Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Once Again Huge Distortions of the Popular Vote Mire Canadian Election Results

Four years ago I wrote a similar blog about how the voting system distorts the popular vote and produces a government that the people did not vote for.  As is quite often the case with the first-past-the-post method, 40% of the vote produces 60% of the seats in Parliament, thereby giving 100% of the political power to a political party that does not have the support of the majority of those who voted, and no where near the majority of registered electors of which 40% did not bother to vote. 

The only thing that really changed in the 2015 general election is that the distortion shifted from favoring the Conservative Party to the Liberal Party.

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In 2011, the Conservative formed a majority government largely due to the extra 27 seats they were awarded in Ontario because of the vagaries of the winner-take-all representation that plurality voting entails. 

In Canada, as in other countries that use the first-past-the-post method, how the vote is distributed is as equally important as how many votes are won since representation is awarded to the candidate who garners the most votes in a single relatively small electoral district.  This is not the case in a proportional voting systems that employ relatively large electoral districts and where the number of seats awarded to each political party is proportional to the percentage of the popular vote obtained.  In other words, 20% of the vote allocates 20% of the available seats, 30% of the votes allocates 30% of the seats, 40% of the votes allocates 40% of the seats, and so on.

What is truly remarkable about the 2015 electoral results is what happened in the Maritimes region in Eastern Canada.  This time around 60% of the popular vote that the Liberals obtained gave them 100% or 32 of the 32 available seats in the region.  In fact, although 40% of the electors voted for the other parties, they have no representation whatsoever in Parliament.  In doing the electoral math, the Liberals received an extra 13 seats over and above what they would have received if the seats were allocated on the basis of the popular vote in the region.

This trend continues in Quebec where the Liberals received an additional 13 seats over and above a popular vote allocation and even more so in Ontario where they received an additional 26 seats due to the voting system distortion.

Simple addition tells us that in Eastern Canada, the Liberals received 52 bonus seats, two more than the national distortion of having 50 extra seats than what would have been awarded according to the popular vote across Canada.  So, the headlines could as easily read: "voting system produces yet another false majority" instead of lauding the Liberals victory.

During the electoral campaign Canada's newly elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, declared that if elected this would be the last general election in Canada using the first-past-the-post method.  What remains to be seen is what will be the new voting system.  Will it be a preferential voting system that uses a different method to add up the votes but produces similar distortions or a truly proportional system that gives Canadians the government that they voted for?

The devil is in the details.  Only time will tell, but don't hold your breath.

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