Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The seat implications of electoral reform

In my article for the CBC today, I've taken a look at the various proposals for electoral reform and what they would mean in terms of seats. The Conservatives want to stick with first-past-the-post, the system currently in place, while the NDP is today putting forward a motion in favour of mixed-member proportional representation. The Liberal Party's membership has supported moving to a preferential ballot, though it remains to be seen whether or not the Liberals will add that to their platform for 2015. It seems likely, considering that Justin Trudeau has often mentioned it.

Please go take a look at the article at CBC.ca before reading any further. I've explained what I've done there, and also discussed some of the practical implications. But I thought I'd provide a little more detail here at the regional level for these seat estimates.

First, let's just start with the current polling averages as they were what all of my calculations were based on.

Current polling averages
The Liberals have 35% support, followed by the Conservatives at 31% and the New Democrats at 21%.

Now, here is what these numbers would likely give in terms of seats.

Note that, despite trailing by four points, the Conservatives narrowly come out in front in the seat count nationwide. Also, despite having a combined 11.4% support, the Greens and Bloc win just 0.9% of the seats.

The Conservatives win the most seats in British Columbia, despite trailing by three points there. The New Democrats take the bulk of Quebec's seats, despite being two points back of the Liberals.

Next, mixed-member proportional representation which, for the purposes of this analysis and easier comparison, I've simplified to proportional distribution of the 338 seats in the House (which is, in the end, the net result of the proposed system).

Note here how some of the discrepancies in FPTP are rectified, notably in British Columbia and Quebec. Also note that the opposition parties have a fairer shake in Alberta and the Prairies, while the Conservatives get their due in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

And finally, my estimates of the outcome of a preferential ballot, all else being equal (with MMP and especially with preferential balloting, the parties would change their behaviour - but let's assume they didn't).

Now there are new discrepancies between first-ranked support and the eventual outcome. The Liberals fall just short of a majority. The NDP comes in second despite trailing the Conservatives by 10 points on first-ranked balloting.

Regionally, the Conservatives finish third in B.C. despite being second in support and the Liberals finish third in the Prairies despite being 13 points up on the NDP. The Liberals again finish second, but now by an even greater margin, in Quebec. And the Conservatives are shut out of Atlantic Canada though they are virtually even with the NDP.

But while preferential voting does not mimic first-ranked support, that does not necessarily make it non-representative.

Look at the EKOS polling I based these second-choice calculations upon. Combining first and second choice gives the Liberals a "theoretical ceiling" of 57%, against 54% for the NDP and 35% for the Conservatives. This is not all that different from Nanos Research's numbers on which parties Canadians would consider voting for: they were 56% for the Liberals and 43% apiece for the NDP and Conservatives in today's update from the firm. (This is actually an uptick for the Tories - over the last year the Liberals have averaged 53%, the NDP 43%, and the Conservatives 40% in Nanos's polling).

Food for thought, if this discussion ever becomes a serious proposal. I think a majority government by either the Liberals or the NDP would be required to get either of these changes implemented (though I wonder about the legitimacy of one party pushing through drastic electoral change). For the moment, at least, that does not seem like a probable outcome for 2015.

56 comments:

  1. "I think a majority government by either the Liberals or the NDP would be required to get either of these changes implemented"

    What about a minority Liberal government, propped up by NDP support? That would also make it appear more legitimate, given that any reform would *need* two major parties in order to accomplish it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That assumes that the Liberals would support MMP or the NDP would support a preferential system. I'm not sure either would.

      Delete
    2. It seems the NDP would benefit greatly even from IRV (“preferential”), so why shouldn't they support that as a first step towards reform?

      Delete
    3. There is a preferential version of MMP called AV+ which would satisfy both parties' stated preferences. It's worth noting that 16 Liberals voted in favour of MMP yesterday though, compared to 15 against, and some of those 15 were only opposed to the process. I think you're off base on that in any event Eric - a minority government seems much more likely as a means to PR.

