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October 9, 2007 - No. 158

Ontario Election 2007
Referendum on Mixed Member Proportional

Need to Renew the Political Process --
No Election without Selection!

On October 10, a referendum will be held in Ontario during the election of members of the provincial legislature. The electors of Ontario are asked to state their preference between the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system and a hybrid system known as Mixed Member Proportional (MMP).

The referendum ballot is set up in such a manner that electors must either say "yes" to the current FPTP system, a clearly unacceptable option, or "yes" to the MMP system about which they are not adequately informed, making that also a clearly unacceptable option. Even the Citizens' Assembly admits that the ramifications of implementing the MMP system on Ontario's political arrangements have yet to be studied, such a study being outside the purview of its mandate. In order for people to decide how to vote in the referendum, the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) considers it important to look at the mandate given to the Citizens' Assembly including the limitations, as well as the origins of the Hare Formula adopted it, called the Mixed Member Proportional system.

The Citizens' Assembly Mandate

The political parties in the provincial assembly set the mandate for the Ontario Citizens' Assembly by providing it with a very definite set of legislated "values" which it was told it had to embody in its recommendations. One of these "values" was "effective political parties." The Assembly was directed that "the electoral system should support the role that political parties play in organizing the electorate and developing party alternatives."

Other issues integrally connected to the electoral process were off-limits to the Assembly. The Assembly was told it could not address: "Changing the nature of our parliamentary system (for example, electing the Premier directly in a province-wide vote); the threshold for the referendum to be held if the Assembly recommends change; referendums in general; who should be allowed to vote; the quality of political leadership; which candidates parties choose to nominate; party financing rules; party discipline and the role of backbenchers in the legislature; frequency of elections; the role of the media in elections." In other words, the Ontario Citizens' Assembly was set-up so that it could not deliberate on the fundamental problems facing the system of representation. Its starting point was that representation in the party-dominated system is merely a problem of how the votes are counted. It could not deliberate on the problem of representation itself, including the most fundamental issue of who chooses the candidates and the program they will implement or how the electorate exercises control over these candidates in between elections. The system of party government based on the notion that through a general election the electorate can replace a party they do not approve of is considered sacrosanct even if the people can exercise no control over the "elected representatives."

The issue of the selection of candidates is of such importance that without it, elections are rendered meaningless. The principle of participating in the process of selecting candidates is based on the principle that people will defend the decisions of their elected representatives because they have selected them. They have selected them on the basis of merit -- those who together with them participate in formulating policies and have shown in day to day life that they implement them. Furthermore, without the right of recall after the election -- that is, the right to recall the elected members who betray their mandate, who do not represent the will of those who selected and then elected them, then the people are also deprived of any power over their elected representatives, of any means to enforce their mandate.

How can any electoral system be reformed with an aim to improve it if its fundamental tenets are not to be questioned?

In the opinion of CPC(M-L), so long as the Electoral Act does not provide the mechanisms for the people to participate in the selection of candidates, the election of candidates they have selected and the right to recall those who do not implement their mandate, the people will remain disenfranchised. These concepts are very important. They are fundamental to every society calling itself democratic, if, indeed, words are to mean anything at all.

If reforms to an electoral system do not address how the selection of candidates takes place and who these candidates represent is not addressed, these reforms will not provide what the people feel is missing from the current system called a representative democracy.

Who should have the right to select the candidates who stand for election has become one of the most important issues. On average, party riding associations across the country have regular membership of only 19 electors. What are called nomination meetings for party candidates can take place with very few electors participating. In other cases, especially in ridings that are considered "safe" for a certain political party, the nomination meetings take place with large numbers of "instant members" mobilized strictly for the purpose of voting for one of the contenders. Reports also abound of entire riding associations resigning in protest because the candidate they have selected is refused by the party leader in favour of a businessman or media star, or fights take place between different factions. The electors want to ensure that not only can they participate in deciding who should represent them in the Parliaments and legislatures, but also that they are able to continue to be the decision-makers after an election is over.

