Making Every Vote Count: Reassessing Canada's Electoral System 9781442602717

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 9781442602717

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Making Every Vote Count: Reassessing Canada's Electoral System

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Making Every Vote Count REASSESSING CANADA S ELECTORAL

edited by Henry Milner

b broadview press

SYSTEM

Copyright © 1999 Henry Milner All rights reserved. The use of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without prior written consent of the publisher—or in the case of photocopying, a licence from CANCOPY (Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency) 6 Adelaide Street E., Suite 900, Toronto, Ontario M5C m6—is an infringement of the copyright law. C A N A D I A N CATALOGUING IN P U B L I C A T I O N

DATA

Main entry under title: Making every vote count: reassessing Canada's electoral system Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 1-55111-256-6 i. Elections - Canada. 2. Voting - Canada. 3. Representative government and representation - Canada. JLI93.M34 1999 BROADVIEW

324.6'3'o9;i

I. Milner, Henry. C98-932;55-8

PRESS, LTD.

is an independent, international publishing house, incorporated in 1985. North America Post Office Box 1243, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada Kgj 7115 3576 California Road, Orchard Park, New York, USA 14127 TEL (705) 743-8990; FAX (705) 743-8353; E-MAIL [email protected] United Kingdom and Europe Turpin Distribution Services, Ltd., Blackhorse Rd., Letchworth, Hertfordshire, sg6 IHN TEL (1462) 672555; FAX (1462) 480947; E-MAIL [email protected] Australia St. Clair Press, Post Office Box 287, Rozelle, NSW 2039 TEL (6l2) 818-1942; FAX (6l2) 418-1923

www.broadviewpress.com Broadview Press gratefully acknowledges the support of the Ministry of Canadian Heritage through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program. Cover design by Mike Young, Black Eye Design. Typeset by Zack Taylor and Mike Young, Black Eye Design. Printed in Canada 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Contents

List of Tables and Figures 7 Notes on Contributors 9 Preface u Introduction 15 A Brief Introduction to Electoral Reform Heather Maclvor 19

PART I PROPOSALS FOR REFORMING THE CANADIAN ELECTORAL SYSTEM

The Case for Proportional Representation in Canada Henry Milner 37 How to Renew Canadian Democracy: PR for the Commons, FPTP Elections for the Senate, and Political Financing by Individuals Only Tom Kent 51 New Challenges Demand New Thinking about our Antiquated Electoral System Lawrence LeDuc 63 MMP is Too Much of Some Good Things Kent Weaver 79

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The Alternative Vote: An Electoral System for Canada Tom Flanagan 85 Electoral Reform and Canada's Parties John C. Courtney 91 Electoral Reform is not as Simple as it Looks Richard S. Katz 101

PART II ELECTORAL REFORM IN CANADA IN HISTORICAL AND GEOGRAPHICAL CONTEXT

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The History of Voting System Reform in Canada Dennis Pi/on in Will Canada Seriously Consider Electoral System Reform? Women and Aboriginals Should Donley Studlar 123 Electing Representative Legislatures: Lessons from New £ealand Therese Arseneau 133 From Westminster Plurality to Continental Proportionality: Electoral System Change in New Zealand Peter Aimer 145 The Defects of Its Virtues: New Zealand's Experience with MMP Jack H. Nagel 157 Electoral System Reform in the United Kingdom Andrew Reynolds 171 This Time Let the Voters Decide: The Proportional Representation Movement in the United States Rob Richie and Steven Hill 179 Appendix: Electoral Systems in the Democratic World 189 Bibliography 196

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List of Tables and Figures Table i-i Table 1-2 Table 1-3

A Comparison of Electoral Systems, 22 Winning Percentages in the 1997 Canadian Federal Election, 23 Seat-Vote Ratios in the Canadian House of Commons 1997, 32

Table 2-1 Simulation of the 1997 Canadian Federal Election Results, 39 Table 2-2 Income Distribution in Rich Democracies: The Luxembourg Income Survey, 46 Table 4-1 Disproportionality of Seats and Votes in Canadian Federal Elections, 1968-97, 65 Figure 4-1 Index of Disproportionality for Selected Countries, 66 Table 4-2 Index of Disproportionality by Region, 1968-97, 66 Table 4-3 Proposed Allocation of Senate Representation or Proportional Complement, 74 Table 4-4 Simulated Distribution of 391 House and Senate Seats, by Party, based on 1997 Election Results, 75 Table 5-1

Simulation of the 1997 Election Using Ten Per Cent Additional Compensation Seats and "Largest National Parties" Allocation Bias, 83

Table 9-1 PR in Canadian Municipalities, 118 Table 9-2 Majority and Proportional Voting in Canadian Provinces, 121 Table 10-1 Women Legislators in Lower Houses of Advanced Democracies, 1997, 129 Table ii-i Table 11-2 Table 11-3 Table 11-4 Table 11-5

The 1996 General Election, 137 Maori Elected to 1996 Parliament, by Party, 138 Women Elected to Parliament, by Party, 139 Women in National Parliaments (as of August 1998), 141 Rankings of Women in Cabinet (as of April 1998), 144

Table 13-1 Percentages of Votes and Seats Won by Political Parties, 159 Table 13-2 Composition of the New Zealand Parliament after Three Elections, 160 Table 13-3 Relative Power of New Zealand Parliamentary Parties after Three Elections, 164

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Notes on Contributors P E T E R A I M E R recently retired as senior lecturer in the Department of Political Studies, University of Auckland, where he is now an honourary research fellow. He was active in the Electoral Reform Coalition, and is coeditor of Voters: Victory1? published in 1996 by Auckland University Press. T H E R E S E A R S E N E A U is an associate professor of political science, and executive director of the Gorsebrook Research Institute, at Saint Mary's University in Halifax. She has published on topics such as Senate Reform, the Reform Party, and the New Zealand Bill of Rights. J O H N C. C O U R T N E Y is a professor of political science at the University of Saskatchewan. His most recent book, Do Conventions Matter1? Choosing National Party Leaders in Canada (McGill-Queen's University Press), was short-listed for the Harold Adams Innis Prize in the Social Sciences in 1996. TOM F L A N A G A N is a professor of political science at the University of Calgary. He was director of research for the Reform Party of Canada in 1991-1992. S T E V E N H I L L is west coast director of the Center for Voting and Democracy in San Francisco. R I C H A R D S. KATZ is professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He has published widely on electoral systems and on political parties. His most recent book is Democracy and Elections, published by Oxford University Press. TOM K E N T has been deeply involved for many years in Canadian social and economic policies. He is now a visiting fellow at the School of Policy Studies of Queen's University. L A W R E N C E LEDuc is professor of political science at the University of Toronto. He is author of Comparing Democracies: Voting and Elections in Global Perspective, Absent Mandate: Canadian Electoral Politics in an Era of Restructuring, How Voters Change, and Political Choice in Canada. H E A T H E R MAC!VOR teaches political science at the University of Windsor. She has published on women and politics, political parties in Western democracies, and new methods of party leadership selection.

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H E N R Y M I L N E R teaches political science at Vanier College. He is adjunct professor at Laval University, visiting fellow at Queen's University, and co-editor of Inroads. He has studied electoral reform in New Zealand and published extensively on Scandinavian institutions. J A C K H. N A G E L is professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. A former Fulbright lecturer at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, he has written numerous articles on New Zealand politics, as well as on elections and electoral reforms in the United States. D E N N I S P I L O N is a doctoral candidate at York University and has written extensively on Canada's experience of voting system reform. 10

A N D R E W R E Y N O L D S is assistant professor in the Department of Government and International Studies at the University of Notre Dame and a fellow of the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies and the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace studies. ROB R I C H I E is executive director of the Center for Voting and Democracy in Washington, D.C. D O N L E Y T. S T U D L A R is Eberly Distinguished Professor of Political Science at West Virginia University. He has published extensively on Canadian topics, including gender representation in legislatures and provincial cabinets. K E N T W E A V E R is a senior fellow in the Government Studies Program at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. His proposal for electoral reform is developed at greater length in the September 1997 issue of the Canadian Journal of Political Science.

Preface

It was certainly something I never planned to do. So how did I end up editing a book on electoral system reform for Canada? Thinking back 25 years, a pattern does emerge, and this book is its logical culmination. My own interest and involvement with electoral system reform go back to the latter 19705, the first term of office of the Parti quebecois government. The PQ was programmatically committed to bringing more proportionality to the electoral system, having been denied its fair share of seats by our first-pastthe-post system in 1970 and, especially, 1973. And for a democratic mass party which the early PQ. definitely was, a programmatic commitment was more than a public-relations exercise. The Levesque government decided to start the electoral reform process by using elections to the City Council of Montreal as a kind of pilot project. We in the opposition Montreal Citizens' Movement thought proportional representation a great idea. Unfortunately the Mayor, Jean Drapeau, did not. And, as usual, he prevailed: the idea died stillborn. It was only into its second term, in 1982, that the PQ, government was ready to apply the principle to Quebec elections. I was then on the executive of the Parti quebecois and became closely involved with the project and the discussion around it. But the Liberal opposition wouldn't hear of it, and even the PQ caucus was not ready to go along. And so, the only serious government proposal for electoral reform in Canada in the past 40 years also died stillborn. Not long afterwards, I had decided to channel my interest in politics on research rather than activism. And given that it was social-democratic policies and politics that interested me most, it meant concentrating on Europe rather than North America. The starting point, naturally enough, was Sweden: where better to explore social democracy than in the country ruled longest by social democrats?

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In the latter 19805 and early 19905 I wrote two books about the socialdemocratic experience in that part of the world, convinced that the existing literature gave too much importance to economic institutions and social policies, and not enough about institutions having to do with culture, communications, and politics. I came increasingly to emphasize the importance of "consensual" political institutions to Scandinavian social democracy, especially the fact that election results (and therefore the composition of legislatures, assemblies, and councils) at all levels reflect the real strength of the various political forces. In the long run, it became clear to me, the kinds of policies and outcomes social democrats favoured could only be achieved via a proportional electoral system. I thus came back—inadvertently—to the question of electoral system reform. My first foray into writing on the issue for Canadian readers was in 1993 in the second issue of Inroads, the new Canadian journal of opinion and policy founded by John Richards, Arthur Milner, and me. In the fall of 1996, with the support of SSHRC and Quebec's FCAR program, I had the opportunity to spend three months in New Zealand to witness that country's revolutionary change from first-past-the-post to a German-style proportional system. My involvement brought me into contact with an international network of people interested in electoral-system reform. I then organized academic sessions on the subject at the fall 1997 conference of the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States and at the spring 1998 meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association. By the time of the latter panel, Inroads #7 had come out. At the urging of Arthur Milner, I had edited the articles that comprised its main theme; namely, the way Canada's electoral system exaggerated existing cleavages in light of the results of the 1997 federal election. It seemed strange that, despite having its party system most fragmented and geographically skewed by the first-past-the-post system, Canada seemed to be the only one among the minority of democratic countries still using the system that was not debating replacing it. The nine articles in that issue, some more revised than others, along with six other new articles selected and written to fill in certain gaps, comprise this book. The book emerged from a number of discussions, most importantly with Michael Harrison of Broadview, which helps to distribute Inroads, and with Heather Maclvor. Heather had chaired a public forum on the question of electoral reform, organized by Inroads and held at the Press Club in Ottawa on June 2, 1998, the first anniversary of the 1997 election. It revealed a considerable interest in electoral-system reform by the three national opposition parties. It also confirmed the need for a

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readily accessible book on the subject relevant to Canadians. The pages that follow are the result. The names of the others to be thanked for the success of the project appear in the list of contributors. That leaves a fairly short list of names to be added, at the top of which—as indeed in all my writing—is my wife and research collaborator, Frances Boylston. Next is my other co-editor at Inroads, John Richards, whose scepticism about electoral reform served as a useful check on the enthusiasm of the Milner brothers. Others whose help over the last few years contributed to this project being realized include Paul Harris, Jack Vowles, Raymond Miller, Jonathan Boston, Elizabeth McLeay, and Nigel Roberts in New Zealand; and, in this country Andre Blais, Louis Massicotte, Hugh Segal, Ronald Watts, Michael Cassidy, Garth Stevenson, Reg Whitaker, Jean-Pierre Derriennic, Leslie Seidle, Hugh Thorburn, Jon Pammett, Ken Carty, Patrick Fafard, and Harold Clarke. I have, no doubt, left out many others from whom I ask forgiveness for these as well as other omissions that we can be equally certain have found their way into these pages. Henry Milner Montreal

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Introduction

Among the political institutions inherited from our British past is the system by which we elect people to office. This electoral system is still commonly referred to by a metaphor whose origins lie in the British passion for horse-racing: first-past-the-post (FPTP). Yet FPTP is on the defensive even in Britain and the lands settled by the British—with the exception of Canada. Britain, as Andrew Reynolds's article reveals, has made important changes and is contemplating others. Even in the us, as the article by Rob Richie and Steven Hill shows, proportional representation (PR) systems are being discussed and, at the local level, tested. Australia, from the start, adopted a system that significantly differed from FPTP, one that finds favour from Tom Flanagan in these pages. And in 1996 New Zealand went all the way: it implemented a mixed-member proportional system (MMP), the German form of PR, a fascinating political saga here recounted by Peter Aimer.1 i

In this volume we consider only the effects of electoral systems in mature democracies, since democratic institutions in developing countries face different challenges. This is not to subscribe to the supposition that developing countries cannot afford the "luxury" of the greater representativeness of PR systems, that their progress is dependent on the "strong government" delivered by FPTP. Such a view ignores the often acute negative effects of FPTP in developing countries. Single-member systems foster clientalism—representatives dependent on the vote of constituents who care only about economic pay-offs and not about their wider costs. Consider Thailand's recent problems. As Ammar Siamwella noted in a magisterial public lecture at Queen's University in the fall of 1997, Thailand's clientalist political leaders could do nothing about the financial crisis caused by technocratic incompetence. Indeed, the problem was beyond their comprehension. Hope, he concluded, lies in the new Constitution's anticipated change to the complexion of the new Parliament: "Alongside 400 members elected from individual constituencies, there will be a further 100 members belonging to party lists to be elected nationally. ... It is likely that each party will have on this list individuals whom it expects to nominate to be ministers [who will be] expected to take a less localistic stand on issues and initiate debates on more national issues." 15

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If New Zealand, the most British of Britain's ex-colonies, could turn its back on FPTP, we should not be surprised that it has found no favour in the new South Africa or among the democracies that emerged in Eastern Europe in the wake of the demise of communism. This does not mean that the discussion is over in New Zealand—as Jack Nagel's essay vividly points out. The debate in Britain too is heating up, with the publication of the Jenkins report in October 1998. Only in Canada, universally regarded as a textbook case of the distortions that FPTP can bring, is there effectively no continuing public discussion of the issue. While it is possible that there may be, on balance, good reasons for keeping PR out of Canada, there is no possible justification for keeping out of a discussion taking place in the countries with which we have the closest affinity. The main purpose of this book is to stimulate public discussion of our present electoral system and the possible alternatives. The articles that follow offer vigorous and thought-provoking evaluations of the electoral processes in Canada, New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The authors differ on whether Canada should adopt a proportional system, stay with FPTP, or move toward something in between— but all agree that the question of electoral reform must be placed on the public agenda. The outcomes of the 1993 and, especially, 1997 Canadian federal elections, which graphically demonstrated how our electoral system can regionalize political party representation in Parliament, was greeted by many columns and editorials questioning the appropriateness of FPTP. But, in the absence of sufficient "resonance," the discussion subsided rather quickly. Clearly lacking is a sufficiently wide public understanding of what an electoral system is, and the effects that it has. This is something that, in a small way, this book seeks to change. The issues raised by electoral reform transcend the question of distorted regional representation. A country's electoral system affects not only who sits in its Parliament but the type of issues that enter policy debate and the policies that emerge from that debate. To understand the connection is not a simple matter; it requires some familiarity with technical differences between electoral systems. The articles in this collection allow the reader to gain that familiarity, but without losing sight of the policy implications. And for those who want to dig a bit deeper, the Appendix provides a more technical description of the main electoral systems used in the democratic world.2

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Readers wishing to delve even further into the debate among specialists on the effects of the electoral system are invited to consult the bibliography. One especially noteworthy book in this regard is Gary Cox's recent book: Making Votes Count: Strategic Coordination in the World's Electoral Systems (New York: Cambridge, 1977).

INTRODUCTION

The book begins with an essay by Heather Maclvor, which introduces the reader to the main existing alternative electoral systems, how they operate, and the effects they have on party representation. In so doing, Maclvor provides a summary of the main issues of the debate over alternative electoral systems among political scientists. Part One of the book brings together a series of proposals for reforming the Canadian electoral system. I begin by making a pitch for Canada going the way of New Zealand and adopting the German-style MMP system. I argue that only a truly proportional system would constitute a full break from FPTP, with its built-in polarization—us versus them, the "ins" who have all the answers versus the "outs" who denounce them all—and toward a system potentially capable of finding intelligent compromises based on the informed wishes of the majority. My position in favour of PR is seconded by Tom Kent. To revitalize our political parties, Kent favours having the House of Commons elected through a list-style PR system while turning the Senate into a more representative body elected under FPTP. Using the Senate this way is another way to maintain the link between the citizen and a single legislator which, unlike other proportional systems, is achieved under MMP. Lawrence LeDuc reverses Kent's proposal. Why not leave the Commons for now and try PR out on the Senate—an institution few Canadians feel strongly about keeping in its present form? Kent Weaver and Tom Flanagan also present cases for reform, but each has a more moderate scheme to propose. Weaver's plan is reminiscent of that proposed by the Pepin-Robarts Commission in 1979, while Flanagan draws inspiration from the Australian electoral system. Two articles raise questions about the concrete effects of moving toward proportional systems of elections. John Courtney argues that the major Canadian political parties over many years developed structures and processes to accommodate Canada's diversity, and these could be threatened by electoral-system reform. Richard Katz follows with some pertinent observations on the downside of the various alternative electoral systems— as well as those of FPTP. Part Two sets the discussion in historical and geographical context. Dennis Pilon recounts Western Canada's largely forgotten experience with alternatives to FPTP earlier in this century. Donley Studlar puts the various studies and reform proposals in an historical context and explains why women and minorities under FPTP have good reason to seek electoral reform. Therese Arseneau pursues this point, focusing on the most recent historical test of this thesis, namely the events following the 1996 New Zealand election and the extent to which its lessons are applicable to Canada.

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The New Zealand experience being so relevant and recent, two articles provide the reader with the necessary background information. Peter Aimer recounts the saga culminating in 1996 when New Zealand implemented MMP, and Jack Nagle reflects on what has happened since. Andrew Reynolds then reports on the remarkable changes that have already taken place in Britain and on the fundamental ones now being debated. Finally, we hear from Rob Richie and Steven Hill about the ongoing, lively discussion about alternative electoral systems taking place in various part of the United States. While electoral-system reform in Congress is still a long way off, reform is being debated in a number of state houses and even being tried out in a few cities. The editor of this collection is not neutral on the subject. But this does not mean that what follows is biased or lacking objectivity. For the goal of this collection is not to sell MMP, or even electoral reform as such. It is to make the point that institutions matter—in this case, the institutions by which we elect people to office. Institutions affect outcomes by framing the choices we make. If we care about the policy outcomes that are the results of those choices, it is nothing less than folly to ignore the institutions through which policies are developed and decided.

ONE

A Brief Introduction to Electoral Reform HEATHER MACIVOR

Even now, is it not a great grievance, that in every Parliament a very numerous portion of the electors, willing and anxious to be represented, have no member in the House for whom they have voted? .. .The electors who are on a different side in party politics from the local majority, are unrepresented. Of those who are on the same side, a large proportion are mis-represented; having been obliged to accept the man who had the greatest number of supporters in the political party, though his opinions may differ from theirs on every other point. John Stuart Mill, 1861'

A state's electoral system is the set of rules and practices by which votes are cast and counted, and the occupants of legislative seats determined. Because of their importance in liberal democracies, electoral systems have frequently been the focus of intense scholarly debate. How should citizens vote? How should those votes be valued? How many representatives should be elected from each constituency? Should a representative be required to obtain a majority of the votes cast, or is a simple plurality sufficient? How do we represent women and minorities in the legislature? What role should political parties play in the electoral and governmental process? Canadian public discourse is currently preoccupied with many of these issues; demands for greater political accountability and more demographically representative public institutions led to the establishment of the Lortie Commission in 1989 and coloured the debate over the Charlottetown Referendum in 1992. Yet the question of electoral system reform has, i

"Considerations on Representative Government," in John Gray, ed., On Liberty and Other Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 305.

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surprisingly, been largely absent from the discussion—something this book is intended to begin to change. The articles that follow were designed and selected to stimulate public discussion of our present electoral system and the possible alternatives. This introductory essay is intended to provide some context to the debates in this volume. It offers a brief historical and comparative overview of electoral systems, sketches the central issues in the debate, and identifies some of the conflicts which Canadian electoral engineers must resolve. It also situates some of the contributions to this volume within the larger debate over electoral systems and representative democracy in Canada and abroad. All the contributors, whether or not we believe that Canada would be better served by a more proportional system, agree that the impact of the electoral system on the broader political system is too great to be left to the politicians—who typically have a vested interest in keeping electoral reform off the public agenda. At a time when many Canadians are questioning their institutional arrangements, the point is to get discussion of electoral reform on the public agenda.

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A Short Introduction to Electoral Systems FIVE CRITICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Electoral systems vary along several dimensions, some of them highly technical and difficult to explain.2 For the sake of clarity, we will focus on five electoral-system characteristics. The first three are the electoral formula, the ballot structure, and the district magnitude.3 The electoral formula is the procedure used to count the votes and determine the winner(s). Most Western European countries, along with Australia, employ electoral formulae of mind-numbing complexity; we will leave the mathematical details to others. There are only two ballot structures in common use: categorical and ordinal. A categorical ballot requires the voter to choose only one party or candidate; if he or she makes more than one mark on the paper, the ballot is spoiled. An ordinal ballot, on the other hand, requires the voter to rank-order some or all of the candidates listed. This type of ballot is usu2

See the list of 18 separate dimensions in the "Introduction" to Bernard Grofman and Arend Lijphart, eds., Electoral Laws and Their Political Consequences (New York: Agathon Press, 1986).

3

This discussion owes much to David M. Farrell, Comparing Electoral Systems (London: Prentice-Hall/Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1997), 14.

MACIVOR ~ A B R I E F INTRODUCTION TO ELECTORAL REFORM

ally associated with the AV and STV systems, which are briefly described below. District magnitude refers to the number of MPS elected from each constituency. Canada is divided into 301 single-member constituencies (or "ridings"); most Western democracies contain a smaller number of multimember constituencies. The Netherlands is at the opposite extreme—the entire country is one 150-seat constituency. The electoral formula and the district magnitude combine to produce the fourth and fifth electoral-system characteristics: the threshold of election and the degree of proportionality in election outcomes. The threshold of election is the percentage of valid votes which will guarantee a party or candidate a seat in the legislature. Proportionality refers to the fairness with which the electoral system translates votes into parliamentary representation. If a party wins 30 per cent of the votes and is awarded 30 per cent of the seats in Parliament, that is a fully proportional result. In practice, most electoral systems are not purely proportional; the translation of votes into seats is distorted to a greater or lesser degree, usually in favour of the largest party or parties. The lower the threshold of election, the greater the degree of proportionality in the electoral system. The discussion of electoral systems is often dominated by the issue of proportionality; but as we will see, this is not the only virtue which an electoral system can possess.

THE THREE MAJOR CATEGORIES OF ELECTORAL SYSTEMS

Most electoral systems fall into three categories: majority/plurality, proportional representation (PR), and mixed. Table i-i lists the systems in each category and some of the countries where each is used, and indicates for which house of Parliament the electoral system is used.4 All of the majority/plurality systems have the same district magnitude— one MP per constituency—but they differ substantially on three of the remaining four dimensions of electoral systems. The FPTP system features the simplest electoral formulae and ballot structures. The voter marks a categorical ballot, indicating the name of the single candidate from his or her preferred party, and the candidate with the most votes in that constituency is declared elected. The electoral threshold is unpredictable, determined by the number of candidates and the distribution of votes among the parties in each constituency. Lijphart estimates the effective electoral threshold under 4 This table is based on the information in Arend Lijphart, Electoral Systems and Party Systems: A Study of Twenty-Seven Democracies, 1945-1990 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994). It offers a very simplified version of Lijphart's complex categorization. Readers seeking more detail are advised to consult this excellent study as well as the Appendix to the present volume.

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FPTP at about 35 per cent — in other words, most candidates receiving less than that figure will not be elected — but it is impossible to be more precise, given the arbitrary nature of election outcomes in FPTP systems.

TABLE i-i: A Comparison of Electoral Systems CATEGORY

TYPE OF SYSTEM

COUNTRIES (EXAMPLES)

Majority/Plurality

Single-Member Plurality (SMP), often termed First-Past-The-Post (FPTP)

Canada, UK, India (all lower house), New Zealand before 1996 (unicameral), US (both houses)

Alternative Vote (AV)

Australia (lower house)

Two-Ballot Majority

France since 1958, except the 1986 parliamentary elections (lower house)

List-PR-

Israel, Scandinavia, Spain, Portugal, Benelux, Costa Rica (all lower house)

Single Transferable Vote (STV)

Ireland (lower house), Australia (upper house)

Mixed-Member Plurality (MMP)

Federal Republic of Germany (lower house), New Zealand since 1996 (unicameral)

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Proportional Representation

Mixed

Russia, Japan

5 In most of the countries using regional lists the districts are not large enough to permit perfect proportionality. In most cases, the parties' seat totals are adjusted after the district seats are distributed by awarding extra seats in "upper-tier" (usually national) districts. For an explanation of these complex systems, see Lijphart.

