Wednesday, August 08, 2007

MMP : The Truth About FPTP - Representation

Does FPTP give us better representation than MMP?

The answer is no, of course not.

Right now, Ontarians, compared to citizens in other provinces, are already the most poorly represented citizens in Canada. In our current legislature, there are 103 Members of Provincial Parliament (MPP). Under FPTP, on average, there is one 1 MPP for every 118,061 citizens based upon the 2006 Census data (Ontario population, 12,160,282).

Under the MMP model proposed by the Ontario Citizens' Assembly, the total number of members would rise to 129, thereby meaning 1 member for every 94,266 Ontarians.

But, doesn't that just mean there is less direct representation?

No, that's not true either.

Under the current model, an Ontarian is represented directly by their local MPP, and indirectly by the Premier and the Cabinet. For example, if a citizen has an issue with education, they are free to contact their local MPP, the Minister of Education, or the Premier with their concerns.

Under the new model, an Ontarian is represented directly by their local MPP, directly by thirty-nine other Ontario-wide MPP's, and still indirectly by the Premier and the Cabinet. In this example, if a citizen has an issue with education say, they can contact their local MPP, or one of the other thirty-nine Ontario-wide MPP's, the Minister of Education, or the Premier with their concerns. In this way, Ontarians are represented directly by 40 Members plus the Premier and his or her Cabinet. Remember, those 39 Ontario-wide MPP's are relying on your vote just as much as your local candidate (more so, in fact).

Wait. How can a list candidate be relying on my vote more than my local candidate?

If a local candidate is removed from caucus, they can still run in a local riding as an independent. Name recognition for the local candidate will run high, if he was a high performing candidate, such as a Chuck Cadman, or a maverick non-conformer, like a Garth Turner. However, the list candidate does not have a local riding to fall back on if they are removed from caucus.

This means, if the list MPP is removed from caucus, and if they want to run again in the next election, they will need to find a local riding - which means, they will have to represent you to get your vote, in that riding. Or, at the very least, bring that name recognition to the local riding. That's no different under FPTP.

I'll get into the list candidates, in another post. I'll come back, and link to that post from here.

Fine. But, isn't more politicians a bad thing?

More politicians are a bad thing, if they do not represent anything. As it would stand under the proposal, there would be 1 Member of Provincial Parliament for about every 95,000 Ontarians, with the total number of MPP's being 129.

By comparison, some other ratios are:

  • Quebec has 1 Member for every 60,369 citizens (125 seats in the National Assembly; based on a population of 7,546,131).
  • Alberta has 1 Member for every 39,643 citizens (83; population of 3,290,350)
  • Manitoba has 1 Member for every 20,147 citizens (57; population of 1,148,401)
  • PEI has 1 Member for every 5,031 citizens (27; population of 135,851)
  • Nunavut has 1 Member for every 1,551 citizens (19; population of 29,474)

So, Ontario is largely the true conservative bastion when it comes to the number of politicians (federally, they are a little more "conservative" in their representation) and will remain the conservative bastion it is, under MMP.

Up next, how political parties choose candidates under FPTP.

[The Truth About FPTP]

13 comments:

JimBobby said...

Excellent point on constituents per member. In your research, did you notice the variations within Ontario? Rural ridings, like my Haldimand-Norfolk riding, have fewer voters per MPP than Toronto ridings. Some are worried that MMP will dilute rural (and northern) represntation. That may, indeed, happen but, as is, us country folks are gettin' more per capita representation than we deserve.

JB

Jim said...

JB,

I do know that riding-by-riding there is extreme variation, but I don't have anything to compare it to until the 90 constituency seats are designated. I know Blue Blogging Soapbox has the breakdown.

In all likelihood, you're right. The ones currently over represented - like the Timiskaming-Cochrane's and Algoma-Manitoulin's in the low-50's for voting population - will see the per capita increase.

Anyway, to make my life easier, I went with the straight voters per MPP ratio.

JimBobby said...