At the present time, there is no mechanism in place whereby the electors can participate in selecting candidates of their choice. Candidates are, as a rule, selected by the political parties. In this way, only a fraction of the electorate participate in selecting the candidates. Even though independents can present their candidature, it is known that they are dismissed by the media as a "waste of a vote." In other words, the electoral process itself is not geared to providing a level playing field. Unless the electorate can control the selection of candidates, how can it exercise control over those who get elected? The same is the case as concerns the role political parties play "in organizing the electorate" and "developing party alternatives." Commissions on electoral reform have long since established that Canadians hold political parties in very low esteem because the political parties of the establishment do not have the aim of organizing the electorate other than to vote for them and the policy alternatives of the "major" political parties are increasingly seen as nothing more than variations of the same neo-liberal anti-social offensive.

The proposal to change Ontario's electoral system from FPTP to MMP does not address these fundamental issues.

Furthermore, Elections Ontario, the body that has been given $6.5 million to inform the electors about the referendum clearly does not believe that the referendum is binding despite the referendum law which says that if 60 per cent of the electors and at least 50 per cent of the electors in 64 per cent of the ridings say "yes" to MMP, the next government will be bound to introduce the required legislation by November 2008. In the guidelines given by Elections Ontario to political parties as to their involvement in the referendum campaign, it says that while registered political parties cannot urge voters to vote either way, they are allowed to make "fair comment." Such fair comment includes "for example, 'We support MMP (or FPTP),' 'If elected; we will introduce an electoral reform bill even if the 60 per cent threshold is not met,' 'We will repeal the referendum law,' or, 'We will respect whatever Ontarians decide.'"

Proposed MMP System

The proposed MMP system uses a formula known as the "Hare Formula," named after Thomas Hare, a 19th century political scientist who invented one of the first proportional representation systems, albeit quite different from the MMP system being recommended. In 1861, Hare wrote A Treatise on the Election of Representatives, Parliamentary and Municipal, at a time when the arrangements for elections, from the way in which candidates should be selected, to the form of voting (open/secret), the administration of elections, etc. were all still being worked out. The particular problem he addressed was how to realize representation when the competing interests included not only men of property, but also the poor and other dispossessed sections of the society, including the working classes which were demanding representation. Given that those sections comprised the numerical majority, Mr. Hare devised a system to protect the interests of the numerically smaller elites. In other words, as the pressure to extend the franchise grew, it became obvious that in a system where the numerical majority would prevail, the interests of the working class and broad masses of people would dominate, especially in a first-past-the-post system.

To make sure this would not happen, Thomas Hare worked out a system he thought would guarantee a form of representation in which all interests, including those of the working class and the poor, would have their place in the legislative assembly without drowning out the minority -- the nobility, the landed aristocracy and the merchants -- referred to as the intelligent classes. His particular concern was the nobility and the professionals. His was a notion of a legislative assembly in which the competing interests would seriously deliberate on the problems facing the society and arrive at decisions which would harmonize the interests of all. He had a disdain for both political parties and the geographical division of the polity into constituencies. He recognized both as a means of acquiring power, rather than a means of genuine representation.

At a time when whole towns and burroughs and cities could be deprived of the right to vote, long before the conception of representation by population had been integrated into the system of representative democracy, and barely 25 years after the Reform Act 1832 (which instituted broad reforms in the British electoral system including: creation of new seats for cities that had sprung up during the industrial revolution; expansion of the franchise[1]), Hare wrote:

The experience of a quarter of a century does not encourage the extension of a system of arbitrary divisions, constructed entirely for electoral purposes. A representative system, resting on such a basis, can scarcely be otherwise than a source of discord. ... The people of this country have always evinced great reluctance to be arbitrarily parceled out, formed into sections, and divided by metes and bounds, to correspond with a theory, and they have commonly cast aside, at the first opportunity, such artificial limits. The advocates of equal electoral divisions, who look to a new geographical distribution as the only means of accomplishing their object, will have to surmount great prejuduce before they succeed in dividing the country like a chess-board.[2]