      The Liberals have explicitly said they won't ram through reforms on their own though. They committed to an all-party process to examine the electoral system. I don't think it's legitimate for one party to change the electoral system on its own, but the NDP's motion won a majority of the vote from Liberal, NDP, Green, Bloc and FeD MPs. Five of six parties at least vaguely agree on the direction we should be taking. PR of any form will never be in the interests of a majority government, but under a minority government the minor partner would have an interest in keeping the government accountable.

      "It seems the NDP would benefit greatly even from IRV (“preferential”), so why shouldn't they support that as a first step towards reform?"

      Because it's not a first step towards anything. The steps to implement any reform are the same - pass a bill in parliament. IRV is no more proportional than FPTP though. It benefits the NDP right now, but it wouldn't have done much for them in the past, and might not in the future. France and Louisiana use run-offs too and they aren't any closer to adopting PR than we are.

      Delete
  2. It's a fascinating view for all the systems. Thanks Eric.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Eric, in you article you seemed to use the terms preferential ballot and single transferable vote interchangeably. However, they are not. Preferential ballot or instant run-off systems are not proportional whereas single transferable vote is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I only mentioned STV once, as it has an element of preferential voting, but you are right that they are not the same. I'll have it fixed.

      Delete
    2. Yes STV is preferential, but its also proportional.

      Instant run-off is proportional, but not preferential.

      You did only use STV once (none of the parties are proposing it), but the distinction is important especially considering how confusing the terms can be for the casual reader.

      Great article, btw!

      Delete
    3. Thanks. The change was made, and I noted the error in a correction.

      Delete
    4. "Instant run-off is proportional, but not preferential. "

      Probably just a typo, but it's the other way around. Instant run-off is preferential but not proportional.

      Delete
    5. Actually, instant runoff can be proportional if you stop the transfers when there are still several candidates left (Multimember Instant Runoff Voting, or MIRV). Ie, it is the combination of a preferential ballot and multimember districts that produces proportionality. MIRV is in effect a slightly simpler version of STV.

      Delete
  4. It would be interesting to model with more realistic changes in party campaigning. With MMP, Liberals and NDP would stop campaigning in high cost per vote areas and focus on urban centres, while Conservatives would probably use a decoy list, a trick that lets you win a majority with 30% support if you have strong rural support.

    With preferential voting, depending how it's counted, smaller well-regarded parties like Greens could have surprise wins if they campaign on second and third choice votes, even with lower first-ballot support, or make deals in exchange for their own supporters' second choices.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. With preferential voting, smaller parties would get more first-ballot support than they do -- many of their potential supporters who vote strategically for a different party would vote for their true first choice if they knew they could still cast a run-off vote for a competitive candidate.

      Delete
  5. Any significant electoral reform should be put to a referendum, as BC's was (BC's was defeated).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But what kind of referendum? Regionally based? Minimum turnout? Two-thirds majority? Maybe put that to a referendum first...

      Delete
    2. A proportional referendum, so that in the next election 35% of the votes get counted proportionally in each riding, and 65% are used for a single-member plurality.

      Delete
    3. Ha ha, awesome. I think the system in New Zealand would work brilliantly in Canada. It still allows for constituency level representation but nation level proportionality. I think to respect the regional nature of Canadian politics, the proportionality would have to be divvied out by province. One thing I think that would be brilliant would be to have the constituency members elected to the HOC and the overflow put into Senate. This solves a few problems. First, it maintains the bicameral nature of our system. It eliminates Senate appointments and makes it a democratic and relevant institution again. BUT, the parties still maintain some control over who goes into Senate, as they construct and publicly publish the party list from which those seats will be allotted within a short time after the writ drops. The other thing it does is, if you look at historical elections, and assume that the constituencies stay the way they were, but consider the total proportionality of seats to be the HOC + Senate seats, and overflow into the Senate, that maintains plurality within the House but typically, the Official Opposition party ends up with a majority in the Senate or, in some cases, a coalition situation. This eliminates some of the potential for instability as well. The Senate can vote down a bill, but it goes back to the House for amendments, instead of triggering another expensive election. I don't know the legalities or procedural aspects of it all (the Constitution would likely be involved, which could be messy), but it sounds like a nice idea, at least in principle. The only disadvantage is, to avoid lots of overhang seats, the number of seats in the Senate would have to increase slightly, or those in the HOC decrease slightly, as the number of added seats to reach proportionality is often quite high, and with the current number of seats in the Senate, the winning party often has WAY more seats than they'd be allotted by PR, even if you count all the Senate seats in. Regardless, I think the last 8 years have shown us that Canada is in serious need of major democratic reform, and the way our leaders are elected is the best place to start.

