Quebec to have electoral reform referendum

Per CTV News Montreal, the CAQ governing party in Quebec promises a referendum on a specific electoral-reform proposal to be held concurrent with the next general election in 2022.

The CAQ government on Wednesday introduced its electoral reform law, but backed away from its 2018 campaign promise to have it in place in time for the next general election.

The system is a form of mixed-member proportional representation (MMP), but a complex one. And not very proportional.

The number of seats in the National Assembly would remain 125. The new electoral law would divide Quebec into 80 larger electoral divisions that will mainly be the same as federal ridings, and 17 wider regions:

  • 80 MNAs would be elected according to the current system

  • 45 MNAs on a list of candidates would be divided among the parties, according to the percentage of votes obtained in the 17 regions

Thirty six percent of seats for the list tier is certainly on the small side, and the proportionality would be reduced further by that list tier itself being districted. Note that the mean number of seats per compensation region is only 2.65.

Based on further detail that I learned from Manuel on Twitter (and that I trust he will not mind my sharing here), we can see yet more ways that this proposal is designed to limit proportionality.

…it’s a very constrained implementation of PR, limited by a provincial-level 10% (yes, ten percent) threshold; and districted MMP in seventeen regions, with a new variation of the D’Hondt rule that skews seat distributions in favor of the larger parties.

Regarding the seat allocation method for the compensation seats (which will limit how compensatory it actually will be):

In Scotland and Wales the modified D’Hondt divisors are N+1,N+2,N+3, and so on, where N = number of single-member seats. In the Quebec proposal, they are N/2 + 1, N/2 + 2, N/2 + 3, N/2 being *half* the number of single-member seats, rounded up, and resulting in lower divisors.

One additional detail: the bill provides for separate allocations of single-member and PR list seats among regions – according to the number of registered voters – which guarantee all but one region a minimum of two seats. This would cost Montreal – a PLQ bastion – three seats.

I would still consider this MMP*, as there is a compensation mechanism. I am on record as considering even the Jenkins Commission proposal in the UK to be MMP, albeit with lots of caveats given it was also designed to be about as weak on the P as could be.

Regarding the election of 2018 when the CAQ came into power–surprisingly, with an absolute majority of seats–and the electoral-reform promises made at the time, see this earlier planting.


  • * UPDATE: I am now not sure about this; I need more time to think it through, and that will have to wait till some time in 5780! In the meantime, see this Twitter thread. I think the issue hinges on whether the “modification” to D’Hondt is actually more like Imperiali. While Taagepera and I list Imperiali divisors in our book as being part of the family of PR allocation formulas, we both now believe that it should not be. We were prompted to this view by an email exchange earlier in 2019 with Steven Verbanck (regular F&V commenter). Anyway, to be continued…

Quebec 2018

Because it took place on Shemeni Atzeret, a very big Jewish holiday that “closes” the festival of Sukkot (but is separate from it), I totally missed that Quebec was having a provincial general election.

The result is being called a “surprise”. The Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) won a majority of seats (74 of 125) on just 37.4% of the votes. That is 59.2% of the seats, for an advantage ratio of 1.58, which is certainly on the high side.

The incumbent Liberals won 32 seats (compared to 70 at the last election) on 24.8% of the votes (compared to 41.5% last time). Quebec Solidaire (QS) has 10 seats on 16.1% and the Parti Quebecois (PQ), which was governing as recently as 2014, a mere 9 seats on 17.1% of the vote.

You might note that this is rather far from a “Duvergerian” outcome. It is, however, a “typical” FPTP result, given the presence of a multiparty system: The plurality party won a manufactured majority.

The regional distribution of party support was critical to the outcome, as is also a common feature of FPTP elections. CTV has the list of districts (ridings) and the winner’s percentage of the vote. Not surprisingly, many were won with well under 40% of the vote. An example is Abitibi-Ouest, where the CAQ winner earned 34.1% of the vote and a margin of 195 votes over a PQ candidate. Some other close results also were CAQ over PQ: Bourget, where the winner had a mere 27.6% of the votes and the PQ candidate was 500 votes behind; Ungava (45-vote margin with only 26.5%). On the other hand, there was Iles-de-la-Madeleine, decided in favor of the PQ by only 21 votes over a Liberal candidate (the winner won 38.7%). Then there was Duplessis, decided by 126 votes, with the PQ on top (34.3%) and CAQ second. The Liberals had some narrow victories, too (such as Gaspé, 33.8%, 132 votes over the PQ; Laval-Des-Rapides, 31.6%, 297 votes over the PQ). It is a pretty wild district-level picture!