MACIVOR

A B R I E F INTRODUCTION TO ELECTORAL REFORM

This arbitrariness is clearly evident in recent Canadian federal elections. Table 1-2 shows the proportions of candidates in the 1997 federal election who won their seats with different percentages of the valid vote. TABLE 1-2: Winning Percentages in the 1997 Canadian Federal Election PERCENTAGE OF VALID VOTES WON

NUMBER AND % OF CANDIDATES

CUMULATIVE TOTALS

< 25 per cent

0 (0%)

o (o%)

Between 25 and 29 per cent

2 (0.7%)

2 (0.7%)

Between 30 and 34 per cent

12 (4.0%)

I4 (4.7%)

Between 35 and 39 per cent

34 (n.3%)

48 (16.0%)

Between 40 and 44 per cent

72 (23.9%)

I2O (39.9%)

Between 45 and 49 per cent

75 (24-9%)

195 (64.8%)

Between 50 and 55 per cent

51 (16.9%)

246 (81.7%)

> 55 per cent

55 (18.3%)

301 (100%)

As Table 1-2 demonstrates, only slightly over a third (35.2 per cent) of MPS elected in 1997 were supported by a majority of the voters in their ridings— or, more accurately, by a majority of those who bothered to vote. The number of MPS with majority popular support is far lower, because the 1997 election had the lowest turnout rate in recent memory (67 per cent, compared to an average of 75 per cent in Canadian elections ). As critics of FPTP stress, the majority of voters in the majority of ridings "wasted" their votes. Their preferences were not translated into parliamentary seats and had effectively no effect on the outcome of the election.

6 Jon H. Pammett, "The Voters Decide," in Alan Frizzell and Jon H. Pammett, eds., The Canadian General Election of 1997 (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1998), 247.

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24

The other two systems in this category, AV and two-ballot runoff, combine single-member districts with the highest electoral threshold of any electoral systems: 50 per cent + i of the valid votes. Their electoral formulae are very different. In an AV election, voters are given an ordinal ballot listing the candidates by party affiliation; as with FPTP, only one candidate represents each party in any given constituency. They must rank-order all of the candidates according to preference. When the voting ends, the firstplace preference votes are counted. If a candidate has received a majority, he or she is declared elected. If no such majority has been achieved, the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated and his or her secondplace votes are awarded to the remaining candidates. This process continues until one candidate wins a majority of the valid votes. The two-ballot runoff system is similar to the process by which Canadian parties choose their leaders—although, unlike some leadership conventions, it takes only two rounds of voting to determine the winner. The first round of voting is identical to an FPTP election. After the ballots are counted, if no candidate has won a majority of the valid vote, a second round of voting is held. Sometimes only the last-place candidate is eliminated, or those who failed to reach a specific quota; sometimes all but the top two finishers are struck from the second ballot. In the latter case, the final round of voting—usually held a week or two after the first—is guaranteed to produce a majority, except in the rare case of a tie. All PR systems are based on multi-member districts of varying sizes. In a list-PR election, as the name implies, the voter does not choose among individual candidates; she casts a single, categorical vote for a list of candidates nominated by her preferred party (though some permit the voters to modify the order). The seats in each constituency are awarded to the parties based on their respective shares of the vote. For example, if Party A wins 40 per cent of the vote in a 5-member constituency, it is awarded 2 of the 5 seats. The top two names on its 5~candidate list are declared elected. But Party B, with 30 per cent of the vote, may only be awarded i seat; it is mathematically entitled to 1.5, but the seats are not divisible. The greater the district magnitude, the more proportional the result and the lower the electoral threshold. In the Netherlands, for example, any party which wins 0.67 per cent of the national vote earns a seat in the lower house. With 150 seats in one district, the outcome is extremely proportional. In a 5~seat district, like the one in the above example, the threshold is just over 20 per cent and the outcome is less proportional. In most of the countries using list-PR systems, artificial legal thresholds are imposed in order to avoid a situation whereby dozens of tiny parties paralyze the legislature. But in many cases such systems are sufficiently dis-

MACIVOR

A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO ELECTORAL REFORM

proportional to exclude very small parties without artificial barriers; the extremely low (< i per cent) thresholds in Italy (before 1994), Israel, and the Netherlands are unusual. The effective thresholds in most current list-PR systems range from a low of around 2 per cent in Luxembourg and Denmark to a high of 10 per cent in Spain.7 STV also uses multi-member districts, but the electoral formula underlying STV is quite different. STV systems were designed to provide a degree of proportionality while permitting voters to choose among individual candidates instead of party lists. In an STV election the voter receives an ordinal ballot listing the names of all of the candidates. He must rank-order them according to preference. Depending on the system, the voter may be required to rank all of the candidates, which can be an onerous task in a multi-member district with several parties. For example, in a lo-seat district with 6 parties there will be 60 names on the ballot, most of which will be unfamiliar to the average voter. After voting ceases the ballots are counted and an electoral quota is calculated. If there are 5 seats in a district, and 100,000 valid ballots have been cast, the quota will be slightly more than 20,000. Then the actual vote count begins. If any candidate has received 20,000 first-preference votes, she is declared elected, and her second-preference votes are re-allocated. At the same time, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated, and his second-preference votes are also distributed among the remaining candidates. The long and complex counting process continues until all of the seats in the district have been filled. Because of the complexity of voting in an STV election, the district magnitude rarely exceeds 5 seats. As a result, STV is less proportional than listPR. Lijphart calculates the effective threshold in Irish STV elections at 17.2 per cent, largely because of the preponderance of 3- and 4-seat districts.8 However, STV does overcome the problem of "wasted" votes endemic to FPTP systems. The final PR category is the "mixed" electoral system known as MPP used in Germany and New Zealand. A mixed system elects two groups of MPS simultaneously: half represent single-member constituencies, while the other half are chosen from party lists. When she enters the polling booth each voter is given two ballots: one listing the candidates for the singlemember constituency and the other containing regional or national party lists. Unlike the semi-proportional mixed system used, for example, in Japan, MMP uses the list seats to correct for overall disproportionality. After 7

These figures are drawn from Lijphart, Tables 2.2 through 2.5.

8

Lijphart, Table 2.3; Farrell, 128.

25

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

26

the district seats have been filled, each party is awarded the number of list seats needed to produce a proportional overall result calculated on the basis of the list vote. For example, if Party A wins 40 per cent of the national second-ballot vote, it is entitled to 200 seats in a 5oo-seat legislature. But it only elects 80 district members. So it is awarded 120 additional seats in Parliament, to be filled by the top-ranked candidates on its lists. Conversely, if Party A won 210 of the 250 district seats (very unlikely, but not impossible) it would not be entitled to any additional seats because it would already exceed its quota as determined by the second-ballot results. But the party would keep those extra 10 seats, and the legislature would be (temporarily) enlarged. Each type of electoral system—FPTP, AV, two-ballot, list-PR, STV, and MMP—reflects a different set of political values. The majority/plurality systems favour the relationship between an MP and his or her constituents and the creation of artificial majority governments (see below). The list-PR systems are designed to produce the greatest proportionality in translating seats into votes, thus avoiding wasted votes and creating legislatures which closely mirror the political preferences of the electorate. And the designers of MMP systems seek to combine the advantages of FPTP and list-PR while avoiding some of the disadvantages. We will discuss some of those pros and cons in the next section.

Four Key Issues in the Electoral Reform Debate Most of the contributors to this volume favour some sort of electoral reform in the countries which presently use FPTP. In Lijphart's terms, they are "electoral engineers." They want to see a greater degree of proportionality, a lower electoral threshold for particular groups, or greater incentives for parties to build electoral coalitions. Electoral engineering has a long and contentious history, both in theory and in practice. This section of the chapter sets out some of the principles which underlie arguments for electoral reform and briefly summarizes some of the principal themes in the debate over electoral systems. ELECTORAL SYSTEMS AND PARTY SYSTEMS

Much of the debate over electoral systems concerns their impact on the political parties. It starts with the relationship between the type of electoral

MACIVOR

A B R I E F I N T R O D U C T I O N TO ELECTORAL REFORM

system used in a given jurisdiction and the number of parties in its party system. The classic formulation of the relationship is generally attributed to Maurice Duverger, although he was in fact restating an observation which had been a commonplace of political science for almost a century.9 Duverger wrote that "the simple-majority single-ballot system [i.e., FPTP] favours the two-party system An almost complete correlation is observable between the simple-majority single-ballot system and the two-party system."10 On the other hand, he argued, multipartism is "favoured" by AV and PR systems," and "PR always coincides with a multi-party system."12 As Riker pointed out in his bracing critique, Duverger was careful to avoid clear causal statements; instead of claiming that a particular electoral system caused a certain type of party system, he referred to "correlation" and "favouring." But it has generally been assumed by subsequent scholars that Duverger did intend to imply such a causal relation, especially between FPTP and two-partyism. He argued that FPTP produces two-party systems by systematically preventing smaller "third" parties from winning legislative seats. Duverger identified two "effects" of FPTP on smaller parties: mechanical and psychological. The mechanical effect refers to the consistent under-representation of smaller parties under FPTP which, as we have seen, sets a high threshold for parties seeking election. The psychological effect occurs over the long term, as supporters of the under-represented parties grow tired of wasting their votes and switch to whichever of the two larger parties they find more congenial. As Riker and other critics have observed, Duverger's "law" is far from absolute. Counter-examples include Canada and Austria: the former has an FPTP system and has had more than two parties in almost every Parliament in this century, while the latter combined list-PR with a two-party system for much of the same period. These counter-examples serve to remind us that political phenomena can seldom be attributed to a single cause. In reality, the number of parties in a given party system is determined by a number of factors, of which the electoral system may not be the most important. Parties exist because people create them, join them, and vote for them, not because they operate under a particular electoral system. Polarized societies 9 William H. Riker, "Duverger's Law Revisited," in Grofman and Lijphart, 20-26. 10 Maurice Duverger, Political Parties: Their Organization and Activity in the Modern State (London: Methuen, 1964), 217. 11 Duverger, 239. 12 Duverger, 245.

27

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

28

create polarized party systems; harmonious societies, by and large, do not. Where there is little public demand for a particular type of party—say, for a Communist party in Canada—it will either fail to appear or struggle hopelessly on the margins of politics. Canada has a multi-party system because it is a large country with a diverse population; Germany has only two dominant parties (the CDU-CSU and the SPD) because it is a relatively homogeneous society (the addition of the East notwithstanding). The contributors to this volume do not focus on the party system per se, apart from the uniquely Canadian concern about regionalism in party caucuses (see below). The exception is Tom Flanagan's call for an AV system to encourage coalition-building among Canadian opposition parties (one presumes that he means the Progressive Conservative and Reform parties). While there is much to be said for a "United Alternative" against the Liberals, who might otherwise govern well into the next century, Flanagan's proposal is not the only possible solution. German experience shows that the MMP system also encourages parties to present themselves to the electorate as coalition partners. Since the 19505 the third-largest party, the centrist FDP, has had little success in winning district seats. It has survived by seeking the "second-ballot" list votes of those who support its senior coalition partner, the CDU-CSU or (before 1982) the SPD. This "second-ballot strategy" has worked extremely well for the German party system, bringing stability to the government and allowing the voters to hold the cabinet collectively accountable for its decisions. As we will see in the next section, the lack of government accountability is a charge often levelled against PR. PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION AND PARLIAMENTARY GOVERNMENT

Westminster-style responsible government is predicated on the existence of a stable, disciplined parliamentary majority. The problem, for those who advocate single-party majority government, is that voters rarely give any one party a majority of the popular vote.13 FPTP usually creates artificial majorities, awarding the largest national party a disproportionate share of the seats in Parliament.14 While most PR systems give a slight advantage to the largest party, it is very rarely sufficient to artificially produce majority 13 Two exceptions to note: the Progressive Conservatives won 54 per cent of the vote in 1958 and 50 per cent in 1984. 14 On rare occasions, such as the Canadian general elections of 1957 and 1979, it awards the largest number of seats to the second-place party. As Aimer points out in this volume, similar results in New Zealand helped to ignite the movement for electoral reform.

MACIVOR

A B R I E F INTRODUCTION TO ELECTORAL REFORM

governments. The result, in most cases, is some form of coalition government. After an election, the leader of the largest party in the legislature seeks to form a Cabinet with one or more additional parties, thus creating a parliamentary majority to support the government's budget and policy measures. Coalition government is the norm in states with PR electoral systems; it is virtually unheard-of in Britain and Canada (except in wartime). While it is often argued that coalitions are less stable and more fragile than single-party majority governments, the differences should not be exaggerated; for example, the (West) German Christian Democratic-Free Democratic coalition governed from 1949 to 1966, and again from late 1982 until September 1998). Most parties can only dream of such security in office. The coalition governments in the Scandinavian and Benelux countries, Austria, and Spain are also relatively stable and durable, as are the minority coalitions PR has produced in recent years in Scandinavia. Critics of PR inevitably point to the constant government turnover in Italy and the Cabinet upheavals in Israel to prove their point, but these have proven to be exceptions to the rule. In his article, the editor of this volume, Henry Milner, makes the case for Canada replacing FPTP with MMP. It is worth considering how this might affect Canada's legislative and executive branches of government. First, defenders of the our present system argue that it gives every voter a clearly-identified representative in the national Parliament who is obliged to act on his or her behalf in disputes with the national government. In reality, according to a comparative study of voter-MP relationships under various electoral systems, the advent of strong and disciplined parties has severely weakened these ties and eroded the incentives for MPS to work hard for their constituents.15 A British study found that while half of British voters could name their MP, fewer than one in four could name anything which that MP had done in Parliament or to help the constituency. Only 5 per cent had been personally assisted by an MP.1 These findings cast considerable doubt on the supposedly close ties between British MPS and their constituents—and, by extension, the corresponding relationships in Canada. A related criticism is that MMP creates "two classes" of MPS, one with close ties to their constituencies and one whose function appears to be purely mathematical. In this volume, Kent Weaver calls the latter "literally 15 Vernon Bogdanor, "Conclusion," in Vernon Bogdanor, ed., Representatives of the People? Parliamentarians and Constituents in Western Democracies (Aldershot, UK: Gower, 1985), 294. 16 Ivor Crewe, "MPS and their Constituents in Britain: How Strong are the Links?," in Bogdanor, ed., Representatives of the People?, 55.

29

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

redundant." But if we compare this with what actually happens in Canada's Parliament, a more positive picture of MMP emerges. Under FPTP, small swings in the national vote can lead to huge gains or losses in seats by a particular party. The result is a high turnover rate in the Canadian Parliament. C.E.S. Franks argues that the House of Commons is weakened by the inexperience of its members; a more stable membership would lead to a more effective legislative chamber.17 Another problem for MPS is their huge burden of constituency work. Why not create a "class" of MPS with the time and energy for serious committee work, departmental supervision, and legislative review? Parties might use the threat of removal from the candidate list to keep insubordinate "mixed" MPS in line. But given the current level of party discipline, especially on the Liberal benches, a "mixed" Commons could hardly be more docile and ineffective than the one we presently have. 30

FPTP AND CANADIAN REGIONALISM

Unlike the debate in the United Kingdom and Australia, the Canadian electoral-reform debate has not been particularly concerned with the number of parties in the party system. Instead, the central issue of the past thirty years has been the regional representativeness of party caucuses— especially the government caucus—in the House of Commons. Cairns argued in 1968 that FPTP gives Canadian national parties an incentive to maximize regional divisions, and makes it more difficult for them to broker among diverse areas of the country.1 As we have seen, FPTP imposes a high threshold on parties seeking election. The parties with the best chance of crossing the threshold are the largest national party, which (as we have seen) often ends up with an artificial majority, and regional parties which concentrate their support in a small number of ridings. They do not waste money, effort, and votes in a fruitless search for support in hopeless ridings; they focus their efforts on constituencies where they already have a strong electoral base. Regional parties often base their campaigns on regional grievances; conversely, smaller national parties with more evenly-distributed support find it difficult to surmount the electoral threshold, suffering from Duverger's "mechanical effect." The difficulty is more acute in some regions than in others, creating "national" party caucuses which are artificially dominated by one or two regions. For most of the twentieth century, the federal Conservatives won substantially fewer seats in Quebec than 17 C.E.S. Franks, The Parliament of Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987), 73-79. 18 Alan C. Cairns, "The Electoral System and the Party System in Canada, 1921-1965," Canadian Journal of Political Science 1:1 (Fall 1968).

MACIVOR

A B R I E F INTRODUCTION TO ELECTORAL REFORM

their vote entitled them to; the Liberals had similar trouble in the West, particularly under Trudeau. By the early 19805 there was grave concern that Canada could never have a truly national government without a more proportional electoral system. The West German "mixed" system attracted most of the attention, although most advocates of electoral reform proposed that list seats account for between 10 and 20 per cent of the Commons, unlike the 50-50 MMP model (similar to Weaver's proposal in this volume).19 If the Liberals could elect MPS in the West and the PCS in Ontario, the argument ran, national unity would be strengthened and no one region would feel that it was permanently relegated to the opposition benches. A government caucus with members from all regions would govern with sensitivity to the entire country, not just the large central provinces which dominate Canadian governments. Of course, the call for reform met opposition along the lines described above. In addition, some, notably John Courtney, challenged the idea of fixing a political problem by changing institutions. In an argument he develops further in this volume, Courtney maintained in 1980 that if the problem was that a party could not elect members in Quebec or the West under the current electoral system, an institutional reform would treat only the symptoms and not the disease. The failure lay with the parties themselves, which refused to change their ways: the need to elect MPS in these regions on the part of the Conservatives and the Liberals potentially constitutes "a great incentive for developing organizational skills, for recruiting credible candidates and for devising acceptable policies."20 Guaranteeing both major parties a handful of seats in every region would not improve regional tensions; it would simply let the parties off the hook. Courtney was proven right a few years later, when the federal Conservatives elected a leader from Quebec and went on to sweep the province in the 1984 election. Canada had four nationally-representative majority governments between 1984 and 1998, without any change in electoral formula or district magnitude.

19 Such reforms are not intended to bring the distribution of seats proportional to the votes cast. For a brief overview of the various proposals, see F. Leslie Seidle, "The Canadian Electoral System and Proposals for Reform," in A. Brian Tanguay and Alain-G. Gagnon, eds., Canadian Parties in Transition, 2nd. ed. (Scarborough: Nelson, 1996), 292-297. 20 John C. Courtney, "Reflections on Reforming the Canadian Electoral System," Canadian Public Administration 23 (1980), 448-457; reprinted in J. Paul Johnston and Harvey E. Pasis, eds., Representation and Electoral Systems: Canadian Perspectives (Scarborough: Prentice-Hall, 1990), 377-

31

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

However, the regional picture looks considerably grimmer on the opposition side of the House, where Cairns's argument remains compelling. FPTP was generous to the BQ, in 1993 and 1997, had a mixed effect on Reform, and badly damaged the PCS and the NDP. Table 1-3 demonstrates the extent to which FPTP distorted the outcomes of the last two federal elections. In each column, the first two boxes display the seat and vote percentages for the five major parties in each province and the two territories. The third box contains the seat-vote ratios derived from those figures. A ratio of i reflects a proportional result; a ratio greater than i indicates that FPTP over-rewarded a party, and a ratio less than i demonstrates the opposite. The Liberals formed a small majority government in 1997 on the basis of their success in Ontario, where they won all but 2 of the 103 seats on the basis TABLE 1-3: Seat-Vote Ratios in the Canadian House of Commons, iqyj

32

LIBERALS S

V

REFORM

BQ

R

S

V

R

S



V

NDP R

S

HF

$7* 37*9

**s

o

a-5

o

PEI

IOO

44.8

2.2

o

i-5

o

NS

o

2$4

O

o

97

O

"""""*

"""""*

""""""

NB

3° 32.9

0.9

o

J3-1

o







QjC

34*7 3*7

G>9

o

0,3

o

58,7 37,9 1.5

0

ON

98 49-5

2

o

19.1

o



o

21.4

*37

MM

4x9

34*3 1,2

— —





o

15.1

544

o

30.4 Ij

R

43*9

36.8

1,2

o

38.3

O

45*5 30.8

20 18.4 I.I

50

2

o

6.7

10.7

o

i

35

1,5

i-4

22*2 0.3

18.8

O.I

357

30.9

1.2

o

7.8

o

— —

o

57

O

o

154

o





8.8 18.2

0.5

o

6.2

0

o 20,9

O

57-1 36

AB

7*7 33-*

0.3

9**3 547 17 —

BC

17.6

0.6 73-5 43

1.7 —

NT

IOO 43-*

2.3

o

117

o

—- — —

o

o

25.3

o



22

22,0 O

V

i.o

0.3

o

0

S

*&* 1,3

7-1 24.7

YK

R

0,9 ~~ — — 28,6

SK

28.8

V

PC

— —

IOO

28.9 3-5

7*1 I7J 0,4

o 167 o o

13.9 o

BE 51 n Dffl BE ra m m nffl BE m m m m

MACIVOR

A B R I E F INTRODUCTION TO ELECTORAL REFORM

of just under half the vote. Reform won almost twice as many seats in the West as its vote share would have permitted under a proportional system, but all of its Ontario votes were wasted. Although Reform's national seat-vote ratio suggests a perfectly proportional outcome, in effect the skewed regional results cancelled each other out. The BQwas also boosted by FPTP, while the PCS and the NDP did badly outside the areas of their greatest strength (the Atlantic and the Prairies, respectively). The result is a regionally-divided Parliament, in which Ontario dominates the government, most Quebec seats are held by a sovereigntist party, and the peripheral regions are largely excluded from government. Under these circumstances, it is easy to understand why electoral engineers would wish to create a more accurate regional distribution of seats among the major parties. ELECTORAL SYSTEMS AND MINORITY REPRESENTATION

In recent years the Canadian electoral reform debate has shifted to a new front: from territorial to non-territorial representation.21 As Studlar argues, and as Arseneau shows in relation to New Zealand, women and minorities are more numerous in legislatures elected by PR than in those chosen through non-proportional systems. At first glance, simple justice demands that an electoral system which tends to exclude particular social groups be abandoned. For my part, I agree with Flanagan that using the electoral system as an affirmative action policy for elected officials is not an ideal solution to the problem of under-representation. The stigma of tokenism could reduce the credibility, and therefore the effectiveness, of the demographic representatives. This is not to suggest that Canadian politics would not be greatly improved by a more inclusive House of Commons, but rather to question whether some form of PR, mixed or pure, is either a necessary or a sufficient condition of that change.

Concluding Thoughts It has sometimes been suggested that a PR, STV or MMP system would be too confusing for Canadians—that the simplicity of FPTP is better suited to our needs. If the contributions to this volume tell us anything, it is that Canadians are far from unsophisticated about electoral systems! Any

21 See Seidle, 298-300.

33

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

34

citizen with the desire to engage in a debate about our political institutions should be encouraged to do so. This volume, it is hoped, will give them the information needed to make an informed contribution. While the contributors to this volume disagree over many issues related to electoral reform, they all assume that electoral systems matter—that different systems affect the political process in different ways. While we have seen that claims about the effect of electoral systems on party systems should not be taken at face value, it is important to acknowledge the impact of electoral engineering on political life. As Aimer's, Katz's, Nagel's, and Courtney's contributions remind us, every institutional change brings unintended consequences. Nowhere is this more apparent than in France, where national governments have overhauled the electoral system ten times since iS/i.22 The parties in power tried to manipulate the system to their own ends, as the Socialists did in 1986 when they replaced the two-ballot system with a form of PR (the old system was restored in 1988 by a right-wing coalition). To their chagrin, the new system backfired, benefitting the very opponents whom they had sought to hurt. If we are to explore the alternatives to the current FPTP system, as we should, we must do so carefully, soberly, and with a realistic understanding of the limits of electoral engineering. Regional alienation, Quebec souverainisme, discrimination against women and minorities, flawed political parties—these problems cannot be eliminated by a new electoral system. But as we reconsider the institutional arrangements inherited from Britain over 130 years ago, we have to ask whether so many of our citizens should continue to "waste" their votes, and whether the very survival of a major political organization (such as the federal PC and New Democratic parties) should depend on the caprices of an arbitrary and unpredictable electoral system. We can, and should, do better.

22 Andrew Knapp, "proportional But Bipola: France's Electoral system in 1986," West European polotics x:I,89

TWO

The Casefor Proportional Representation in Canada HENRY MILNER

A Bit of History The principles of electoral democracy had been accepted by 1867, when three of the remaining British colonies in North America federated to form the Dominion of Canada. This was the same year Britain extended its suffrage to 10 per cent of the electorate. While Canada's founding fathers accepted a form of American-invented federalism, they, in contrast with their Australian counterparts two generations later, took for granted the electoral system inherited from Britain, failing to ask if it suited a federal country dispersed over far-flung regions. Provincial elections in the West were conducted under different systems of election earlier in this century, but today, not only are the 301 members of Parliament elected through first-past-the-post (FPTP), but so is every member of the ten provincial and two territorial legislatures. Indeed, the federal electoral system moved even more closely to a pure FPTP model as the few two-member districts that once existed were eliminated. The appropriateness of FPTP for Canada has been largely taken for granted, in part because Canadian familiarity with electoral experiences outside its borders generally extends only to the us and UK. Yet this does not fully explain how a country so concerned with constitutional reform has not been open to altering its electoral institutions—especially, as we shall see, given the anomalies they have produced. This is not to say that reform to a more proportional system has never been proposed, only that it has not made it to the political agenda. The Task Force on Canadian Unity (Pepin-Robarts Commission) in its 1979 report included a recommendation for just over 20 per cent of the seats to be accorded to the parties proportional to their electoral support, to enable them to gain representation from provinces denied to them by FPTP.

