Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Why MMP is Wrong for Ontario pt. 10

This is really an update on a couple of reasons I've already discussed. The first is the end of majority governments. I decided to look through election results looking for governments which satisfied the criteria for a majority under MMP. The criteria to review are either:

1. 50% of the popular vote


2. 72.2% (65/90) of riding seats

Since the formation of the NDP in 1963 exactly one election produced the requisite conditions for a majority. Any guesses? If you said David Peterson's win in 1987 you would have been right. Peterson got won in over 72.2% of the then 130 ridings. It is good to note here that NO government since the emergence of the NDP has got over 50% of the popular vote (some parts of the Tory dynasty got close, but no cigar). Thus, only one majority would have been elected in Ontario in the last 45 years. Of course, the second criteria is really an aberration as MMP is designed to ensure that parties receive seats according to their popular vote. In this case, the compensatory list seats would have been insufficient to deny Peterson a majority. The intention of the system is to prevent majorities. If we want the system, we should want it fully functional and that means majority preventing.

There are those that argue that coalition governments will prevent constant elections. I have already noted the short tenure of the last coalition government. I want to add that while MMP receives the incentives that a governing party may have to call an election i.e. a majority, it does not prevent the opposition from wanting an election to form a government or just increase their standing as the case may be. The 2006 federal election was not called because Martin wanted a majority.

Also, I noted earlier about the complicated nature of the new system. I do not think it is that complicated, however, I know that voters do not necessarily have a strong grasp on the electoral system. Having scrutineered in a couple of elections in the past, I know how often people are confused by the current system. It is also not enough merely to know how to vote, people should understand EXACTLY how those votes translate into seats. In my view, a referendum only works as a means of determining policy if the electorate is fully informed. Otherwise, referenda can lead to poor decisions like those that have handcuffed the California legislature.

Oh, and I don't know whether I should applaud or laugh at the fact that my anti-MMP posts are showing up on the vote for MMP website. I really doubt they are doing it intentionally to encourage debate and, therefore, I'm going to laugh.


Greg said...

Your belief that what has happened with coalitions under first past the post, will continue under MMP is wrong. Why? Because, the incentive to "pull the trigger will be gone". The main incentive to hold an election under our current system is the belief by a party that it can swing those 5 or 6 percent of the voters needed to give them 40 percent of the vote and thus a majority. If they need a much higher level of support to create a real majority, they will not be so quick to call an election.

Also, please note that the 2006 election was run under first past the post, where small shifts in votes can mean big payoffs for the various parties.

Raymond Lorenz said...

I agree that we need an informed electorate to have a legitimate referendum result.

Environics is keeping track of voter awareness of the MMP proposal.

I would argue that the "intention of the system" (MMP) is to better represent the voters' intentions.

If voters believe "majority governments" is what they really want, they still have the option of voting for the "highest polling" party through their "party vote".

Wilf Day said...

"The end of majority governments?" You mean the end of one-party majority governments with a manufactured majority. But do you really think the voters should get a one-party majority government whether they want one or not?

Scotland has had three governments since they got their own MMP Parliament: two majority two-party coalitions, and one minority. Much like Ontario's history. On the other hand Germany, which has gotten used to MMP, has 13 provinces that use it: 9 two-party majority coalitions, and four one-party majority governments. Voters get what they vote for.

But all this is beside the real point: thanks to the wisdom of the Ontario legislature in seeing that electoral reform and, to get it, you have to move past self-interested politics-as-usual and turn it over to the people, we had a Citizens' Assembly.

If voters say yes, Ontario will become the only jurisdiction in the world where the key democratic institution linking voters and their representatives has been designed by citizens rather than elites and politicians.

Do you think you could have done a better job? No one of them got their own way: it's a compromise design, suiting the diverse needs of Ontario's diversity. That's its strength, isn't it?

Linuxluver said...

It's funny that if European politicians want to scare voters, they raise the prospect of a one-party, majority government with over 50% of the vote. Voter in Europe see such governments as arrogant, deaf to voters and generally hostile to good consensual government.

