐wide popular vote total would determine the number of regional top‐up seats awarded to each party, the province‐wide popular vote total would determine the distribution of the regional top‐up seats, and the winners of the regional top‐up seats would be determined by who got the most votes in their province but did not win a seat.

        The first solution is to switch some of the regional top‐up seats to bring their numbers in line with the calculation of regional top‐up seats based on the nation‐wide popular vote.

        You may care to review the extensive discussion on the viability of national proportionality in Canada at What if Canada adopts MMP?.

  16. An advantage of MMP with 1 vote over the 2-vote version is the near elimination of the ways to game the system (decoy list, fake independents, client micro-parties). Germany’s ability to counteract decoy lists by post-election addition of seats would not be available in Canada under the present constitution. Decoy lists could be countered by discarding or discounting party votes when overhang occurs (see Espen Bjerke’s contribution to the thread on the 2007 election in Lesotho). Such measures would make the system less transparent and, to be very effective, would discard the votes of “innocent” vote-splitters along with those of the manipulators.

    Client micro-parties (e.g. ACT and United Future in New Zealand) can be blocked by discarding the party vote if the nominal vote was for a successful independent or a candidate of a party that failed to surpass a vote threshold. Such a provision exists in German electoral law and could be adopted in Canada.

    In short, it is possible to block gaming of 2-vote MMP by converting it to 1-vote MMP whenever both parts of a split vote help to increase the number of MPs for each of two parties.

    Do the advantages of vote-splitting compensate for the increased complexity/gamability of 2-vote MMP? For supporters of a minor party it clearly is nicer to cast the nominal vote for a possible winner than for a sure loser. Statistics for New Zealand elections suggest that supporters of minor parties mostly split their vote to “back a winner”, with party affiliation being more important than any other qualification of the candidate. Supporters of major parties split their votes for less obvious reasons. Votes for independent candidates in NZ, Germany and Scotland amount to only 1% or less of the total.

    My guesstimate is that less than one-half of split votes are for “personal” attributes of a candidate: accomplishments outside of politics, name recognition, membership in an ethnic group. If correct, it would mean that about 15% of voters would benefit from having two votes. The remainder vote according to a candidate’s party, even though in MMP it has no bearing on party standings

  17. Your “guesstimate” that less than one-half of split votes are for “personal” attributes of a candidate calls for some stats, since those clever New Zealanders publish a “split vote analysis.” At the 2014 General Election 31.64% of voters split their vote (compared to 30.70% in 2011). This was exactly 12.00% who cast strategic votes, while the others liked another party’s local candidate, and 3.51% cast blank ballots for local candidates or spoiled their ballot.
    The strategic votes were:
    Green voters for Labour or Mana: 125,117
    New Zealand First Party voters for Labour or Mana: 81,175
    Conservative Party voters for National: 40,065
    National Party voters: 32,152, for the leader of their coalition partners (David Seymour of ACT in Epsom, and Peter Dunne of United Future in Ohariu) and for their coalition partner Maori Party candidates in Maori seats (where the local races were between Labour and the Maori Party). And National Party leader John Key publicly endorsed Labour candidate Kelvin Davis in Te Tai Tokerau, aiming to defeat Mana leader Hone Harawira, which he did.
    ACT New Zealand voters for National: 7,647
    Greens and New Zealand First promised a coalition government with Labour, and wanted to defeat the local National (conservative) Party candidates, so voted Labour (or sometimes Mana, the left-wing Maori Party, in Maori seats).
    Conservative and ACT voters voted National locally, to stop the local Labour candidate.
    And in Epsom 1,553 Labour voters voted for the local National Party candidate to try to stop ACT getting the benefit of the one-local-seat loophole. So did 2,049 Green Party voters and 361 NZ First voters.

  18. A complementary way of looking at split voting in the 2014 New Zealand election is to examine how the percentages vary from one electorate to another. I made a simple model for the variation in percentage of Green supporters who voted for the Labour candidate as a function of percent support for the Labour Party in each electorate. A linear dependence was assumed, with a positive slope when the Labour Party had less than 50% and a negative slope when it was greater than 50% of the party votes.

    Of the electorate-to-electorate variance in likelihood of a Green/Labour split, about 75% could be accounted for by that simple model, which made no reference to qualifications of either of the local Green and Labour candidates.

    We see also a strong trend for the probability of vote splitting to be increasingly high, the lower the party’s share in popular vote. This too is an indication that the predominant reason to vote for a candidate is the party affiliation.

    • Indeed, some of the 125,117 Green voters who voted for Labour or Mana may have been voting on candidate preference, rather than party affiliation. My point was, the strategic votes in 2014 were no more than 12.00% of the total votes cast, so they were likely much lower than 12%

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