Thankee kindly, Jimmy.

northwestern_lad said...

Jim and Jim Bobby.... this whole representation issue is why I am not in favour of this MMP set up. You're asking rural and Northern ridings that are already the minority to give more representation to a small geographic area that already has the majority of the seats.

And Jim Bobby, you may think that you don't deserve that level of representation, but I completely disagree with that. At the end of the day, no matter what the system is, Ontario's rural and northern ridings will have the minority of seats. Under the MMP system, these areas loose guarenteed seats for a chance at the MMP lottery. So don't be stunned when your rural issues continue to be ignored under this system.

Frankly, when I look at where this system is going, more power is just being concentrated in the GTA, screwing the rest of the province, espically the North. I can't help but get more and more convinced that there is no place for Northern Ontario in the Ontario of today.

Scott Tribe said...

IS that official then Cam? Are you anti-MMP?


An anti-MMP NDP'er. That's a rarity ;)

Jim said...

JB,

No problem.

===

Cam,

I think you're better served by supporting MMP. You will never be served by FPTP, unless you want to create an Ontario Senate or advocate northern independence.

Under MMP, you would vote for candidates (NDP or otherwise) from parties that have strong Northern representation.

If the parties choose not to run a selection of candidates from the north, you wouldn't vote for that party.

northwestern_lad said...

Scott... i'm pro electoral reform, but I am against this creation of MMP because of it's possible long term effects. I'm not going to change to flawed system to replace another flawed system. I believe in doing the job right the first time, and this won't do it. If this MMP system didn't have so many unanswered questions about it's form, I might be able to get behind it. Plus Scott, I am on the fence right now. I have my concerns and I'm voicing them because I want to see what people would do about this concern of mine. With some of the responses I've seen, I can't say that I feel like my concerns and the concerns of many Northerners are being taken seriously. I'm looking for reasons to vote for this to alay my fears, and I have yet to come across one yet.

Jim, Thanks for your two cents. I appreciate other views on this. As for the difference between FPTP and MMP on Northern representation, neither system really cuts it. Yes, under FPTP it's the shits, yet under MMP, the North looses guarenteed representation and has that replaced with what is little more than an "MMP Lottery".

When you says that the parties could make their policies for the North, that's very true, but that could also happen in FPTP. The reason why that hasn't happened is because in trying to gain that small amount of Northern support, you stand to loose a lot of Southern Support. The fact is that there are "market pressures" (sorry, I can't think of a better way of putting that) in elections. Parties are always pushed towards where the votes are and their chances at support are. The fact that Northern Ontario contains approximately 1/24th of the electorate doesn't give it any pull. So what is the interest for the major parties to run strong Northern Candidates in the search of 1/24th of the electorate when that will work against them with the other 23/24th's of the voters. Simply put, parties can form governments rather easily without support from the North, and that's the same in FPTP and MMP.

I am an eternal optimist, which I way I have waited so long to comment on MMP. I attended on of the Citizen's Assembly meetings back in December, and I got a strong feeling then that regional representation didn't matter, and that would probably be the thing to go. I voiced my concerns about it then, and was sounded berated for it.

I'd love to think that the parties would do just what you are saying Jim, but past history teaches me otherwise.

With such a huge difference in population between the North and the South, I doubt that any system would adequately deal with my concern on that, but at least with FPTP, as a Northern, I'm guarenteed 11 MPP's, and that's better than 7-8 MMP's for sure and depending on the parties to do right by the North for more.

I am sure not pro-FPTP, but i'd rather deal with the evil I know than the one I don't. Thanks for writing a good, reasoned piece though on MMP. I think that we get a lot further with civilized debates like this.

Jim said...

Cam,

I think you have a valid point.

I think, though, the problem is that you feel that parties are not paying enough attention to northern issues and maybe you're disappointed that the electoral system would not resolve that issue.

That said, and if you feel that the parties cannot or will not represent a northern viewpoint, then MMP does provide you with a solution - although, I do not advocate it.

