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.
My written testimony submitted to the committee.
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](ERRE Meeting No. 42 19-17-50.mp4) is also available.
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.
The day after my testimony the Committee passed a resolution asking me to develop models that
respected three constraints:
- Composite Gallagher scores that are as low as possible.
- Each province and territory must have exactly the same number of MPs as
allocated in the distribution used in the 2015 election.
- 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.
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)