Comparing BC Election 2017 with Regionalized Proportionality, part 1

I came up with an answer of how Regionalized Proportionality, as I envisioned it, might change our electoral result. The spreadsheet will follow, as promised, after a few more tweaks, but this is a comparison of
  • the actual result of our election as is (FPTP)
  • what it might look like if the Province's votes were counted to a single list across the board
  • what it might look like with Regionalized Proportionality
           Actual Result    Province Wide Proportional  Regionalized Proportionality
Liberals:       44                  36                          42
NDP:            41                  35                          35
Green:           3                  16                          10

So, the end result, either of province wide proportional representation, or of Regionalized Proportionality would probably mean that Ms. Clark would follow the same course of action as she has so far, but holding a gun to the heads of her caucus to prevent any from standing as Speaker wouldn't give her the opportunity of (legally, yes; morally, no) slow-marching us to another $44M election this year.

But I write this before pushing my spreadsheet up in order to make a few interpretive comments on my experiment.

For one thing, I was shocked at how much more population there was in Metro Vancouver than the rest of the province. Until you see "42 of 87" staring you in the face, you don't realize what's happened. Until you see that "55 of 87" members come from largely urban areas (Metro Vancovuer, Capital and Fraser Valley Regional Districts) of the province, you don't realize the cause of feelings of  isolation and neglect the rural areas of the province feel -- something easily attested anecdotally if you have any contacts in Clinton or Valemount -- or even larger towns like Prince George or Quesnel.

For another, one thing that slowed me in my tracks were allegations from various places of undue influence by the Liberals on the latest realignment of districts which prevented seats being lost by the rural areas to the urban areas. Some blamed the NDP loss on that detail, and it's possible -- even likely, if you understand how power tends to be good at maintaining itself -- that the measures taken during that process by the Liberals were calculated to retain power rather than allowing a purely just process to run its course. Someone used the word gerrymandering and suddenly many were using it. In my opinion, this was completely, utterly, annoyingly inappropriate. We haven't had a case of outright gerrymandering in BC since the retraction of "Gracie's Finger", named after the inimitable Ms. McCarthy who was so prominent in BC politics during my teen years.

I was reminded in those pieces of people blaming Ms. Clinton's loss of the 2016 election on Comey, Wikileaks, Benghazi, the E-mail-server vs. others of her own allies admitting that she wasn't a really great campaigner. Locally, blaming "gerrymandering" seemed to me to ignore that fact that there were many little places around the province to which Mr. Horgan didn't go; that perhaps he tailored his messages to appeal to urban as opposed to rural voters; that he left a few rural long-standing NDP members to twist in the wind on their own -- and they went down to defeat without commensurate gains in other parts of the same regions. Perhaps, when it comes down to it, the NDP didn't do so well because he wasn't such a good campaigner either.

The allegation of influence on the redstricting slowed me down because I had noticed that the rural areas were slightly over-represented, but I hadn't come up with some of the numbers that were being bandied about on that front, like 25% too many rural ridings, a number which would raise some alarm, and I wondered if I should go back and analyse those parts more closely. I had seen individual ridings being 5% under-populated -- and maybe that's where these numbers were coming from.

It shook me, too, because Ms. Clark's "directions" to Elections BC flew in the face of something that has been a point of pride for me in comparing a Westminster system to our southern cousins: that re-alignment of districts is largely apolitical since Elections BC is responsible to the Speaker and through the Speaker to the Crown and not to the Premier. Perhaps I've been mistaken on this point -- still we don't have anything like that "Hall of Shame" that can be constructed from the various district maps drawn by party-dominated committees.

In the end, I decided that re-examining this question was for a later date -- but by then I had dithered much longer about the results of my study than I ever intended to.

For a third point, while I consider Ms. Clark's charge to her caucus not to stand as Speaker for an NDP-Green coalition highly un-neighbourly and un-Canadian, I also bemoaned the instability of such a thin minority government -- EITHER WAY!! The level of rhetoric against minority governments in Canada is pretty astonishing because given the concentration of power in the Premier's or Prime Minister's Office since the days of Trudeau (P.E.T., not his son) majority governments are term-by-term dictatorships.

I believe that minority governments can be the best results, if only the players see their first task to be governing well, rather than maneuvering matters so that the government falls at the peak of their own popularity -- this is what seems to have played out in the Pearson-Thompson and Pearson-Douglas mandates, federally. Many of the opponents of reform and proportionality of any kind utterly ignore these historical facts, and as it stands today, a straight proportional result would give either a Liberal-Green or an NDP-Green co-mandate a lot more stability than what's been delivered by First Past the Post. Perhaps, in a world where most elections will result in minorities, penalizing all parties financially for allowing a government to fall before the four-year mandate would influence their behaviour in such a case? But perhaps if the parties understand that EVERY election will result in minorities, such a penalty might be unnecessary.

Finally, one other cause of my dithering was that I realized that there was a limit to how deeply "Regionalized Proportionality" could be applied without introducing fuzziness of its own -- but this piece is long enough already and I'll address this in the next one, in which I will also release the spreadsheet. It shouldn't take too much more time.

No comments: