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.

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* 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

Quebec’s results and the performance of FPTP

The results of the Quebec provincial election were stunning enough, as we have been discussing in the previous planting. No one saw the strong showing of the ADQ coming. The fall of the ruling PLQ to minority status was expected, but there was quite a late swing away from the PQ. A few days before the election, it looked as if a PQ minority government was possible, but the party wound up in third place.

In this entry, I want to look not at the shifts in voter sentiment, but rather at how the electoral system took those actual votes and turned them into seats. This is a politically relevant question for Quebec given that the province: (1) has never before had an election result in a minority situation, and (2) has had a recent electoral-system review process. The minority government might be seen as a sign of the “failure” of the FPTP system just at a time when there has been discussion of replacing FPTP with some form of PR.

The seat-vote result is striking in being almost proportional:

    PLQ, 33.1% votes, 38.4% seats
    ADQ, 30.8% votes, 32.8% seats
    PQ, 28.3% votes, 28.8% seats

We certainly do not normally expect such close correspondence of votes and seats percentages in FPTP systems.

To get an idea of whether this aspect of the election is a “surprise” or not, I turned to one of my favorite tools, the seat-vote equation (originally devised by Rein Taagepera). If you are unfamiliar with the seat-vote equation, I suggest clicking on those words at the top of this planting and scrolling back in time–especially to the first planting in that orchard block (an estimation of seats in the then-upcoming Canadian federal election). But the short version is that the seat-vote equation allows us to estimate a “normal” seats distribution based on the following inputs (and only these inputs):

    The votes shares of the leading parties
    The total number of votes cast
    The number of seats in the legislature
    The number of electoral districts

Naturally, in FPTP systems, those last two are the same quantity.

The s-v equation does not incorporate any information about the geographic distribution of the parties’ supporters, notwithstanding the obvious importance of such distribution to the actual outcome. Parties win seats in FPTP systems solely based on where their votes are–no district-level plurality, no seat–rather than as a function of their jurisdiction-wide votes shares.

So, how did the equation perform in this election? Asking this question is really another way of asking a more politically relevant question: How did the electoral system perform? The latter question assumes that there is some “expected” relationship between jurisdiction-wide party support and their legislative support. Deviations from the s-v equation estimates would suggest that the electoral system is not translating votes into seats in a predictable manner. Again, we should not necessarily expect such a predictable translation when the system is FPTP, because of the dependence of parties on local pluralities rather than on jurisdiction-wide support in order to win seats.

Following are the (rounded) predictions of the seat-vote equation, based on the known values of the input variables indicated above:

    PLQ, 51
    ADQ, 42
    PQ, 32

These hardly differ from the actual result (48, 41, 36). The s-v equation expects the largest party to get a bigger bonus than it actually got and the third party to get slightly more punished than it actually was. But it tells us that, in a jurisdiction with FPTP and the number of seats and voters that Quebec has, an election so close among the top three parties in votes should produce a fairly close correspondence of seats and votes. The predicted advantage ratio for the PLQ was 1.23; its actual ratio was 1.16. Even FPTP with three-way competition can produce moderate deviations from proportionality and Quebec’s 2007 result was one where moderate deviations were both expected and actually materialized.

As for the impact of this outcome on the electoral system review, I am not in a position to predict the political consequences of this outcome on that review, but I would conclude that the outcome has not made the objective case for PR stronger. None of the formal review processes in FPTP jurisdictions in the last four decades stemmed from a minority situation, and Quebec’s result was not even disproportional. The existing electoral system gave Quebec voters pretty much what they voted for.

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Postscript:

Paul Wells and his readers have been having fun figuring out the smallest shifts of votes that could have produced a very different seats result–a reminder that s-v correspondence in FPTP systems does sometimes rest on knife’s edge results.