      Delete
    4. The other quick note on this is that referendums all depend on how the question is presented and advertised. In New Zealand, when they held their referendum in 1993, there were two questions. 1.Do you wish to change the current voting system or keep it the way it is? (or something like that). 2. If change is chosen by voters, which system would you prefer replace the current system? (There were 4 given). The vote in favour of change was over 80%. In both the BC and Ontario cases, the question was "Should we change to [this specific system posed by the Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform] or stay with the current first-past-the-post system?" I think a referendum question like that used in New Zealand is much more helpful. Just like in polls, results are very much changed by how you ask the question.

      Delete
    5. Pharmadaddy,

      Both really great comments. I agree with you entirely.

      Re. overflow seats in the upper chamber, I've often thought that would be a nice way to kill two birds with one stone (FPTP and an unelected, largely impotent Senate). The other convenient benefit that you didn't mention is, it would save a heck of a lot of money! It would be costly to add a bunch of seats to the HoC (not just the furniture of course, but paying the bums that sit in them) and the Senate is as we know, the world's priciest three-ring circus. Doubling up on the costs makes sense.

      Re. the referendum- I personally am of the view that a referendum isn't needed to enact electoral reform, but I agree that if we were to have one, it would have to be a two-part question. I'm confident that an overwhelming majority of Canadians would vote in favour of changing the system we have; not so confident that a majority would be wedded enough to the details of any one system to vote in favour of it. But having established the clear need for change, part 2 would just be a matter of choosing the highest-ranked alternative.

      Delete
    6. If this went to a referendum, I'd suggest having two question:

      Should the number of seats a party receives be roughly proportional to the number of votes its candidates receive?

      Should voters be allowed to rank candidates/parties in order of preference and have those preferences counted accordingly?

      Then turf it to some independent body (an all party committee or Citizens' Assembly or Royal Commission or whoever) to implement. Those two questions will distinguish between MMP/STV/IRV/FPTP in a way that's clear and understandable for voters.

      And unlike in BC, a simple majority should be all that's required. New Zealand implemented MMP with 53% of the vote, BC STV got 58% and was ignored. Sure there was a second referendum, but that was clearly designed to fail as the BC government cut all the resources it had put in to explaining the two systems to voters in the 2005 referendum.

      A referendum isn't required from a legal standpoint though. We got rid of multimember ridings without one, and BC, Alberta and Manitoba have all changed electoral systems twice each without a vote.

      Delete
  6. This is a change that needs to happen, regardless of which PR system is chosen. The arguments against PR fall apart in the face of empirical evidence. Fairvote.ca has a great synopsis of the academic literature on PR. Of particular interest, there is no evidence that it systematically leads to political instability. One could argue that our current system encourages it more so, given that if a minority arises, there is a push to have further elections until a majority is achieved, as we saw from '04-'11. It also leads to policy instability. In a majority situation, the ruling party pushes through more or less whatever they want, albeit sometimes with minor amendments from committee. When the party switches in the next election, there is always a focus on "new government" and change and part of that involves retooling or eliminating much of what the previous government enacted. A minority situation induces cooperation and consensus building. The views of all Canadians are represented in policy decisions, vs those of 40% or less of the population. Maybe I'm naive, but I would assume that after an initial period of growing pains, where some tried to operate as though under a FPTP system, the parties would realize that perpetual partisanship and brinkmanship would bankrupt their party coffers. And the argument that the Conservatives use that we should stick with FPTP because the people voted against it in a few provinces is ridiculous. Some of the most bold policy decisions in Canadian history were wildly unpopular at the time, but proved to be wise when viewed through history's lens. And I was in Ontario during one of those votes. The way PR was explained to the public was just awful. I knew a lot of PR at the time and still found it confusing. People will vote for what they know and what they're comfortable with, even if it's not the best policy decision. My hope is the next election results in a minority situation whereby the NDP and Liberals can form a governing coalition to push this through, and then the whole Canadian political landscape will change for the better. We'll look back on it in 50 years and wonder why we didn't do it sooner.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keep in mind what the Liberals have proposed so far is not a form of proportional representation.

