Wilfred Day planted the following seed regarding electoral reform in Quebec at my previous thread on Canada’s dysfunctional FPTP system (at the federal level). Quebec electoral reform deserves to a planting of its own, so here it is. I am also copying below a comment that Vasi planted in response to Wilf.
After public hearings that began Nov. 1, 2005, and continued for 25 days across QuÃ©bec, public reaction has borne its first fruit: the Citizens’ Committee has reported. Nine Members of QuÃ©bec’s National Assembly, and eight citizens selected by a structured random process from interested volunteers, have consulted the general public and particular experts on the government’s draft bill for an MMP system.
The first shoe has dropped (what kind of fruit is a shoe?), but it has no legal weight. The eight citizens sat at the same table as the nine MNAs and had the same right to ask questions, but have no vote on the Report of the Special Committee (the nine MNAs.) The thud, if any, will come from their report.
Six Citizens have written a masterful 59-page report with no technical assistance. (One more wrote his own, while the eighth signed nothing.) It calls for an improved MMP model with province-wide proportionality, with 40% compensatory seats assigned to regions and filled from regional lists with a 5% threshold using a two-vote model. To the surprise of those who thought citizens would always want an open-list model, they want closed lists in each of QuÃ©bec’s 17 administrative regions, ranging from a few little three-seat regions to MontrÃ©al’s 30 seats (18 local, 12 regional list.)
It also calls for fixed election dates. Uniquely for a citizen panel, it calls for rules to maintain stable government: for example, that a government cannot be defeated in the House except by the formation of a new coalition government holding a majority of seats. (They did not attempt to define exceptional circumstances permitting an early election.)
Will the government pay any attention to the Citizens’ recommendations? The Minister says he too had some reservations about the draft bill, and will take the committee’s recommendations as a starting point for presenting a new version of the reform in coming months. We’ll see.
As a PR wonk, what interested me is the Citizens’ formula for assigning the 50 compensatory seats to the 17 regions. All they said is “start by giving Party A a seat in the region where it is most under-represented” — presumably by highest average, as the draft bill uses — “and continue compensating parties under-represented in regions so long as the region has seats available” until the party’s seats are all assigned. Unlike Germany, the regions have a fixed number of seats, making the assignment process far trickier than in Germany.
Suppose a fourth party won 7 seats. Would parties go turn-about? Then all seven of their seats would be among the first 28 assigned by this process, leaving the large parties to take the left-overs. Or would they go in order of which party has the highest average (is most under-represented) in any region? If so, the fourth party’s 7 seats will mostly be assigned at the end of the process, and some will go to regions which have a seat left over but where the fourth party had little support.
Here the citizens’ talents hit a wall. They ask the Special Committee staff to do simulations of how this would work and attach them to the Citizens’ Report (not attached). Once again, as in BC, we find citizens needing experts to help them write their MMP model, and no experts assigned to that task.
Here are Vasi’s additional remarks on this subect:
In order that list MNAs not become immune to being thrown out, they recommend a limit of two consecutive terms as a list MNA. They do want to permit double-candidacy (list and district), however.
Apparently Quebec law already provides parties with election financing dependent on the number of votes received last electionâ€“with a bonus if a certain percentage of candidates are women. The proposal wishes to increase the bonus, increase the required percentage, and make it apply to elected members rather than candidates. There should also be a separate bonus which applies to minorities. Moreover, if this measure does not result in significantly increased representation of women within two elections, then parties should instead be required to alternate between men and women on the lists. (Note that apparently English-speakers and those of minority religions are not considered â€œminoritiesâ€â€“not that Iâ€™m bitter or anything.)
Thanks, Wilf and Vasi, for keeping the orchard planted with the latest hybrid varieties of fruit! (And I am still pondering that question about what kind of fruit is a shoe.)