As for the object of a geographic constituency-based system of representation and its gerrymandering, Hare is quite clear:

It is because the simple expression of the numerical majority, under a system of equality in suffrage and district, would deprive all classes, except the most numerous, of any weight in the House of Commons, that the framers of our representative system exhaust themselves in ingenious contrivances to parcel the electors into such divisions that some may neutralize others, and thus reduce to its minimum the evil which they apprehend. More than to diminish the evil efforts which must result from the extinction of all political power, except that of the poorer classes, they seem scarcely to hope. The object should rather be, to exclude no legitimate influences, and to give such a scope and direction to all political energy, that every elector, in his sphere, and according to his knowledge may labour to obtain the maximum of good.[3]

Hare viewed political parties as a problem which would not serve the kind of representation he had in mind, particularly because he feared that political parties would integrate people through bribery and corruption. About political parties in the period, he wrote:

A system which forms the electoral bodies into adverse parties -- arrayed under formal names which are themselves calculated to excite hostility where none really exists -- has thus the effect of preventing the expression of true and individual opinions of the members who compose either party. It lowers the force of thought and conscience, reduces the most valuable electoral elements to inaction -- and converts the better motives of those who act, into an effort for success and a mere calculation of the means of accomplishing it.[4]

The necessity of obtaining a majority involves the necessity of creating a party, adopting a party name, and putting forward some party tenet, or dogma, to all of which the majority must lend itself. It is not usually the political tenet which has caused the party, but the party which has created the tenet.[5]

He felt that political parties and the election of government within which the majority party ruled was not conducive to representation and deliberation.

The purpose (of constitutional and representative government) is not satisfied by dividing the nation into two great parties, and converting the area of legislation into a battle-field. It is not necessary here to discuss the merits of party government, it is enough to say that in the vast field of modern legislation, in the adaption of our ancient institutions to a new state of society and in providing for new emergencies, a multitude of social problems come to be solved with which party has nothing to do, and into which the introduction of party elements and considerations is not only useless, but absolutely pernicious. It is obvious that the tendency of a system of government founded on numerical majorities alone is to absorb all differences into one issue -- a contest for power.[6]

Hare's vision of a representative parliamentary system was as follows:

All attempts to engage the society in political conflicts for abstract principles would be thenceforth vain, and statesmen would seek to build their fame on something more solid and durable than party triumphs. A representation of all intelligences founded upon a wisely regulated franchise, cannot be dangerous, it would contain within it breadth, symmetry, cohesion and durability, -- all the elements of strength and safety, and would possess, moreover, a capacity and a disposition for social improvement, without any limit but that of the human faculties.[7]

Hare's proposal was that all the interests in society should be able to form themselves into a constituency which could select representatives from amongst themselves and if they could meet the quotient of required votes (number of votes divided by number of seats in the parliament, ie: the Hare Formula), they would be able to have an elected representative in the parliament. If they were not satisfied that they could be represented by the candidates in a particular riding, they could associate with others anywhere in the country. He was particularly concerned that the intellectuals and professionals and nobility would not be able to have representation, but he addressed all the interests that he saw as competing interests. For example, he says that there is no reason why "the landlowners and the agricultural interests might not safely rely, under a free and equal system of representation, on the elements of their just, and legitimate, and unquestionable strength." He went on to explain:

A similar reasoning will apply to every other class or interest, great or small. The various manufacturing, the mining, the shipping interests, might severally be the framers of their own constituencies, and be thoroughly and satisfactorily represented in the national councils. (...)

