Parliamentary Committee

In the 2015 election, the Liberals promised many times that 2015 would be the last federal election conducted with First Past the Post. After forming government, they established the House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform.

Written Testimony

My written testimony submitted to the committee.

Oral Testimony

A transcript of my oral testimony (Oct. 19, 2016) is available on the committee’s web site as well as the Q&A that followed. It’s also available as a PDF. It was accompanied by a set of slides (3up).

Finally, video is available on the ParlVu web site. The 10 minute segment of my main testimony is also available.

Models

I ran lots of models to prepare my testimony. The output of my program was placed on a web site, replicated here. That web site was in an older format, so after clicking you’ll unfortunately lose the table of contents on the left. Use the menus at the top of the next page to navigate.

Further Modelling

The day after my testimony the Committee passed a resolution asking me to develop models that respected three constraints:

  1. Composite Gallagher scores that are as low as possible.
  2. Each province and territory must have exactly the same number of MPs as allocated in the distribution used in the 2015 election.
  3. Redistribution of seats, if necessary, must be able to be carried out quickly by merging existing ridings in sets of two, three, or more.

My report back to the committee presented real options but also identified significant tradeoffs. Unfortunately, the committee had moved quickly into its deliberation phase and was not able to adequately consider this work.

Tony Hodgson, President of Fair Voting BC, was a significant partner in this work.

Software

The software I wrote to perform the modelling is freely available on GitHub.

The Committee’s Report

I was apparently the only person who referenced the Gallagher Index (even though Michael Gallagher, the index’s inventor) also testified.

The Committee’s Report referenced my testimony in the following places:

  • p. 42 quotes my definition of “distortion”, which was contained in the Committee’s terms of reference.
  • p. 66 quotes me with reference to “well-behaved systems”. It goes on dismiss Alternative Vote with a quote from a Q&A response where I compared AV to the tragedy of the commons: AV makes sense for each individual riding, but when every riding uses it “Canada as a whole suffers.”
  • p. 69 references my explanation of the purpose of the Gallagher Index and opinion that an index of less than 5 is excellent.
  • p. 70 references my critique of the Gallagher Index in a regionally divided nation like Canada and my proposal of a “composite Gallagher Index”.
  • p. 70 also reproduces the overview chart of my simulations
  • p. 70 acknowledges the additional modelling the committee asked me to do in footnote 252.
  • p. 95 as part of the first recommendation, the Committee recommends that “the Government should, as it develops a new electoral system, use the Gallagher index… [and] should seek to design a system that achieves a Gallagher score of 5 or less.”
  • p. 163 the “Committee recognizes the utility of the Gallagher Index” and goes on to recommend that the Government proposal a system with an index of 5 or less.
  • p. 322-323; 327-328, the Liberal minority report objected to the majority report’s recommendation of using the Gallagher index as a prominent criteria of electoral systems brought forward. They rightly observed that setting the threshold at 5% may trigger unintended consequences, for example, with an unacceptable number of top-up seats or an unacceptable enlargement of ridings. They also observe that Michael Gallagher testified without referring to his own index.
  • p. 331-332, the NDP and Green party minority report speaks approvingly of both MMP and Rural-Urban Proportional, both of which achieve in my modelling a 4% Gallagher Index.

(Cached copy of the report)