Evidence of meeting #42 for Electoral Reform in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site.) The winning word was mps.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Byron Weber Becker  As an Individual
  • Katie Ghose  Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society United Kingdom
  • Darren Hughes  Deputy Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society United Kingdom
  • John Poulos  President and Chief Executive Officer, Dominion Voting Systems, Corp.

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

First, to be clear, if we go to your written material, the material that was submitted to us, in that we would find the composite Gallagher index being used and not the original Gallagher index.

Is that correct?

8 p.m.

As an Individual

Byron Weber Becker

I present both of them.

8 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Okay, all right.

To make sure I'm crystal clear on this, when the first prime minister Trudeau was in office, you would have situations where he had zero seats in Alberta and all but two of the seats in Quebec. Those would have cancelled each other out and given the impression that the system was actually less equitable, but it appeared more equitable than it would have been if he'd merely had the disproportion, either up or down, in only one of those regions.

Is that correct?

8 p.m.

As an Individual

Byron Weber Becker

That's correct. The classic Gallagher index does not account for those regional disparities, but the composite one does.

8 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

That's very helpful. Thank you.

I mention this for the benefit of colleagues. I mention this in part because I think that if the committee is trying to design proportional alternatives to the status quo, the composite Gallagher index would be a good way of testing the various models that might be looked at.

I assume it's the case, Professor, to return to you, that when you're faced with multiple versions of multi-member proportional, or multiple versions of single transferable vote, one could actually set as one's goal accomplishing the lowest Gallagher index number that is compatible with the hard barriers we face, such as the fact that we have to have all our seats within single provinces. Would that be correct?

8 p.m.

As an Individual

Byron Weber Becker

Yes. The composite Gallagher is an excellent measure of the disproportionality of a system, and the lower that number, the better. I think it's also fair to say that once we get into the range of 2% to 4% , at that point I have a hard time making the claim that decreasing it even further needs to be our primary goal. I think that once we have it down in the 2% to 4% range, our goal can shift to asking which one is simpler, or which one preserves the connection between the MP and the local voter better.

8 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

When you get down to those very low numbers, I gather that pushing them down further may require heroic measures such as doubling the size of the House of Commons, or increasing riding sizes to make them vastly larger than they are now in order to get another couple of percentage points in improvements. Am I understanding that correctly?

8 p.m.

As an Individual

Byron Weber Becker

Yes, and those heroic measures in my estimation, once we're already down to 2% or 3%, just aren't worth it. It's the law of diminishing returns. There's more important stuff to pay attention to at that point.

October 19th, 2016 / 8 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

That's very helpful.

I now want to turn to the models you've worked on. I had this conversation with you earlier. You provide numerous models that involve adding seats to the 338 we already have. For example, the most recent model you circulated to us, the AV-plus model, involves 32 list seats being added on. If time were not an issue, this wouldn't be a problem, but time is an issue as the 2019 deadline is approaching. I'm worried that if we were to do that we would run into the issue of having to confirm with the courts the constitutionality of doing this because of the fact that section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1867, says:

The Number of Members of the House of Commons may be from Time to Time increased by the Parliament of Canada, provided the proportionate Representation of the Provinces prescribed by this Act is not thereby disturbed.

You have to disturb it to some degree, and obviously, the courts would say that some degree is permissible, but not too much. Once we go into trying to sort that out before the courts, the 2019 deadline may be lost.

Would it be possible for you to create some additional models that assume we start with the 338 MP cap we have now, but that try to be as close to the lowest possible number on the composite Gallagher index, looking at STV, MMP, and also rural-urban? Would it be possible to do that and come back to us?

8 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Francis Scarpaleggia

Answer very briefly, please, if you can.

8 p.m.

As an Individual

Byron Weber Becker

Sure. I do have a day job, so I want to talk more with you about exactly what you're asking for, but I would be willing to make myself available to this committee for more modelling work.

8 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you.

Mr. Cullen.

8 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Thank you to all our panellists here tonight.

This is one very rich field that I want to get into, so time is of the essence. Thank you for that most recent offer, Mr. Becker.

As I understand it in looking through your graphs, the steeper and more dramatic the curve is, the more misbehaving and the more distortion is going on within the system.

8:05 p.m.

As an Individual

8:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Not quite? What am I wrong about?