Mr Wells also offers a great video link on the PQ, 1976. Ah, those were the days…

Quebec stunner: Liberal minority government, ADQ close second

Update 2: Democratic Space provides an overview of the projections and where they were wrong. Excerpts:

Our under-estimation of the ADQ came from a greater than expected swing towards the ADQ in just 2 regions: Lanaudiere-Laurentides and the Monteregie (largely due to the abandonment of the PQ in these regions). […]

Overall, of the 21 incorrect ridings, 16 were in our “too-close-to-call” or “tight race” categories. So there were 5 genuine surprises.

(Well, the real surprise is that virtually every close riding swung the same way. In other words, it was not a case of “too close to call” but of the pollsters having missing the underlying trend.)

The remainder of this planting is unchanged since last night, but comments have kept coming in.

The Quebec provincial election has produced a Liberal minority government, the first resulting from an election in the history of the province (and the first at any time since 1878).

But here is the stunning part: The close race proved to be not between the Liberals and the Parti Québécois, but between the Liberals the Action Démocratique du Québec!

The ADQ, which had five seats in the previous parliament, will have 41 members in the new one, just seven seats behind the Liberals. Current Premier Jean Charest barely held his own riding. The PQ has 36 seats.

In the votes, it was Liberal 33.1%, ADQ 30.8, PQ 28.3, Green 3.9, Québec Solidaire 3.7.

I agree with those who say this result gives federal Prime Minister Stephen Harper the incentive to force (and lose) a vote of confidence sooner rather than later: The provincial ADQ vote surge is encouraging news for Harper’s federal Conservatives. They just might gain enough in Quebec to win a majority of seats in the House of Commons. The very bad result for the PQ is also bad news for its federal equivalent, the Bloc Québécois. Looks like the BQ was right to fear an election, as I suggested in commenting on their support of the recently tabled federal budget.

Will Quebec have a minority government?

(originally from 23 March, with updates on 26 March)

With polls now open across Quebec, Democratic Space has posted its detailed final pre-election analysis, noting the election is too close to call but that a PLQ minority government now looks more likely than one headed by the PQ. A few days ago, the ADQ was within two percentage points of overtaking the PQ for second place in votes, but the PQ had the narrow edge in projected seats. (I don’t think it has ever happened anywhere that the seat plurality went to a party with the third most votes; it still won’t have happened.) In the interim, the ADQ has lost about a point and a half in votes to the PLQ, but the latter has picked up about 5% in projected seats, mostly at the expense of the PQ (thanks to the vagaries of three-way competition under FPTP). Of course, all of this is well within margins of error, so several scenarios remain in play. But a PLQ minority appears most likely.

The current projection at Democratic Space is for only 51 seats for the incumbent Liberal party (PLQ), 50 for the Parti Québécois (PQ), and 24 for the Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ).

The voting intentions of voters have not changed all that much at the aggregate level, but three-party politics under FPTP can be volatile, and as the ADQ grows even slightly, it is cutting more into the potential PLQ seats than to those of the PQ.

For example, compare the DS projection based on polling about a month before election day (and on riding-level analysis) to the current one. Over that time, the PLQ voting intention has fallen by 2.2 percentage points, but their seats having fallen by 11.2 points (from 65, a narrow majority, to the present projection of 51). Meanwhile, the ADQ has gained 3.2 percentage points in the vote and nine seats (7.2%). The PQ is gaining in expected seats, despite no real change in votes. If the trend were to continue and be realized on election day, the PQ could wind up with the most seats, albeit several short of a majority.

I know I have several readers who are in (or follow the politics of) Quebec. I hope they will consider this an open thread on the closing days of the campaign. Thanks to all those who have commented on this campaign thus far!

The Canadian budget and (non?) election politics

Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative cabinet has tabled its 2007 budget. In a parliamentary system, the budget is by definition a matter of confidence and thus a precarious time for any minority government that lacks confidence and supply agreements with parties that could guarantee it a majority–or join in an opposition-sponsored vote to oust the cabinet.