One other interest remains -- and which, not less than any, if not more than all, deserve consideration -- the interest of the working classes. To the honour of the age be it said, that the history of the world does not present a time in which the labours of the wise, the great, and the wealthy, were directed with more preserving energy to promote the social benefit of the great masses who are engaged in the manual occupations of life. Some there are in the House of Commons who address themselves to such questions in the spirit of enlightened philanthropy. But who in that assembly is their own exponent -- who has been chosen by themselves? The questions in which the working classes are interested become more and more numerous. Important subjects incessantly arise, requiring the deepest consideration. (...) Of these there are the discussions on the hours of female and infantile labour, -- on the education of children in factories, -- on poor laws, -- workhouses -- and public charities -- on lodging houses and dwelling for the poor, -- on mediative tribunals between labourers and employers, -- on friendly societies and savings banks. The working classes have need in these subjects of men from among themselves. (...) A representative assembly of the Commons without this element is grossly defective. A hint which has somewhere thrown out, that the working classes might elect men with whom the more refined members would be unwilling to associate, betrays the source from whence it comes. The true aristocracy will reject the suggestions with disdain.[8]

Finally, Hare makes it very clear that what he has in mind is an arrangement for representation which would preclude the numerical majority, the working classes, from having power. He writes:

Nothing exemplifies more clearly the maxim, that all injustice will rebound upon its authors, than the present claims of the working classes for representation. Their class has been unwisely and improperly excluded, and they now demand such a construction of the franchise and of electoral divisions, as will tend to throw all power in their hands, by extinguishing every class but their own. In mercy to themselves, it may be hoped that such a consequence may yet be averted.[9]

"Such a consequence" was averted, but not in the way that Thomas Hare envisaged. It was not through the mechanism of proportional representation as he envisioned it that the rule of the minority was guaranteed, but through the first-past-the-post system of party government, with Cabinet rule, in which the political parties of the propertied classes were enabled to exercise power on behalf of the propertied classes. Throughout its evolution, the system of representative democracy through party government has developed elections and instituted electoral reforms with the aim of protecting the power of the propertied classes which the political parties represent. It took decades to work out the arrangement of "free and fair" elections within which even though every citizen of a certain age has the right to vote, elections are held to determine what is called the clear and coherent expression of the popular will in the form of party government. The electoral system guarantees the election of parties of the establishment which champion the agenda of ruling elites under the high veneer that they captured the required number of seats to form a government and have a "mandate" provided by a "popular vote." To now adopt the Hare Formula designed to achieve a result so long as parties were not being elected and constituencies were not organized on a geographic basis in a totally different age where the conditions were quite different is itself a questionable pursuit.

Let us see what the Citizens' Assembly has recommended.

How the Proposed MMP System Would Work

The Ontario Citizens' Assembly has recommended that the first-past-the-post method of counting votes and allocating seats be changed to a mixed-member proportional system. The MMP system would create a 129-seat provincial assembly with two categories of seats: 90 which will be held by local members elected by the first-past-the-post method and 39 province-wide party-list seats. The 39 seats are also referred to as "top-up" seats because they are used to correct the disproportional results of the FPTP system used for the 90 local constituency seats. While one of the aims of a system of proportional representation is to prevent artificial majorities, that is a majority government being formed with a minority of votes, the proposed MMP would not prevent it from happening. It would only decrease the likelihood of it happening.

Riding Reorganization

The current 107 constituencies in Ontario would be reduced to 90 constituencies, each of which would have one member of parliament elected on the first-past-the-post basis. The parameters for establishing these constituencies would be the same as they currently are, based on the principle of "representation by population," where each vote in each electoral district is expected to carry an equal weight. With Ontario's current population of 12,160,000 and 107 constituencies, each electoral district is expected to be an average size of 113,645 people. The rules governing the reorganization of ridings stipulate that variations in the size of each constituency are to stay within 25 per cent of the average size, with the variation being justified by the need to maintain a community of interest or community of identity within a particular electoral district, or to ensure a manageable geographic size for sparsely populated, rural or northern regions.

The Citizens' Assembly has recommended that the ridings be reduced from 107 to 90 by maintaining the current distribution of ridings across the province. For example, northern Ontario currently has 10 per cent of the constituencies (11 out of 107) and in the reconfigured system it should continue to have 10 per cent (9 out of 90.) Aside from this recommendation, the Citizens' Assembly states that "any six current districts would likely become about five under the MMP."