37

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

38

A slightly different proposal was submitted by the NDP, the party most under-represented under FPTP. But when the Trudeau government unceremoniously rejected the Pepin-Robarts report, electoral reform of the House of Commons was also shelved. That the issue was off the political agenda was underlined when Pierre Lortie, chairman of the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing set up by the Mulroney government in 1990, made it clear that changing the electoral system as such was outside the Commission's mandate. Discussion of electoral reform of federal legislative institutions was then limited to the proposal to have an elected Senate. But Senate reform— and with it, electoral reform—died with the rejection of the Charlottetown constitutional amendment proposal in the 1992 referendum. Ironically, the distorting effects of the FPTP electoral system on representation in the House of Commons have probably never been greater than in the two federal elections that followed.

How FPTP Can Distort Electoral Outcomes The results of Canada's last two federal elections are becoming political science textbook cases of the distortions under FPTP. The degree of disproportionality in Canada is in fact understated by the national figures I briefly cite. This is because some of the anomalies of the electoral system are purely regional and therefore hidden in national figures. In 1993, the voters repudiated the ruling Progressive Conservatives, but the electoral system almost decimated Canada's oldest party. Rather than electing the 46 members a proportional system would have given them, the Tories ended up with only two. In contrast, the two regionally based parties, the Bloc quebecois and Reform, with 13.5 and 19 per cent of the popular vote respectively, elected 54 and 52 members. In 1997, of the 301 seats in Parliament, the Liberals won 155, Reform 60, the Bloc quebecois 44, the NDP 21, and the Tories 20. The regionalization of the outcome was even more pronounced in 1997. Two-thirds of the Liberals' seats came from Ontario, where their 48.5 per cent of the vote gave them 101 of 103 seats. Reform dominated the western provinces, the Bloc quebecois Quebec, and the Conservatives and NDP did best in the Atlantic provinces—"quartering Canada" as The Economist put it, and producing what Canadian pundits called a "Rainbow Parliament." As most editorialists noted at the time, the Liberal government owed its (bare) majority to a sweep of Ontario and English Quebec, its red bastion encircled by

MILNER

THE CASE FOR P R O P O R T I O N A L R E P R E S E N T A T I O N

Reformist green to the west and Bloquiste bleu to the east. But, as the more perceptive of the editorialists also noted, the "quartering" was inflicted more by FPTP than by Canadian voters. If the election had been fought under proportional representation (PR), the result would have been much different. Had the seats been distributed according to the parties' popular national support, the Conservatives would have placed third with 58 seats, just behind Reform's 59, with the NDP up and the Bloc quebecois down to 33 each. The Liberals would have been left with 118 seats. Liberals, Conservatives, and NDPers would have won seats in all provinces or regions, and Reformers in all but Quebec. Indeed, if re-allocation were made based on the provincial vote, the Greens—as Table 2.1 (based on the St-Lague distribution method used in Scandinavia) shows—would have elected a member in both Ontario and British Columbia. TABLE 2.1: Simulation of 'the 1997 Canadian Federal Election Results

BQ.

Liberal NDP

PC

Reform Green Other TOTAL

BC

AB

SK

MN

ON

QC

_

_

_

_

_

10 6

6 4

5 3 3 3 -

51 II

2

4 4 i

29 27

14

2

14

-

-

5 -

34

26

14

15 I

-

NB

NS

PEI

NF



_

3

2

2

7

4

-

-

I

-

3 3 4 i

103

75

IO

ii

J

9

20 I

J

I

I

TERR





2 I i -

3 I 3 -

— i i i -

4

7

3

TOTAL 29 "5 36

59 59 2 2 301

Source: a calculation by Julian West found on the Electoral

,ca/~bailie/C4PR) Reform Website (www.ualberta.

Most PR countries require parties to surpass a minimum or threshold to win any seats. Were Canada to adopt, say, Sweden's 4 per cent threshold, the Greens would not qualify. But this presumes that voters all voted for their first choices—something we know not to be the case. We simply do not know how many Green supporters voted for someone else rather than "waste their vote." Had they voted for the Greens, as they would have under PR, perhaps it would have enabled the party to surpass the threshold. Other parties' supporters also voted for their second choices in ridings where their party stood no chance of winning. Thus it is false to assume that the popular vote would have been the same under PR. Moreover, the

39

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

campaign itself would have been very different in a mixed-member proportional (MMP) environment. The parties would have had no incentive to concentrate their efforts and resources in the regions where they were doing well, since, in contrast with our present system, under PR every vote counts equally toward electing an MP. The Conservatives would have put far more effort into the west. The NDP and Reform would have worked harder for support in Quebec, and would likely have been rewarded with seats for their efforts. The Bloc might even have been tempted to run candidates outside Quebec, since any votes garnered could only help it win seats. Voters in these regions would have been far more receptive to such appeals since they knew they would not be wasting their votes. Indeed, there can be no doubt that the dismal turnout of only two-thirds of registered voters is linked to the fact that, in most ridings, only one or two of the parties were real contenders, with supporters of the others effectively disenfranchised.1 Moreover, where you seek votes affects what you say. Once parties concentrate less on regional strongholds and more on the country as a whole, they have every incentive to moderate the divisive elements of their platform, and emphasize the unifying ones. Clearly Reform—and maybe even the Bloc—would have sung a different, more harmonious, tune under PR.

40

The MMP Alternative It is now time to be specific about the PR system best suited for Canada's House of Commons. Without repeating the arguments, I propose we endorse what was the clear preference of the New Zealand Royal Commission, and overwhelmingly ratified by the population in the 1992 referendum: the German-style system known as "mixed-member proportional." MMP gives each party that achieves at least 5 per cent of the popular vote an overall number of seats proportional to its share of the popular vote. However, since half those seats come from single-member districts, each citizen still has his or her own MP.

i

This result brings Canada near the bottom among Western democracies in voter turnout, something we seldom notice since we tend to judge ourselves only against the us, where turnout is 50 per cent or less. Yet, even here, we overestimate our relative performance since the us calculation is based on potential rather than registered voters. According to the latest Handbook of the IDEA, of potential Canadian voters, an average of 69.2 per cent voted in federal elections between 1945 and 1993. In 1997, 60 per cent voted.

MILNER

THE CASE FOR P R O P O R T I O N A L R E P R E S E N T A T I O N

The German electoral system is described more fully by Heather Maclvor and in the Appendix. Apart from the five MPS elected in separate Maori districts (an idea that could be usefully explored in Canada), the electoral system in unitary New Zealand differs from that in federal Germany only in that the parties provide single national lists for the party vote and not provincial (Lander) lists. Given Canada's federal system and far-flung territory, we would be wise to keep this aspect of the German system if we were to adopt MMP in Canada. Despite this, I refer mainly to New Zealand in this article, since New Zealand is, like Canada, a country with inherited "Westminster" institutions and traditions. Under MMP, voters vote twice, once for their constituency MP and once for a party list. I choose MMP over the various single-vote list-based PR systems used in much of Europe mainly because Canadian voters—like those in New Zealand—would be unlikely to accept an electoral system that deprived them of having a single MP to represent them.31 suspect also that Canadians would insist on a high threshold, like the 5 per cent in Germany and New Zealand, which would limit the number of parties winning seats to, typically, four to six. Canadians would also insist that the electoral law specify, as it does in Germany, that placing on the list is determined by party members (or their elected delegates) and not by party officials. To safeguard voters' choice, a number of PR countries use various forms of "open" lists (see Appendix) whereby voters exercise some preference among their preferred party's listed candidates. Aspects of open lists could be incorporated into MMP should Canadians prefer it.

2

A useful analysis of the effects of the German system is provided by Thomas D. Lancaster and W. David Patterson, "Comparative Pork Barrel Politics: Perceptions from the West German Bundestag," Comparative Political Studies 22:4 (Jan. 1990) 458-477.

3

In this article I limit myself to the electoral system best suited for Canada's elected legislature, the House of Commons. I choose MMP because it is the only PR system maintaining the link between the elector and a single legislator. However, I have no principled objection to achieving the same result by turning the Senate into a body elected under FPTP, and having the House of Commons elected through a list-style PR system—as suggested by Tom Kent in this volume.

41

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

Forming a Government under MMP The moderating tendency that PR has on party campaigning affects government formation as well. Rather than being a force for disunity, as Jean Chretien warned in the campaign, a Liberal minority could well have been a stronger force for unity than the present majority, so rooted in central Canada. With just under 40 per cent of seats spread over the entire country, the Liberals would have had the choice of ruling as a minority or forming a coalition with another party. Opponents of PR warn us of the dangers of such outcomes. Yet a minority Liberal government would have had little fear of being defeated in Parliament since the other four parties have so little in common. (A situation in which opposition disunity allows for long-term, stable minority government is not all that uncommon these days—just look at Norway—and try to imagine the wording of a vote of non-confidence that would have been supported by the Bloc, Reform, Tories, and NDP.) Of course, a minority government would have had to work harder, having to turn to its left or its right, to centralizers or decentralists, for support in Parliament— depending on the legislation in question. The probable outcome would not only have been better legislation, but legislation with a degree of popular legitimacy that numerical majority government cannot achieve. We often look back upon the post-war decades as a period of good government. Yet of the nine federal elections that took place between 1957 and 1979, six resulted in minority governments.4 Faced with the prospect of a possible minority government, the Canadian Press, on May 30, 1997, tracked down what the memoirs of Pierre Trudeau (who was a minister in one minority government, led another, and headed the Opposition in a third) had to say on the subject: "They were exciting times, akin to canoeing through seething rapids. A leader learned how to live dangerously, how to savour the pleasures of running risks and overcoming perils.... If you can't do that when you are in a minority government, you shouldn't be in politics." But this was under FPTP, when minority governments were regarded as exceptional. Under MMP, the absence of a majority government would be the norm. Hence, as in most PR countries, we might well have found ourselves with a coalition government. One possibility would have been a LiberalConservative coalition. Apart from other advantages, such an arrangement would have far greater legitimacy in dealing with the national unity question

42

4

See Alan Cairns's important article on the effects—real and imagined—of FPTP on representation in Canada. "The Electoral System and the Party System in Canada, 1921-1965." Canadian Journal of Political Science i (1968) 55-80.

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THE CASE FOR P R O P O R T I O N A L REPRESENTATION

than does the present government—a minority government in everything but the number of seats. Where the FPTP system has produced majority governments, the tendency of the system to polarize rather than promote compromise has not necessarily served Canada well. As a thought experiment, one might imagine the outcome if the one serious recent effort at electoral reform had succeeded. This was in the early 19805, when a Quebec investigatory commission advocated adoption of a regional-list system of PR. The recommendation was endorsed by the Levesque Cabinet, but, due to lack of support, was never presented to the legislature.5 Had the proposal been adopted, the balance of power today would be held by parties representing the 30 per cent of Quebeckers who insist on a new relationship with Canada but prefer a compromise short of sovereignty. The National Assembly would be made up of at least four parties: hard-line independentistes like Jacques Parizeau; moderate sovereigntists, probably led by Lucien Bouchard; nationalist federalists like Claude Ryan; and Trudeau federalists led, perhaps, by Guy Bertrand or an anglophone from the Equality Party. If PR were adopted before the next Quebec election, the Action Democratique, whose leader Mario Dumont has called for a lo-year moratorium on referenda in Quebec, could very well win the balance of power. Of course, despite the fact that electoral reform is still in the PQ program, it will remain off the political agenda at least until after the next referendum. I stress the effect on national unity since the issue dominates Canadian federal politics. But the main effect of PR is to temper ideological swings. Consider the last two Ontario elections, each of which resulted in governments ideologically more extreme than the majority of Ontario voters. The second produced Mike Harris's "common sense revolution," a series of radical policies reminiscent of those of New Zealand's National (Conservative) Party from 1990 to 1993. But New Zealanders, in their wisdom, understood that electoral institutions needed to be changed if they wished to avoid narrow, ideology-driven agendas imposed by a single-party majority. In 1993, New Zealanders narrowly re-elected National but endorsed MMP in a referendum. National took little time to open itself to more centrist policies, policies implemented under the present centre-right coalition government elected under MMP in 1996. While the transition has 5 For a discussion of the aborted electoral reform effort in Quebec in the early 19805, see Henry Milner, "Obstacles to Electoral Reform in Canada," in the American Review of Canadian Studies 24:1 (1994) 39-55. The results of the November 1998 Quebec election, in which the Liberals won slightly more votes but 28 (of 125) fewer seats than the PQ. and the ADQ. won 12% but only one seat, have led to several calls for reopening the debate.

43

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

not been painless—as Jack Nagel recounts in these pages —New Zealand finds itself with small parties of the right, left and centre, and large parties of the centre-right and centre-left, guaranteeing—as much as such things can be guaranteed—that the government will reflect the considered will of the majority of its citizens.

Political Institutions Shape Our Politics and Policies We now have years of experience in the large majority of democratic countries that use PR, and the political science literature, notably the work of Arend Lijphart and his colleagues, is quite definitive. PR systems elicit higher voter turnout and representation of women and minorities, and are, on balance, more effective in providing government performance that is both efficient and linked to commitments made in electoral campaigns.7 This is no accident. By assuring that the number of seats that parties are accorded will reflect the parties' popular support, PR frames incentives and disincentives for political actors resulting in a reduction of the cost of political information. With disparities in their support not exacerbated by the electoral system, political parties know that they will have to co-operate to govern, and that part of that co-operation consists of undistorted transmission of information among political actors. Where compromise and

44

6

Despite statements to this effect by opponents of the electoral reform, there has not been a turning back to FPTP. Jack Vowles, Susan Banducci, and Jeffrey Karp summarize the findings of the July 1998, Mid-Term Survey from the University of Waikato, "Electoral System Opinion in New Zealand," as follows: "New Zealanders feel highly alienated from politicians and government, probably more so than at any other time.... When other choice options are left open, those who wish to return to first past the post are a similarly sized minority to those who wish to keep MMP. Explicit support for a supplementary member system is also extremely low. Support for the principle of proportional representation remains quite high.... There is apparent support for a longer period for assessment of MMP than its critics advocate."

7

Despite expectations to the contrary, the "manifesto group" found, in its detailed study of party programs and government policies in 10 Western countries, that PR-based parties are at least as good at turning their programmatic commitments into government policy as those in FPTPbased systems (See Richard I. Hofferberg, "Parties, Policies, and Democracy: An Overview" in H.D. Klingemann, R.I. Hofferberg, and I. Budge, eds., Parties, Policies, and Democracy, Boulder: Westview, 1994). It's time to dispense with the notorious Italian red herring on this matter. Italy's problems of attaining stable governments had little to do with pRperse.

MILNER

THE CASE FOR P R O P O R T I O N A L R E P R E S E N T A T I O N

coalition is a visible, built-in feature of the political process, opponents can collaborate even when they disagree. Moreover, PR works against distortion in the flow of information from top to bottom by reducing the cost to political leaders of making the electorate aware of alternative positions on salient policy options, and of how they, as opposed to their opponents, view their likely effect if implemented. Under FPTP, in contrast, the governing party is expected to implement its program as if supported by a majority of the population, rather than seek and build broad-based support for needed, but controversial, reforms. It knows that the other parties have nothing to gain by co-operating, that their political interest lies in denouncing, distorting or exaggerating the likely effects of unpopular policies, even ones they know to be necessary. And, in a world of global markets, high debt, and environmental and demographic crises, such policy choices will more and more confront a misinformed and increasingly alienated electorate—making FPTP increasingly a luxury we cannot afford.9

To the extent that political institutions and not deeper divisions were to blame, these lie in such specific Italian practices as secret ballots in Parliament and preference voting within party lists, as well as effectively no minimum to discourage tiny fringe parties. It is these practices which undermine stable coalition government, rather than the PR system itself. (Another argument I recently heard bears mentioning here, namely that PR is unacceptable since, under Weimar, it brought Hitler to power. Flabbergasted as I was by the assertion, I failed to note in reply that this "fact" did not deter Israel from adopting PR in 1948.) 8

For the link between information and electoral institutions, see Henry Milner, "Electoral Systems, Integrated Institutions, and Turnout in Local and National Elections: Canada in Comparative Perspective," Canadian Journal of Political Science 30:1 (1997) 89-106. A useful illustration of the effects of lower levels of political knowledge on electoral choice is provided in a 1998 book by Donald Granberg and Soren Holmberg, The Political System Matters: Social Psychology and Voting Behavior in Sweden and the United States (Cambridge). It is the most politically ignorant American voters that disproportionately switch sides during an election campaign. This is simply not the case in Sweden.

9

In their study of national survey data in relation to the 1997 general election, Clarke, Wearing, Kornberg and Stewart find voters that expressed strong negative feelings for the party leaders, refused to identify with parties in record numbers, and failed to link issue to parties. They conclude that "lacking a firm foundation in public support, these parties and politicians, like Canada itself, face a very uncertain future" (H. Clarke, P. Wearing, A. Kornberg and M. Stewart, "The Contest Nobody Won: The 1997 Canadian Federal Election and the National Party System." Presented at the ACSUS 1997 Conference, Minneapolis, November, 1997).

45

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

If we are concerned with preserving the relative equality of the welfare state against these forces, we should be thinking about the institutions most conducive to such outcomes. In my books and articles on social democratic welfare states, I have explained why the social compromises fostered by PR are more likely to arrive at such outcomes.10 Here, I will let the numbers speak for themselves. Table 2.2 sets out the most recent Gini coefficient ratings for Western countries. The Gini coefficient measures the level of equality or inequality in the distribution of revenues among the poorest to richest deciles of the TABLE 2.2: Income Distribution in Rich Democracies: The Luxembourg Income Survey YEAR COUNTRY

46

Finland Sweden Austria Norway Denmark Belgium Italy Luxembourg Germany Netherlands Canada Australia France UK

Switzerland us New Zealand

YEAR

19805

GINI

1990S

GINI

87 87 87 86 92 88 86 85 84 87 87 85 84 86 82 86 86

.207

91 92

.227

+

.229

+

91

.230

+

.239

+

.235

91

.230

+

.310

91

•255

+

.238

91

.268

+

91

.268

-

.295

91 90

.285

.309

-/+

.2

96

-/+

91

•335

-

•350 •33(-3)

-

.220

+

.227 .234

+

.250 .268

.289

.304 •323 .341 .26 (.23)a

PR

+

+ 91 92

-

a New Zealand's figures are drawn from two separate sources consulted by the author that use methodologies somewhat similar to us. Source: The Luxembourg Income Survey, http://lissy.ceps.lu/ineq.htm 10 See, for example, Henry Milner, Social Democracy and Rational Choice: The Scandinavian Experience and Beyond (London: Routledge, 1994); and "The Welfare State as Rational Choice: Social Democracy in a Post-socialist World," Scandinavian Political Studies 19:2 (1996).

MILNER

THE CASE FOR P R O P O R T I O N A L R E P R E S E N T A T I O N

population. At one theoretical extreme, a Gini of o.o indicates that the 10 deciles of households in a given society each have the same total disposable income, while, at the other extreme, a Gini of i.o indicates that the richest decile has all the disposable income. In recent years, the Luxembourg Income Survey (LIS) has standardized the methodology so that the LISassembled Gini data now available for most industrial democracies give us a solid, long-term basis for comparison. While there are partial exceptions— notably Switzerland—the rule is that PR countries are the most egalitarian and FPTP countries (the us, Britain, New Zealand) the least; countries with systems in between, like France and Australia, are in the middle.

Prospects for Reform Currently, the main electoral reform efforts still centre around recall, a measure that, if adopted widely, could undermine informed democratic party politics, just what moving to MMP would enhance. Nevertheless, the sentiment behind the recent effort in British Columbia to use recall against two provincial legislators and thus undermine the paper-thin majority of the NDP government is quite understandable—after all, the NDP won with many thousands of votes fewer than the opposition Liberals. But recall treats only the symptoms, with grave side effects. Considering major electoral reform is one thing; implementing it is another. As Kent Weaver reminds us, it is never easy to change an electoral system, since politicians have a vested interest in maintaining the system that elected them. Moreover, despite the fact that the 1997 election result made apparent especially to NDP and Conservative leaders the disadvantages of FPTP, politicians still tend to view electoral reform as a non-starter in which they are unwilling to invest precious political capital. Once we get beyond the politicians, apart from the fact that few Canadians' horizons stretch beyond the us and Britain, the explanation for Canada's failure to even discuss change probably lies in a general sense of institutional vulnerability as far as the federal distribution of power is concerned—an unarticulated fear that tampering with electoral institutions would only exacerbate the situation. Nevertheless, the 1997 election results did provoke a fair amount of comment on electoral reform. National affairs columnists, including Andrew Coyne of Southam and Rosemary Speirs of the Toronto Star, asserted that the electoral system had outlived its usefulness. The editors of The Globe and Mailcame out for PR, though stating a preference for a partially proportional "add 60" version of electoral reform. Yet perhaps more representative was Globe columnist Jeffrey Simpson, who

47

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

48

dismissed PR as "a delicate flower that will wilt again," and which, he claimed, in the unlikely case of its implementation, would "make regionalism worse." One pundit whose views bear particular note is Hugh Segal. In announcing his candidacy for leader of the Conservative party, Segal endorsed a move toward partial proportionality. The official Reform party policy is now to hold a national, binding referendum on electoral reform. (The idea was proposed to its early 1998 assembly by its task force on electoral reform and ratified—80 per cent for; 20 per cent against—in write-in ballots.) And the NDP has again warmed to the idea. At its January 1998 Federal Council it voted to establish a Committee to study various models of PR as an alternative to FPTP. Veteran MP Lome Nystrom jumped the gun, introducing a private-member's bill in the Commons calling for setting up an all-party committee to prepare the ground for a national referendum on. Of course the bill never made it out of committee since no one in the Liberal majority would touch it—for understandable reasons. But this could change if, after the next federal election, the Liberals were in a minority position and forced to rely on the support of the NDP or another party which made such support conditional upon its agreement to establish such a committee. Even in the still unlikely event of this happening, the reform that could emerge from such a process would more likely be a partial one, such as that advocated by Weaver or Flanagan elsewhere in this volume, rather than PR through German-style MMP advocated here. But unlikely does not mean impossible—the prospects are no bleaker than they were in New Zealand not long ago. Moreover, unlike New Zealand, Canada has an upper house and provincial legislatures, and a tradition of provinces serving as laboratories for policy and institutional innovation. An alternative open to us is to first use MMP to elect a provincial legislature, or a new senate as advocated by Leduc. Much could be learned by comparing the costs and benefits of the alternative systems. This is another, and in my view better, way to mix elements of FPTP and PR, than to opt for an only partially proportional system. British developments are instructive in this regard. Though the electoral systems adopted by the Blair government for the elections of members of the European Parliament, and the new Scottish, Northern Irish, and (though less so) Welsh Assemblies allow for close to proportional outcomes, the same cannot be said of the proposal for the House of Commons presented in October 1998 by a Commission headed by Sir Roy Jenkins. The proposal, known as AV+ and summarized in the postscript to the Reynolds article, while certainly an improvement over FPTP, fits into the category of partial reforms. It was drafted, it is clear, with an eye on what

MILNER

THE CASE FOR PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION

might be acceptable to the government of the day. That government is led by Tony Blair, as a result of a decisive victory for Labour in 1997 which ended 18 years of unbroken Tory rule. The Conservatives had come to power after Roy Jenkins and other high-profile centrists left Labour to form the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Like the Liberals (with whom some SDPers later merged to form the Liberal Democrats), they could not translate their support into seats under FPTP. The result was a solid legislative—though not popular—majority for Thatcherism. To remedy this, Tony Blair succeeded where the SDPers failed, pushing Labour firmly to the electable centre. Yet we know that a similar outcome could have been attained earlier, via a Labour-Liberal Democratic coalition, had the elections been fought under PR and not FPTP. Unfortunately, once they attained power under FPTP, Labour leaders became less than enamoured of an electoral system that would require their sharing it. This was something the Jenkins Commission understood in arriving at its AV+ formula under which Labour would still have won a clear parliamentary majority in 1997 despite winning only 43 per cent of the popular vote. Why does this matter? If we are concerned not just with policy outcomes but with informed participation in the policy process, there is a fundamental difference between Blairite policies emerging, on the one hand, as a compromise program of government between parties of the centre and left, and, on the other, out of a party transformed almost beyond recognition in order to win a majority of seats. The latter case entails supporters renouncing principles at the core of their attachment to the party. It cannot but result in disillusionment with the party and a general cynicism toward politics generally. The former alternative, a government formed on a compromise program reflecting the expressed choices of a majority of voters, but which nevertheless allows constituent party programs to evolve at a pace that respects the expectations and understandings of party supporters, is possible only under PR. This is the long-term goal of electoral-system reform as conceived here. It is something more than a technical fix of specific representational anomalies; it is a step in the process of building the fundamental principle of proportionality into all levels of representation, from local to supranational, of creating an institutional framework conducive to informed democratic participation. The process in Britain has stalled as it approached the hallowed halls of Westminster; it has yet to get underway in Canada.