The opposition parties going into the election–CAQ, QS, and PQ (plus the Greens)–had committed to a platform calling for a change of electoral system to proportional representation, apparently MMP.  I can’t say for sure–no doubt some readers will know–but I’d tend to assume this was promised under the assumption of a no-majority assembly. (The Liberal leader reiterated shortly before the election that he was not on board, even in the event his party would have formed a minority government after this election.) A real test of the CAQ is whether it has now had an overnight conversion to the virtues of FPTP, or whether the commitment will be effectively binding. The list above of CAQ victories over the PQ certainly shows that, to some significant degree, the parties are rivals given the dynamics of the current electoral system. Quebec–and Canada–has seemed at the cusp of electoral reform before…

(Note: There is already some ongoing discussion of this election at a previous post about the 2014 election.)

Quebec pro-PQ bias and electoral reform

By JD Mussel

The Montreal Gazette has reported about the Mouvement Démocratie Nouvelle (MDN), which recently launched its campaign for proportional representation in Quebec, specifically MMP.

The article mentions a number of factors that may be at involved in creating the apparent pro-Parti Quebecois bias in First-Past-the-Post in Quebec. Firstly, ridings in Montreal traditionally favour the Liberals, where their votes are very concentrated, to the party’s disadvantage. Secondly, the article highlights malapportionment in the Province, which may be one of Canada’s worst. The overrepresented ridings are generally more likely to be rural and francophone, while the underrepresented ones tend to be more urban and are likely to have a larger anglophone population, as illustrated here.

There have been three plurality reversals in Quebec since the rise of the Union Nationale (1936), all of which occurred in elections where the Liberals had received a plurality of the vote.

The article also included projections, produced by Wilfred Day of what the 2012 result would have been under pure PR and MMP. I am very curious as to the exact model used for the latter projection!

Meanwhile, the MDN’s website (in French) is worth a browse, in particular its historic overview of all Quebec elections since Confederation, showing vote shares vs seat shares as well as some historic background.

Quebec election, 2014

Quebec’s general election will be 7 April. From my cursory reading of the news prior to the election call, I had the impression that a majority for the Parti Quebecois (PQ) was all but in the bag. (The PQ currently heads a minority government.) However, sometimes funny things happen during campaigns.

Looking at the projections at ThreeHundredEight.com, which are based on aggregating and weighting polls, one can see that the Liberals are now ahead of the PQ in the vote projection. As of today, they are even ahead outside the projection tool’s estimated confidence intervals*, which range 41%-47% for Liberals and 32%-36% for the PQ.

Seat projections, however, remain closer: 61-76 for Liberals, 46-59 for PQ. If the race tightens even a little bit, the prospect of a plurality reversal becomes real, given the near overlap in project ranges for seats despite the existing minimum projected gap of five points in votes. If we convert the projections into advantage ratios (%s/%v)**, we get a range for the Liberals of 1.18 to 1.28, but for the PQ of 1.16 to 1.31. We can see that either party would benefit from the over-representation expected from a plurality electoral system, but the PQ benefits slightly more–from the model’s projections–when it is at the higher end of its vote range, even though its current maximum projection would not give it a plurality of the vote. Extrapolating from these figures, the PQ might be able to win a majority of the seats on only around 38% of the vote and with the Liberals still slightly ahead.

A reversal–and not the first in the province–happened as recently as 1998, when the Liberal party had 43.55% of the vote and 48 seats, while the PQ had 42.87% but 76 seats. Yes, 76, for a really large majority despite losing the province-wide vote.

I think I will start paying more attention to the Quebec campaign now.

_______
* Taking the confidence interval to be the range from “low” to “high” rater than minimum-maximum.

** Using low-end or high-end projections for both seats and votes in all cases.

Quebec election campaign 2012

Quebec’s National Assembly (i.e. provincial) election is 4 September. It is a three-way race, which is always interesting–and potentially anomaly-generating–under plurality (first-past-the-post) rules.