Under MMP, 90 local MPP's would each represent 135,111 people (based on a population of 12.16 million). The Citizens' Assembly uses the total 129 seats to argue that each member of parliament, even those not elected on a riding-basis, would each represent 94,263 people. However, the members that are elected for the other 39 provincial assembly seats would clearly not represent any particular riding. The Citizens' Assembly suggests that any elector in Ontario could contact either their local MPP or any of the 39 party-list MPPs, rather than the current system where individuals would contact their local MPP. "These members," it says, " would provide Ontarians with a new kind of representation. For example, list members will complement the work of local members on issues that may affect a region or the whole province." It also suggests that these members might be experts in specific fields, such as the environment, or women's issues, without commenting on how these would relate to the regular parliamentary structure of ministers with portfolios and the "critics" with portfolios of the parties in opposition.

Independent Candidates

Independent candidates are barred from running for the 39 party-list seats. Nor could they artificially turn themselves into a political party, since the law requires that to be registered, a political party must field at least 2 candidates. Independent candidates could form a political party for purposes of presenting a party-list, although Elections Ontario stipulates that it will not approve the name of any party that includes the term "independent."

Legal Threshold

Every political party that wins at least 3 per cent of the votes cast for the proportional seats would get seats in the provincial assembly. In the last provincial election, where approximately 4.5 million voters cast valid ballots, a political party would have had to obtain at least 135,000 votes on the party-list ballots to be allocated a share of the 39 seats. This is the argument used to suggest that MMP will be fairer than the current FPTP system. For instance, in the last provincial election, the Green Party won 126,000, or 2.7 per cent of the valid votes. It is suggested that if the electors thought such a party had a chance of electing candidates, they could readily garner the required threshold to qualify for list-seats. The Citizens' Assembly states that "the 3 per cent threshold strikes a balance between having more parties represented in the legislature and preventing parties with very little public support from winning seats. The threshold ensures that all parties allocated seats in the legislature will have significant support from voters. If a party wins a local seat but does not meet the 3 per cent threshold province-wide, it retains the local seat but is not compensated with list seats. ...[I]t is not possible to predict with certainty how Ontario voters will vote under the new system. However, based on past voting patterns in Ontario and the experience in MMP jurisdictions, the Assembly believes that the 3 per cent threshold will ensure that the legislature does not become fractured by a proliferation of parties with very little support."

Party-List Candidates

The parties select the names on the party lists. The names of the candidates of each party that stand to fill the 39 seats if elected would not appear on the ballot, and the electors cannot choose or veto any particular party candidate. They can only vote for one of the parties on the ballot. The recommendation of the Citizens' Assembly is that each party would be required to submit their list of candidates to Elections Ontario, along with a report on the method it used to nominate or select the candidates. Elections Ontario would be expected to disseminate this information. The Citizen's Assembly says "voters will be able to assess whether a party created its list in a fair and transparent way." "Voters will also be able to see whether a party's list has a good balance of men and women, includes candidates from all of Ontario's regions, and reflects the diversity of Ontario's population," it states. However, relying on lists over which the electors exercise no control, the entire determination is outside of the control of the electors. The criteria for what information is pertinent to determine notions of fairness and transparency is also not up to the voters but up to Elections Ontario to interpret.

The order of candidates on the list would be the order of election. If the party-list vote results in a party getting two of the 39 seats, the first two candidates on the list would get the seats.

Dual Candidacy

The MMP system proposed by the Assembly would allow political parties to field the same candidate for a local riding seat and a party-list seat. If the candidate wins the local riding, he or she must take that seat. The name of the candidate who has won a local seat is then crossed off the party-list and that position is taken by the next candidate on the list who has not won a local district. In the words of the Citizens' Assembly, "dual candidacy allows parties to pursue the electoral strategy they think best, knowing that the voters will assess that strategy through their party votes... Permitting dual candidacy recognizes that there can only be one winner in the local ridings... Candidates who have strong public support can lose local races. For example, in the 2003 Ontario election, the winning candidate in one district received 35.87 per cent of the vote. In another district, a losing candidate received 45.16 per cent of the vote. As this example shows, candidates who lose can actually have more support than other candidates who win."