Having lived in New Zealand, which uses MMP, I know exactly how they feel. Critics of MMP laud the one-party dictatorships that are the norm in Canada, while I have come to see them as generally obnoxious and hostile to good government. One party, able to follow its ideology without any restraint is, in my experience, not a good thing. I much prefer the natural situation under PR systems that requires several parties to work together in a practical, reality-based way, to govern. The result speak for themselves in countries that use MMP, in particular. No chaos. Stable, effective governments that las the ful term. ...and they listen. The party vote means they MUST listen right through the electoral cycle....nont just a the few months before an election as we too often see under the present system in Canada and Ontario.

Mark Greenan said...

"The intention of the system is to prevent majorities."

Actually, it's to fairly represent voters' preferences.

If voters want a majority, they can so do - by 50% + 1 of them voting for a party!

Jonathan Rose said...

Hi Aaron
A colleague directed me to your blog wondering if I knew you at Queen's and suggested I take a look at your postings on MMP. I'm really pleased that apparently you have given a lot of thought to the CA MMP model but there are myriad errors both in the assumptions of your questions as well as the claims you make. (such as a majority government requires 65/90 riding seats. Not so.)

I am completely agnostic about the CA model and many of the questions you raise are important ones. Some however are not related to electoral systems but rather the work of Elections Ontario (such as changing the number of electoral districts). I would love the opportunity to talk to you about some of your concerns (either by email or by phone) so that I might answer some of your concerns. I hope you get in touch. And keep up the discussion. It's very useful as a way of stimulating debate...

cheers, Jonathan Rose.

Andy said...

such as a majority government requires 65/90 riding seats.

Doesn't he clearly present that as only one of two sufficient conditions of a majority under Ontario MMP, the second being that a party receives >50% of the party vote?

Is there some third way that a majority government could be formed (other than through some sort of coalition or as the result of defections from other parties, etc.)?

It would be interesting to hear what some of the other errors are. It's a very complex issue and it will be helpful to have thought it through fully by voting time.

Raymond Lorenz said...

The way I understand it, there are lots of challenges to "direct transposition" of election results from majoritarian results (FPTP), to a more proportional system (MMP). This includes consideration given to the incresed number of expected parties in the legislature.

Then there are the challenges of estimating the new results based how Elections Ontario could combine the existing ridings, relative to each party's strongholds.

Since no overhangs are allowed, majority governments are possible with less than 50% of the party vote, especially since somewhat more parties are expected to be competing for the party vote...the Greens, the FCP, or possibly a splitting/recombining of the old parties.

Then there is a possible realignment of parties along the left-right ideological continuum, and the resulting changes to voting patterns.

Then there are the intangibles, such as the "new" party dynamics expected in the legislature.

It all gets pretty complex, when you think of all of the possible variables...

Andy said...

Would it be roughly correct to say that what you actually need is 50% of that portion of the party vote that goes to the parties with enough PVs (i.e. at least 3%) to win seats?

So if (say) there turn out to be six eager-beaver new parties that decide to take a flier with the "list", and these obtain just 1% to 1.5% apiece for a total of 8% of the party vote among them, then, supposing no other party fell beneath the 3% cutoff, a party that won 50% of the remaining vote (i.e. .5 * (100-8) = 46%) would probably be able to form a majority after the distribution of the list seats?

If so, we could fairly easily end up barely ahead of where we started, at least insofar as the allegedly scandalous "false majority" question was concerned. And that would be a pure PR problem too -- it has nothing to do with the fact that Ontario MMP would be a "mixed" system.

But maybe I'm misunderstanding the system. If I'm not, I'd like to see how this sort of result would be explained to Ontario's undoubtedly somewhat confused voters on election night -- "Well, the Liberal Party received 46% of the party vote and didn't win a majority of the FPTP seats, but the MMP system is awarding it a MAJORITY GOVERNMENT."

Raymond Lorenz said...


What you have described sounds theoretically possible, but the redeeming quality of this new MMP system is that any majority government would be much less exaggerated than before.

Any new government's mandate would be more representative of the population, and there would be a significant opposition presence in parliament.

70/30 MMP is a significant, but moderate step towards improving the overall system.

Andy said...

I expanded on my comment a bit back at my own blog. I'd be interested in knowing if there's a flaw in my reasoning.

All views expressed in this blog are those of the author and the author alone. They do not represent the views of any organization, regardless of the author's involvement in any organizations.

All comments are the views of the individual writer. The administrator reserves the right to remove commentary which is offensive.

The author is not responsible for nor does he support any of the advertisements displayed on the page