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THREE

How to Renew Canadian Democracy: PR for the Commons, FPTP Elections for the Senate, and Political Financing by Individuals Only TOM K E N T

It is now seven years since the Lortie Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing published its report. Its many detailed recommendations were, for the most part, the kind of small steps that are supposed to appeal to the current prime minister. That they have nevertheless been ignored is a distressing indication that the government—content with its election and re-election, however much is owed to the confusion and weakness of opposition parties—is complacently indifferent to the disarray of our political system. Small though most of the reforms proposed by the Commission are, taken together they would appreciably improve our electoral democracy. Appreciably but not more, because the Commission firmly confined itself to constructive tinkering. It all but ignored two of the fundamental causes of political disarray. First, it set aside reconsideration of the singlemember-constituency, first-past-the-post electoral system that we inherited from Britain and that is increasingly out of joint with Canada's very different society. Second, it dismissed briefly and without substantive argument the dysfunction that arises from the sources of political financing, a dysfunction that makes it unlikely that our politicians will respond adequately and in time to the social crisis threatened by a deepening division between the rich and the poor of the nation. This article does a little to fill the two gaps. First, it suggests how a fairer political structure could be secured nationally, by means of some form of proportional representation (PR), without abandoning the virtues of local representation that are so necessary for vital politics in a country so diverse as Canada. Second—and at some length, because it is the more neglected topic—the article proposes how to democratize the financing of politics and thereby revitalize the political parties.

5i

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

PR for the Commons, But, Criticism of the present electoral system is often based chiefly on the imbalance in regional representation that it produces. There are many supporters of other parties in Ontario, but its MPS are almost entirely Liberals; there are still quite a lot of Liberals in Alberta, but they elect no MPS. Such anomalies of the system are indeed serious, but even more important is their effect of discouraging people from taking part in politics. Workers for one party may be rewarded with the votes of, say, 20 per cent of Canadians and yet get only a handful of seats in the Commons. Another party may win only the same share of electoral support and yet, because of its distribution, gain so much parliamentary representation that it becomes the official Opposition. And another party may be barely twice as popular as either of these—getting 40 per cent or even less of the votes of Canadians—but nevertheless have a secure majority in Parliament and be able to govern as its leader chooses for four or five years. It is hardly surprising that many Canadians, feeling that their votes have little effect, are frustrated with politics, and that few—apart from those who anticipate patronage benefits—think of party work as anything but a mug's game. The case for moving to proportional representation for the House of Commons is, in my view, overwhelmingly strong. It has been adopted in some form in all established democracies except the United States, France, and Britain, and in the last is under consideration. The Canadian case is made elsewhere in this volume and in other places;11 will not repeat it at length. There is, however, a corollary that is crucial for our situation but has been little considered. MPS now have, in theory, two functions. With very few exceptions, he or she is a party person, supporting a government or working for its defeat. The MP is also the representative of a constituency, pressing local interests on its behalf, and acting as facilitator or ombudsman for all constituents, irrespective of party, who have brushes with the federal bureaucracy. In practice, the role of local spokesperson is a historical artifact with limited present reality. It is rare indeed for an MP to break party ranks because of local interests. One who does so is likely to have a short political life. If we simply moved to European-style PR for the Commons, without any other change, the role would disappear entirely. The MP would be purely a party person, one of ten or so elected from an area far too large for constituents to feel that any one of them was their local representative in Ottawa.

52

i

See, for example, Tom Kent, Getting Ready for 1999 (Kingston: Institute for Research on Public Policy, 1989) 37-50.

KENT

HOW TO R E N E W C A N A D I A N D E M O C R A C Y

That would be a great loss to democracy. Essential as national parties are for representative government, they are not enough. Canada is still too diverse; for most people, Ottawa is still too remote. The sense of involvement with national affairs as a whole, of having a say, is weak now; it would be further reduced if the people of Sydney and Kitchener, of Moose Jaw and Penticton, no longer felt that one of their own was at the centre of it all. Adopting PR does not need to have that effect. There is every reason to replace the present Senate by an elected second chamber. The case is usually made in terms of strengthening regional interests in Ottawa. The case is equally strong for more local representation. My proposal therefore is that, when we move to PR for the Commons with its multi-member districts, we create single-member constituencies for a new, elected Senate. This would genuinely be a second chamber. It would have full powers to debate, investigate, amend, and force reconsideration of government legislation, regulations, and appointments. But it would be a second chamber in the sense that, in the final analysis, the Commons would prevail. The government would not stand or fall by vote of the Senate. This new kind of senator would have not only the legitimacy of election but also a freedom from party discipline that MPS do not. They would be fully able to espouse local as well as regional interests. They would take over, and be able to perform more effectively, the role of MPS as representatives of all their constituents. They would be, in a full sense, the persons in Ottawa from Moncton or Brandon. In sum, PR would give us a House of Commons truly representative of national opinion, while a Senate elected as the House of Commons now is, from single-member constituencies, would significantly strengthen the grass-roots association with the government of Canada.

The Weakness of Parties Such electoral reforms would in themselves help to revitalize the political system. But they are far from enough. In a representative democracy political parties are the essential intermediaries between the opinions of individuals and the policy choices presented for the electorate's decision. Democracy means not only that all citizens are equal in having one vote. It means also that those who wish are equally free to play a more active role by participating in effective political parties.

53

MAKING EVERY VOTE COUNT At best, this second requirement of democracy is imperfectly fulfilled. At present the weaknesses of the parties make opportunities for equal participation little more than a sham. The reality has been well described by Senator Lowell Murray, who has had long and distinguished experience in the Conservative Party: Our national political parties are now not much more than election day machines and fund-raising organizations. Even in those roles, some of the traditional activities of party members—canvassing, organizing, collecting money, and getting out the vote—have been overtaken in importance by modern polling, marketing and communications campaigns run by outside professionals and party staff.... As a result, the number of volunteers actively involved, even at election time, is small.... At the national headquarters of any of the parties, you will find staff assigned to programs in communications, finance, organization, youth activity, and so on. What you will not find is a comparable effort to organize and stimulate continuing discussion of current issues and future policy from the constituency level up to the national level.... The policy process in the national parties provides completely inadequate preparation for party candidates who become cabinet ministers and for their parliamentary supporters and opponents. Compared to the senior bureaucracy, to think tanks, to single interest groups, and to the media, our political parties are not seen as important contributors to the development of policy. As a nation we are paying an increasingly heavy price for this dysfunction in our democratic and parliamentary systems.2

54

The Strength of Advocacy Our electoral system has helped bring about this state of affairs, but not by itself. Public affairs do not tolerate a vacuum. Changing the electoral system, if it is to have the desired effect, needs to go hand-in-hand with measures to reduce the influence of money on politics. For the policymaking process within parties has been replaced by influences from outside. In part this is because people have voted with their feet. It used to be that the normal avenue, for anyone with an active interest in public policy, was work within a political party. No longer. Far more hospitable outlets for 2

Lowell Murray, contribution to T. Kent, ed., In Pursuit of the Public Good: Essays in Honour of Allan J. MacEachen (McGill-Queen's University Press, 1997) 173-4.

KENT

HOW TO R E N E W C A N A D I A N D E M O C R A C Y

ideas and enthusiasms are now to be found in the burgeoning advocacy groups that promote particular policies. Whatever the concern—from child care to seniors' welfare and everything between—the individual has a far stronger sense of effective involvement within an advocacy group than within a political party. The other side of the burgeoning of special interest groups is, therefore, a diminution of volunteer work within the parties. Senator Murray estimated that, of the almost 14 million Canadians who voted in the 1993 election, fewer than 200,000 took an active part by working for a party in the campaign.3 And even leading participants are in considerable measure wanderers: "Twenty-seven per cent of the three established parties' candidates in the 1993 general election reported that they had once been active in some other party."4 However, while single-interest groups have largely replaced the political parties as vehicles for citizen participation and dedication, their influence on policy has not increased proportionately. In part, of course, this is because they offset one another: social activists lined up against campaigners for lower taxes, and so on. The main reason, however, is that they are all outweighed by a quieter but greater influence.

The Power of Money Political parties need large funds to feed their ever more elaborate machines, their pollsters and spin doctors, their organizers, their propaganda and advertising. In 1988 the Conservative Party spent over $29 million. Much comes from individual donations, encouraged by tax deductions, but for the Liberal and Conservative parties they usually account for less than half of the annual total. The rest, including the big gifts, comes from business firms and their associations. The NDP gets more of its money from individuals but depends also on trade unions. It is fashionable to scorn the single mothers and others who "live on welfare." If we look for other kinds of dependency in our society, none is more significant or more damaging than that of politicians and their parties. When in power they owe their success and its continuation to the largesse of corporation executives. This dependency is at its extreme for the leaders 3 4

Murray 173. R. Kenneth Carty, "For the Third Asking: Is there a Future for National Political Parties in Canada?," in Kent 150.

55

MAKING EVERY VOTE COUNT

56

of the two old parties; the dollars, in seven figures, for their leadership campaigns have to be raised largely from corporations. The concern most often expressed is that some political donations are purchases of favours—contracts, grants, and the like—for the donor companies. Concrete evidence of such corruption is scarce; there is no reason to think it more rife now than in the past. But a few cases are sufficient, particularly when accompanied by the recent growth of lobbying activity, to create a strong impression of sleaziness in politics. That is not, however, the major negative consequence of corporate financing of the parties. The more fundamental effect arises from its conjunction with the atrophy of policy-making within the parties. Politicians without a base in party opinion turn, formally, to the polls to guide their decisions. But those readings of public opinion are always short term and often imprecise. Their interpretation can be coloured by the influences closest to the government. And the strongest influence is the one created by financial dependency. In the 19605, Liberal government policies often ran counter to the views of most corporate executives. Otherwise we would not have had medicare, public pensions, and other programs that lean against inequality. For a generation, however, the influence of the corporations has been increasing, and, of late, it has been dominant. That this has coincided with the growing spending, and therefore dependency, of the parties is not accidental. Nor is it an accident that social programs have been weakened.

Ottawa's Ideology of the Executive Suite Political donations are reinforced by other corporate expenditures. The direct promotion of policies liked by most corporations reached its peak in the 1988 election campaign. The massive, business-financed advertising blitz in favour of the trade agreement with the United States was greatly influential, perhaps decisive, in securing a majority (in Parliament, though not in the popular vote) for the Mulroney Conservatives and, hence, in the implementation of the agreement. Most advocacy advertising by corporations is softer in tone but pervasive enough to have at least some background influence. More important, because indirect, is the financing of so-called "think tanks," such as the Fraser Institute and the C.D. Howe Institute; most of their studies can be relied on to support corporate priorities. Above all, there is the Business

KENT

HOW TO R E N E W C A N A D I A N D E M O C R A C Y

Council on National Issues (BCNI). Its clear purpose is to promote the views on public policy held by most of the heads of the largest corporations.5 The spending power of a corporation is in reality the power of its officers. Some would argue that this makes no difference; the shareholders would approve of the politics. Since such matters are not put to vote at shareholder meetings, this is an unproven assertion. It is, in any case, irrelevant. Companies exist to undertake business. Their articles of association do not endow the shareholders with any right to confer a political role on their officers. The essence of democracy is the equality of citizens: all have the same right to participate in public affairs. In practice, of course, some have much more influence than others; these are, in one way or another, opinion leaders. Corporation executives have access to that role, thanks to their positions and connections. Some, thanks to additional qualifications, can earn great influence. That is entirely proper in our society. What is improper is that corporation executives in general, irrespective of their abilities or experience in public affairs, have enhanced political weight simply because they divert money from their corporations to politics. This is the most fundamental of the flaws in our democracy, the blatant denial of political equality among citizens. Unless it is corrected, the parties, though more fairly represented under PR, would still not be able to serve their democratic function.

Politics for Citizens How can it be corrected? Several measures are desirable, a few practicable. It is essential that parties not be allowed to receive money from any source except individuals, and these should be limited to an annual maximum, as is the case in Quebec provincial politics. A reasonable maximum at present would be $1,000 in any year; but a larger amount would not worry me, provided that the tax deduction for political contributions is not made more generous than it already is. It is important, however, that the limitation of donations to individuals, and the annual maximum, should apply not only to party financing but, equally, to the total of any donations to candidates for political office, in 5

Lavishly financed and well staffed, it has become by far the most important influence on government. Indeed, it is hardly an exaggeration to say that, for the past decade or so, the agenda of government has been largely the agenda of BCNI. Certainly the dominant climate of attitude and thought in Ottawa is much the same as in executive suites.

57

MAKING EVERY VOTE COUNT

58

Parliament or within a party. Leadership campaigns would be greatly changed, for the better. The parties could at last make some claim to being themselves democratic institutions. This proposal does not discriminate against business corporations. The prohibition of donations to parties and candidates would apply to organizations of all kinds: to trade unions, professional bodies, interest groups, and other associations. Corporations would be most affected only because they are now the big political spenders. Equitable legislation must be comprehensive. It should apply to direct gifts of money as well as to contributions of services, equipment or personnel for political purposes; and to indirect gifts, such as the purchase of tickets for employees to attend fund-raising dinners. The legislation would also have to be tough. Any offence should be punishable by a fine that is a large multiple of the value of the illegal contribution and is levied on both the contributor and on the party or candidate accepting the contribution. An independent commission would be required to investigate offences vigorously and to impose fines, subject, of course, to appeal to the courts. Even so, there would be attempts at evasion. For example, an organization might give money to officers, employees, shareholders, and friends on the implicit condition that it was passed on as a political contribution. But such gifts would create auditing problems: if they were represented as payments for services the evasion would be expensive; since they would be taxable income for the recipient, payments would have to be considerably more than the eventual donation. Moreover, any large-scale evasion would incur a substantial risk of whistle-blowing. Parties and candidates would be cautious and would certainly not acknowledge such indirect donations as entitling the donor organization to consideration of its views and interests—as may now follow from direct donations. In short, if there is the political will to do so, legislation that limits the financing of politics to citizens alone can be enacted and enforced. There should be the will. Politicians with any sense of public service have nothing to lose but their chains. What I am proposing is their charter of freedom. They can only gain, in public respect and personal sense of worth, by relief from dependency on organizational finance. No doubt there would be a constitutional challenge to such legislation, under the Charter guarantee of freedom of expression. The argument has a semblance of credibility thanks to the legal fiction that an organization is a person. The principle of limited liability of shareholders makes it necessary that a corporation as such can be held to the same responsibilities, for contracts and debts and the like, that apply to individuals.

KENT

HOW TO RENEW CANADIAN DEMOCRACY

This necessary personalization does not, however, make corporations into citizens. It does not give them the vote. It should not turn the officers of corporations and trade unions into citizens unlike others, into super-citizens who can express their opinions not only through personal political contributions but also through larger gifts from the funds of the organizations they head. Similarly, freedom of expression does not confer on rich individuals a right to breach the principle of democratic equality by acquiring, through personal donations, political influence far exceeding the level most Canadians can afford. Lower courts can be uncertain in their grasp of principles, but it is to me unthinkable that the Supreme Court would strike down legislation embodying the fundamental concept that all Canadians, irrespective of position and wealth, have political rights in common. On that basis, confinement of political contributions to individuals, and the limitation of their size, is constitutionally secure.

Advocacy and Expenses Advocacy advertising is a legitimate way to express opinion. People with access to money can promote their opinions much more than people without. But the promotion is open and direct. It cannot be interfered with, even though the playing field is far from level. It is very different from the behindthe-scenes influence purchased by large donations to political parties. However, while a free society must give free rein to advocacy, despite its inequality, there are two ways in which it could become a little less unfair, and disruptive of democracy, than it now is. Much of the money that corporations spend to promote their opinions is treated as an expense of business. That is, part of the cost is a diversion from the tax they would otherwise pay. There is no reason for this subsidy from the public. It could and should be eliminated by tighter tax administration. My second proposal would be a limitation, but strictly in the situation where democracy is at stake. Advocacy advertising, by individuals and by

6

The practical effect would not be great. The banks might be a little less disposed to join in advertising the virtues of banks as such. It is unlikely, however, that corporations would reduce their donations to think tanks, and it is almost certain that the big corporations would still think BCNI worth its cost. But at least it would be their own money, unaided by taxpayers. Removal of the subsidy would be in no way a limitation on freedom of expression.

59

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

organizations of all kinds, should be prohibited during—and only during— a general election campaign. That campaign is a contest between parties, conducted under rules to ensure that the contest is as fair as possible. Fairness is destroyed by the kind of advertising for the trade agreement that marked the 1988 election. Advocacy at such times should be the concentrated business of political parties. Others can have their say before and after, trying to shape people's views as they wish. But during the campaign democracy must come first: the battle for minds and votes should be strictly between the parties and candidates seeking to take on the responsibilities of government.7

Revitalized parties

6o

However, while such provisions about advocacy advertising would be helpful to democracy, they are of minor importance compared with the two fundamental reforms that our political system requires—electoral system and party financing reform. In concluding, I summarize their combined benefits. Political parties financed entirely by individuals would then have less money and be much less beholden to corporation executives and—in the case of the NDP—trade union officials. Financial stringency would compel them to rely less on hired hands and more on the support and activity of their members. With less to spend on promotion, image building, TV spots, photo opportunities, they would be under pressure to be more specific about their policies and to listen more to their members. People interested in public affairs would have more incentive to join or return. In short, the parties would become more vital voluntary associations of people with broadly similar views, democratically debating among themselves how their views could best be expressed in policy. Parties would be better breeding grounds for informed MPS and Cabinet ministers, who, instead of being immersed in the climate of thought prevailing among their financial backers, would come to office with a party agenda. If they came to Parliament through a fair electoral system of proportional representation, the strengths of the parties in the House of Commons would reflect the distribution of public opinion. Political

7

An Alberta court has ruled that such a restriction would be unconstitutional, and it has not been challenged. It should be, either by appeal or—better—through new, tightened federal legislation.

KENT

HOW TO RENEW CANADIAN DEMOCRACY

activity would thereby be more satisfying for the participants. Public policies would better express the balance of their views. At the same time, a Senate elected from single-member constituencies would strengthen the contact of localities and regions with the national government. The effects of these fundamental changes could be furthered by lesser reforms of the kind recommended by the Lortie Royal Commission. Even so, I do not suggest that any overnight miracle would occur. Our political parties have lost their way, and have become too confused and dispirited for that to be possible. What will come from reform is a process of recovery taking several years. Parties could then return to their democratic roles as the competing centres for the shaping of public policy. Canadian politics can be revitalized—if politicians can be shaken out of the complacency of recent times. 61

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FOaUR

New Challenges Demand New Thinking About Our Antiquated Electoral System* LAWRENCE LEDUC

The first-past-the-post (FPTP), single member district electoral system, which we inherited from Britain rather than choosing for ourselves, has produced a startling record of distortion, misrepresentation, and impaired governance in Canadian federal elections. Its ill effects on our political system are well known and well documented, yet we seem chronically unable to initiate a serious and sustained national debate on possible alternatives.1 By contrast, newly democratizing nations which have debated the matter of electoral systems have rarely opted for British-style institutions, and others such as New Zealand which have implemented fundamental electoral reforms have deliberately moved away from this model. It is time for Canadians to do so as well. Our present electoral system continues to produce governments with large parliamentary majorities but narrow electoral pluralities. It distorts regional representation and gives unreasonable advantage to political parties able to concentrate their votes in one province or region of the country, generally at the expense of parties with a broader national appeal. Such observations are certainly not new. In a frequently cited article written in 1968, Alan Cairns documented many of the distortions which the Canadian This is a revised and condensed version of a paper first presented to the workshop on Representation and Electoral Systems, one of the Joint Sessions Workshops of the European Consortium for Political Research held at the University of Warwick, March 23-28,1998.1 am grateful to Reuven Hazan, Richard Katz, and Donley Studlar for comments on the earlier version of this paper. i

The Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing (Reforming Electoral Democracy, Ottawa, 1991), established by the federal government in 1989, was specifically instructed not to consider changes in the electoral system, even though it made recommendations on many other aspects of the conduct and administration of federal elections.

63

MAKING EVERY VOTE COUNT

electoral system had produced over the period from 1921 to 1965, and argued that the cumulative effects of these on political parties and representation in Canada were very real and serious.2 These effects, Cairns noted, were observable both in the patterns of party representation reflected in Parliament and in the under representation of sectional interests within the major parties' caucuses. The electoral system in Canada, he argued, "exacerbated the hatreds, fears and insecurities related to divisive sectional and ethnic cleavages."3 He went on to conclude that the types of electoral appeal that parties might be expected to mount, the kinds of campaigns that they run, and the ways in which they allocate their resources are all related in varying degrees to the incentives which the electoral system generates. The same types of electoral distortions continue today in an even more serious form than that which was observed and documented thirty years ago. The last two elections in Canada have produced Liberal parliamentary majorities with 38 per cent and 41 per cent of the total popular vote respectively. The role of Official Opposition in Parliament has rotated between two parties whose representation is entirely sectional. Neither of these parties has any prospect of forming a national government, thereby leaving the Liberals all but unchallenged as the governing party. The last two elections have also seen the decline of the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats, reducing further the representation of national as opposed to sectional interests. Each election seems to throw up a new set of anomalies based, not so much on the preferences of the voters, as on the eccentricities of an electoral system that from the very beginning has been ill suited to the representational needs of the country. The level of dissatisfaction of Canadians with their political system has also been rising. Turnout has declined in each of the last two federal elections, reaching a modern-day low of 67 per cent in 1997. Levels of political efficacy as measured by various public opinion indicators have also recorded new lows over the past few years.4 Many Canadians express dissatisfaction

64

2

Alan Cairns, "The Electoral System and the Party System in Canada," Canadian Journal of Political Science i (1968) 55-80.

3

Cairns, "The Electoral System" 66.

4

For example, the percentage of a national sample agreeing that "members of Parliament are out of touch with their constituents" or that they "have no say in what the government does" both recorded new highs in cross-time surveys. Harold D. Clarke et a!., Absent Mandate: Canadian Electoral Politics in an Era of Restructuring yc& ed. (Toronto: Gage, 1995) 178. See also Harold D. Clarke 5c Allan Kornberg, "Evaluations and Evolution: Public Attitudes Towards Canada's Federal Political Parties," Canadian Journal of Political Science 26 (1993) 287-311; and Andre Blais 8c Elisabeth Gidengil, Making Representative Democracy Work: the Views of Canadians•, vol. 17 of the Research Studies of the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1991).

LEDUC

NEW CHALLENGES DEMAND NEW T H I N K I N G

with the nation's political institutions, and the poor performance and patronage excesses of the appointed upper house are routinely subjects of scandal in the popular press. In this paper, I propose to consider the Canadian experience in light of reforms that have been debated or adopted in recent years in other countries. If Italy, Japan, and New Zealand can accomplish major electoral reforms, perhaps the task is not impossible for Canadians as we search for constructive ways to manage the various tensions that regularly threaten to pull the country apart.

Disproportionality in Federal Elections The overall degree of deviation between votes and seats in Canadian elections can be summarized by an Index of Disproportionality, computed by comparing the percentage totals of seats and votes won by the various parties (Table 4-1). This index provides a convenient summary measure, TABLE 4-1: Disproportionality of Seats and Votes in Canadian Federal Elections, 1968-97 93

88

84

80

301 295

295

282

282

32 28

28 -14

44 52 8

40 40 o

33

368 4

97 Total Seats

Liberal

PC

NDP

votes (%) seats (%) % difference

38 5i 13

4i 60 J 9

-4

votes (%) seats (%) % difference

19 7

16 i -i5

43 58 15

50

votes (%) II seats (%) 7 % difference ~4

7

20

T

—12

2

15

~5

~5

Reform

votes (%) 19 seats (%) 20 i % difference

18 -i

BQ

votes (%) seats (%) % difference

14 18 4

Index ofDi$'LProportionality

n 15

4

J

7

14

75 25 9 n

-8

37 4 20 n ~9

79

74

282 264

72

68

264 264

43 53 10

39 4i 2

46 59 *3

12

35 36 i

35 4i 6

31 27 ~4

18 9 ~9

15 6 ~9

18

*7

5

~3

5 4 -i

~2

5 i

12

10

8

13

12

-6

8 -9

*9

22

Social Credit 12

23

10

2

8 6

4

65

MAKING EVERY VOTE COUNT

TABLE 4-2: Index ofDisproportionality, by Region, i954 1,230

Saskatoon

25,739

1920 1923 1926

1,039 2,003 I,2O2

651 1,965 3>OI4

North Battleford

4,108

1920 1924

3J5 218

62 324

Winnipeg

179,087

1920 1971

Adopted Merged

Transcona

-

c. i94i-4e 1971

Merged

St. James

-

1922 1971

1,161 Merged

St. Vital

-

c. 1931-4 1971

Merged

Ottawa

107,843

1916

5,083

511

3,853

e Exact date of adoption unclear from newspaper sources, f Never introduced; province refused enabling legislation. Sources: adapted from J.P. Harris, "The Practical Workings of Proportional Representation in the United States and Canada," National Municipal Review 31: 5 (May 1930) 367; and John Gall Glashan, "Proportional Representation in Canada," (University of British Columbia, MA Thesis, 1951) 17.