Formula For Seat Allocation

The allocation of seats is based on a formula called the "Hare quota." The general formula creates a quotient for the allocation of seats by dividing the number of votes cast on the party-list side of the ballot by the total number of seats in the assembly. The total number of votes received by each eligible party is then divided by this quotient to determine how many seats it should have in the provincial assembly. If a party wins less than that number in the local riding races, it receives "top-up" seats. If a party wins more seats in the local ridings than the number of seats determined by the party-list side of the ballot, it keeps the local seats, and it taken out of the equation in terms of the 39 party-list seats. In addition, the votes of political parties that do not receive the 3 per cent threshold are taken out of the equation. In each case, the allocation of seats is done on the basis of whole numbers first, that is, a party that is entitled to 4.52 seats would get 4 seats; a party that is entitled to 25.14 seats would get 25 in the first round of allocation. If this allocation does not fill all 39 seats, the remaining seats are distributed on the basis of the highest fraction, i.e., 4.52 per cent would get one more seat over the party that received 25.14.

As the Citizens' Assembly states, it is impossible to know how electors would vote under the MMP system. It did not attempt to provide possible projections of seat distribution.

Below are some scenarios merely illustrating the possibilities:

Scenario One: Every Party Competing is Eligible for its Share of 39 Seats

If there were 6 political parties competing in the election and no party receives less than 3 per cent of the vote nor wins a number of seats in the local ridings greater than the number of seats that fall due to it from the party-list side of the ballot, all the votes and all 129 seats are used to calculate the allocation. Let's say 4,500,000 voters cast their ballots, as in the 2003 election. The quotient would be 4,500,000 divided by 129 = 34,884. For every 34,884 votes a party receives it is entitled to 1 seat in the legislature.

This would result in the following hypothetical scenario:

Party A wins 38 local seats and 30.5 per cent of the party-list votes
= 1,372,500 divided by 34,884 = 39.34 seats. It is awarded 1 of the 39 seats (39 to which it is entitled on the basis of the formula that each seat is worth 34,884 votes minus the 38 local seats). Party A will have 39 seats total.

Party B wins 30 local seats and 25 per cent of the party-list votes
= 1,125,000 divided by 34,884 = 32.25 seats. It is awarded 2 of the 39 seats (32 minus 30 local seats). Party B will thus have 32 seats.

Party C wins 22 local seats and 24.5 per cent of the party-list votes
= 1,102,500 divided by 34,884 = 31.60 seats. It is awarded 9 of the 39 seats.
(31 minus 22 local seats). Party C will thus have a total of 31 seats.

Party D wins no local seats and 10 per cent of the party-list votes
= 450,000 divided by 34,884 = 12.89 seats. It is awarded 12 seats.

Party E wins no local seats and 5 per cent of the party-list votes
= 225,000 divided by 34,884 = 6.45 seats. It is awarded 6 seats.

Parties F wins no local seats and 4.9 per cent of the party-list votes
= 220,500 divided by 34,884 = 6.32 seats. It is awarded 6 of the 39 seats

This would amount to 36 of the 39 seats being allocated. In the next round of allocation, the highest decimal points gets additional seats. Party D at 12.89 would get one more seat for a total of 13; Party C at 31.60 would get one more seat each for a total of 32 seats; Party E at 6.45 would get one more for a total of 7 seats. Party F would not get any more seats.

Scenario Two: A Party Wins More than Its "Fair Share" in the Local Ridings

The number of seats won in the 90 FPTP ridings never decreases, regardless of the number of votes a party receives on the party-list ballot. For example, in the last election the Liberals won 72 of 103 seats, that is, 69.9 per cent of the seats with 46.5 per cent of the cast vote; the Conservatives won 24 with 34.67 per cent of the vote; the NDP won 7 with 14.69 per cent of the vote. Applied to the proposed MMP system, if the results in each riding remained the same, the Liberals would win 63 of the 90 local seats; the Conservatives would win 21; the NDP 6. If, on the party-list side of the ballot, the Liberals only obtained 30.5 per cent of the votes, or 1,372,500 of the 4,500,000 votes cast, it would still keep its 63 seats even though 30 per cent of the provincial assembly seats would be only 38.7 seats.

