Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Canadian election results

So the election results are in. Of the 308 parliament seats at stake, the Conservatives won the largest number, 124, so they will form a minority government. How do the seat counts compare with the popular vote? Well the two leading parties won a somewhat larger share of the seats than their share of the vote. The Conservatives won 40.3% of the seats with 36.3% of the vote, while the Liberals won 33.4% of the seats with 30.2% of the vote. On the other hand, the NDP got just 9.4% of the seats even though they had 17.5% of the vote. The Bloc Québécois benefited the most from our first-past-the-post system, winning 16.6% of the seats with just 10.5% of the votes. And the Green Party won no seats at all, even though they got 4.5% of the vote!

I haven't looked at the breakdown of popular vote here in the province of Ontario, but here's a barchart from today's issue of the newspaper Dose. Although the title suggests that it shows popular vote, it actually shows the number of ridings in which each party was leading or elected at press time (presumably late last night). In addition to the poorly-chosen title, the graph is a disaster. Although the count for "Other" is 0, the bar looks like it has a height of 1. There's the usual unnecessary 3D effect. But one of the worst aspects is the way the party names have been placed in shaded bars underneath the bars themselves! One's eye tends to stack each data bar with its title bar, so the visual effect distorts the numbers. Sheesh!
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Anonymous Mike Anderson said...

Nick, you gotta quit reading that crappy paper. The CBC has a much better graphic.

1:16 AM, January 25, 2006  
Blogger Nick Barrowman said...

Mike, you're right, Dose isn't great. It's a free daily newspaper aimed at the 18 to 34 demographic, to which I no longer belong. But I like to check out what the young people are reading! Some of the content is ok, but the graphs are often outrageously bad.

Thanks for the link to the interactive CBC graphic. It's a little overdone, but definitely worth checking out.

8:57 AM, January 25, 2006  
Blogger StephenH said...

I take from your commentary that you would support a proportional representation system. How would such a system work, exactly? I haven't explored the idea, but am curious about the mechanics of such a system. I know there are countries with such systems; what are the mechanics in those countries? And what specifics have been proposed here?

Specifically, would such a system apply nationally, provincially, or at a riding level? In the first case (and likely the second) it seems that you would lose alot of granularity: people in different parts of the country do not all vote in the same way. Would a party then have to rank its candidates? For example, if they got 15% of the popular vote giving them about 46 seats, would the first 46 candidates get the seats, and the others not? That would appear to dramatically alter the notion of representative democracy...who represents me, or my local area? A small-population province could well end up with nobody in the government (or the opposition) at all!

If the proportional representation applies more locally, do we then end up with a whole lot more people in parliament? I mean, would each riding have say 10 seats to fill, with each one corresponding to about 10% of the popular vote, and presumably each party having up to 10 candidates per riding?

Perhaps I am thinking about this all wrong, so please disabuse me of my erroneous thinking. And while you're at it, tell me what REALLY is wrong with our current system, and how a proportional system would help.

7:12 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Nick Barrowman said...

Hi Stephen,

I ought to have put in a link to my previous post about proportional representation, where some of this came up (see also the comments on that post, and associated links), and also see here. But I agree, granularity and local representation are important issues.

I do wonder a bit about local representation. In our current system, there's some incentive to vote for the party that you suspect will form the government, because having a member of parliament who is in the governing party may mean that your riding will get a better deal than ridings represented by members of the other parties. There is plenty of empirical evidence to this effect. To me this is a ridiculous state of affairs. Each area of the country (at whatever level of granularity) should be fairly represented, regardless of local political preferences.

Sometimes people contact their member of parliament when they want to resolve a problem of some sort. To be honest, I'm not sure I understand this very well. I've never contacted my member of parliament, and I'm not sure when I would. In any case, this would seem to be something that could easily be handled by a different mechanism.

There are definitely many technical details about a proportional representation system that would need to be ironed out. But I think even an imperfect proportional representation system would be a significant improvement over what we have now.

8:34 PM, January 26, 2006  

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