Political representation matters. In 2012 I (Byron) became concerned about a political issue and went to see my Minister of Parliament (MP) to discuss it. I hoped that my MP would discuss the issue with his colleagues and that Parliament might ultimately do something about it. My MP listened politely, but it became clear that our fundamental world views were very different. The issue that I cared passionately about would never be represented by him in Parliament.
As I left his office, I was not particularly surprised. As a candidate in the most recent election, this person was my least favourite choice of those running. It was obvious that his world view differed significantly from mine and that the policies he would advocate in Parliament would usually be different from what I would want.
That day I did not feel represented by MP; my “Legislative Power Score” was low. I wondered how it would feel if the candidate I had actually voted for was my representative in Parliament.
In Canada’s 2019 election with the Single Member Plurality electoral system, many people are unrepresented – like I felt when I went to see my MP – and others have more than their fair share of legislative power.
The graph, below, show the distribution of Legislative Power Scores for the 2019 federal elections. Just over 50% of voters had an LPScore of 0. In many ways they are unrepresented.
Representation is a zero-sum game. If 50% of the voters are not effectively represented, where did that representation go? It went to other voters. The graph shows that more than 10% of the population have Legislative Power Scores of 2 – twice what they should have. Others have somewhat less or somewhat more, depending on the outcome of the vote in their particular riding as well as the size of their riding.
The shape of this graph is very characteristic of Single Member Plurality elections. The graphs for the 2006, 2008, 2011, and 2015 federal elections are nearly indistinguishable from the above graphs.
In each of these elections, just over half of the voters were not represented (voted for someone who was not elected). Their representation was effectively transferred to voters who voted for someone who was elected.