In this case, the formula would be calculated by removing the Liberal votes and the 63 seats won by the Liberals. The formula would become 4,500,000 minus 1,372,500 = 3,127,500 divided by 66 (129 minus 63 Liberal seats) = 47,386 votes per seat.

The allocation of seats would be as follows:

Liberals 63 local seat wins with none of the party-list seats.

Conservatives with 21 local seat wins and 25 per cent of the party-list votes
= 1,125,000 divided by 47,386 = 23.74 seats. It is awarded 2 of 39 seats (23 minus 21 local seats)

NDP with 6 local seat wins 24.5 per cent of the party-list votes
= 1,102,500 divided by 47,386 = 23.27 seats. It is awarded 17 of the 39 seats (23 - 6 local seats)

Party D wins no local seats and 10 per cent of the party-list votes
= 450,000 divided by 47,386 = 9.40 seats. It is awarded 9 of the 39 seats.

Party E wins no local seats and 5 per cent of the party-list votes
= 225,000 divided by 47,386 = 4.75 seats. It is awarded 4 of the 39 seats.

Parties F wins no local seats and 4.9 per cent of the party-list votes
= 220,500 divided by 47,386 = 4.65 seats. It is awarded 4 of the 39 seats

The total number of party-list seats allocated in the first round totals 36. Party E at 4.75 would get 1 more seat, the Conservatives at 23.74 would get the next one; Party F at 4.65 would get the third unallocated seat.

Scenario Three: One Party Wins More than its "Fair Share" and Several Parties Get Less than 3 per cent of the Party-List Vote

The votes of the parties that receive less than the 3 per cent threshold are taken out of the formula. If, as some predict, the MMP system would lead to the formation of more parties and several parties compete but fail to win 3 per cent of the threshold, the per-seat quotient drops and the seats are allocated amongst the remaining eligible parties. In Scenario Two given above, if 15 per cent of the votes or 675,000 were divided amongst 8 parties, and none of these parties win 3 per cent of the vote, the formula would become 4,500,000 minus the Liberal vote = 3,127,500, minus below 3 per cent threshold vote = 2,452,500 divided by 66 (129 minus 63 Liberal seats) = 37,159.

In this case, the allocation of seats would be:

Conservatives = 25 per cent of 4,500,000 = 1,125,000 divided by 37,159 = 30.28 seats

NDP = 24.5 per cent of 4,500,000 = 1,102,500 divided by 37,159 = 29.67 seats

The Conservatives would get 9 of the 39 seats (30 minus 21 local seats).

The NDP would get 23 of the 39 seats (29 minus 6 local seats). This would leave 7 seats remaining to be filled, and they would be divided up amongst the Conservatives and the NDP, 3 for the former and 4 for the latter.

No Election Without Selection

In the opinion of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) it is clear that the proposed MMP system will do nothing to address the very feature of the system of representative democracy that keeps the people disempowered and unrepresented, that is, its domination by political parties who choose the candidates and whose elites control their agenda in a manner which promotes or accommodates the claims of the rich on the economy and all political, social, cultural and other affairs. So long as the issue of how candidates are selected, by whom and whose interests they represent is not put for public discussion and mandates to reform the system do not permit this aspect of the electoral law to be contested, then the proposed reforms will only further exacerbate the crisis in which Canada's democracy is mired. The MMP will deepen the crisis in various ways. Not only will the 39 at-large seats be filled by candidates appointed by the upper echelons of the political parties but, by barring independent candidates from running for 30 per cent of the proposed 129-seat assembly (i.e. to enshrine in law that only political parties can run for 39 of the 129 seats in the assembly), the right of Ontarians to elect and to be elected will be violated even further than it is already.