With budget season upon us, and Harper’s government having the smallest share of Commons seats of any minority cabinet in Canadian federal history and approaching the average length of all past minority federal governments in Canada, is an election coming soon? Maybe not.

The Bloc Quebecois will support the budget, because it addresses one of Quebec’s most important issues, the federation’s “fiscal imbalance.” With the Conservatives having 125 seats and the BQ 50 in the 308-seat parliament (in which two seats are currently vacant), the BQ’s support virtually assures the budget will pass.

The cooperation of the BQ with a Conservative government is interesting due to the competitive dynamic between the two parties. That the BQ is playing along suggests that they fear an election. And in that case, while it is good for Harper in the short run to stave off an election, he nonetheless faces a bit of a trap: Whenever he does anything subsequently to upset the BQ constituency, the BQ will be able to bail at a time when they’d have an issue that might help them prevent the Conservatives from getting their majority. (In the 2006 elections, the Conservatives made big gains in Quebec at the BQ’s expense.) But if they remain on board with Harper’s budget, then the latter can’t get the election at a time when he might want it.

And then there is also the provincial election next Monday in Quebec. The BQ’s provincial counterpart, the Parti Quebecois is in a tight race in its bid to unseat the ruling provincial Liberal party–actually, a three-way race that may result in a hung parliament, given the ADQ’s strength. With the Quebec Liberals perhaps buoyed a bit by the budget announcement, this may not be a time when the BQ would want a federal election. On the other hand, they retain the ability to precipitate one in the future more or less whenever that want, as I mentioned above.

Meanwhile, one Liberal member has said he will support the budget. Well, make that ex-Liberal member Joe Canuzzi of Thunder Bay, Ontario. (Canuzzi has not exactly had warm relations with the Liberals, having resigned as a cabinet member in the previous government over its same-sex marriage bill.) Cannuzi gave as his reason the government’s inclusion in the budget of funds for a “for a molecular cancer research centre that employs 300 people in his riding”–perhaps a worthy project, but definitely pork. Canuzzi will sit as an independent, and has already said this is his last term.

Multiparty, federal, and FPTP politics certainly can be interesting!

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Also recommended analysis: Declan at Crawl Across the Ocean

Quebec to the polls

Quebec will hold general elections for its provincial assembly on 26 March. An excellent way to follow the campaign is at QuebecPolitique.com (if you read French, that is).

Quebec’s FPTP electoral system has a long record of producing odd results, including a plurality reversal in 1998 and several lopsided majorities. In my research on conditions for reform in FPTP systems, the province rates as one of the most ripe for reform. However, so far a reform process initiated by the now-ruling Liberals after their “victimization” by the vagaries of plurality allocation in 1998 has not borne fruit. I hope some of my readers who follow politics in the province can give us some ideas of the likely dynamics of seat distribution in this race, and whether this election is likely to bury or revive the movement for reform.

Canada: Softwood deal signed, BQ supports

This week, Canadian and US trade officials formally signed an agreement to resolve the longstanding dispute over softwood lumber. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who heads a Conservative minority government, had promised to make the legislation a matter of confidence. With the Bloc Quebecois announcing that it supports the deal, the government–which has numerically the shakiest parliamentary support of any minority government in Canada’s history–should survive, as the Tories and BQ combined have a majority of seats.

BQ leader Gilles Duceppe said:

I’ve consulted all the people involved in this dispute. It was the same answer everywhere. They don’t feel it is a good agreement but they just don’t have the choice.

So, what concessions did the BQ extract on this or other issues? Or was it simply a case of fearing a new election, given how much the Conservatives cut into former BQ support in the last one, in January?

Canada: BQ will back government

It is budget season in Canada. The minority Conservative government needs votes in parliament from outside the party to survive–a budget vote is a confidence vote. The Bloc Quebecois is on board, and their 51 seats plus the Conservatives’ 125 would be sufficient to pass the package, which includes tax cuts and a new child-care benefit–two of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s key campaign pledges.