119

MAKING EVERY VOTE COUNT

Conclusion

I2O

Examining the history of electoral system reform in Canada suggests that more than a threat to the party system was the catalyst required. While particular governments may have sought voting system changes in their party's interests, it does not appear that this was very typical behaviour. This is because in a parliamentary system even a governing party sure to lose is likely to think ahead to the point it could return to power, and FPTP'S majority-creating tendency remains very attractive. Changing the rules of the game itself requires something more, an extraordinary situation where many powerful interests beyond the parties themselves are concerned about the outcome. Inherent in capitalist democracy is the tension that political forces will emerge to use democratic power to attack the economic inequality rooted in the economic system, and thus the interests of those who benefit from it. With farmers and labourers in 1919, and again with the rise of the CCF in the 19305 and 19405, powerful forces in Canadian society feared that confrontation was imminent. And voting system reform emerged as an historical solution to the problem. But to say that voting reform emerged from a struggle to expand or contain the democratic potential of capitalist society is not to say that new voting system proposals must always result from such a confrontation. The post-war welfare state represented an alternative strategy on the part of the Liberals to co-opt CCF support rather than minimize it through changing voting arrangements, as had been done in the past. And as the CCF shifted to the right from the 19505 on, it no longer represented a threat necessitating voting reform. However, with the decline of welfare states worldwide some familiar trends may be re-emerging. Not everyone shares the consensus among the business class that free trade must be expanded and social programs curtailed. Yet, it seems to many, that no matter who they vote for, they get neoliberal economic and social policy rationalized by "global" pressure. The recent conversion to PR in New Zealand, while clearly a product of historical accidents, political gaffes, and clever organizing, cannot be severed from the frustration of voters in seeing governments of supposedly different stripes pursue the same agenda. The pursuit of voting system reform in Canada today may take many forms. It could be pursued by the federal Conservatives in concert with other parties worried about their future in Parliament. It could be pushed by a Reform party that recognized its strategic limitations vis-a-vis Quebec and saw a new voting system as a path into coalition government with itself as senior partner. Or it could even be installed by a Liberal government challenged by new political forces threatening to dislodge it from its key

PILON

THE H I S T O R Y OF V O T I N G SYSTEM R E F O R M

TABLE 9-2: Majority and Proportional Voting in Canadian Provinces PROVINCE

Manitoba Alberta British Columbia

SYSTEM

APPLICATION

ENACTED

REPEALED

Urban Rural

1920 1924

*955 J 955

Maj-Av

Urban Rural

1924 1924

1956 1956

Maj-Av

All

1951

J

PR-STVa

Maj-Av PR-STV

953

a Single transferable vote (STV) here refers to uses of transferable balloting in multi-

member ridings with proportional voting rules, while the Alternative Vote (AV) refers to transferable balloting in single, double, or multi-member ridings with majority voting rules.

position in the centre of the Canadian political spectrum. But none of these scenarios seems likely in light of the historical experience. Challenges to the party system themselves have not been enough. Take the case of Reform: as a new party it certainly threatened the old parties but did not in any way challenge corporate power, globalism or free trade (unlike its Social Credit forbears who initially railed against the banks and the "fifty big shots" back east). On the other hand, if Canada's disparate social movements could combine their initiatives to form a credible threat to conventional political power, one that would challenge the new business consensus, voting reform might suddenly gain new salience.

121

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TEN

Will Canada Seriously Consider Electoral System Reform? Women and Aboriginals Should DONLEY STUDLAR

For some time, Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system has been subjected to criticism for increasing the regional distinctiveness of the party caucuses in Ottawa1 and contrasted unfavourably with PR, which attempts to maintain a closer correspondence between the percentage of votes for a party and its seats. Although academics and political commentators have periodically raised the electoral system question, only rarely has FPTP been seriously addressed in the political arena. For a brief time in the late 19705 and early 19805, however, the issue did generate some political interest, but even that quickly subsided.2 The election results of 1993 and 1997 mav res~ urrect political interest in electoral system reform.

A Debate That Hasnt Happened This article examines the recent history of electoral system reform in Canada and why Canadians have been reluctant to confront the issue. It ends with a discussion of why women and Aboriginal peoples should consider alternative electoral systems. 1

Alan C. Cairns, "The Electoral System and the Party System in Canada, 1921-1965," Canadian Journal of Political Science i (1968) 55-80; William P. Irvine, Does Canada Need a New Electoral System? (Kingston: Queen's University Institute of Intergovernmental Relations, 1979); R. Kent Weaver, "Improving Represesntation in the Canadian House of Commons," Canadian Journal of Political Science 30 (1997) 473-512.

2

F. Leslie Seidle, "The Canadian Electoral system and Proposals for Reform," in A. Brian Tanguay and Alain-G. Gagnon, eds., Canadian Parties in Transition, 2nd. ed. (Scarborough: Nelson-Canada) 282-306. 123

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

Canada has been a persistent and recognized exception to the established relationship between an FPTP electoral system and a two-party system because regionally based, smaller parties have been able to sustain themselves by winning seats in the House of Commons from that region.3 In this century, the Progressives, Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), New Democratic Party (NDP), Social Credit, Creditistes, and, currently, the Bloc quebecois and Reform have been successful in gaining seats in the federal House of Commons. Progressive Party insurgency from the West into the then two-party system in the 19205 briefly led to consideration of changing the electoral system on the federal level. Two government-sponsored bills to change to the Alternative Vote, which would have required a majority vote for a party to gain a seat, did not pass second reading.4 A hiatus of almost a half century occurred before reform of the electoral system was again considered on the federal level. Meanwhile, as recounted by Pilon, the few experiments with the form of PR known as the Single Transferable Vote, notably in Western cities and provinces, were abandoned by the i96os.5 The question of changing the electoral system reached the political agenda in a brief and limited fashion in the late 19705 and early 19805. The Conservative minority government elected in 1979 had only two MPS from Quebec, at the same time that the Parti quebecois governed the province and was preparing to hold a referendum on sovereignty. These circumstances prompted questioning of the continued viability of FPTP in a country with such severe regional divisions. The most significant political advocate for considering a form of PR was the Pepin-Robarts Task Force on Canadian Unity, which noted that:

124

Experience in other federations indicates that when party membership in the central parliament becomes concentrated in regional blocs it is an advance signal of eventual disintegration. The regional polarization of federal political parties corrodes federal unity. Because we see developing signs of such a situation in Canada we have come to the conclusion that electoral reform is urgent and of very high priority. 3

Maurice Duverger, Political Parties: Their Organization and Structure in the Modern State, rev. ed., trans. Barbara and Robert North (New York: John Wiley, 1965); Douglas W. Rae, The Political Consequences of Electoral Laws, 2nd.ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971).

4 Seidle. 5 J. Paul Johnston and Harvey Pasis, eds. Representation and Electoral Systems: Canadian Perspectives (Scarborough: Prentice-Hall, 1990). 6 Task Force on Canadian Unity, A Future Together: Observations and Recommendations (Ottawa: Supply and Services Canada, 1979) 105.

STUDLAR

WOMEN & A B O R I G I N A L S

NDP leader Ed Broadbent supported a change after the 1979 elections, as did academic and political spokespersons for Western Canada, then beginning to assert its own regional demands. The Liberals were returned to power with a majority government in 1980, but had no MPS from Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia despite over 20 per cent of the vote in each. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau indicated in the Speech from the Throne that he would appoint a parliamentary select committee to consider changes to the electoral system, but he let the matter drop in the absence of a consensus among the parties.7 The NDP, at its convention in 1981, rejected Ed Broadbent's initiative as likely to keep the Liberals in power perpetually.8 In short, no federal party was seriously committed to electoral reform—then or now. Why did interest fade in the 19805 and 19905? A confluence of circumstances made the issue seem less than pressing. The number of parties represented in Parliament was reduced to three in the elections of 1980, 1984 and 1988, a situation that had occurred only once in 14 previous elections since 1935. And, for the first time since 1953, there were five federal majority governments in a row (1980,1984, 1988, 1993, and 1997). Other factors worked against consideration of electoral system reform. The repatriation of the Canadian Constitution in 1982 improved prospects for a constitutional settlement, especially with the absence of the PQ from power between 1985 and 1994. Most importantly, the formation of two consecutive Conservative majority governments in 1984 and 1988 suggested that regionalization of the party system might be declining.9 Historically weak in Quebec, the Conservatives, under Quebecker Brian Mulroney, won an overwhelming legislative victory in 1984 and a substantial one in 1988, sweeping seats in both the West and Quebec in the process. The historical opportunity of a long-term West/Quebec axis through the Conservative Party was lost, however, by the late 19805. The precipitating events were the failure of the Meech Lake Accord and growing popular disenchantment with the government, culminating in the referendum rejection of the Charlottetown Accord and the precipitous electoral decline of the Conservatives. 7

Paul Thomas, "The Role of National Party Caucuses," in Peter Aucoin, ed., Party Government and Regional Representation in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985) 69-136.

8

David E. Smith, "Party Government, Representation and National Integration in Canada," in Aucoin.

9 Nelson Wiseman, "Cairns Revisited—The Electoral System and the Party System in Canada," in Paul Fox, ed., Politics Canada, /th. ed. (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1991) 265-74.

125

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

126

In the 1988 election, the party favouring the contentious issue of free trade with the United States, the Conservatives, won a majority of seats and formed a government on the basis of a plurality of the popular vote while the two parties opposing free trade, the Liberals and NDP, together won a majority of the vote but only a minority of seats. Yet this did not ignite significant political debate over electoral system change.10 Instead, attempts to bring a form of PR into the Canadian system shifted toward making the appointed Senate more representative. Despite commissioning studies on electoral system reform, the MacDonald Commission on National Unity concluded in 1985 that changing the electoral system for the House of Commons would be a "second-best solution" and advocated testing the effects of PR by using it to elect a reformed Senate.11 The regional problem emerged again in the 1993 federal election, although the results were somewhat masked by the election of another majority government, this one Liberal. The Conservatives, challenged in Quebec by the Bloc and in the West by Reform, effectively disintegrated as a national party and were reduced to 16 per cent of the vote and two seats in the House, an incredible result considering their performances in 1984 (211 seats) and 1988 (169 seats). The New Democrats did almost as badly, with 7 per cent of the vote and nine seats, all of them in the West. Reform won 19 per cent of the vote and 18 per cent of the legislative seats, all but one in the West, while the BQ won 72 per cent of the Quebec seats (18 per cent overall) with 49 per cent of the Quebec vote (14 per cent overall). Canada was not only left effectively with only one country-wide party, but had an Official Opposition, enjoying the perquisites of that office, which was dedicated to the breakup of the country! Even under these circumstances, there was no groundswell for electoral system reform. Electoral reform efforts continued to target the Senate. The Reform Party demand for a "Triple-E" Senate—equal (in number of senators per province), elected (instead of appointed), and effective (rather than a tool of the majority government)—inevitably raised the question of the method 10 Lawrence LeDuc, "Performance of the Electoral System in Recent Canadian and British Elections: Advancing the Case for Electoral Reform," in Manfred J. Holler, ed., The Logic of Multiparty Systems (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1987) 341-58; William P. Irvine, "The Electoral System: The laws of political science as applied to the 1988 federal election," in Hugh G. Thorburn, ed., Party Politics in Canada, 6th ed. (Scarborough: Prentice-Hall, 1991) 87-93. 11 Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada, Report, v.3 (Ottawa: Supply and Services Canada, 1985) 85.

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WOMEN & A B O R I G I N A L S

of election, and the abortive Charlottetown Accord provoked discussion about electing senators by a method other than plurality vote.12 Yet the question was deliberately neglected in the massive research (four official volumes and 23 separately commissioned academic studies) of the Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing (Lortie Commission), appointed by the Conservative government in 1989 and reporting in 1991. Despite a host of studies—on lowering the voting age to 16, voting rights for prisoners, special districts for Aboriginals, etc.—the Commission refused to assess the impact of the existing electoral system and possible alternatives. In the thousands of pages produced by the Lortie Commission, a topic which would be expected to be prominent in deliberations about electoral reform is only mentioned in passing. Without any research on which to base such a conclusion, the Commission nevertheless recommended that FPTP be continued.13 Few instances of keeping an issue off the political agenda are more transparent—in stark contrast to New Zealand, where appointment of an Electoral Reform Commission in 1985 began a process which culminated in adoption of MMP. Canadians sceptical of the positive effects of electoral system reform argue that the consequences of reform must be highly predictable. The Lortie Commission thus represents a historic missed opportunity to analyze the potential of alternative electoral systems, especially since several of the academics employed by the Commission have done such research elsewhere. The discrepancy between votes and seats and the increasing regionalization of parties in the federal elections of 1993 and especially 1997 have stimulated some interest, at least in journalistic and academic circles, about electoral system reform. In the 19905, the Liberals became, as never before, the party of Central Canada, Reform claimed leadership of the West, the BQ was firmly ensconced in Quebec, and only the Atlantic provinces proved to be a multi-party battleground, at least in terms of seats, in I99/.14 By whatever measure is used, Canada has one of the most disproportional electoral systems among established democracies in terms of the ratio 12 Kenneth McRoberts and Patrick Monahan, eds., The Charlottetown Accord, the Referendum, and the Future of Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993). 13 Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing, Reforming Electoral Democracy: Final Report, 4 vols. (Ottawa: Supply and Services Canada, 1991). 14 Donley T. Studlar, "The Last Westminster Electoral System? Canada, Not Britain?" Representation 35:1 (1998).

127

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

of votes to seats.15 Taken as a whole, these measures show recent regional polarization of party support to be at a modern peak in Canada. If the driving force for electoral system reform in FPTP systems is increasing fragmentation of electoral results, then the time should be ripe for putting the electoral system on the political agenda in Canada.

Why Women and Aboriginals Should Look to Electoral System Reform

128

Although the partisan and regional effects of FPTP are often discussed, there is less frequent consideration of how a change to a more proportional system, whatever that might be, could benefit women and other politically underrepresented groups. Most advocates for these groups view electoral system reform as either too removed from their proximate grievances or standing little chance of adoption.16 On a worldwide basis, there is little doubt that FPTP is an obstacle to greater legislative representation of women, as Table 10-1 shows.17 A plurality system does not favour non-territorially based groups such as women. Several analyses over the past 20 years have shown the type of electoral system to be a major factor influencing the percentage of women in democratic legislatures. In MMP systems, which use both lists and single-member districts, as Therese Arseneau shows with respect to New Zealand, women MPS tend disproportionately to come from the lists. While Canada is now the world leader in women's representation under FPTP, with 21 per cent, women would likely do even better under a more proportional system. 15 Arend Lijphart, Electoral Systems and Party Systems: A Study of Twenty-Seven Democracies, 19451990 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994); Farrell; Weaver. 16 Doris Anderson, The Unfinished Revolution (Toronto: Doubleday, 1991) 198-224; Lisa Young, Electoral Systems and Representative Legislatures: Consideration of Alternative Electoral Systems (Ottawa: Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, 1994); Jane Arscott and Linda Trimble, eds., In the Presence of Women: Representation in Canadian Governments (Toronto: Harcourt Brace Canada, 1997). 17 Wilma Rule, "Electoral Systems, Contextual Factors and Women's Opportunity for Election to Parliament in Twenty-Three Democracies," Western Political Quarterly 40 (1987) 477-98; Inter-Parliamentary Union, Democracy Still in the Making (Geneva: Inter-Parliamentary Union, 1997); Richard E. Matland, 'Women's Representation in National Legislatures: Developed and Developing Countries," Legislative Studies Quarterly 23 (1998) 109-25.

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TABLE 10-1: Women Legislators in Lower Houses of Advanced Industrial Democracies, iqqj % WOMEN ELECTORAL SYSTEM

COUNTRY

Party List PR

Sweden Norway Finland Denmark Netherlands Austria Iceland Spain Switzerland Luxembourg Portugal Belgium Israel Greece

40.4

Ireland Malta

12. 0

STV PR

MMP or Mixed

FPTP

Majoritarian

New Zealand Germany Italy Japan

LEGISLATORS

MEAN

36.4

33-5 33-5 3J-3 26.8 25.4 21.4

23.5

21. 0 2O. O

129

13.0 12. 0

7-5 6.3 5-8

8.9

29.2

26.3 II. I

I7.8

4-6

Canada United Kingdom United States

20. 6 18.2 11.7

Australia France

15-5 10.9

All PR or Mixed (N = 20) FPTP or Majoritarian (N = 5) Source: Inter- Parliamentary Union website, http://www.ipu.org

16.8 13.2 20.9 15.4

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130

Aboriginals are a much smaller group but with a greater degree of territorial concentration. Nevertheless, they are likely to benefit from a more proportional system, too. A proportional system, especially one with a relatively large number of members per district, would allow Aboriginals and other ethnic minorities the opportunity to have their own MPS without incurring controversy about designated, guaranteed seats.18 There are two general problems for even serious consideration of electoral system change. The first is the lack of interest of Canadian political parties in electoral system reform. Parties which do well by FPTP and consider themselves to have a reasonable chance of forming a legislative majority government in the short-to-medium term are unlikely to plump for changes in a system that gives them a relatively free hand when in government—however much they may suffer in the political wilderness when not. Canadian political culture also inhibits contemplation of electoral system reform. The elite political culture in Canada overwhelmingly has viewed FPTP as appropriate and desirable. Yet popular opinion might be willing to follow a strong lead for change.19 Unlike many aspects of Canadian politics, changing the electoral system opens no constitutional wounds; it can be done by simple majority vote of both houses of Parliament. But it would need a concerted push from a significant section of the political elite and substantial public support. The position of FPTP in Canadian political culture is connected to another British-inherited penchant—preference for a strong single-party government.20 In Canada, this has been extended to a preference for periods of minority government rule rather than formal power-sharing coalitions. On the federal level there have been six minority governments in the post-World War II period, most recently in 1979-80. A single-party central government, many feel, is needed to hold a divided country together. Thus, unlike elsewhere, Canadian electoral system reform proposals have very often been concerned with maintaining single-party majority government. 18 Vernon Bogdanor, What Is Proportional Representation? (London: Martin Robertson, 1984); Jerome H. Black, "Minority Women in the 35th Parliament," Canadian Parliamentary Review 20: i (1997) 23-27; Alain Pelletier, "Politics and Ethnicity: Representation of Ethnic and VisibleMinority Groups in the House of Commons," in Kathy Megyery, ed., Ethno-Cultural Groups and Visible Minorities in Canadian Politics: The Question of Access (Toronto: Dundurn, 1991). 19 Andre Blais and Elizabeth Gidengil, Making Democracy Work: The Views of Canadians (Toronto: Dundurn, 1991). 20 Ian Stewart, "Of Customs and Coalitions: The formation of Canadian federal parliamentary alliances," Canadian Journal of Political Science 13 (1980) 451-79.

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MMP proposals for Canada, such as Weaver's in this issue, tend to keep the number of compensatory seats relatively low.21 The relentless march of Canada towards near-uniform FPTP continues. Provincial and federal governments have eliminated variations such as multi-member districts. The last redoubt of multi-member districts, Prince Edward Island, abandoned its long-time practice in the mid-1990s.22 A Lortie Commission recommendation for the establishment of a few federal Aboriginal districts was never implemented.23 There is a dearth of formal procedures left to improve women's and Aboriginal representation under the current electoral system. There are no Aboriginal districts on the horizon, a referendum proposal for gender-equal, two-person districts in Nunavut was defeated, and the dual-member electoral districts, which allowed women to become provincial legislators in PEI in greater numbers than elsewhere in the Atlantic provinces, are gone.24 Adding proportional features, even if only enough to create a mixed electoral system, would increase opportunities for women and other minorities not through designated seats, but through the normal operations of the system. This would depend, however, on the size of the multimember districts created. In general, the larger the district, the better for minorities since there is less struggle for a few prime places within each party's nomination list.25 Objections to changing the electoral system in Canada usually hinge on fear of the consequences and a Micawberish hope that "something will turn 21 Irvine; Weaver; Johnston and Pasis. 22 Edmond F. Ricketts and Herbert Walzer, "Electoral Arrangements and Party System: The Case of Canada," Western Political Quarterly 23 (1970) 695-714. 23 Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing, Reforming Electoral Democracy: Final Report, v.i (Ottawa: Supply and Services Canada, 1991) 179-86; Seidle 298-300. 24 Richard E. Matland and Donley T. Studlar, "Gender and the Electoral Opportunity Structure in the Canadian Provinces," Political Research Quarterly 51 (1998) 117-40; Lisa Young, "Gender Equal Legislatures: Evaluating the Proposed Nunavut Electoral System," Canadian Public Policy 23 (1997) 306-15. 25 R. Darcy, Susan Welch and Janet Clark, Women, Elections and Representation 2nd ed. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994); Richard E. Matland, "Institutional Variables Affecting Female Representation in National Legislatures: The Case of Norway," Journal of Politics 55 (i993) 737-55-

m

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132

up" to resolve present difficulties.26 Defenders of FPTP hope that the national unity question will be settled—eliminating the Bloc challenge— and that there will be a merger of Reform and the Conservatives, or a fading of the former. There is precedent for both, since the Progressives and Conservatives amalgamated and Social Credit disappeared. But the degree of regional polarization is unprecedented and neither alternative scenario appears imminent. Since the 19205, electoral system reform has been off the national political agenda. Despite increasing fragmentation and regionalization of the party system, and underrepresentation of women, Aboriginals and other minorities, established political parties, buttressed by Canadian political culture, have kept FPTP in place. Since the 1997 election, there has been renewed academic and journalistic interest in electoral system reform. The question remains: will this lead Canadians to reconsider their electoral conservatism and put reform on the political agenda?

26 C.E.S. Franks, The Parliament of Canada (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1987) 62-66; Wiseman, "Cairns Revisited"; Nelson Wiseman, "Skeptical Reflections on Proportional Representation," Policy Options 18:9 (1997) 15-18; John C. Courtney, "Electoral Reform and the Role of National Parties," Policy Options 18:9 (1997) 26-29.

ELEVEN

Electing Representative Legislatures: Lessons from New Zealand* THERESE ARSENEAU

Since Confederation there has been much discussion of the struggle between two competing visions of representation: representation by population versus representation of the constituent units of the federation, be it the representation of regions or provinces, on an equal or equitable basis. Of interest here is a third vision of representation now fighting for recognition the representation of non-territorial groups. This version of representation is gaining strength and voice in Canada. We see it in the demands for Aboriginal self-government, in the recommendations of the Lortie Commission, in the Charlottetown Accord's provision for a PR-elected senate, in the people's demands to be admitted to the constitutional process, and in the demand for more women, visible minority, and Aboriginal MPS. Yet women and Aboriginal peoples are still consistently underrepresented in the House of Commons—a state of events calling into question the legitimacy of this "representative" institution. Choice of electoral system is crucial to this discussion. The focus here will be on evaluating electoral systems' capacity to give voice to this third vision of representation as it regards women and Aboriginal peoples. The theory, based on international experience, is that PR party-list systems produce the most representative legislatures, single-member plurality firstpast-the-post (FPTP) the least representative, and mixed systems something in between. New Zealand's recent switch from FPTP to a mixed-member proportional system serves as the test case. Although the overall election results are proportional, under MMP New Zealanders still use FPTP to elect over half their MPS, which, as we will see, reduces the effect of the new system on the election of women. Nevertheless, New Zealand is an ideal choice for this study, especially from a Canadian perspective. First, it, like This chapter is a based on an article that first appeared in Policy Options in November, 1997. The research was partially funded by a Saint Mary's University Senate Research Grant. 133

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

Canada, is a former British colony with a Westminster-style parliamentary system. Second, not only can we compare the pre-1996 FPTP with MMP, we can also compare how effectively women and Aboriginal MPS are elected by FPTP versus PR party-list system within the 1996 election. Third, New Zealand's guaranteed representation of its native people, the Maori, in its separate Maori seats adds a valuable dimension to the study. Did New Zealand's first MMP election produce a more representative legislature? The New Zealand experience does provide some valuable insights on the relationship between electoral systems and the election of women and Aboriginal peoples. But the answer to the question turns out not to be so simple: both this relationship, and the very notion of "representation" itself, are complex. !34

Representation and the Electoral System Studies have found that type of electoral system is the single most important variable in explaining cross-national differences in the level of electoral representation of women; similarly, the connection has been made between electoral system and the election of minorities.1 Allowing for a few exceptions, the general rule is that countries with PR systems elect more representative legislatures. Why? Although this can be partly explained by country-specific differences (more equitable societies, parties committed to more equity, successful parties on the left) the bottom line is that PR systems pose fewer barriers to achieving representative outcomes than do single-member systems. How? There are two major factors: better access to winnable candidacies and the creation of larger constituencies. In Canada's FPTP system, women and Aboriginal candidates are both too few in number and tend to run in unwinnable seats. The Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing concluded that the persistent underrepresentation of these groups is linked to "the practices of national political parties, i

See Wilma Rule, "Parliaments of, by, and for the People: Except for Women?" in Wilma Rule and Joseph F. Zimmerman, eds., Electoral Systems in Comparative Perspectives: Their Impact on Women and Minorities (Westport: Greenwood, 1994) 16; Rule, "Electoral Systems, Contextual Factors and Women's Opportunity for Election to Parliament in Twenty-Three Democracies," Western Political Quarterly 40 (1987); E. Lakeman, "The Case for Proportional Representation," in A. Lijphart and B. Grofman, eds., Choosing An Electoral System: Issues and Alternatives (New York: Praeger, 1984); P. Hain, Proportional Misrepresentation (Aldershot: Gower, 1986); and Vernon Bogdanor, What is Proportional Representation? (Oxford: Martin Robinson, 1984).

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LESSONS FROM NEW ZEALAND

particularly their local constituency associations, which function as gatekeepers of access to candidacy."2 Women and minority candidates are all too often found in ridings where their party is not competitive. This would likely change if Canada adopted a PR party-list system or even a mixed system. In proportional systems, women and minority candidates are seen as assets and are placed on parties' lists in an attempt to attract women and minority voters. It is important to be seen to be fair to women and minorities, especially when a party is presenting a national or regional list with many names on it. A relatively low number of women and minority candidates may go unnoticed when there are 301 separate, singlemember constituencies. But when a party presents a large list of candidates, it is a statement of how the party sees itself and whom it represents; failure to present a "balanced ticket" is more highly visible. We should expect more women and minority candidates in a party-list system, and, since it is also in the parties' interest to place women and minority candidates high on their list, more of these candidates should be elected. Creating a larger national or regional electorate would be particularly beneficial to Aboriginal candidates. Instead of being thinly spread through a number of singlemember constituencies, Aboriginal peoples could become a national or regional force of combined numbers in a party vote.