      Delete
    2. Yeah it's more of a voting method change really. I think the NDP MMP proposal is the best way to go. Particularly given the regional nature of Canadian politics.

      Delete
  7. Preferential ballot is the best because proportional rep would give too much weight to fringe parties like the Bloc and the Greens

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The whole point of proportional representation is allow previously marginalised party a voice. The argument is that many "fringe parties" are only fringe because people haven't felt they had a chance - that voting for them would be a waste, even though they believe in their policies more than the mainstream parties. The argument has often been made with regard to the NDP and Greens. The Bloc is another matter, since it was once the offical opposition and may be a fringe party now only in the same way the PCs were in the early 1990s...

      Delete
    2. I think Eric's analysis shows how preferential ballots can skew results even more than FPTP.

      In my view its a half-measure that will only weaken desire for real electoral reform.

      Delete
    3. Truly fringe parties can be avoided by setting a minimum percentage cap. 5% is used in New Zealand I believe. The Bloc would still gain some representation in that situation, which, if Quebecers are voting for them, we can't really deny them that representation. I think provincial proportionality would be the best way to implement MMP in Canada.

      Delete
    4. Jordan, I don't think you read Éric carefully enough. He suggested that preferential ballots might give the impression of skewing results, but are nevertheless representative in another way, by taking into account second choices. A majority of Canadians would prefer to have either the Liberals or NDP in power rather than the Conservatives, but the FPTP system doesn't represent that reality.

      Delete
    5. Chimurenga - Eric's incorrect when he says that though. Even when accounting for second preferences, 50% of the vote in 50% of the ridings still gives you a majority of the seats. That's the same problem we have now.

      If you look at Australia's results, their average disproportionality is 9.9 on the Gallagher Index, compared to 11.6, and the lower value is mostly because their riding sizes are much more equal than ours. France uses a similar two-round system, and their disproportionality is off the charts, averaging 18.1.

      The doesn't mean it's always distorted in the same way though. In the previous election, it would have made our results a bit more proportional. In cases like the 1984 and 1968 elections, it would have done the opposite by handing much larger majorities to Mulroney and Trudeau.

      Dr. Milner from the Université de Montréal showed that instant run-off voting (what people are calling a preferential ballot here) also makes our parliament more regionally polarized. IE the Conservative caucus is more concentrated in the West and rural Ontario, the NDP more concentrated in Quebec, the Liberals more concentrated in Toronto + Atlantic Canada under our present party system. Not a very helpful thing.

      In terms of how MMP would be implemented, I'd suggest doing a quick google for the "Voting Counts: Electoral Reform for Canada." That's a report prepared by the Law Commission of Canada while Irwin Cotler was the Minister of Justice that looked at electoral reform, and provided a very detailed proposal for how MMP could work in Canada.

      Also if you search for the Political Studies Association of the UK's briefing paper on AV (aka IRV aka "preferential voting") clears up a lot of misconceptions both for and against it. It's pretty even handed and a good resource for people on both sides of the debate.

      Delete
  8. I think there is a thirst for progressives to see electoral reform is high these days during a right-wing majority government under Stephen Harper.

    The Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservatives merged in 2003 because of necessity. The right-of-Liberal vote was fractured and the Liberals benefited from vote splitting.

    Of course, the Liberals and NDP will never merge on the federal level. The two parties came from different political cultures. The Liberals and NDP also have a wider support ceiling than the Canadian Alliance and PCs back then.

    If MMP or PV is successfully implemented, the Conservative Party will be severely damaged. A staunch right-winger would not be able to win a majority. The party may need to return to their "Red Tory" roots, but that would upset the majority of its base. In such situation, I won't be surprised if the party splits into two or three smaller parties.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Eric, one thing I would appreciate it if you correct is that you claim Liberals are in favour of "studying preferential voting." The motion at our 2014 convention said preferential voting and/or proportional representation. In the CBC article too.