The incumbent is a majority government of the Liberal Party, re-elected most recently in 2008, with the Parti Quebecois (PQ) as its main opponent. The newly created party in the mix is the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), and there are other smaller parties as well.

The CAQ is trying to make a splash by bringing Jacques Duchesneau, a “celebrity whistleblower” (as the Ottawa Citizen described him) into the contest as one of its candidates. This personnel strategy by an upstart party is an excellent example of attempting to use a high-profile individual to signal something about the party as a whole.

The PQ is attempting as well to use a newly recruited candidate to help re-brand the party. The “sovereigntist” message of the party is in danger of not resonating with younger voters who have grown up under policies implemented by past PQ governments, and continued by Liberal ones. So to try to counter this lack of appeal, it has nominated Léo Bureau-Blouin, a 20-year-old leader of the recent Quebec student strike. As Konrad Yakabuski comment in the Globe and Mail: “Mr. Bureau-Blouin’s candidacy brings much more to the PQ than a chance at picking up a seat. It sends a message to Quebeckers that the party and its mission will live on.”

As for the three-way race, Eric Grenier notes in the Globe and Mail, even before Duchesneau’ entry, “the CAQ, even at these low levels of support in the polls, could still win as many as 11 seats, Québec Solidaire as many as two, and Option Nationale one, making it possible for either of the two main parties to form some sort of working arrangement or formal coalition in order to govern if they do not win a majority on their own.”

Quebec had a real three-way race in March, 2007, when the largest party was the Liberals, but with only 38% of the seats on just under a third of the vote. The Assembly elected then lasted only about a year and a half, and new elections were held in December, 2008, producing the majority that is attempting to defend its position now.

A leader of a past (Equality Party, 1989) attempt at third-party politics, Robert Libman, has made an appeal for strategic voting:

“Anglophones… should perhaps, in order to send a message to the Liberals, consider voting for the CAQ,” said Mr. Libman, “(but) only in areas where there is no danger of splitting the vote and electing the PQ.”

The ridings Mr. Libman has in mind are largely located in Montreal’s west end, with a few more in western Quebec. There are also a handful of ridings where any wavering by Anglo voters could spark big swings in close local races.

With so many outcomes being plausible–including a majority government by either major party–and dependent on results of key districts (ridings), this will be a contest to watch.

Quebec’s election

[Replanted, originally from 4 Dec.]

With so much attention focused on Canada’s federal government, and the government-in-waiting, I almost forgot that Quebec is about to go to the polls in a provincial assembly election. That’s happening on Monday! {Today!}

(Click “Qc.” above to see discussion of the previous election, in March, 2007.)

PQ as the arbiter?

The arbiter role in a minority government in Quebec was to have fallen to the ADQ. But a funny thing happened on the way to its arbiter status: It emerged as the official opposition.

Paul Wells gets it right, I think:

I won’t game out the parliamentary confrontation that seems almost certain, except to point this much out: the assumption until now was that the ADQ would arbitrate, between Libs and PQ, as to who formed the government. But if the ADQ and the Libs turn out to be rivals, with Charest unable to lead (what will still be, constitutionally, until a confidence vote) his government from within the National Assembly, then it is at least conceivable that the arbitrator’s role falls to the PQ. Does the PQ vote no confidence in a Liberal government? Does it then support Mario Dumont? That dilemma would risk tearing the PQ apart.

Yes, this is going to be fun to watch.

And then things are also going to be pretty interesting in Ottawa:

how does [federal Liberal leader] Stéphane Dion feel, knowing that 46 Quebec seats are now held by Liberals who agree with Stephen Harper on federalism and 42 Adéquistes who agree with him on everything else?

Also recommended on what this three-party dynamic, with the “ethnic nationalists” in third place, might mean: The Pithlord, Scott Lemieux, Jacob T. Levy, and various others that they link to. Quite an interesting discussion.

In particular, reflecting on Premier Charest’s interest in parlaying his new federal money into a tax cut that the ADQ will have to support him on (thereby postponing the PLQ-ADQ rivalry that Wells referred to), Pithlord notes:

Harper’s shown that you can play a minority with strength if your opponents don’t want an election. Charest isn’t as clever, but the way seems clear.


Related plantings:

Quebec stunner: Liberal minority government, ADQ close second

Quebec’s results and the performance of FPTP