Under MMP, a Northern Ontario Party (hopefully, the acronym would not be pronounced nope, somebody would have to come up with a better name :) ) could be formed, to bring MPP's exclusively from the north. That party could form into a coalition with the governing party. 7-8 NOPer's forming a coalition would leverage more strength.

northwestern_lad said...

Jim, it's true that a Northern Party could be formed (and trust me, that's something that I won't be surprised to see happen) but the problem with that is the 3% threshold. Basically Northern Ontario makes up only 5% of the total electorate, so any Northern Party would have to get 60% of the northern vote to earn an MMP seat. If they could pull off 60% they wouldn't need the MMP seats because they would win ridings outright.

While a Northern Party could hold more power in a Minority government, that could still happen in FPTP.

The "Vote for MMP" people, to have any success in Northern and Rural ridings are going to have to be able to answer this question: "What is in this for me and how does guarentee me better representation?" That's been the litmus test that i've been using to help form my decision, and I have yet to receive an answer to push me to a "Yes" vote.

Aamir said...

"You're asking rural and Northern ridings that are already the minority to give more representation to a small geographic area that already has the majority of the seats."

That's not what MMP does at all.

" Under the MMP system, these areas loose guarenteed seats for a chance at the MMP lottery."

Every area loses the 'guaranteed' local seats in equal proportion (Current Rep by Pop will be maintained). The 103 Citizens Assembly members had many people from Northern Ontario and they wouldn't have agreed to a system that would hurt Northern Ontario.

That is because the list seats are hardly a lottery.

For one thing the Citizens Assembly created the most locally focused MMP system in the world. With 70% of the seats local and no 'overhangs' every big party that wants to do well in an election has to do well in the local seats.

Secondly any party that ignores Northern Ontario at or near the top of its list in an election will not only be roasted for it in local papers, but will also be pounced on by opposing parties. That party will not only lose precious party votes while not gaining them anywhere else (Ignoring Northern Ontario doesn't earn parties bonus points anywhere else in the province) and conceding the region to its opponents. It will also suffer in the extremely important local seats.

Thirdly even if a party doesn't manage to win any seats in Northern Ontario, all that will mean is that most of the non Northerners on its list will be removed as they won locally. This will mean that Northerners *will* rise to the top of the list and get in to provide representation with the list seats the party earns (Southern party votes can help to elect Northerners in this system).

And these list politicians *will* provide local representation as they do in every other country that uses MMP. This is because winning locally is the only guaranteed way to get into government and in fact if a party does well locally in an election than any list members it has get thrown out for no fault of their own. All serious list politicians need to compete locally and need to maintain roots in their area by providing local service and representation.

Fourthly any party with a significant amount of Northern support will make Northern issues a condition for joining a coalition. As these are easy conditions to agree to they will be valuable potential allies in government (unlike the Family Coalition for example which a large party will have to think long and hard about allying with to avoid angering its social progressives). The cooperative aspects of proportional governments are a major selling point for me.

The potential for a Northern Ontario party has already been discussed. But wouldn't a hypothetical Rural Ontario party focus on much the same issues as a Northern Ontario party? And get support from large sections of the province not in the North making it much easier to get over the 3% mark?

Just the threat of such splinters are an actual worry in MMP unlike FPTP and that in and of itself forces parties to pay attention to everybody in their tent.

FPTP minority governments are rare and nasty short lived affairs as every party is campaigning for a majority; MMP minority governments are a fact of life and turn into stable coalitions as parties have to learn to listen to each other and work together.

northwestern_lad said...

aamir my friend, I think you're being a little naive.... "The 103 Citizens Assembly members had many people from Northern Ontario and they wouldn't have agreed to a system that would hurt Northern Ontario."... They were 103 citizens representing the 103 ridings. That means there were only 11 Northerners in the Assembly. 10% of the total group. Are you trying to tell me that that 10% had enough of a voice to stop this???

I attended Citizen's Assembly public meetings and didn't hear anyone step up to defend the North when I brought the regional representation issue up.