    Also, FYI there's no such thing as "preferential voting" as its own electoral system. It's a class of voting systems. You're referring to what the Americans call "instant run-off voting (IRV)" and what the British call the "alternative vote." There are other forms of preferential voting out there though, such as Borda, Schulze, STV, P3 and AV+. I'd appreciate if you could keep the terminology correct since so few others do. Some forms of preferential voting are proportional, others are not.

    Also, you said: "Next, mixed-member proportional representation which, for the purposes of this analysis and easier comparison, I've simplified to proportional distribution of the 338 seats in the House (which is, in the end, the net result of the proposed system)."

    That's not correct. MMP as it would be implemented in Canada would be like what they use in Scotland and Wales. Proportionality is at the regional level, and overhangs and rounding errors will tend to aggregate and move things a little bit away from the "perfectly" proportional results. If you contact Wilf Day he has models of the previous elections under MMP which you could use as a baseline. He also has ones you could use for STV and P3.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I understand that MMP is not always perfectly proportional, that is why I said I simplified. The net result is close enough that isn't worth breaking our heads over.

      As to "preferential voting", it seems that the term "preferential ballot" is used quite a bit by the Liberal Party, rather than IRV. I went with what is commonly used by Trudeau (and in terms of highlighting preferential ballots as the Liberals' preference, it certainly seems to be Trudeau's).

      Delete
    2. The Liberals do use "preferential ballot" a lot. They also don't specify which preferential ballot they're actually talking about. There are systems that are both preferential and proportional. Like the P3 that Dion proposed.

      Delete
  10. The best election system in my opinion is Single Transferable Vote. Mixed proportion is great, but some people want to keep local ridings, and ranked ballots don't go far enough in my opinion. STV combines the best of both worlds. This a video explaining it simply.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8XOZJkozfI

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Matthew Shaw - I also think that STV is a great system, but not for the reasons you state. STV does away with single-member electoral districts, whereas MMP does not. If you're looking for the "best of both worlds" MMP is the way to go- local ridings represented by a single MP (just like we have now) but also proportional.

      Delete
  11. A major flaw in your analysis.

    There will not be 5 parties being represented in government there would be 25 or more.

    All our current parties are already ideological coalitions, kept together by the hope to have get power to implement what is closest to what they want.

    The CPC splits to: Small Government party, Christian Party, Farmers party, Capitalist party, Natural resources party, Large business and Small Business parties.

    The NDP and Liberal party supporters will be morph into the Marxist worker party,the CUPE party, The LBGT party, The Working women Feminist party, The Benevolent Dictatorship party (Leftist academics that want to help out the down trodden).

    The Green party will spin off to the Subsistence party and Outdoor park party and the Clean water and Clean air parties - split into anti-air pollution and anti-carbon parties.

    There also will be regional based parties and ethnic based parties,


    .33 % of the vote gets you 1 MP.

    Nothing will get done unless the whole country gets united when the Palestinians start lobbing missiles at us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You went a little too far down the rabbit hole for me to follow you.

      (Most PR systems have a minimum threshold - I did the equivalent by ignoring support for "Other" parties. Would other viable parties emerge? Most probably, but I was looking at it in the current context in order to compare apples to apples.)

      Delete
    2. There can be an "effective threshold" when the PR calculations are done regionally. It's generally assumed to be 0.75 of the quota (how it plays out exactly depends on the distribution of votes, but 0.75 is a good rule of thumb). If we suppose they are using the Droop Quota, then that would be 0.75*(Number of votes)/(Number of seats + 1). So in Newfoundland, that'd be 9.4% of the vote. In Nova Scotia, that'd be 6.5% of the vote. There's a good chance that the Greens would fail to make the threshold in quite a few of the smaller provinces, and that would lower there seat total.

      Delete
    3. Also FYI BCVOR, Germans has 2 parties in its government right now, not 5.

      In Germany's parliament, there are 4 parties. Scotland and Wales have 5, and New Zealand has 7, though 1 of those 7 is the Maori Party which only entered parliament due to the reserved seats for Maoris.

      So don't worry! No one is seriously talking about copying the Netherlands or Israel's electoral systems. Very moderate voting systems are what people are pushing for. It's also what modern academic literature suggests has the best outcomes for things like economic growth, income inequality and a whole slew of other metrics.

