PR can look so much better after the fact…

Note via Wilf Day:

The recommendation of the Boundaries Commission resulted in the Nova Scotia NDP pledging, if re-elected, to support the striking of a new electoral reform commission to consult with Nova Scotians on the way the province’s electoral system functions.

Too late. They lost power this week. Just like the Saskatchewan NDP in 2007, who finally decided to hold a Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, just as they lost power.

So Nova Scotia has yet another majority one-party government elected by a minority of voters while the party that came second in the popular vote came third in the seat count.

But regional disparities continue: even while the Liberals swept mainland Nova Scotia,
Liberal voters in Cape Breton are under-represented.

14 thoughts on “PR can look so much better after the fact…

  1. I’ve seen some pretty flawed FPTP results, but this isn’t really one of them (at least, it’s not in the same class as the really bad ones)… I think a majority for 45% is very reasonable. Nonetheless, reform is definitely needed. I would suggest about STV in about 10-12 districts. British Columbia’s referendum was of course a missed chance… I hope the cause of reform will be (seriously) raised somewhere in Canada soon.

    • In terms of the “normal” functioning of FPTP, a seat majority on 45% of the votes is indeed unremarkable. However, a seat share for the largest party of 65% or greater when the vote share is 45% or less is unusual. In fact, in my dataset of 210 FPTP elections, there are exactly 8 such cases, or less than 4%.

      The others, for the record: Alberta 1967 & 1989, British Columbia 1972 & 1991, Ontario 1971 & 1995, and India 1951 & 1962. (Alberta’s Social Credit in 1967 is the champion: 84.6% seats on 44.6% votes! Honourable mention to the BC NDP with 69.1% on 39.6% in 1972.)

      (Disclaimer: it is not an exhaustive dataset, having no elections before 1945, and starting around 1960 for Canadian provinces. I also have not kept it systematically up to date since the work for which I prepared the dataset was published in 2008. But this should give one a general idea of how remarkable, or not, the outcome in NS 2013 is.)

  2. There’s more distortion with fewer seats, isn’t there, MSS?

    Under the cube-rule law, Nova Scotia’s House of Assembly should have 98 seats, almost double than the current 51.

  3. In New Brunswick in 1987, the Liberals got 100% of the seats on 60% of the votes. A 40% advantage comes close to the disproportionality of the 1967 AB election.

  4. One notable feature of Canadian politics is enormous turnover of legislative seats on even small changes in the popular votes. Its as if incumbency doesn’t give legislators any cushion at all. This is another thing you would think political scientists would want to research.

    • Ed, there is a pretty well established literature on personal vote and incumbency effect in Canada and other systems, building on the US literature and (often) asking why there is so much less effect evident in these other FPTP contexts than in the US.

  5. I wasn’t comparing Canada to the U.S., I was comparing Canada to other parliamentary systems that use single member districts, such as the U.K. and Australia. Districts switching between the parties in individual elections has simply been much higher in Canada.

    The last federal election saw the near wipeout of two party caucasus (the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois), and that was a fairly mild result in terms of turnover by Canadian standards.

    • Swings of districts are greater in all the parliamentary FPTP systems than they are in the USA. The explanation is pretty simple: more people vote based on which party they prefer, instead of based on candidate or local considerations, when the parliamentary elections are the only way to impact the executive level. Party preferences are inherently more volatile than local-member evaluations.

    • Swings of districts are greater in all the parliamentary FPTP systems than they are in the USA. The explanation is pretty simple: more people vote based on which party they prefer, instead of based on candidate or local considerations, when the parliamentary elections are the only way to impact the executive level. Party preferences are inherently more volatile than local-member evaluations.

  6. What MSS said. As I’ve noted in another seed bed (and I’m sure others have observed long before me), in the US most presidents/ parties serve 2 terms in government – no more, no less, if we haven’t had enough George Lucas mentions on this blog already.

    If Carter had been re-elected in 1980 (Anderson folds and swings his supporters behind Carter, Carter peels away 1 in 100 of the voters who supported Reagan in our universe), it would be an unbroken pattern for the past seven decades.

    In parliamentary systems in the established democracies, governing parties generally clock upo longer in power- 10-15 years but I haven’t crunched the numbers.

    On the other hand, the US seems to have legislators who serve for decades, much longer than in parliamentary systems. (When Kennedy was elected President, many of the senior Senators had been in Congress since before he was born).

  7. Almost all parliamentary democracies do not have mid-term elections unless one considers a snap election to be one. Almost all parliamentary democracies, the legislature is elected to a maximum duration of either 3, 4, or 5 years. Wasn’t there at one time the United Kingdom and Ireland had a maximum term for their lower houses set at 7 years? One would wonder if the legislature would become out of touch if a legislative term lasted that long.

  8. Yes, Suaprazzodi, the UK had a three-year maximum under the Triennial Act of 1694, then 7 years under the Septennial Act from 1716, and 5 years since 1911.

  9. For some reason, parliaments with fixed terms tend to fix that term at an even number of years (usually four, but sometimes two or six) while dissoluble maximum terms tend to be an odd number of years (usually five, but sometimes also three or seven).
    I can’t think of [m]any dissoluble maximum four-year terms (Japan?) – or many fixed five-year terms (South Africa?). Sweden and Switzerland have moved from fixed triennial to fixed quadrennial election dates. I can’t think of any fixed terms that have moved from.even to odd. The Australian States have tended to move in synch from maximum three-year to fixed four-year terms.
    I can offer no theory of causation for this correlation other than perhaps that regular election dates and even numbers appeal to a certain type of orderly mind.
    Four years seems the norm in Protestant northern and Orthodox Eastern Europe, with five years more common in the Catholic south (as well as Poland, Ireland, Austria and Bavaria; prosecution rests). Perhaps Weber would have some thoughts in this.

  10. Wait, strike the Weber part, I missed Spain and Portugal. Plus it doesn’t fit Belgium. To fit the UK one has to put Anglicanism in the “Catholic” column while locating Orthodox Greece on the “Protestant” side of the ledger, a division that seems counter-intuitive.

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