Them fact is that there will be only 90 riding seats, and 39 MMP seats, that could come from anywhere in the province. So the North does loose guaranteed seats, that is a fact. And those 39 MMP seats can come from anywhere in the province because there is no system in place to assure that those seats come from certain areas. That makes is essentially a lottery.

"Secondly any party that ignores Northern Ontario at or near the top of its list in an election will not only be roasted for it in local papers, but will also be pounced on by opposing parties." This is just a BS point, sorry but it is. The "local papers" roasting the parties. Which ones??? There are only a handful of newspapers in the province with the circulation to be able to make a large-scale difference, and they are all in Southern Ontario. Do you really think that Torontoians are going to get up in arms because there aren't enough Northerners on these lists??? The only group to complain about that would be Northerners, and the last time I checked, the Thunder Bay Chroncile-Journal and Kenora Daily Miner and News wern't known for changing policies at Queen's Park. If that were the case, then the Spring Bear Hunt would have been re-instated and we'd have regional pricing for Hydro. The parties are going to put people on their lists to represent where the votes are??? If you live in Windsor, Ottawa or Toronto, why would you vote for a party that has a large majority of list candidates from the North???? They wouldn't.


"Thirdly even if a party doesn't manage to win any seats in Northern Ontario, all that will mean is that most of the non Northerners on its list will be removed as they won locally. This will mean that Northerners *will* rise to the top of the list and get in to provide representation with the list seats the party earns (Southern party votes can help to elect Northerners in this system)." You're obviously assuming that these lists will be topped by names that are already running in other ridings. There is no guarantee of that. In fact, the impulsion would more than likely be to place people who they really want on these lists in front of others who are running elsewhere. Once again, those Northern loosing candidates may be on those lists, but how many others who didn't run for a riding will be on that list and how far up the list will they be??? To say that Northerners *will* rise to the top is false because you cannot guarantee that. This system leaves these kinds of details up to the forces of popularity. A good example would be the PC's, who are equally unpopular in the North as they are in Toronto proper. If you are them under this system and trying to win a majority, are you going to focus on gaining votes in Toronto, where there are millions of voters, or Northern Ontario, where there is only 1/2 million total.

And finally "Fourthly any party with a significant amount of Northern support will make Northern issues a condition for joining a coalition. As these are easy conditions to agree to they will be valuable potential allies in government" Once again, you're making assumptions about what they "will" do. If your crystal ball is working that well, please lend it to me because i'd like to play the 6/49 this weekend. There has never been a party in the history of Ontario that has gained power from putting themselves out there on Northern Issues. I'd love to think that under this system that could happen, but history doesn't come close to giving that a chance. Sorry

Aamir said...

"aamir my friend, I think you're being a little naive.... "The 103 Citizens Assembly members had many people from Northern Ontario and they wouldn't have agreed to a system that would hurt Northern Ontario."... They were 103 citizens representing the 103 ridings. That means there were only 11 Northerners in the Assembly. 10% of the total group. Are you trying to tell me that that 10% had enough of a voice to stop this???"

I'm saying that I went and watched as many Citizens Assembly discussion meetings as I could (not the public meetings but the debates in York University in which the CA deliberated amongst themselves to create and vote on alternative systems), and one of the most heartening parts of the whole process was seeing Southern members of the CA worried about Northern representation and Northern members concerned about the problems immigrants in the GTA face. If I could have turned over the running of the entire province to those people I would have done it.

Heck I'm not asking you to believe me. Go to the citizen’s assembly website and ask to talk to one of the members from the North yourself. I'm sure they'll oblige. From what I know they're holding a lot of meetings in all areas of Ontario.

"Do you really think that Torontoians are going to get up in arms because there aren't enough Northerners on these lists??? The only group to complain about that would be Northerners, and the last time I checked, the Thunder Bay Chroncile-Journal and Kenora Daily Miner and News wern't known for changing policies at Queen's Park."