      So we're talking ~6 parties in parliament and ~2 parties in government as the typical situation under MMP. Nothing too jarring. The bigger difference would be how the seats are distributed, and while that would hurt Conservatives today, for most of Canadian history it would have helped them.

      Delete
    4. Actually the German Cabinet is composed of three parties; the Christian Democratic Uniion, Christian Social Union (A Bavarian party) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

      Delete
  12. Let's just get the system with the best chance of getting rid of the Reform/Alliance party please !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We each have our biases. I support FPTP because I'm a small-government libertarian, and PR systems tend to produce bigger government.

      FPTP is more likely to produce majority governments (of any stripe), and majority governments tend to spend less.

      I oppose an elected Senate for the same reason (when the Americans started electing their Senators, the size of their government exploded).

      Delete
    2. Ira - you might be interested in knowing that PR countries with small ridings (ie 3-5 MP ridings) actually have smaller government than FPTP countries. Google Carey & Hix 2011 - that's the paper that found that.

      So not MMP if you want small government, but STV.

      And before anyone on the left gets concerned, those countries still had better outcomes on health, education and income inequality even with lower government spending. Win-win.

      Delete
    3. I suspect government would be smaller with proportional representation due to my contention that population density and self-employment being correlated, those who are self-employed tending to oppose government intervention in the market and the urban areas (under FPTP) being underrepresented in the federal legislature.

      The switch from an appointed federal senate to an elected federal senate in the US overlaps with other changes, such as the house of representatives not permanently expanding since 1913, resulting in increasingly populous house of representatives electoral districts, resulting in increasing influence of "special interests" due to the increasing cost of campaigning per electoral district. The electoral college for president is impacted by the size of the house of representatives.

      Delete
    4. Peter,

      Most PR systems will hurt the Liberal party in the long run. Liberals were the most successful political party throughout the 20th century because of FPTP not in spite of it.

      Delete
  13. Using the German MMP system taking Canada’s 308 seat for first by the post and then adding 92 seats for proportional representation and making the simple assumption that the people voting for the candidate is actually voting for the party:
    CPC 166 + 38 = 204 (majority)
    NDP 103 +30 = 133
    Liberal 34 + 18 = 52
    Bloc 4 + 6 = 10
    Green 1 + 0 = 1
    Basically end of the green Party… and case for western separation as Quebec through the BLOC becomes even more over represented. 10 out of 400 seats rather than 4 out of 308.

    Last German election the FDP a member of the Merkell led governing coalition fell below the 5% threshold - from 14.8% to 4.9% of the proportional ballot support and lost 97 seats. ( out of 631 seats available)

    PS: the Green party in Germany is not really the green Party it is Alliance '90/The Greens and I imagine lost some votes to our Canadian type Greens: Human Environment Animal Welfare or the Ecological Democratic Party
    Alliance ’90 was an alliance of three non-Communist political groups in East Germany that had 8 member elected in 1990 when the Green got 0. The Merged party got 1 member elected in 2013 and 63 on the proportion side.

    Voter turnout in Germany is declining since this has been introduced especially in East Germany.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Voter turnout in Germany is declining since this has been introduced especially in East Germany."

      Since what has been introduced exactly?

      Delete
    2. Though BCVOR, you're doing the math wrong here.

      You're doing calculations for Mixed Member Majoritarian, not MMP. The CPC would receive 0 compensatory seats if you do the calculation at the national level. More likely the calculation would be done provincially, so the Conservatives would get compensatory seats in Newfoundland and Quebec, but still nowhere near 38.

      Delete
  14. Eric - How did you handle people not ranking anyone second under IRV? Or did you assume everyone was required to do so?

    The reason I ask is because this actually can change the outcome quite a bit. When IRV was used for decades in Manitoba and Alberta, most people didn't actually bother to rank anyone second. In Australia, you have to rank EVERY SINGLE CANDIDATE to have your vote counted though. Which form were you modelling?

    This may be a double post, and if so I apologize.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I assumed that you did not have the option not to rank any of the candidates.

