New Brunswick 2010: Another anomaly

The eastern Canadian province of Canada has a history of anomalous results from its FPTP electoral system. Yet, despite the province’s record (of which I have written before–click “N.B.” above), a referendum planned on an MMP system was canceled three years ago–just after a spurious alternation! (In 2006, the incumbent Conservatives won a plurality of the vote, but the opposition Liberals won a majority of seats.)

In this year’s vote, the Conservatives won the vote by a wide margin, 48.9% to 34.4%. This translated into over three quarters of the seats for the plurality party. Meanwhile, the NDP won over 10% and the Greens 4.5%, but neither of these parties won a seat.

Yes, New Brunswick needs electoral reform. But that’s not news.

5 thoughts on “New Brunswick 2010: Another anomaly

  1. Further evidence of regionalism in Canada, even in little New Brunswick. The northeast half is francophone or bilingual and tends to vote Liberal; the southwest half is anglophone and tends to vote Conservative. For this reason the Commission on Legislative Democracy recommended a regional MMP model with four regions, each with nine local MLAs and five regional. This 14-MLA middle-sized region is a classic number (16 in Scotland, 12 in Wales) which works very well for the federal level in Canada too.

    In this week’s election the southwest half (including the cities of Saint John and Fredericton) elected precisely one Liberal, from rural Charlotte-The Isles, while the northeast half elected 12. The Commission’s MMP model on those votes would have given Saint John, Fredericton et al a healthy (if you like parliamentary democracy) number of opposition MLAs: five more Liberals, while the whole province would have had five New Democrats (from all four regions) and three Greens.

    Of coure, that’s just the partisan viewpoint. For voters, the real advantage would be after the election, when voters would have competing MLAs, and could go to their local MLA or one of their diverse regional MLAs.

  2. Going back through past New Brunswick election results on Wikipedia, I came up with this gem:

    1952 election

    Liberals -49.2% of the vote and 16 seats

    Conservatives -48.3% of the vote and 36 (!) seats

    I was going to argue otherwise, but there does seem to be something peculiar about New Brunswick. But if they weren’t going to change the electoral system after 1952, I’m not sure when they will change it.

    Arguably this result wasn’t even that bad, just that the 14% margin for the Conservatives over the Liberals doesn’t justify almost four fifths of the seats. But the 10% NDP vote wouldn’t usually win them seats with single member districts, and not even in some proportional systems with high thresholds.

  3. To correct a typo: The Commission’s MMP model on those votes would have resulted in five more Liberals, while the whole province would have had six New Democrats (from all four regions) and three Greens.

    A footnote on diversity: in the Commission’s Southeast region the NDP would get two seats, and their strongest candidate Monday was an aboriginal woman Susan Levi-Peters, former chief of the Elsipogtog First Nation.

  4. Ed, until the 1970s the MLAs were elected from counties and some cities, each returning 2-5 members in 1952, and this would have amplified the distortions. The distortions probably emerge so often because of the regional division mentioned by Wilf.

  5. One of the ironies of North American electoral reform is that MNTV was historically so common – until recently – that many reformers have seen single-member districts as an improvement in the direction of proportionality. “Five votes for five seats” is so obviously bad that it has been almost universally abandoned for legislative elections (ie, it survives only for local councils, a few State legislatures, and the US Electoral College). “One vote only” (or, more accurately, the right to fully cumulate all of your voting points on as few as one or two candidates if needed, without sacrificing any of your voting points by “bulleting/ plumping” as under MNTV or Approval) is a vast improvement… “one seat only” is at best only a very minor improvement.

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