In exchange for improving the chances of some currently unrepresented political parties to win seats, one must be willing to accept the strengthening of the crisis-ridden party dominated system and the cartel nature of the already crisis-ridden parties. One is asked to vote in favour of the violation of the rights of independents with a full 30 per cent of the 129-seat assembly being unavailable to them and thus further violate the fundamental right of all citizens to elect and be elected and exercise control over their elected representatives. Voters are asked to chose a recommendation that has not even been translated into law as an enticement to the most politically active sections of the population, that is, those people who are members of political parties, to conciliate with a system that will further marginalize the people from governance. The whole issue of the need for fundamental democratic reform is to be reduced to whether one or two, or even ten members of "the others" will be able to win seats, while everything else is to remain the same. The small political parties should be happy to be accommodated into a system that on all fronts politically marginalises the people and hope that somehow this will lead to a difference in the political state of affairs. It is opening a dangerous door. On the basis of manipulating the sentiment of the people for a fairer system of representation, the people are set up to vote for a system which strengthens the cartel nature of political parties and further violates the right of electors to elect and be elected.

In A Power to Share (1993), Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) leader Hardial Bains pointed out in the conclusion to the section on the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform that:

Sovereignty means self-determination, the power to make one's own decisions, free of any outside interference. In other words, today, a system of governance in which power is shared between those who are elected and the electors who elect them to govern on their behalf must be brought into being. Mechanisms have to be put into place to make it so.

People have to be cautious in this regard. For them to empower themselves, they must summon the strength to place themselves in a position to be able to change the political process, beginning with the electoral law. They have to begin by depriving the political parties of their legal right to select the candidates who stand for election. This is really the first step in settling the question of where sovereignty lies. As a result of the absence of political power in the hands of the electorate as well as the mechanism to empower them, the chasm between the electorate and the elected has become so wide that it is not possible to overcome it without changing the political process.

This chasm is an objective problem facing society. It is not a matter of transparency and openness, or inclusiveness, or parliamentary or electoral reform, all of which are aimed at making the present system appear credible. The demand for the democratic renewal of the political process surfaced in the first place as a result of the electorate abstracting absence -- being able to conceptualize what is missing in society so that people could exercise control over their lives. This thing that is absent, which eludes the grasp of the electorate, is empowerment, the mechanisms which will enable the electorate to open the path for the progress of society.

The end of feudal privilege and power which was cemented by the new political mechanism (the party system of government) did not end the domination of privilege and power over the polity. The system of "equal opportunity" which the new rulers instituted gave rise to concentration of wealth at one pole of society, and of poverty at the other in an increasingly dramatic way. In the course of this, the unequal distribution of political resources also became entrenched and has given rise to the system of political power which has become more and more concentrated in the hands of the few, and was further and further removed from the grasp of the people. The tendency is towards its ever greater concentration.

Reforms to the system which are being implemented in the name of transparency, electoral reform and accountability are strengthening this tendency, not reversing it. Today there is no reform of either parliament, elections or anything else which wrests power from the executive, whether it be a British style parliamentary system or an American or French style presidential rule. This reveals that the relationship between the people and this political power is an anachronism since it is not consistent with either the democratic notion of sovereignty being vested in the people, nor the human right of all human beings to participate in governing their societies.[10]


1. "Reform Act 1832," Wikipedia.org
2. Hare, Thomas. Treatise on the Election of Representatives, Parliamentary and Municipal, A New and Revised Edition, 1861. London: Longman, Green, Longman & Roberts, pp 48-49.
3. Ibid, p. 37
4. Ibid, p. xvii-xviii.
5. Ibid, p. xvi.
6. Ibid, p. 12.
7. Ibid, p. xxiv.
8. Ibid, p. 43.
9. Ibid, p. 44.
10. Bains, Hardial. A Power to Share: A Modern Definition of the Political Process and a Case for its Democratic Renewal, Ottawa, Canadian Renewal Party, 1993. p. 35.

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