      Delete
    2. Would you be willing/able to revisit this in your model then? That would not have any sort of precedent in Canada, and is most certainly NOT what the Liberals who support IRV are suggesting.

      Delete
  15. I think preferential voting is the most transparent electoral system and makes the most holistic sense for Canada. The truth is, in a multi-party system, people don't just have first party preferences, but often second and third party preferences as well. Is there some great metaphysical reason why those preferences shouldn't matter?

    Furthermore, the idea that only the first party choice is relevant is based on an illusion that parties in a multi-party system are somehow "evenly" spaced along an ideological spectrum. But almost always the force of historical circumstance means that come election time, some parties are closer to one another ideologically (and policy-wise) than other ones. For instance, depending on the election, the difference between the Liberals and Conservatives, or the Liberals and NDP (or even the Liberals and Greens in 2008), may be small potatoes, no matter what party rhetoric suggests, which can happen when two parties are defining themselves against a third one from the same side of an ideological divide. (This plays out at a local level, too, when candidates in a riding are similar to one other). So why not vote for both (or all three, or four) of the parties you agree with in one way or another (or, contrarily, NOT vote for the parties you really, really don't like)?

    Preferential voting also encourages dialogue and is consensus-building, which is essential for a country as diverse, fragmented, and regional as Canada is. We hardly need more fragmentation. Whereas a true proportional system would encourage a proliferation of small parties with parochial and regional interests (a party would only need 0.3% of the vote to land a seat in Parliament -- Rhinoceros Party to the rescue, anyone?), preferential voting means that parties have a huge incentive to appeal beyond their own base for second and third choice votes. (Supporters of proportional representation generally argue that the problem of splintering parties and interests can be partly "fixed" by imposing a vote threshold a party must pass to gain seats. But such an ad hoc device actually seems contradictory to the spirit of, and the most fundamental reasons for, having a proportional representation system in the first place. If proportion lends proportional legitimacy, why is a party technically and suddenly "illegitimate" if it has, say, less than a threshold of 5% of the votes? Why even bother with PR if we have to cut it down to size because even its own advocates don't really seem to believe in the basic reasons for recommending it in the first place?)

    Finally, I simply have a strong distaste for party lists, or lists of any sort, which are requisite in one way or another in proportional representational systems. Every member should be directly elected by and responsible to the people, not selected from lists crammed with party loyalists put together by the underhanded machinations of party insiders. How that is really more democratic is beyond me.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'm a big fan of a preferential ballot because:

    1. The candidate must be acceptable to the majority of his riding. Once elected, a member becomes strictly accountable to his riding. Trained seal whipped votes inimical to majority opinion in his riding will seriously damage reelection prospects. In FPTP, party advertising can usually whip up the 34% necessary to gain reelection.

    2. Voters will gain the power to vote against a candidate by ranking all the other candidates above him. Do not underestimate this valuable power.

    3. We will no longer have the 40% lording it over the 60% Governments will become accountable to all instead of just the party base.

    4. Voters will gain the freedom to mark their first choice for a candidate unaffiliated with a major party knowing that by marking second and third choices their ballot will still count.

    5. Power will come back to individual voters in a riding back from party machines.

    6. Phony majorities will become an unmourned artifact of the past.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "We will no longer have the 40% lording it over the 60% Governments will become accountable to all instead of just the party base. "

      Um. 50% of the vote in 50% of the ridings is still just 25% of the.

      Australia has had plenty of phony majorities under a preferential ballot in single member ridings I'm afraid.

      Delete
  17. How about a FPTP House of Commons and a Single list system (one list 100 names per party) elected by proportional rep. Both houses to be equal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Doug,

      The only problem with your idea is that currently the Constitution requires M.P.s be from a single province, thus, you could not have a constituency that straddles a provincial border. You could have a list system per province for the Senate, although this would also require constitutional reform.

      Delete

COMMENT MODERATION POLICY - Please be respectful when commenting. If choosing to remain anonymous, please sign your comment with some sort of pseudonym to avoid confusion. Please do not use any derogatory terms for fellow commenters, parties, or politicians. Inflammatory and overly partisan comments will not be posted. PLEASE KEEP DISCUSSION ON TOPIC.