Representation in New Zealand Under FPTP New Zealand's record of electing women MPS by FPTP was consistently slightly better than Canada's. In 1993, for example, women made up 21 per cent of New Zealand's House of Representatives compared to 18 per cent of the Canadian House of Commons. New Zealand's record was still far from equitable, however. Making the House more gender-representative was emphasized as one of the desirable consequences of a switch to MMP. Maori had also been underrepresented in the FPTP-elected House of Representatives. But unlike women, under the old system, Maori had guaranteed representation in the form of the four separate Maori seats. These seats were established in 1867. The motivation for this unusual provision was to guarantee Maori representation in the House, while at the same time keeping Maori from "swamping" the settlers in the remaining seats reserved for Europeans. The separate seats also prevented Maori males 2

Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing, Reforming Electoral Democracy i (Ottawa: Supply and Services, 1991) 115.

J

35

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

from being disenfranchised by an existing restriction requiring men to own property in order to vote. Since Maori shared land in community, most Maori males would not have been allowed to vote. The separate seats provided a means of circumventing this restriction. The entire country was divided into four single-member districts in which only Maori could vote and stand for election. From 1896 to 1975, Maori were permitted to register and vote only in Maori electorates. Since then, Maori have been given the choice of registering on either the Maori or the general roll. Prior to 1993, the number of Maori seats was fixed at four regardless of how large the Maori population or Maori roll might be. Evaluations of this system of separate Maori representation have been mixed. On the one hand, the Maori seats are symbols of Maori's special status as the indigenous people of New Zealand; and they have ensured that for 125 years there have been at least four Maori in the House of Representatives. On the other hand, in many ways the separate seats have marginalized the Maori people. Historically, the effect has been that the vast majority of MPS from the general roll have ignored Maori concerns. All too often these were deemed to be the sole domain of the Maori MPS. The geographic size of the Maori seats, particularly Southern Maori which was the size of 45 general electorates, prevented even the most diligent MP from adequately servicing his or her constituents. With a few exceptions, the Maori MPS did not possess great political weight. This was partly because they were only four in number. It was also the result of the seats being safe Labour seats since the 19305—so safe that National did not even bother trying to win the Maori vote, and Labour did not work very hard to earn their continued support. In sum, the Maori seats guaranteed separate, formal representation but often denied Maori real influence. When the new electoral system was first proposed, there was talk that these seats would not be necessary under an MMP system since Maori would be more effectively represented through new Maori parties, increased representation in existing parties, or both. This was not popular with Maori who were wary of losing the guarantee of representation on the expectation of better representation on the general roll through MMP. Maoridom won its case; not only were the separate seats retained, but they were to be redistributed and potentially increased in number for the first time since 1867. Electoral reform thus held great promise of increased Maori representation. Not surprisingly, there was significant Maori support for MMP.S

i36

3

See Jack Vowles and Jim Lamare, "Changing an Electoral System: The Case of New Zealand," Paper given at the 1994 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, New York (1-4 September, 1994) 17.

ARSFNF ATT

LESSONS FROM NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand's Experience with MMP In the early 19905, as Peter Aimer recounts, through two referenda on the electoral system, New Zealanders revolted, tossing out FPTP and replacing it with MMP. MMP gives New Zealanders two votes: the first is for a local constituency MP, and the second is for the party. The first vote elects 65 of New Zealand's 120 MPS by FPTP. This includes the five Maori seats, up one as a result of the redistribution held prior to the 1996 election. The second vote determines the other 55 from the various parties' lists on a compensatory basis to rectify the inequalities that typically result from the election of the constituency MPS by FPTP. In order to be eligible for the party list seats, a party must either pass a 5 per cent threshold or win at least one constituency seat. Each party's total number of seats is determined by the party vote. New Zealand's first MMP election was held on October 12, 1996. The results are set out in Table n-i. While 21 parties contested the party-vote portion of the ballot, only 6 parties gained representation in the House: National (44 seats), Labour (37), New Zealand First (17), Alliance (13), ACT (8), and United (i). No one party won a majority of seats. New Zealand First (NZF) leader Winston Peters was the undisputed king- or queen-maker: the party with which he chose to coalesce would become government. Although initially it was widely speculated that he would join Labour, on December 10 Peters announced that his party would enter into a coalition with National. National and NZF signed a detailed coalition agreement which was to serve as the contract between the coalition partners. TABLE n-i: The 1996 General Election LIST SEATS

CONSTITUENCY % SEATS

TOTAL SEATS

PARTY

%

National

24.1

14

46.1

30

36.7

44

Labour

28.3

II

4O.O

26

30.8

37

NZF

I3.I

II

9.2

6

14.2

J

Alliance

IO.I

12

1-5

I

10.8

13

6.2

7

1-5

I

6.7

8

United

•9

o

1-5

I

0.8

i

Other

7-3

0

0.2

o

0.0

o

TOTAL

100.0

55

IOO.O

65

IOO.O

120

ACT

%

7

137

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

TABLE 11-2: Maori Elected to 1996 Parliament by Party PARTY

138

%OF

MPS

PARTY'S MPS

ELECTORATE

LIST

National

I

2.3

O

I

Labour

4

10.8

o

4

NZF

7

41.2

6

I

Alliance

2

15.4

O

2

ACT

I

12.5

o

I

15



6

9

TOTAL

0

#OF

A record number of Maori MPS (15) was elected, and in numbers roughly proportionate to Maori's percentage of the population (see Table 11-2). Abandoning a 50-year practice of Labour Party support, the Maori roll elected NZF MPS in all five Maori seats. Combined with two other NZF MPS who are Maori (one a constituency MP, the other a party-list MP) for a total of seven, and with a Maori as party leader, New Zealand First, as Jack Nagel recounts, emerged from the election as the major representative of the Maori people. Three of the 15 Maori MPS were appointed to Cabinet, including Peters as Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer. Thirty-five women MPS were elected in 1996, constituting 29 per cent of the members of the House (see Table 11-3). As expected, most of these women MPS, 25 of the 35, were elected from the party lists: 7 from both Labour and Alliance, 4 from both National and NZF, and 3 from ACT. While still not close to the percentage of women in the population, it was more women MPS than ever before in New Zealand, and a higher percentage than has ever been elected to the Canadian House of Commons. New Zealand now also compares very favourably to other countries. In a study conducted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and reported in Table 11-4, New Zealand now ranks sixth, behind Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and the Netherlands, of 179 parliaments in terms of women in the legislature. Even though it has a mixed system, it now ranks higher than many countries with straight PR, party-list systems. Stephen Levine and Nigel Roberts found a significant gender gap in the voting.4 Their analysis of voter support found that women rewarded 4

Stephen Levine and Nigel Roberts, "Surveying the Snark: Voting Behaviour in the 1996 New Zealand General Election," Paper presented at the New Zealand Politics Research Group and the New Zealand Political Change Project's 1996 Post-election Conference, Victoria University, Wellington (6 December 1996) 8.

ARSENEAU

L E S S O N S FROM N E W Z E A L A N D

TABLE 11-3: Women Elected to 1996 Parliament by Party PARTY

#OF

%OF

MPS

PARTY'S MPS

ELECTORATE

LIST

National

8

18.2

4

4

Labour

13

35-i

6

7

NZF

4

23.5

o

4

Alliance

7

53.8

o

7

ACT

3

37-5

o

3

10

25

TOTAL

«

Labour in particular, and, to a lesser extent, the Alliance. Both are parties on the left which had both more, and more prominently placed, female candidates on their party lists than did National or New Zealand First. Most telling was the difference in the gender vote for Labour and ACT. Labour, in terms of its policies, organizational structure, and the fact that its leader is both a woman and a feminist, is a party more sensitive to women's issues. Levine and Roberts found that 61.3 per cent of the party's supporters in the 1996 election's party vote were women. At the other end of the spectrum is ACT. The party's right-wing policies and fiscal conservatism made it less appealing to female voters—83.6 per cent of ACT voters were male, a mere 16.4 per cent female. This result is all the more remarkable since the sizable number of women on ACT'S list resulted in three of the eight in its caucus being women—a proportion that ranks second after the Alliance. Unlike the case of the Maori, the record number of women elected to the House did not carry over to the Cabinet. In the post-election Cabinet, Prime Minister Jim Bolger selected only one woman—Jenny Shipley, as Minister of Transportation and State Services. He also downgraded the status of the Minister of Women's Affairs; for the first time since the department was formed in 1984, the minister appointed to the portfolio was outside Cabinet. While women made up roughly 29 per cent of the House and 20 per cent of the coalition government's caucus, they were only 5 per cent of the Cabinet. Compare this to Canada with its FPTP electoral system. In 1997, 62 women MPS were elected, roughly 20.6 per cent of the House of Commons. Out of 155 Liberal MPS, 38 were women, or 24 per cent of the government caucus. In the post-election cabinet of 28, six were women (21.4 per cent). This raises the question: in which country are women better rep-

139

MAKING EVERY VOTE COUNT

resented in parliament? If being in Cabinet represents real power, then the 1996 MMP election led to a power reversal for New Zealand's women MPS. In terms of promoting women into positions of power, MMP has a mixed record. There is a somewhat ironic addendum to the story. In November 1997, while Bolger was overseas, that lone woman cabinet minister orchestrated a caucus coup. Bolger returned to New Zealand to find Ms Shipley with the caucus support needed to oust him. She became New Zealand's first woman PM, but she brought no new women into cabinet with her.5

Evaluating New Zealand's MMP Experience 140

What can be learned from the New Zealand electoral reform experience? The 1996 election would seem to confirm what has long been observed elsewhere: first, that there is a close connection between type of electoral system and the election of more representative legislatures, and second, that proportional systems outperform FPTP in this regard. The record number of women and Maori MPS is proof of both these observations. Even more useful, though, is a PR/FPTP comparison within the 1996 election. There is a sharp contrast in where women were successful: they were elected in 25 of the 55 PR party-list seats (45 per cent), but in only 10 of the 65 FPTP constituency seats (15 per cent). True to form, single-member districts hindered the election of more women. A straight party-list PR system would have likely elected more women than did MMP. Yet at first glance, FPTP seems to play a more positive role in electing Maori MPS. Given that 15 Maori were elected, and that five of those MPS were elected by FPTP in the Maori constituency seats, these FPTP Maori seats were the difference between Maori constituting the record 12.5 per cent of the House that they do, and being a mere 8.3 per cent. But this is only part of the story. The Maori seats proved critical to the representative result and account for Maori being, comparatively, better represented than women. But this had nothing to do with the fact that these seats were FPTP seats. Indeed, what the Maori seats did was soften the overall inequities caused by FPTP. Once again an FPTP/PR comparison within the 1996 results is illuminating. Maori were elected in i of the 60 non-Maori electorates, making it 6 of the 65—roughly 9 per cent—of the constituency seats. 5

Since the completion of this chapter, and ten months into her term as prime minister, Shipley reshuffled her Cabinet. It now includes one other woman—the Honourable Georgina te Heuheu, Minister of Courts and Women's Affairs.

ARSENEAU

LESSONS FROM NEW ZEALAND

TABLE 11-4: Women in National Parliaments, Lower or Single House Elections ORDER I 2

3 4 5 6 7 8 8 10 10 IO J

3

14

15

16 J

7 7 19 J

20 21 21 23 24 25 25 27 28 29 30 1

3 3i

39 61

COUNTRY

Sweden Denmark Norway Netherlands Finland New Zealand South Africa Argentina Cuba Austria Germany Viet Nam Iceland Mozambique Spain Seychelles Monaco Namibia China Laos Eritrea Switzerland Canada North Korea Grenada Luxembourg Costa Rica United Kingdom Uganda Turkmenistan Lithuania Tanzania Australia USA

DATE

09 1994 03 1998 09 1997 05 1998 03 1995 10 1996

04 1994

10 1997 01 1998 12 1995

10 1994

07 1997 04 1995

10 1994 03 1996 03 1998 02 1998 12 1994

1997-98 12 1997 O2 1994

10 1995 06 1997 04 1990 06 1995 06 1994 O2 1998 05 1997 06 1996 12 1994

10 1996 10 1995 03 1996

II 1996

TOTAL SEATS

#OF

%

WOMEN

WOMEN

349

141

40.4

165

67

37-4 36.4 36.0 33-5 29.2 28.8 27.6 27.6 26.2 26.2 26.2 25.4 25.2 24.7 23.5

179

150

200 120 4OO 257

601 183 672 450 63 250 348 34 18 72 2979 99 105 200 301 99 15 60 57 659 276 50 137 275 148 435

Source: Inter-Parliamentary Union as of 10 August 1998

60

54 67 35 "5 71 166 48 176 118 16 63 86 8 4 16 650 21 22 42 62 21

3 12 II 120 50 9 24 48

23 51

22.2 22.2 21.8 21.2 21. 0 21. 0 20. 6 21.2 2O. O 2O. O 19.3

18.2 18.1 18.0 J 7-5 T 7-5 !5-5 11.7

141

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

142

Compare this to the PR-elected party-list MPS: 9 of the 55, or 16.4 per cent, are Maori. The FPTP-elected Maori seats are therefore only crucial so long as New Zealand uses FPTP; a straight PR party-list system would likely benefit the Maori. In 1996, MMP more successfully overcame the underrepresentation of Maori than it did the underrepresentation of women, in terms of percentage in both the House and Cabinet. In the House this difference was largely due to the five Maori seats. But how was it that a proportional system, with a record number of women elected, did not produce a record presence of women in the Cabinet, the power-house of government? This leads to an important observation—even with a proportional system it still matters who wins. The underrepresentation of women in cabinet is tied to the particular election outcome, the fact that National outperformed Labour and NZF outperformed the Alliance. In terms of cabinet composition, with a limited number of cabinet posts (20), and a coalition agreement which guaranteed five of these posts to NZF (a party heavy on Maori representation and relatively light on women), there was better accommodation of Maori than women. The representation of women would have been quite different under some form of a Labour/Alliance arrangement; together these parties have 41.6 per cent of the seats in the House but 57 per cent of the women MPS. It is no coincidence that the two parties with the bulk of the women MPS are parties of the left. This is in keeping with experience elsewhere. As Alan Siaroff states, "ideology matters, both in that left-wing parliaments tend to have more women and in that left-wing or even centrist governments tend to contain more female ministers." Siaroff s conclusion comes from an extensive study of 28 established democracies comparing female representation in legislatures and cabinets. In terms of where women are well-represented in parliament, he found that PR party-list systems do aid the election of women. Also important is political culture: "more egalitarian societies—specifically those Protestant or mixed Protestant nations with early female political rights—have more women in parliament than other systems." When it came to explaining where women are well represented in cabinet, Siaroff found three important determinants: higher numbers of women in parliament (which PR does help), with a lag of two terms since first-term ministers are rare; specialist recruitment norms, where ministers are selected for their expertise in a policy area (as in the United States, the 6 Alan Siaroff, "Comparative Female Representation in Legislatures and Cabinets: The Current Situation in the Longer-Term Industrial Democracies," Paper presented at the annual Meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association, University of Ottawa (31 May - 2 June 1998) 18.

ARSENEAU

LESSONS FROM NEW ZEALAND

Netherlands, Finland, and France) rather than their political expertise (as is the case in generalist systems like Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom); and leftist or centrist governments rather than right-wing governments. Siaroff s analysis can be used to explain some puzzling New Zealand-Canadian differences. Why was it that, even before New Zealand's move to MMP, more women were typically elected to its House than to the Canadian House of Commons? Of the variables Siaroff mentions—egalitarian societies, early female political rights, and leftist seats— Canada and New Zealand are virtually indistinguishable by the first two variables. The crucial factor is ideology, the fact that the New Zealand Labour Party has been more successful nationally than has the comparable party in Canada—the New Democrats. In terms of female representation in cabinet today, which of the factors identified by Siaroff are important in explaining why New Zealand has fewer women in its cabinet than does Canada? The first two factors (higher numbers of women in parliament and specialist cabinet selection) are not relevant, since New Zealand has, for many years, had more women in parliament than Canada, and both are generalist cabinets. The crucial difference seems again to be ideology—the fact that the National/NZF coalition is a right-wing government. It has fewer women MPS than its chief rival Labour, fewer women with parliamentary experience and less commitment to placing women in Cabinet. Canada's Liberal government, in comparison, is more centrist than the Coalition. Again, ideology matters. New Zealand's first MMP government leads to some important questions about how we evaluate "representative legislatures." Is it just a matter of the number of women and Maori in the House? Once there is a "critical mass" of women and Aboriginal MPS, is effective representation of these groups guaranteed? Should we even be concerned with counting the number of women elected? The New Zealand experience suggests there is a danger in focusing exclusively on a procedural or descriptive definition of representation; effective representation is not just about number of MPS. Also important is an examination of how these representatives represent, to link representation to actions. This involves a more sophisticated conceptualization of representation. While sheer numbers remain important, and PR does seem to boost these numbers, perhaps more important is the question of where the women and Aboriginal MPS are found—are they in opposition, in the government backbenches or in Cabinet? And are they both committed and free to represent the diverse interests of women and Aboriginal peoples? In the case of New Zealand, party discipline may preclude such representation. For example, effective cross-party women and Maori caucuses have been very rare, and, in terms of votes in the House, these have

J

43

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

tended to follow party lines. It is still early days in New Zealand. But according to some commentators, even the more established PR systems of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, all TABLE 11-5: Rankings of Women with significant representation of in Cabinet as of April 1998 women, have had only limited success in shifting the legislative agenda towards ORDER COUNTRY % issues that are important to women's lives.7 Sweden I 50.0 2 3

4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ii

!44

12 13 14 15

16 J 7 18 J 9 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Norway Denmark France Finland Netherlands cbpam Austria United States United Kingdom Canada Liechtenstein Germany Luxembourg Portugal Italy Switzerland Australia Belgium Ireland Greece Iceland South Korea Cyprus Malta New Zealand Israel Japan

47-4 38.1

35-7 3i-3 28.6 / 26.7

25.0 25.0 22.7 21.4 20. o 16.7 16.7 16.7 14.3 14.3 13-3 i3-3 i3-3 10.5 IO.O

8.7

7-7 5-o 5.0 0.0 0.0

Source'. Alan Siaroff, "Comparative Female Representation in Legislatures and Cabinets, The Current Situation in the Longer-Term Industrial Democracies," Paper presented at the Anuual Meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association, (31 May - 2 June 1998) 5.

7

Conclusion If Canadians want a parliament with more women and Aboriginal MPS, then the adoption of PR will help attain that objective. But the experience of New Zealand and elsewhere suggests that selection of PR alone may be insufficient if we are concerned about effective representation. Political parties, even under PR, have to be committed to recruiting women and Aboriginal candidates, to placing these candidates high on the party-list and, once elected, to giving these MPS access to cabinet posts. It would also require the freeing up of party discipline on certain issues to make space for the representation of the groups'—rather than just partisan— interests. This is not to say that all women and Aboriginal MPS will consistently speak collectively for their "group." Rather, they should be expected to speak with a diversity of voices based on their diverse experiences. But it is this diversity which will make the House of Commons a more representative and legitimate legislature.

See Jane Arscott, "A Job Well Begun ... Representation, Electoral Reform and Women," in Francois-Pierre Gingras, ed., Gender and Politics in Contemporary Canada (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1995) 65; and Elina Haavio-Manilla et al, Unfinished Democracy: Women in Nordic Politics, trans. Christine Badcock (Toronto: Pergamon, 1985).

TWELVE

From Westminster Plurality to Continental Proportionality: Electoral System Change in New Zealand PETER AIMER

For more than 150 years, New Zealand's political institutions and processes—its political culture—have been essentially British. The only notable departure from British practice was the creation in 1867 of four territorial Maori electorates1 spanning the entire country and constituting a second tier of representation superimposed on the single-member electorates characteristic of Westminster politics. With the advent of universal voting and the consequent development of organized, mass-based parties, representative government in New Zealand evolved in the twentieth century into the classic Westminster model. Its essential features were a plurality electoral system (first-past-the-post or winner-takes-all), two dominant political parties, an adversarial style of party competition, and one-party majority governments. Indeed, Giovanni Sartori, eminent scholar of parties and party systems, once identified New Zealand as a better example of the two-party model than Britain itself] Apart from a brief experiment in 1908 with majority (second-round) elections, the New Zealand voting system has remained unchanged. New Zealand is essentially a constitutionally conservative country. Yet in 1993, by 54 per cent to 46 per cent, and with an 83 per cent turnout of registered electors in a referendum held in conjunction with the general election, New Zealanders voted to replace their Westminster electoral system with the German model of proportionality, known in New Zealand as MMP.

i

What New Zealanders call "electorates" or "territorial electorates" are known in Canada as "constituencies."

H5

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

MMP

146

MMP is a form of proportional representation (PR) and is short for "mixedmember proportional"—an infelicitous title which has been the butt of both friendly and hostile humour, trading on alternative translations of the acronym (e.g., "many more politicians"). The title describes the outcome of an MMP election, which is "proportional," in that parliamentary seats are allocated to parties in proportion to their share of the total vote (provided they have won at least 5 per cent of the votes cast, or at least one territorial electorate), and "mixed," because some MPS are directly elected to represent territorial electorates and the rest are indirectly elected from party lists on the basis of their party's overall vote. The switch to MMP involved major changes. The size of Parliament was increased from 99 to 120 seats, comprising 65 electorate seats (including the now five Maori seats) and 55 list seats. Reducing the existing 99 territorial electorates to 65 larger electorates necessitated a comprehensive redrawing of electoral boundaries. Consequently, some MPS saw their seats vanish and then found themselves in competition with party colleagues when staking a claim on a new or reconstituted electorate. Others found that their safe seats had become marginal. Some MPS, uncertain of getting a safe place on their party's list, announced their retirement from politics; others split from their parties to form and lead or join new parties, which they hoped would surmount the 5 per cent threshold for proportional representation. Overall, while the opportunities for major party representation may have contracted, the opportunities for the minor parties expanded, as proportionality lowered the threshold of entry to Parliament. Since radical electoral changes are comparatively rare anywhere, and certainly have been in New Zealand, the obvious question is: Why and how did it happen? The question is even more pertinent in the aftermath of the first MMP election, since, on the evidence of public opinion polls, MMP would most likely now be rejected in a referendum. There are several themes to be traced through New Zealand's transition from FPTP to MMP. First, given that the electoral system is not ordinarily a political issue of obvious relevance to people's material or emotional concerns, what brought the issue to a head? What made many people in a constitutionally conservative community receptive to the idea of radical electoral change? A second theme, as for any major policy issue, concerns the role of the relevant elites and the resulting patterns of support for and opposition to the reform process. To what extent was it a partisan issue, with politicians

AIMER

E L E C T O R A L SYSTEM C H A N G E IN NEW Z E A L A N D

divided on the merits of reform according to their party affiliation? To what extent did public response show a similar partisanship? Why did the opposition to reform fail? Was the opposition's case inherently unconvincing, or was its weakness more organizational and tactical than substantive?

The Path to Proportional Representation The process of electoral reform in New Zealand was not rapid. It took almost exactly 10 years from recommendation to implementation, a time span attributable very largely to the resistance of both major parties, Labour and National. Nevertheless, the saying "rust never sleeps" applies to electoral reform. As long as New Zealand had FPTP, and especially after the Social Credit Political League began to contest elections as a significant third party in 1954, there were voices calling for PR. But for more than 20 years, they were voices in the wilderness of an indifferent electorate. Before the 19805, advocacy of electoral reform was associated with eccentrics, zealous fringe groups, including Social Crediters, and a few academics. The unusually perverse election results of 1978 and 1981, an increase in electoral volatility and the resulting reduced dominance of Labour and National, and a deepening disillusion with politics and politicians contributed to the creation of an environment receptive to reform. Electoral reform would never have captured public attention if not for the anger that followed the radical economic reforms of the Lange-Palmer Labour government of 1984-90 and their acceleration under, combined with the broken promises of, the Bolger-led National government of 1990-1993. Consecutive elections in 1978 and 1981 demonstrated with unusual clarity the unfairness of the FPTP electoral system. In 1978, an increasingly unpopular National Party government was returned to power with the support of 39.8 per cent of the popular vote, the smallest share for a winning party since the emergence of the Labour-National two-party system in 1938. FPTP translated the National vote into a clear parliamentary majority of 55 per cent of seats. Even more provocatively, and for the first time, the loser, Labour, had won a slightly larger share of the vote—40.4 per cent. Moreover, Social Credit, harvesting the protest vote, attracted 16 per cent of the vote but only one seat. This was repeated three years later when National won 38.8 per cent of the vote for 51 per cent of the seats, while Social Credit's 21 per cent delivered only two seats.

H7

MAKING EVERY VOTE COUNT

The Muldoon National government was especially reviled by Labour activists, largely as a result of the Prime Minister's devastatingly pugnacious style. Labour, naturally, was aggrieved by the two election results. Social Crediters felt similarly robbed. As a consequence, anti-National political antagonism began to focus on the electoral system, with a growing belief that the system was unjust and unfair. Other issues also cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral system. The electoral rolls in 1978 proved to be embarrassingly inaccurate. The following year, Geoffrey Palmer, a front-bench Labour politician and former academic constitutional lawyer, published an influential book which highlighted the lack of institutional constraints on governments elected under FPTP in New Zealand. Phrases like "unbridled power," the title of his book, and "elective dictatorship," and the quip that the New Zealand political system was capable of "the fastest law in the west" met with an increasingly receptive audience. Palmer became the most senior and influential political advocate of electoral reform. Subsequently, a Labour conference adopted as policy that a future Labour government would appoint a royal commission to inquire into the workings of the electoral system. When Labour was elected in the snap election in 1984, Palmer, now Attorney General and Deputy Prime Minister, acted on the conference directive and appointed a five-person commission. Dissatisfaction with FPTP was also increasing among the growing number of minor party supporters. The share of the vote won by the main minor parties rose to a new peak of 18.5 per cent in 1978, rising again in 1981 to 21 per cent, and dropping only fractionally to 20 per cent in 1984. In 1993, the year of the crucial referendum on MMP, a third of all the votes cast went to parties other than Labour or National—including 18 per cent to the Alliance Party (an amalgam of five small parties), and 8 per cent to New Zealand First (formed only months before the election). Sympathy for electoral reform was strongly associated with minor party voting, both because of the heavy disadvantage they face in FPTP elections, and because support for third parties reflected the widespread disillusion with the performance of the major parties. A post-election survey conducted by the New Zealand Election Survey Programme2 showed that in the 1993 referendum 82 per cent of Alliance supporters voted for MMP, as did 69 per cent of New Zealand First voters.