Quebec electoral reform update: Public hearings bearing fruit

Wilfred Day planted the following seed regarding electoral reform in Quebec at my previous thread on Canada’s dysfunctional FPTP system (at the federal level). Quebec electoral reform deserves to a planting of its own, so here it is. I am also copying below a comment that Vasi planted in response to Wilf.

After public hearings that began Nov. 1, 2005, and continued for 25 days across Québec, public reaction has borne its first fruit: the Citizens’ Committee has reported. Nine Members of Québec’s National Assembly, and eight citizens selected by a structured random process from interested volunteers, have consulted the general public and particular experts on the government’s draft bill for an MMP system.

The first shoe has dropped (what kind of fruit is a shoe?), but it has no legal weight. The eight citizens sat at the same table as the nine MNAs and had the same right to ask questions, but have no vote on the Report of the Special Committee (the nine MNAs.) The thud, if any, will come from their report.

Six Citizens have written a masterful 59-page report with no technical assistance. (One more wrote his own, while the eighth signed nothing.) It calls for an improved MMP model with province-wide proportionality, with 40% compensatory seats assigned to regions and filled from regional lists with a 5% threshold using a two-vote model. To the surprise of those who thought citizens would always want an open-list model, they want closed lists in each of Québec’s 17 administrative regions, ranging from a few little three-seat regions to Montréal’s 30 seats (18 local, 12 regional list.)

It also calls for fixed election dates. Uniquely for a citizen panel, it calls for rules to maintain stable government: for example, that a government cannot be defeated in the House except by the formation of a new coalition government holding a majority of seats. (They did not attempt to define exceptional circumstances permitting an early election.)

Will the government pay any attention to the Citizens’ recommendations? The Minister says he too had some reservations about the draft bill, and will take the committee’s recommendations as a starting point for presenting a new version of the reform in coming months. We’ll see.

As a PR wonk, what interested me is the Citizens’ formula for assigning the 50 compensatory seats to the 17 regions. All they said is “start by giving Party A a seat in the region where it is most under-represented” — presumably by highest average, as the draft bill uses — “and continue compensating parties under-represented in regions so long as the region has seats available” until the party’s seats are all assigned. Unlike Germany, the regions have a fixed number of seats, making the assignment process far trickier than in Germany.

Suppose a fourth party won 7 seats. Would parties go turn-about? Then all seven of their seats would be among the first 28 assigned by this process, leaving the large parties to take the left-overs. Or would they go in order of which party has the highest average (is most under-represented) in any region? If so, the fourth party’s 7 seats will mostly be assigned at the end of the process, and some will go to regions which have a seat left over but where the fourth party had little support.

Here the citizens’ talents hit a wall. They ask the Special Committee staff to do simulations of how this would work and attach them to the Citizens’ Report (not attached). Once again, as in BC, we find citizens needing experts to help them write their MMP model, and no experts assigned to that task.

Here are Vasi’s additional remarks on this subect:

In order that list MNAs not become immune to being thrown out, they recommend a limit of two consecutive terms as a list MNA. They do want to permit double-candidacy (list and district), however.

Apparently Quebec law already provides parties with election financing dependent on the number of votes received last election–with a bonus if a certain percentage of candidates are women. The proposal wishes to increase the bonus, increase the required percentage, and make it apply to elected members rather than candidates. There should also be a separate bonus which applies to minorities. Moreover, if this measure does not result in significantly increased representation of women within two elections, then parties should instead be required to alternate between men and women on the lists. (Note that apparently English-speakers and those of minority religions are not considered “minorities”–not that I’m bitter or anything.)

Thanks, Wilf and Vasi, for keeping the orchard planted with the latest hybrid varieties of fruit! (And I am still pondering that question about what kind of fruit is a shoe.)