You're thinking in FPTP mode where the only way to get heard is to win a large majority which is not only out of the reach of the North but in fact a party can create a false majority by ignoring the North or merely paying lip-service.

In MMP and other proportional systems however to get things done requires being a contributing member of a COALITION. That's a completely different mode of operation that allows many more voices to be heard. And that includes the voices that are represented by media outlets such as the one you mentioned.

Party lists are one of the most important factors for making a decision in MMP and any party that short changes the north in its list will be KNOWN due to Northern papers and opposing parties eager to scoop up support. This in a situation where a minority result in an election is most likely and thus EVERY seat is important for a party (completely different situation from the current false majorities).


"If you live in Windsor, Ottawa or Toronto, why would you vote for a party that has a large majority of list candidates from the North???? They wouldn't."

Never said they would. I said that giving Northern Ontarian members *good spots* on the list wouldn't bother anybody living in Windsor, Ottawa, or Toronto. What would bother them would be the party not also giving good spots to candidates from Windsor (for Windsorians), Ottawa (for Ottawans), or Toronto (for Torontonians). Which is fair yeah?


"You're obviously assuming that these lists will be topped by names that are already running in other ridings."

You bet I am, and for the very simple reason that this is what happens in every other place that uses MMP.

Why?

Because running only on a list is a stupid mistake for any politician who actually wants to get into Parliament. This is because if a big party does well locally than it doesn't get any list seats to make up their proportion. List only politicians then get wiped out of government because their party performs *well* no matter where they are on the list. To prevent this is why something like 95% of the incumbents of German and New Zealand parliaments run on *both* lists in an election and why the rising to the top of under represented groups does so well (this works for minorities and gender representation as well as geographic representation). I can link you to the study that I’m getting this from, if you wish.

"A good example would be the PC's, who are equally unpopular in the North as they are in Toronto proper. If you are them under this system and trying to win a majority, are you going to focus on gaining votes in Toronto, where there are millions of voters, or Northern Ontario, where there is only 1/2 million total."

Once again you're in FPTP mode. No party in Ontario has won a real majority since 1937. And any party that focuses too much on Toronto is going to get punished for it in other parts of the province. The successful large parties are going to be the ones that best balance the competing demands of all parts of the province. This is because amount of support matters in proportional systems unlike FPTP where concentrations of support is the important thing.

Look I'm not claiming that MMP will solve all the problems of Northern or Rural Ontario, or any part of Ontario for that matter. What I am saying is that your reasoning for MMP *reducing* the representation of Northern Ontario as compared to FPTP don't bear out when you look at how MMP works everywhere that it is actually in operation. (Which is because MMP lists overall don't really work like a lottery, which is I think the crux of our disagreement).

That combined with the fact that parties have to COOPERATE with each other to run government for a change (as getting a majority is as hard as it should be) means far more points of view will contribute to the running of the province than now and the days of large parties succeeding by only playing to the base where they actually manage to win ridings and ignore their support from everywhere else will be over.

Mark Greenan said...

Aamir,
Graet responses to Cam's concerns.

And Cam, I respect your concerns for the North, but it seems to me that you don't yet grasp the logic of proportional voting systems (that Aamir has described so well).

Under the current system, its logic ensures that elections are largely fought by attempting to attract the elusive "swing voters" in select "swing ridings". The concerns of voters that aren't in those swing ridings are thus largely irrelevant to FPTP election campaigns. On the other hand, the logic of proportional electoral systems, where every vote counts everywhere in the jurisdiction, is completely different. Rather than concentrating their efforts on a minority of voters, parties are encouraged to maximize their supporters in every area in the province.

I think this will mean better representation for the North and rural Ontario because it means that the larger parties have to speak to all regions of the province, even where they're weak.

For example, under the current system, the PCs largely ignore the North as they are very unlikely to win seats. Under MMP they would be FOOLISH to do so, because every vote they get there counts towards a seat. Ignore the North and fail to have good Northern representatives on their list and they lose those crucial votes which affect the results in a PR system.