148

2

These and other polls cited are, in general, from the New Zealand Election Studies Programme. NZES began in 1987 and was expanded in 1990 to a fully nation-wide, random sampling of registered electors. The NZES is funded by the Foundation for Research Science and Technology, which administers the Public Good Science Fund. Principal researchers are Jack Vowles, University of Waikato, and Peter Aimer, University of Auckland.

AIMER

ELECTORAL SYSTEM C H A N G E IN NEW Z E A L A N D

Disillusion with both major parties—exemplified by the growing volatility of New Zealand voters, up to 45 per cent of whom changed their votes between 1990 and 1993—was an important precondition of electoral reform. By 1993, popular opinion towards politicians had been soured by nearly a decade of politically-driven change, first by a Labour government, and, when it was thrown out in 1990, by a National Party government which simply accelerated the rate of change along the same path. Trust in Parliament, which was over 30 per cent in 1975, had slumped to single figures by 1988 and remained there through 1993. Post-election surveys in 1993 found that National, the incumbents, were considered "untrustworthy" by 62 per cent of voters; Labour, despite three years in opposition, was declared "untrustworthy" by 44 per cent. By contrast, only 15 and 22 per cent, respectively, saw the Alliance and New Zealand First as "untrustworthy." Overall, the 1993 data convey a clear message: hostility, distrust, and cynicism were now deeply embedded in New Zealand's political culture.

Unintended Outcomes None of these predisposing factors made electoral reform inevitable, but once the Royal Commission had recommended the move to PR,3 the genie was out of the bottle. Given the extent of the cross-party opposition to PR, politicians might have been able to reverse the genie's progress, but the adversarial, winner-take-all culture of New Zealand politics, one of the targets of electoral reformers, made co-ordinated resistance to reform unlikely. The politics of electoral reform in New Zealand might appropriately be called the politics of miscalculation. The first miscalculation was Sir Robert Muldoon's calling a snap election in 1984, which Labour won. While Labour would likely have won had the election been held at the scheduled time later in the year, Muldoon's action raised the emotional heat of adversarial, two-party politics and demonstrated the lack of constitutional constraints on plurality-based governments. This, combined with National's two "stolen" elections of 1978 and 1981, helped to bring the normally hidden issue of electoral reform into greater prominence. In power, Labour fulfilled its promise and appointed a Royal Commission on the electoral system. While advocates of reform welcomed 3

Report of the Royal Commission on the Electoral System, "Towards a Better Democracy" (Wellington: Government Printer, 1986).

149

MAKING EVERY VOTE COUNT

the initiative, most were either pessimistic about the outcome or cynical of the government's motive. Certainly the Commission's radical recommendations could not have been predicted from its composition. This was followed by Labour Prime Minister David Lange's extraordinary error during the 1987 election campaign when, in a TV debate, Lange promised a referendum on electoral reform. The referendum was not part of the government's policy (Lange later explained that he had misread his notes), and the promise, lacking either caucus or cabinet approval, had to be revoked after the election, thus providing ammunition to opposing parties' accusation of Labour vacillation. The issue was also kept alive by the work of a Parliamentary Select Committee established to review and report on the Royal Commission's recommendation. The Committee received more than 600 submissions, many, of course, having their source in the Electoral Reform Coalition (ERC), the main pro-reform lobby group. As the pessimists had foreseen, the Review Committee's recommendations4 were conservative compared to those of the Royal Commission and did not include the Commission's preference for PR. The Labour majority on the Committee, "mindful of the views expressed in submissions favouring PR," did, however, promote the idea of increasing the number of MPS to 120, as well as of a non-binding referendum on whether the additional members would be elected on a plurality or supplementary-member basis. At this point, therefore, while the advocates of reform had made progress, the politicians were still firmly in control, and the Royal Commission's recommendations were being selectively rolled back. By now, the Labour government was in turmoil. In 1989, Geoffrey Palmer, a strong supporter of PR, replaced Lange as prime minister. But in the face of the anti-PR majority in his own caucus, Palmer was unable to pursue PR or even to move on the Select Committee's recommendations. It was left to National to move the process forward. As the National Party's representatives on the Select Committee had opposed the suggestion of a referendum (presumably sanctioned by the leadership and caucus), the Labour government's paralysis on the issue should have been welcomed by the Opposition. But, as the 1990 election approached, Palmer's vulnerability on the issue provoked National to promise a referendum on electoral change. Despite the imperatives of adversarial politics, National's stand is perplexing. There was little support for electoral reform from within the party

150

4

Report of the Electoral Law Committee, "Inquiry into the Report of the Royal Commission on the Electoral System" (Wellington: Government Printer, 1988).

AIMER

E L E C T O R A L SYSTEM C H A N G E I N N E W Z E A L A N D

hierarchy or the constituency.5 Moreover, the policy was almost certainly unnecessary, as the polls were showing National heading for a landslide victory. National's referendum policy put the politicians' control of the issue at risk in order to highlight Labour's perfidy on the issue, while also neutralizing any further attempts by Labour to appeal to populist sentiments by again offering a referendum on electoral reform. Overall, National's decision to commit itself to a referendum that, up to now, it had opposed must be seen as a serious error of judgment. With hindsight, it is now clear that National compounded its tactical error with a conceptual one. In upholding its promise to submit the electoral issue to a referendum, National contrived a two-referendum strategy, perhaps in the hope of killing off the proposal on the first round. The first referendum was to be a "stand-alone," non-binding referendum, in which electors were asked, one, to vote for change or no change, and, two, which of four possible electoral systems they preferred—MMP, single transferable vote (STV), supplementary member (SM), or preferential vote. Although the turnout was only 54 per cent, there was an overwhelming 84 per cent for change (in question i), and 71 per cent favouring MMP (in question 2). The rejection of FPTP and the focus on MMP were both sufficiently decisive to nullify the effect of the modest turnout. After all, as advocates of reform quickly pointed out, the proportion of electors who voted for change and MMP was at least as large as the share of the vote that had elected governments in 1978 and 1981. The unintended effect of the 1992 referendum was to give the reform process and MMP, in particular, a powerful push. Since change had been overwhelmingly endorsed in the first part of the referendum ballot, the government was now committed under its two-referendum procedure to holding a second and binding referendum at the same time as the 1993 general election. This referendum was to take the form of a straight run-off between FPTP and the MMP, the option endorsed in 1992. Control of the issue was obviously slipping from the hands of politicians. The strength of the vote for change was attributable to the public mood of dissatisfaction and cynicism mentioned above. That MMP overshadowed all other reform options, including STV, the so-called Anglo-Saxon form of PR, owed most to the legitimizing effect of the Royal Commission's recommendation, the resulting high visibility of MMP compared to other forms 5

We know that in the 1993 referendum only 7 per cent of National MPS and conference delegates—the influential core of the party membership—voted for MMP. See Jack Vowles et #/., Towards Consensus? The 1993 Election in New Zealand and the Transition to Proportional Representation (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1995) 178.

151

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

of PR, and, given the intrinsic appeal of certain of its features, the capacity of MMP to win support.

Mobilizing Opinion: Advocates

152

The Royal Commission was crucial to reform. Cynics might say that such commissions are a tool of prevaricating governments. But a Royal Commission report cannot be ignored by a government, even if not bound by its recommendations. In this case, the Royal Commission report, provocatively titled "Towards a Better Democracy," became a constant point of reference for advocates of reform. That they had been recommended by a non-partisan body gave the proposals an aura of objectivity, as did its method of analysis. The Commission listed 10 criteria considered essential for an electoral system in New Zealand, then evaluated a variety of systems against these criteria. It concluded that PR performed better against the criteria than did FPTP, and that the most appropriate form of PR was MMP. As well as arming the advocates of reform, the Report tended to disarm its opponents. How, in the climate of popular opinion at the time, did one defend a system that produced election results that are "less fair" than those under PR? How could one oppose a reform that would reduce the power of government and make it more accountable to a more representative Parliament, or which spoke of greater consensus instead of adversarial bickering? Rather than directly address the Commission's arguments, critics of the report tended to dismiss it as the product of academics, or refer scathingly to other countries' (usually Italy or Israel) government instability under PR. Sensing the authority of the Royal Commission's advocacy of PR, the Electoral Reform Coalition (ERC) adopted the strategy that all electoral reformers should speak with one voice—the voice of the Royal Commission. Thus, many supporters of STV in particular made a pragmatic decision to fall in behind the campaign for MMP. In the run-up to the 1992 referendum, therefore, MMP was the most publicized, visible embodiment of electoral reform. The ERC'S only major caveat concerned the Commission's recommendation that separate Maori seats should be abolished. In its public utterances and subsequent submissions to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform, the ERC argued for their retention, a position shared by both major parties. The ERC developed a branch structure throughout the country, with a core of committed activists in each major city and regional town. By means

AIMER

ELECTORAL SYSTEM C H A N G E IN NEW Z E A L A N D

of public meetings, press statements, letters to editors, pamphlets, and persistent lobbying of MPS, the ERC kept the issue highly visible. Through 1992 and 1993, with interest rising as the referenda approached, the pro-reform network widened significantly to include the Alliance Party (which included five minor parties, all supportive of MMP), the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, and several Labour and National MPS. MMP, apart from being a snappy acronym, proved to be a saleable product. A transition from FPTP to PR is a radical move, but an advantage of MMP is that it achieves proportionality while retaining the traditional and familiar presence of the local MP. The Royal Commission had been right in sensing the normative strength of local representation embedded in Westminster politics. Linked to the preservation of local MPS was another selling point in favour of MMP. At public meetings people proved warmly receptive to the prospect of having two votes (both optional), one for a candidate in the voter's "home" electorate, the other for a party from the list of registered parties. More generally, the value of "fairness" of representation under MMP struck a chord with electors, a significant minority of whom had in previous elections "wasted" their votes on minor parties which achieved little or no voice in Parliament, and which one-party cabinets could ignore.

Mobilizing Opinion: Opponents Compared to the ERC, opponents of MMP were slow to organize. Even then, their case lacked an authoritative, coherent source equivalent to the Royal Commission's reasoned analysis in favour of MMP; and, unavoidably, the opponents of change were attempting to defend a status quo that had already generated widespread disillusion and cynicism. Organized opposition to MMP first appeared in 1992 when prominent Labour and National politicians launched the Campaign for First Past the Post. The credibility of this initiative was undermined, however, by its selfserving nature—the spectacle of defensive bipartisanship was greeted with derision. As a result, and especially after the overwhelming vote for change and MMP in the 1992 referendum, politicians were less inclined to be prominently identified with defence of the status quo, and the Campaign for FPTP was disbanded. Its place was taken by the ambiguously titled Campaign for Better Government. The CBG attempted a two-pronged strategy of denigrating MMP while at the same time arguing a popular line in favour of parliamentary reforms intended to improve the system under FPTP. As it locked horns

153

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

*54

with the Electoral Reform Coalition, the CBG concentrated increasingly on its first objective. Headed by a prominent businessman and supported by the powerful Business Roundtable, the Employers' Federation, and Federated Farmers, the CBG worked with a budget estimated at nearly NZ$2 million, far outspending the ERC. This financed a professional advertising campaign that focused in particular on the alleged instability of PR-based systems, the enhanced power of (extreme) minorities (the tail wagging the dog), the consequent lack of decisive government, the loss of governmental accountability within the framework of coalition governments, and the "facelessness" of list MPS, beholden not to the electors but to party bosses. The campaign met with some success, and polls taken during 1993 showed the gap closing between support for MMP and FPTP. At the same time, however, the opposition to reform tended to be selfdefeating. The David and Goliath character of the contest was a strategic disadvantage for the CBG. Its financial backers and spokespeople personified the arrogance of institutionalized power that had come to be associated with the radical economic reforms of successive "unbridled" Labour and National governments. The CBG'S allegations were not necessarily wrong, but they were less convincing in 1993 than they would have been 10 years earlier. Decisive government was exactly what electors had experienced since 1984, and many had suffered the consequences of economic liberalization. The electoral 6 The Electoral Act (1993) requires parties to select and rank their lists of candidates in a manner which is compatible with democratic practices. This means that candidates must be either directly selected by the party membership or by selection committees, which themselves have

been elected by members. Different parties employed variants of the second option, with procedures for achieving first a set of regional lists before integrating these into a final nationwide ranking. Opponents of MMP had argued that ranked, closed lists, which could not be altered by electors, were conducive to behind-the-scenes manipulation by the organizational and party leaderships. This allegation took root as a widespread perception, which appeared to be confirmed by controversy over Labour's list placings, especially of some sitting MPS, and was further reinforced by disputes within New Zealand First, the clear implication again being that the party leadership had intervened in the process. In the debates prior to the referendum, during the transition to MMP, and since the first MMP election, the status and role of the "list MPS" has been contentious. To many people they are second-class MPS, not elected by "the people"; worse, they may be unsuccessful electorate candidates—losers who are nonetheless winners, and, thanks to a favourable placing on a party list, are beholden to party bosses rather than electors. There remains a whiff of illegitimacy about being a list MP, a fact exploited by New Zealand's most popular satirical TV program.

AIMER

ELECTORAL SYSTEM C H A N G E IN NEW Z E A L A N D

mechanism of accountability had been shown to be flawed in 1990 when the defeated government's successors continued with the same policies. There was widespread belief that under FPTP the checks on executive power were too few and ineffective. Another fundamental weakness of the CBG'S campaign was its overt association with big business. This was sensed by many to be as self-serving as had been the politicians' Campaign for FPTP in 1992. The nature of the CBG inevitably cued left-of-centre electors to vote for MMP in the referendum. In the end, 68 per cent of Labour voters did so, comprising 44 per cent of all votes cast for MMP. When added to the 27.8 per cent from among Alliance voters, over 70 per cent of support for MMP came from the two main components of the left bloc. In contrast, National voters, who marginally outnumbered Labour voters, accounted for only 8 per cent of the vote for MMP. In detail, the story of MMP is a very New Zealand one. Yet the New Zealand experience also fits into a broad pattern of change familiar to other liberal democracies—a rise in voter volatility, a weakening of the electoral alignments between parties and social groups, and the development of more pluralistic social structures. In this context, and even before the introduction of MMP, New Zealand's plurality-based, two-party system was fragmenting into a multi-party format more compatible with a proportional electoral system.

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THIRTEEN

The Defects of its Virtues: New Zealand's Experience with MMP* JACK H. NAGEL

As Peter Aimer relates in the previous chapter, New Zealanders voting in the 1993 referendum chose mixed-member proportional (MMP) over firstpast-the-post (FPTP) by a solid, though not overwhelming, majority of 54 per cent to 46 per cent. Three years later, on October 12, 1996, New Zealand held its first election under the new system. The results fulfilled key predictions of MMP advocates so well that they might easily have been seen as a brilliant confirmation of the reform's virtues. Within a short time, however, many New Zealanders soured on MMP. A month after the election, polls revealed that a majority favoured FPTP over MMP. From mid1997 through mid-1998, only about one-third of the public wanted to retain MMP. 1

Why was implementation of MMP followed by such widespread disillusionment? In part, leaders of the two major parties simply continued their battle against a system they had never wanted because it ended their duopoly of political power. (In August 1998, the conference of the governing National Party moved to initiate a new referendum aimed at repealing MMP. 2 ) These politicians, however, found the public more receptive to their The author thanks Jonathan Boston, Paul Harris, and Alan McRobie for their helpful comments. 1

Jack Vowles, Peter Aimer, Susan Banducci, and Jeffrey Karp, "Voter Rationality and the Advent of MMP," in Vowles et al, Voters' Victory: New Zealand's First Election Under Proportional Representation (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1998) 207. However, some of those favouring FPTP prefer other options if given choices besides MMP and FPTP. Vowles, Banducci, and Karp, "Electoral System Opinion in New Zealand," New Zealand Election Study Mid-Term Survey, University of Waikato, August 5,1998.

2

Christchurch Press, August 4, 1998. The legislation enabling MMP mandates a review of the system in 2000, after the second MMP election. J

57

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

arguments after the 1996 election than it had been previously. I contend that the popular backlash resulted not from the failure of MMP, but instead from inaccurate expectations about what its success would entail. New Zealand's experience can help advocates of proportional representation (PR) in Canada and elsewhere develop more realistic arguments. Although these would make electoral reform a harder sell initially, they can inoculate public opinion against the disappointments that threaten to turn New Zealand's adoption of MMP into a short-lived experiment. In the debate over electoral reform in New Zealand, advocates of MMP emphasized three claims in its favour:3 MMP would ensure greater fairness to political parties by assigning them parliamentary seats nearly proportional to their votes;

158

MMP would provide greater likelihood of fair and effective representation for politically under-represented groups, notably women and New Zealand's main ethnic minority, the Maori; and MMP would, after most elections, necessitate coalition governments, thus fostering political integration and preventing narrowly-based oneparty "elective dictatorships." As I will show, New Zealand's first election under MMP fulfilled all three promises. In each instance, however, many New Zealanders expected a more unalloyed benefit than actually turned out to be the case. The New Zealand experience, I will argue, points to three important caveats about government under MMP and other PR systems: 1 Proportionality of seats does not entail proportionality of power. 2 Empowerment of previously disadvantaged groups can lead to growing pains in the body politic. 3 Coalition government does not mean consensus government.

3

Royal Commission on the Electoral System, Towards a Better Democracy (Wellington: Government Printer, 1986) 45-52. For a more detailed "balance sheet" on arguments pro and con MMP, see Vowles et al., "Voter Rationality" 203.

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NEW ZEALAND S EXPERIENCE WITH MMP

Results of the First MMP Election New Zealand's version of MMP requires a party to win at least 5 per cent of the party vote or one electorate seat in order to gain representation in parliament. In the 1996 election, six parties achieved one or both of these thresholds. Table 13-1, which presents those results along with those of the last two elections under FPTP, 1990 and 1993, lists the parties according to position on the conventional right-left ideological spectrum, starting with the free-market ACT New Zealand and ending with the left-wing Alliance. TABLE 13-1: Percentages of Votes and Seats Won by Political Parties

PARTY

1990 (FPTP) VOTES SEATS

ACT

National

47.8

United



69.1 —

1993 (FPTP) VOTES

SEATS

1996 (MIMP) SEATS

VOTESa





6.1

6.7

35.1

50.5

33.8

36.7

0.8

0.-





8.4

2.O

13.4

14.2

29.9

347

45-4

28.1

30.1

Alliance 13.7 i.o

l8.2

2.O

IO.I

10.8

3-7

°

7-5

o

NZF

Labour

Other

35.1

3.4

INDEX OF DEVIATION FROM PROPORTIONALITY

o

21.3

26.2

7.3

a Party Votes. b Votes for three parties that later formed Alliance (New Labour, Greens, Democrats).

Comparison of parties' vote and seat shares shows how well MMP did in delivering proportional results. Unlike the FPTP elections in 1990 and 1993, the differences between seats and votes in 1996 were all minor. A summary index measuring the deviation from proportionality is only 7.3 in 1996— close to perfect proportionality (an index of zero).4 The deviation that did occur under MMP was due to the 5 per cent threshold, which excluded two 4 This standard measure is one-half the sum across all parties of the (absolute) differences between their seats and votes. Rein Taagepera and Matthew Shugart, Seats and Votes (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989) 104-5.

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small parties that would otherwise have elected MPS (the Christian Coalition and the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party!). In contrast, deviations from proportionality under FPTP were very high, with indexes of 21.3 and 26.2—comparable to Canadian levels.5 Fairness to political parties is built in mechanically to MMP through the seat allocation formula. Fairness to women and minorities is less guaranteed, because it depends on parties' nomination strategies and voters' choices. The immediate leap forward of these groups under MMP in New Zealand is therefore truly impressive, even startling. An overview of their gains is given in Table 13-2. TABLE 13-2. Composition of the New Zealand Parliament after Three Elections 160

1990

1993

1996

Size of Parliament

97

99

I2O

New Members Women Members Maori Members Pacific Island Members Asian Members

40 16 5 o o

16

45 35 J 5 3 i

21

6 i 0

Sources: Electoral Commission, The New Zealand Electoral Compendium (Wellington, 1997). New members: Dr. Paul Harris, Chief Executive Officer of the New Zealand Electoral Commission. Maori: Prof. Jack Vowles, Director of the New Zealand Election Survey The entry of new participants into Parliament was aided not only by the introduction of party lists but also by several reforms bundled with, but not all intrinsically part of, the adoption of MMP: an increase in the size of Parliament from 99 to 120 members; a reduction in the number of general single-member electorates from 95 to 60, which prompted the retirement (voluntary or otherwise) of many former MPS; and the decision to allow the number of Maori electorates, previously fixed at four, to vary according to the number of citizens registered on the Maori voting roll.6 5

Deviations from proportionality in Canada during the 19805 averaged about 24. Taagepera and Shugart 109-11. In 1997, the Canadian index was 17.7.

6

For an explanation of the Maori electorates, see Jack H. Nagel, "Constitutional Reform and Social Difference in New Zealand," Cardozo Journal of International and Comparative Law 4:2 (Summer 1996) 373-94.

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NEW ZEALAND S E X P E R I E N C E WITH MMP

Women were already a significant force in New Zealand politics before MMP. They held major portfolios in recent cabinets, and in the 1993 election, 21.2 per cent of victorious candidates were female, a higher proportion than in most FPTP systems. Shortly after that election, Helen Clark became leader of the main opposition party, Labour. As Arseneau recounts, with the advent of MMP, the percentage of women MPS increased, the number reaching 36 in 1997, when Annabel Young replaced Jim Gerard, a National list MP who resigned to become High Commissioner to Canada. In November 1997, National MP Jenny Shipley led a successful rebellion against her party's incumbent leader, Jim Bolger, and became New Zealand's first female prime minister. Thus, within a year after the implementation of MMP, women held 30 per cent of parliamentary seats, the leadership positions in the two largest parties, and the prime ministership. Starting from a lower baseline, minority ethnic groups made equally striking gains. For the first time, Parliament included a New Zealander of Asian descent. The number of MPS who were members of groups that immigrated to New Zealand from other Pacific islands tripled, increasing from one to three. Most significantly, fifteen Maori MPS were elected, three times the number in Parliament just six years earlier. The Maori share thus reached 12.5 per cent, fully commensurate with their proportion of New Zealand's electorate.7 Of the Maori MPS, five represented the newlyincreased Maori electorates, nine were elected from party lists (including members from all five parties with list representation), and one was returned by a general electorate—Winston Peters, leader of the New Zealand First (NZF) Party. With minor parties winning a fair share of seats, neither major party secured a majority, in contrast to the two preceding elections, when FPTP manufactured parliamentary majorities for National, even though it won only pluralities of the popular vote. In 1996, National was again the largest party, but to form a government and pass legislation, it needed cooperation from others. Quick arithmetic will show the reader, as it did New Zealand's politicians, that National and NZF together could command a (bare) majority. On the other hand, if NZF voted with Labour and the Alliance, those three could also prevail.8

7

In 1996, n. 8 per cent of enrolled voters identified themselves as Maori. Electoral Commission, Compendium 127-29.

8

The Alliance would not have become a formal coalition partner, because its leader Jim Anderton had pledged not to join any coalition unless it was announced to voters before the election. Labour would not agree to a pre-election deal.

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MAKING EVERY VOTE COUNT

Exploiting its pivotal position, New Zealand First engaged in protracted negotiations with both major parties. After almost two months, National and NZF announced that they had accepted a lengthy Coalition Agreement, whereupon the two parties formed New Zealand's first post-MMP government. Although National provided 72 per cent of the Coalition's MPS, the Agreement gave NZF 36 per cent of ministerial posts, with a promised increase to 42 per cent in October 1998. Winston Peters became deputy prime minister and was also assigned the newly created post of treasurer.9 MMP thus fulfilled all three of the major predictions made by its advocates—PR for parties, fair and effective representation for women and minorities, and the formation of a negotiated, multi-party, coalition government. Why then did public approval of the new system so quickly plummet? 162

Proportionality and Power Much of the immediate anger resulted from the composition of the new government and the process that led to its formation. This reaction had two elements: first, many New Zealanders resented seeing New Zealand First, which had won only 13.4 per cent of the vote, and its controversial leader so obviously calling the shots about which government would rule; second, during the campaign, Winston Peters and other NZF leaders had directed their rhetorical fire at the incumbent National Party government and its Prime Minister, Jim Bolger. Labour and Alliance voters therefore expected a centre-left coalition to form, and they felt cheated when it did not. Subsequently, support for MMP fell most among these groups, which had "provided the backbone of support for electoral change." Most NZF voters also favoured such a coalition, and they too felt betrayed by their leaders' choice of National. After joining the Agreement, NZF support fell steadily, reaching about 2 per cent by late 1997.*° The argument that PR gives excessive power to small parties is a familiar claim. New Zealand's defenders of FPTP have invoked it often, especially since 1996. Proponents of MMP tend to dismiss the problem rather lightly. Their main argument, echoing the Royal Commission that first recom9 Jonathan Boston, "Coalition Formation," in Raymond Miller, ed., New Zealand Politics in Transition (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1997) 94-107; Keith Jackson and Alan McRobie, New Zealand Adopts Proportional Representation (Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 1998) 303-n. 10 Vowles et al., "Voter Rationality" 206-7.

