Thursday, October 16, 2008

Election "08 - Proportional representation chart

This chart shows how many seats each party would have received under proportional representation in yesterday's election.

From Fair Vote Canada :
"Once again, Canada’s antiquated first-past-the-post system wasted millions of votes, distorted results, severely punished large blocks of voters, exaggerated regional differences, created an unrepresentative Parliament and contributed to a record low voter turnout."

The chief victims of the October 14 federal election were:

- Green Party: 940,000 voters supporting the Green Party sent no one to Parliament, setting a new record for the most votes cast for any party that gained no parliamentary representation. By comparison, 813,000 Conservative voters in Alberta alone were able to elect 27 MPs.
- Prairie Liberals and New Democrats: In the prairie provinces, Conservatives received roughly twice the vote of the Liberals and NDP, but took seven times as many seats.
- Urban Conservatives: Similar to the last election, a quarter-million Conservative voters in Toronto elected no one and neither did Conservative voters in Montreal.
- New Democrats: The NDP attracted 1.1 million more votes than the Bloc, but the voting system gave the Bloc 50 seats, the NDP 37.
“How can anyone consider this democratic representation?” asked Barbara Odenwald, President of Fair Vote Canada.
Now just imagine how much higher voter turnout would be if more people could depend on their vote actually counting for something.

In 2002, Elections Canada hired Decima to do a survey of over 5000 Canadians on their satisfaction with our current electoral system, including roughly equal amounts of voters and non-voters.
70% were either "Very supportive" or "Somewhat supportive" of the introduction of proportional representation :

Instead, we get this :
along with some self-serving rhetoric from rich old white guys about how a proportional representation system would be "disfunctional", exactly the same reason the same guys gave for calling this last election.
We can either support the aims of Fair Vote Canada or we can watch that wiggly black line in the above graph continue its downward trend towards less than 50% participation in elections.


Jon Dursi said...

Do you really believe that telling people `your vote will be worth 3 one hundred thousandths of a seat nationally' -- compared to `help elect your local representative' is going to get people off the couch to vote who wouldn't vote otherwise?

The problem with getting people involved with the democratic process is a lot more fundamental than voting procedures. In a time where we can vote in a dozen online polls a day or participate in tens of blog discussions of politics, being able to vote once every few years just doesn't excite people, quite reasonably. Countries with PR are also experiencing declining participation.

One thing which will certainly *not* help is s strengthening the party system so that voters have even less say between elections - so that people can't bug their local elected reps about stuff that matters to them. If you are going to have 28/117/23/81/57 party-chosen loyalists in parliament who will always toe the party line, why bother having parliament at all? Why not just give Harper 117 votes, Dion 81 votes, etc, and put them in a small office and save some money?

We need to figure out how to get people more involved in the process, and making votes count nationally instead of by riding while still having the only participation be once every few years isn't going to make any fundamental changes. Moving away from First-past-the-post is easy; you could go to instant-runoff ballots or acceptance voting and that wouldn't require a constitutional change (which PR would, as MPs explicitly come from local ridings in the constitution).

The fact that Qu├ębec and Alberta have such local voting patterns reflects real local issues that need to be dealt with, not ignored.
Removing local representation doesn't help democracy, and it doesn't change particpation trends.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I like the STV system, which allows for regional candidates while at the same time allowing people to vote for the party they actually support, rather than having to vote strategically to avoid split votes returning a candidate they strongly dislike.

As it is, small parties such as the Greens become counterproductive - all they do is syphon votes from the parties closest to them in ideology, essentially turning their votes into support for the parties they are most opposed to. STV would change that, without any significant upheaval to the electoral system.

That said, I agree totally about the usefulness of direct democracy. When (most) peoples only involvement in politics is a single vote every four years, and even then the vote is usually wasted, it's hardly a surprise that most people are poorly informed and unmotivated.

Chrystal Ocean said...

Great article on PR, Alison.

Alison said...

1)Yes I do believe telling people that under MMP or STV their vote will count for something, as opposed to nothing, will get them off the couch.
2)Online polling and blogging is not a replacement for a system of democracy, such as it is.
3)Countries with FPtP are also experiencing declining voter participation but at a higher rate than IVR, MMP, or STV.
4)Voters will have the same access to their MLA as they have now.
5)We have party-chosen leaders now under FPtP. "28/117/23/81/57" is a wider range of representation than we have now and many MMP govs have seven national parties. Possibly there will be one in there for me that isn't composed of war-mongering corporate ass-kissing deep integrationists who are still unable to bring in a decent daycare system after 13 years of not trying to.
As to local representation, that's up to you, isn't it? As I mentioned, you have your elected MLA and 5 to 7 other parties to turn to with your complaints/ideas.

I read quite a bit of your blog. I appreciate that you are not surreptitiously defending FPtP here. What would you suggest in its place? I'm unwilling to wait any longer for a mythically perfect system.

Declan , Idealistic Pragmatist , and Dr Dawg all explain this much better than I can.

Wayne Smith said...

Responses to Jon:

The question is whether you get a vote that counts or one that doesn't. Under the current system, most of us vote for people who don't get elected. Our votes have no effect on the outcome of the election, and we end up "represented" by somebody we voted against. Most of us live in safe ridings and know who will be elected in our riding before the votes are cast. We have few real choices, or none at all.

No argument against more participatory democracy, but first we need a fair voting system.

Every single MP elected under our current system votes the way their party tells them to, every single time. If they don't, they don't last long. Most MPs "represent" mostly people who voted against them. The question is, are we going to have a way to hold political parties accountable or not. That's why emerging democracies in Europe invented proportional voting 100 years ago, and why over 80 countries use it today.

PR does not require constitutional change, and it doesn't involve "removing local representation". Both PR systems being discussed for Canada, MMP and STV, allow voters to choose local representatives while holding parties accountable.

Oemissions said...

Does anyone have the break down for polls within the constituencies.?
I would like to know the results from the polling stsation where I voted.

Alison said...

Thank you, Wayne

mlj : In the last election I just phoned up my riding headquarters and asked for the results.
I just tried and failed to get same from Elections Canada website.
Maybe it's too soon for them to have gotten around to posting them.

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