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NEW Z E A L A N D S E X P E R I E N C E WITH MMP

mended MMP, has been that voters will punish any small party that irresponsibly demands unreasonable concessions.11 NZF'S low poll standings suggest this prediction will be borne out in the next election, but in the interim the country will have had three years of an unpopular government. Moreover, the electoral sanction depends on the minor party's own voters disliking its deal, as has been the case for NZF. In other situations, as with Israel's religious fundamentalists, voters may support minor parties precisely because they force extreme concessions. MMP supporters have also blamed the National Party, rather than MMP, for the power NZF wielded. In a 1998 statement, Rod Donald, a leader of the Electoral Reform Coalition (and an Alliance MP), contended that National Party President Geoff Thompson "should face the fact that it's not MMP'S fault National is in coalition with a partner which extracted more from the deal than it deserved. A good workman doesn't blame his tools, but Mr. Thompson clearly won't accept that his party was so keen to get back into government it would do almost anything to secure the treasury benches.... Contrary to what Mr. Thompson says, small parties which hold the balance of power don't have to be given excessive leverage."12 Donald's argument slights the realities of the bargaining situation after the 1996 election. Assuming that only minimal winning coalitions (those with no superfluous members) would form, there were just five possible majority governments at that time: National - Labour National - NZF ACT - National - Alliance ACT — NZF — Labour NZF - Labour - Alliance Social scientists view a party's bargaining power in such situations as proportional to the number of coalitions to which its membership is crucial to victory. In the above list, National is crucial to three coalitions, so it has more bargaining power than ACT, which is crucial to only two. The third column of Table 13-3 gives a measure of the power of each party under these assumptions.13 As the table shows, by this measure, NZF had 23 per cent of the bargaining power—as much as National and Labour. 11 Royal Commission, Towards a Better Democracy 49. 12 Rod Donald, Press Release, May 1998; posted on the New Zealand Politics Research listserv. 13 John F. Banzhaf, "Weighted Voting Doesn't Work: A Mathematical Analysis," Rutgers Law Review 19 (1965) 317-43.

163

MAKING EVERY VOTE COUNT

TABLE 13-3: Relative Power of New Zealand Parliamentary Parties after Three Elections 1990 1993 J996a 1996 ACT New Zealand National United New Zealand New Zealand First Labour Alliance





IOO

IOO

— —

— o

0

0

o

o

15

23

o

23 23 15

o 20

o

40 20 20

a Based on all minimal winning coalitions, b Excluding disconnected coalitions. 164

Of the five coalitions listed above, however, three were politically improbable. An arrangement involving ACT, National, and the Alliance was unthinkable, because ACT and the Alliance are ideological opposites. A coalition of ACT, NZF, and Labour required nearly as great a stretch and was never seriously considered. Finally, despite overtures from Prime Minister Bolger, Labour leader Helen Clark refused to take her party into a coalition with National, its long-time archrival. All these coalitions would have been "disconnected"—that is, they required parties to spurn potential partners offering closer ideological affinity m favour of others who were more distant and less compatible. Political scientists predict that disconnected coalitions are usually not feasible, and this has been borne out by experience. Excluding the three disconnected coalitions, only two possible coalitions remained—and New Zealand First was the only party crucial to both.14 Under this assumption, its bargaining power was twice that of any other party, including the much larger National and Labour. Thus its ability to drive a hard bargain was due more to the inherent structure of the negotiating situation than to National's ineptitude or greed. NZF'S perceived betrayal of voters, including its own, who expected a centre-left government, was also a response to its power position. The party's superior leverage in bargaining over portfolios and policies depended on its ability to form a government with either Labour or National. If Peters and his colleagues had committed themselves in advance to Labour, the inferiority of their caucus in numbers and governmental experience would have made NZF just a junior partner. Thus New Zealand's first MMP election revealed a fundamental difficulty that advocates of PR should confront but would rather sweep under 14 Boston, "Coalition Formation."

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NEW Z E A L A N D S E X P E R I E N C E WITH MMP

the rug. A well-designed PR system like MMP in New Zealand gives proportionality of seats to votes, but it does not give proportionality of power to seats (and thus to votes). Because MMP advocates have so much invested in the principle of fairness as proportionality, it is hard for them to admit that PR delivers that virtue only in electing a legislature, not in forming a government. From the viewpoint of democratic theory, and probably of most voters as well, disproportionate power in the hands of a pivotal small party is not a bad thing if that party insists on policies close to the centre of the political spectrum. Such policies will most satisfy (or least dissatisfy) the greatest number of voters. As the listing of parties in Table 13-1 suggests, NZF quite consciously tried to position itself in the centre of New Zealand's political spectrum on standard economic issues. Many of the concessions it won in the Coalition Agreement pulled government policy away from National's more right-wing stands toward moderate positions. New Zealand's politics cannot, however, be fully understood in conventional left-right terms, and New Zealand First was not just a centre party. It was a curious amalgam of traditionalist, often elderly, whites and militant, newly assertive Maori. These unlikely allies had little in common save their admiration for the party's charismatic (his critics would say demagogic) leader, Winston Peters, who is himself of half-Maori and halfScottish extraction.15 In the election, whites supplied most of the NZF

votes,1 but afterwards, the party's role as a vehicle for Maori aspirations came to the fore, which helps account for the unpopularity of the Coalition Government and, by association, of MMP.

Costs of Empowerment Until the advent of MMP, New Zealand Maori were confined to a "political backwater."17 The four reserved seats guaranteed a token presence in 15 The two elements of the NZF base also agreed in opposing foreign (mostly Asian) investment and immigration. This issue fuelled a meteoric rise by the party in pre-election polls, but it was downplayed for some time after the election. 16 Ann Sullivan and Jack Vowles, "Realignment? Maori and the 1996 Election," in Vowles et al., eds., Voters' Victory? 175. 17 Royal Commission, Towards a Better Democracy 98. The next three paragraphs draw on Sullivan and Vowles, "Realignment?"

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M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

166

Parliament, but the separate electoral roll also deprived them of influence over white politicians. From 1943 until 1993, the Maori seats were solidly and safely held by Labour. Facing few serious challenges, their incumbents were, for the most part, senior but undistinguished members of the Labour caucus. Having no chance to win the reserved seats, the National Party occasionally nominated Maori in winnable general electorates. By this route, Winston Peters entered Parliament in 1979. He soon became one of New Zealand's most visible and controversial leaders. Best known for sensational accusations against politicians and businessmen and for his opposition to free-market policies, Peters was seen as an assimilated Maori, and his initial base was mainly among Pakeha (whites). However, he won increasing respect among Maori because of his efforts as National's Minister of Maori Affairs in 1990-91 and his prestige as New Zealand's most outspoken and influential Maori politician. Denied renomination by National because he criticized the party's economic policies, Peters launched the New Zealand First Party in 1993. In the election that year, Peters retained his own electorate, and, to widespread surprise, NZF candidate Tau Henare captured the Northern Maori electorate, breaking Labour's monopoly. By 1996, NZF had become the vehicle for a new generation of assertive Maori leaders. In the first MMP election, NZF candidates swept all five Maori electorates. These MPS, dubbed by Henare, "the tight five," joined Peters and a seventh Maori elected on the party's list to constitute a conspicuous part of the i7-member NZF caucus. In addition, eight other Maori MPS were elected on the lists of other parties. Of the fifteen Maori members, twelve entered Parliament for the first time in 1996. Only Peters had more than one term of experience in the House, but his maverick stands and sensational accusations had always made him an outsider there. When inexperienced members of a disadvantaged group suddenly arrive at the centre of power, it would be surprising if they instantly respected established institutional norms. Because of their numbers and influence, the new Maori MPS drew more attention than their quiet predecessors, and some of their actions drew a decidedly unfavourable response. An Alliance MP, Alamein Kopu, quit her party and defied widespread demands that she resign from Parliament because she had been elected from her party's list, rather than with an individual mandate.19 Tau Henare caused an outcry (and was dumped as NZF Deputy Leader) when, contrary to NZF policy, he insisted on flying first class to London. His NZF colleague, Tukoroirangi Morgan, was condemned for diverting Television New Zealand funds to aggrandize his personal wardrobe. Henare man18 Kopu subsequently voted with NZF. In July 1998, a white list MP, Neil Kirton, quit NZF and similarly refused to resign.

NAGEL

NEW ZEALAND'S EXPERIENCE WITH MMP

handled a reporter in a parliamentary corridor, and Winston Peters himself was accused of a drunken assault on a National MP in a corridor of the Parliament building. However petty or serious these incidents may have been, they mainly reflected a militant antagonism that is conveyed well by a journalist's portrait of Tau Henare: [H]e is the first Minister of Maori Affairs with attitude, real in-yourface warrior attitude.... Mr. Henare ... wasted no time in making clear to Parliament that he was a new breed of Maori MP, one who would speak his mind—loudly. As he put it himself, he represents all that non-Maoris believe makes up a bad Maori: "I'm said to be too pushy, arrogant, loud, coarse, unrefined, in-your-face, and intolerant.... I was sent here to do a job and if the way I do things, in an arrogant manner, is the way I have to do things to get things done, so be it."19

The Chimera of Consensus2 Tau Henare's fractious style gives a distinctive racial cast to political conflict, but New Zealand's Pakeha MPS have been, in their own way, equally contentious. Labour, spurned in its courtship of NZF, reacted bitterly with a steady drumbeat of attacks against both Coalition partners. From the right, ACT, also deprived of cabinet portfolios, criticized the government for timidity in economic policy. The Coalition partners were unable to hide their own constant friction. Tensions within National, stemming mainly from its unhappy marriage to NZF, enabled Jenny Shipley to topple Jim Bolger. In August 1998, Peters's open defiance of Shipley led to her sacking him from Cabinet, which resulted in the break up of both the NZF Party and the Coalition. National subsequently led a minority government with the support (outside the ministry) of ACT and National and United NZ. Partisan struggles are an old story in New Zealand, which has a long tradition of harshly adversarial politics. They have, however, contributed to disappointment with MMP, because the themes of "less conflict and more 19 Helen Bain, "I'm not gonna change... Hell, no, I won't change for a bunch of bloody rednecks." Christchurch Press, July 22, 1998. 20 This section summarizes an argument I develop more fully in "Expanding the Spectrum of Democracies," an essay forthcoming in Democracy and Institutions: A Festschrift for Arend Lijphart, edited by Markus Crepaz, Thomas Koelble, and David Wilsford.

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M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

168

consensus" were the "siren songs" of the electoral reform movement.21 The term "consensus," with its connotation of amicable co-operation (if not perfect harmony), resulted from the popularity in New Zealand of a typology developed by the eminent political scientist Arend Lijphart.22 Lijphart depicted pre-reform New Zealand as a nearly perfect example of "majoritarian democracy," which he contrasted with "consensus democracy." Among the key elements of consensus democracy are PR and its usual consequences, a multi-party legislature, and coalition governments. Thus it was natural for New Zealanders to conclude that, in adopting MMP, they were moving "towards consensus." In fact, however, post-MMP New Zealand retains all the other features of majoritarian democracy—an unwritten constitution and parliamentary sovereignty, fusion of legislative and executive power, a unicameral legislature, and centralized unitary government. Moreover, Lijphart's typology itself fosters misconceptions in popular discourse. Its "majoritarian" pole should be called "pluralitarian," because FPTP typically produces governments supported by only a plurality of voters; and its emphasis on a dichotomy obscures the fact that most democracies fall on a spectrum between the two pure types. Thus, introducing PR in a system like New Zealand's widens the electoral base of governments to something nearer a majority. The one-party National government of 1993 was elected by just 35.1 per cent of voters, whereas the coalition that resulted from MMP represented 47.2 per cent. Properly understood, "majoritarian" democracy results from PR, not from FPTP; "consensus" is unlikely under any electoral system.

Re-evaluating MMP In light of the problems revealed by experience in New Zealand, is MMP worth keeping there—or worth considering in Canada? Let us reconsider its defects in reverse order. COALITIONS, NOT CONSENSUS

The shift from plurality to (almost) majority rule may seem modest compared with New Zealanders' wishful belief that they were opting for 21 Jack Vowles, Peter Aimer, Helena Catt, Jim Lamare, and Raymond Miller, Towards Consensus? The 1993 Election in New Zealand and the Transition to Proportional Representation (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1995) 8. 22 Arend Lijphart, Democracies: Patterns of Majoritarian and Consensus Rule in Twenty-One Countries (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984).

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NEW ZEALAND'S EXPERIENCE WITH MMP

"consensus," but terminological accuracy avoids inflated hopes that a thorny reality will inevitably puncture. Because it creates winners and losers, majority rule is inherently adversarial. Politics under MMP will therefore remain contentious, in New Zealand or elsewhere. Nevertheless, the shift toward majoritarianism that occurred in New Zealand can mean a 30 per cent or 40 per cent increase in the number of people a government has electoral incentive to please. Such an extension of the base for government can make a substantial difference in the quality of democracy. GROWING PAINS

If, as is surely the case, some aspects of the style adopted by Tau Henare and his colleagues are counterproductive, either they will eventually temper their behaviour or their constituents will elect more effective leaders. In the meantime, the backlash against the new Maori MPS illustrates a well-known dilemma of political participation. Arnold Kaufman describes it in these terms: "Participation must begin by being unsuccessful if it is to fulfill its principal function [which is] ...an essential condition of making men competent and responsible." In the same vein, Jack Lively writes, "It is never a good argument against giving a group power that it is irresponsible in its attitudes, since it can never learn to be responsible if it is excluded."23 From this perspective, the controversial behaviour of some Maori leaders is not a failure of electoral reform, but only a political growing pain—the transitional price New Zealanders are paying for offering at last an opportunity for full and fair participation to a people previously relegated to the margin of politics. DISPROPORTIONATE POWER.

Although MMP can help a small party gain more than its share of power, FPTP may be even worse. It gave National 100 per cent of parliamentary power in 1990 and 1993, and surveys indicate it would have done so again if used in 1996. The ratio of National's power index to its popular vote would have been around 3:1—about the same as the disproportionality exploited by New Zealand First; but under FPTP, National would have gained not just a disproportionate share, but an absolute monopoly of power. PR proponents can therefore make a strong argument for the virtues of broadening, dispersing, and sharing power; but in doing so, they must admit that no electoral system assures consistent fairness in the allocation of power.

23 The problem is outlined and both authors are quoted in Jack H. Nagel, Participation (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1987) 17-8.

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FOURTEEN

Electoral System Reform in the United Kingdom* ANDREW REYNOLDS

The First-Past-the-Post (FPTP), single-member constituency elections, which are so strongly associated with Great Britain, did not in fact come into widespread use for House of Commons elections until 1884-1885—a full fifty years after the First Reform Act of 1832, which marked the beginnings of representative democracy in the UK. Up until 1867 most members of the British House of Commons were elected from two-member districts by the Block Vote, which served to compound the seat bonuses given to the larger parties. In 1867 the Second Reform Act introduced the Limited Vote (in which electors had one fewer vote than the number of seats to be filled) for the election of forty-three members of the Commons, chosen from thirteen three-member districts and one four-member seat. It was not until the Third Reform Act of 1884-1885, which abolished these Limited Vote seats, that FPTP became established as the dominant electoral system. Even today, the system is not used throughout the United Kingdom. The Single Transferable Vote (STV) form of Proportional Representation (PR) was re-introduced in Northern Ireland, after a 5o-year absence, for local government elections in 1973 in an attempt to allow for representation from the moderate segments of the Nationalist and Unionist communities and the non-sectarian middle, and ensure adequate representation of the minority Catholic community. In the same year STV was used to elect the ill-fated Stormont Assembly—which had been created to give the people of Ulster a degree of self-governing power. Since 1979, Northern In the course of writing this article I am indebted to Paul Wilder of the Arthur McDougall Fund at the Electoral Reform Society for advice and fact checking, and to David FarrelTs book Comparing Electoral Systems (London: Prentice-Hall/Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1997) for its excellent historical overview. This article is an updated and revised version of the UK case study which appeared in the Andrew Reynolds and Ben Reilly etal, International IDEA Handbook of Electoral System Design (Stockholm: International IDEA, 1997). 171

M A K I N G EVERY VOTE COUNT

172

Ireland's three members of the European parliament have been elected by STV while, at the same time, Britain's 84 English, Scottish, and Welsh members have been elected by FPTP. Nearly a quarter of a century later, a new body charged with finding solutions to the province's troubles, the Northern Irish Peace Forum, was elected under a different system of proportional representation designed to give rise to the most representative body possible. In May 1997, 90 members were elected from 18 five-member list PR districts, along with another 20, two each from the top 10 parties in overall votes. It took almost a year for the Peace Forum members to accept the "Good Friday" agreement of April 1998 which instituted real power-sharing for the first time in the six counties of Northern Ireland. The territory was to be administered by a new io8-member Assembly elected via STV in 18 sixmember districts. There was to be executive power-sharing between the Unionist and Nationalist communities; a veto on sensitive issues for substantive minorities; a "Council of the British Isles" to be composed of Northern Irish, Scottish, Welsh, English, and Irish officials; and a "NorthSouth" ministerial council to promote cooperation between Ulster and the Republic. In the momentous assembly elections of June 25,1998, eight parties (four Unionist, two Nationalist, and two non-sectarian) won seats along with three independent unionists. The STV system gave rise to roughly proportional results—although the Ulster Unionists won 28 seats with only 21 per cent of the vote while the Social Democratic and Labour Party won 24 seats with 22 per cent of the vote. The PR system enabled the Women's Coalition of Northern Ireland and the breakaway Progressive Unionist Party to win two seats apiece. Overall, Nationalist Parties (the SDLP and Sinn Fein) won 39 per cent of the seats with 40 per cent of the vote, while the Unionists (UUP, DUP, UKUP, and PUP) won 51 per cent of the seats with 46 per cent of the vote. The proliferation of different electoral systems in use in the UK has meant that electoral reform, for all tiers of British government, has become an increasingly debated issue. In July 1997 the new Labour government, led by Prime Minister Tony Blair, announced that they would present legislation to change the electoral system (beginning with the 1999 elections) for British members of the European Parliament, instituting a form of regional closed-list PR system for England, Scotland, and Wales, while leaving unaltered the PR STV system for electing Euro MPS in Northern Ireland. This reform met with immediate hostility from four sitting Labour Party members of the European Parliament who were both unhappy with the switch away from single-member constituencies and the centralized candidate

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ELECTORAL SYSTEM REFORM IN THE UK

selection control that the new list PR system would give to the Labour Party leadership. The dissidents ran up against Blair's "get tough" policy, and two were first suspended from the Labour Party and later expelled. As part of the government's constitutional reform package, Britain has also moved towards the devolution of legislative power to Scotland and Wales. The Scottish and Welsh peoples in September 1997 referenda approved the creation of new Scottish and Welsh assemblies, which will have a degree of autonomous law-making power devolved from the Westminster Parliament. Both assemblies are to be elected by Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) systems which retain FPTP seats based on the current Westminster single-member districts, but include district-based PR lists which will compensate, to some extent, for any overall disproportionality. The Welsh Assembly will have 40 FPTP single-member seats and 20 list PR seats, while the Scottish Assembly will have 73 FPTP seats and 56 list PR seats. Last, the new Assembly elected to run metropolitan London will be elected by MMP, with the mayor being chosen by the "supplementary" version of the alternative vote. Nevertheless, the overwhelming focus of electoral reform remains the House of Commons and, in 1998, Britain appears closer to changing her FPTP system than at any time since 1917. In that year a proposal to introduce the alternative vote (AV) for two-thirds of the parliamentary seats, and the STV for the remaining one-third of seats, was narrowly defeated after a stalemate between the House of Lords and House of Commons. A second attempt to move to AV was rejected by Parliament in 1931, and it was not until the 19708 that electoral reform muscled its way back on to the British political agenda. In 1976, the Hansard Commission on Electoral Reform, chaired by the former Conservative Cabinet minister Lord Blake, recommended MMP for parliamentary elections, with three-quarters of the members being elected by FPTP and one-quarter from regional PR lists to compensate for disproportionality in the overall results of the singlemember district seats. After four consecutive defeats for the Labour Party (1979,1983,1987, and 1992), the previously solid Labour support for FPTP began to fracture and in 1990 the leadership set up a commission, chaired by Professor Raymond Plant, to investigate electoral system reform options. The Plant Report (1993) recommended a switch to a sibling of the alternative vote (as used in Australia) which they called the supplementary vote—the system used to elect the Sri Lankan president. While this proposal was never officially adopted by Labour, they did nonetheless adopt a policy that, when returned to office, they would hold a national referendum on electoral system reform for the House of Commons. This policy was given teeth in a joint agree-

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ment on constitutional reform between Labour and the Liberal Democrats (who have historically advocated a switch to PR), announced on the eve of the 1997 British general election. The first step in the referendum process was the setting up of an independent commission in December 1997 to recommend which system should be pitted against FPTP on the ballot paper. The pre-electoral promise had been for a "proportional representation system" alternative to the current system, but it was unclear whether that automatically excludes the consideration of majoritarian alternatives such as the alternative vote and supplementary vote (even though there is a scholarly consensus that these are not PR electoral systems). The independent commission set up in December 1997 was heavily skewed toward prominent generalists without specific expertise—or obvious biases—in the area of electoral system design. The commission was chaired by Roy Jenkins, the well respected former Labour Party Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, in 1981, was one of the "Gang of Four" who defected from the Labour Party to form the Social Democratic Party (SDP). He is now a senior Liberal Democrat sitting in the House of Lords. The remaining four members of the commission were Baroness Joyce Gould (a former Labour Party advisor), Lord Weedon (the former head of the National West Bank), Sir John Chilcott (a former senior civil servant in the Northern Irish office), and David Lipsey (the political editor of the Economist). The commissioners' report was due to be presented in time for the opening of Parliament in October 1998. Under this time frame it is possible, though unlikely, that a referendum could be held by 1999, in order to allow time to introduce a new electoral system, if chosen, for general elections in 2001 or 2002. The debate over reforming the way members of the House of Commons are elected will give voice to important differences that have underlain much of the discussion of British constitutional practice throughout this century. The criticisms of the current FPTP electoral system have been restated many times. First, FPTP in the UK has led to some highly disproportional results where minority parties received far fewer seats than their percentage vote might have indicated and has led to situations where the "losing" party, in terms of votes won, became the winning party in term of seats won and thus formed the government. The Liberal Party, then Liberal-Social Democratic Alliance, then Liberal Democrats, have been the most victimized on the first count. In 1983 the Liberal-SDP Alliance won 25.4 per cent of the vote but only 3.5 per cent of the seats. In 1987 the Alliance won 22.6 per cent and 3.4 per cent of the seats. In 1992 the newly formed Liberal Democrats won 17.8 per cent of

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the votes and 3.1 per cent of the seats, but in 1997, utilizing more sophisticated targetting techniques and benefiting from the tide of antiConservative feeling, the Liberal Democrats were able to win 6.5 per cent of the seats with 16.7 per cent of the popular vote. The uphill struggle that new parties face under FPTP was dramatically illustrated in the 1989 UK European elections when the UK Green Party won 15 per cent of the vote but not a single seat. The second anomaly, of one party winning most votes but forming the opposition, has happened twice in the post-war period. In 1951 the Labour Party won more votes but the Conservatives won most seats and formed the government, while in February 1974 the indignity was reversed with Labour forming the government after the Conservatives had polled most votes. A second powerful criticism levelled at the British FPTP system has been its inability to adequately represent the nation along lines of gender and ethnicity. Up until 1997, fewer than 10 per cent of British MPS were women, although Labour's vigorous promotion of women parliamentary candidates and the party's subsequent landslide victory did nearly double the number of women MPS to 18.1 per cent in the 1997 parliament. Ethnic minorities in Britain have been similarly under-represented. Most parliaments preceding the 1987 election were all white, and the four black and Indian-English MPS elected in that year represented less than 0.5 per cent of the total. While Black and Asian representation has increased over the last three elections, their numbers in Parliament remain substantially below their proportion of the UK population as a whole. FPTP is not lacking in staunch defenders for whom the single-member constituencies and encouragement of a "dominant two-party system" are the bedrock of British democracy. The single constituency member is sacrosanct, guaranteeing the accountability of a specific MP to each voter. Moreover, they contend, coalition governments are practically unknown in the UK, and could destabilize the country. PR could fragment the party system by leading to the break up of the major parties (for example, a split in the Conservative Party between "pro-" and "anti-" European wings), and open the doors of Westminister to extremists in the National Front and British National Party. PR advocates have disputed the fact that FPTP creates a strong geographical link between elector and representative in the UK, arguing that many safe Conservative and Labour seats are effectively "rotten boroughs" where MPS have little incentive to make themselves accessible. They have also pointed out that the urban centres of the UK are now so totally dominated by Labour MPS that all other party supporters are effectively disenfranchised. Opponents of FPTP have also cited destabilizing swings in

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economic policy which arose from the alternation of Conservative and Labour governments between 1945-1979, but the Conservatives' 18 unbroken years in office (1979-1997) and Labour's recent drift toward the fiscally moderate centre have tended to weaken this argument. The straight FPTP vs. PR debate has currently become muddied as the alternative vote form of preference voting (or its adaptation—the supplementary vote) in single-member constituencies has emerged as an apparent front runner to be the second option on the referendum ballot. This system does not give proportional results; it disadvantages minority parties and still gives large "seat bonuses" to the larger parties. Its virtues are that it retains the single-member constituency link and ensures that the elected MP has the tacit support of over 50 per cent of the voters in their constituency. AV (or a variation thereof) appears to be the favoured alternative to FPTP in British government circles. A Minister of State in the Welsh Office, Peter Hain, made the case for AV in the Times in October 1997 an