JamesHackerMP

Could someone please explain this to me?

33 posts in this topic

There was a discussion a while ago in which I poo-pooed the idea of proportional representation in democracies.  Not wishing to revisit the issue, I can now see that there is some merit to the idea. I haven't changed my mind, but I can see why some people want it.

Why this 178-degree turn in thinking? I've gathered more information on the apportionment of MPs in Parliament between the ten provinces and three territories (particularly the provinces, since the territories just have one MP each).  And I am thoroughly confused.  I can almost see why someone would be tempted to replace such a cluster**** of electoral mathematics with something more straightforward.

I understand the following at least.  A province is entitled to at least as many MPs as it has senators, and also at least as many MPs as it had in 1985 (Senatorial and Grandfather clauses, respectively).  The provincial-only population (e.g., not including the 111,663 residents of the territories) of 34,371,116 is divided by 279 to get the National Electoral Quotient of 111,166 (as per the most recent decennial census).

Why 279? is that the number of MPs in 1985? (i.e., fitting the Grandfather Clause?) Also: do you add together the numbers from the two clauses (senatorial and grandfather) to get the minimum number of seats to which the province is entitled? or is it whichever number is bigger?

As Austin Powers said when discussing time travel, "Oh dear, I've gone cross-eyed."

Can one of my neighbors to the north clear up for me what Wikipedia hasn't managed to?

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1 hour ago, JamesHackerMP said:

Can one of my neighbors to the north clear up for me what Wikipedia hasn't managed to?

Probably not, it is extremely messed up. A few years back I lived in an electoral district with over 8 times the population of another electoral district in the country, my vote was basically worth about 12% that of others. You can find the official Elections Canada description, which is equally confusing, here. What I also find interesting is the Constitution Act (see section 37) on the official laws website specifies 308 electoral districts, as it was in 1999 update but the current 338 is not included. I wonder if our current Parliament is actually unconstitutional because Harper didn't correct the Constitution Act after he redrew the electoral boundaries.

Edited by ?Impact

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Do people in Canada trust that the constituencies, or ridings as you seem to call them, are not gerrymandered but honestly divided to include as equal number of voters as is practically possible?

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19 minutes ago, -TSS- said:

Do people in Canada trust that the constituencies, or ridings as you seem to call them, are not gerrymandered but honestly divided to include as equal number of voters as is practically possible?

Gerrymandered ridings don't have straight lines for their boundaries. Most ridings in Canada have straight lines or a natural geographical feature as their boundaries. I think that is fairly good evidence that no gerrymandering is at work. 

Here is an example from Texas where the urban ridings are quite clearly gerrymandered:

PLANC235.png

Now contrast that with the Vancouver riding map:Vancouver_and_Vicinity.jpg

 

Edited by TimG

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You should see Maryland.  It's widely considered to be the most gerrymandered state of the Union.  In fact, they mentioned it in a book on the logic of political survival.

The Maryland constitution says that districts must be "compact in form" and "respect natural boundaries."  However, it would seem that our leaders in this state haven't bothered to read their own constitution.  Or they're just ignoring it.  (Probably the latter, but it is 103 pages, so maybe a combination of both.)

I read that Canada was voted one of the most democratic nations on Earth.  I can understand that from the point of view of your lack of gerrymandered districts, but then there is the matter of your disparity between provinces in the electoral districts.  Kinda messed up.  But every democracy does, of course, have its flaws, no? I cannot imagine your politicians from less populous provinces ever, ever consenting to make the House of Commons truly democratic, in the sense of each province's MPs having the same (as possible) number of constituents.  (not to mention somehow revolutionizing the role and/or construction of the upper house.)

 

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I could imagine that one riding somewhere in Toronto would be a couple of blocks while another riding further north would be the size of an average Eutopean country.

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1 hour ago, JamesHackerMP said:

but then there is the matter of your disparity between provinces in the electoral districts.

Not sure what you are talking about. The districts are about as balanced as they can be given the irregular population distribution in the country. It is not reasonable for ridings to cross provincial boundaries nor are physically large ridings desirable so some variation in riding size is perfectly acceptable. If you look at this page http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=cir/list&document=index&lang=e you will see that the vast majority of Canadians live in ridings >80K but < 120K. I see no issue.

Edited by TimG

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Actually, you should make that 60k, not 80k from the page you showed me.

Why is a physically large riding undesirable?

Also, scroll down to the see the table, which shows the avg number of constituents per MP in each province, which I think tells a different story: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Commons_of_Canada

Edited by JamesHackerMP

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Unless I have screwed up the math (perfectly possible even using a calculator), the average residents per riding in the provinces ought to be 102,601.  (provincial population divided by 335 seats in the Commons.  But then you have a round up to the nearest MP to keep PEI from having one, lonely MP to cover it, so you get 340 seats.)  The following would be the change from the current distribution to a hypothetical "one person one vote" distribution.

[change from current to hypothetical is in ( )  ]

Alberta 37 (+3)

B.C. 42  (-3)

Manitoba 13  (-1)

N.B. 8  (-2)

N & L 5  (-2)

N.S. 10  (-1)

Ontario 131 (+10)

P.E.I. 2  (-2)

Quebec 78 (no change)

Saskatchewan 11 (no change)

The biggest change would be add 10 MPs for Ontario.  They've already added 15 MPs to Ontario at the last election.  So maybe it's not that dissimilar after all?

This is, of course, unless I screwed up the math, as I said.  I admit, instead of using an exact electoral quotient I've just used the a national average).

 

Edited by JamesHackerMP

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1 hour ago, JamesHackerMP said:

Actually, you should make that 60k, not 80k from the page you showed me.

There are maybe 30 ridings with less that 80K. So what? The vast majority of the population is living in ridings of comparable size. 

The constitution is filled with historical crap that is much worse than the over representation of smaller provinces representing less that 10% of the population.

It is not worth worrying about.

 

 

 

 

Edited by TimG

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Probably you are correct, what with the change from 308 to 338 MPs in the election of 2015.  It was probably more disproportionate in 2012.

Anywho, I was just wondering about the calculations.  I think the "electoral quotient" is not the same thing as the "average" constituents per riding.  It seems that the same thing could have been roughly achieved without all the statistical nonsense.  when i read the explanation in Wikipedia I went cross-eyed.

But my other question, why would a geographically large riding be a bad thing? In the US we just give the congressmen enough staff allowances to accommodate having a big territory (spread out their regional offices).

Edited by JamesHackerMP

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4 minutes ago, JamesHackerMP said:

In the US we just give the congressmen enough staff allowances to accommodate having a big territory (spread out their regional offices).

Generally if you write or go to see your elected representative you deal with a staffer anyway, so I agree with that approach. Just based on numbers however, there is a higher chance in Canada that you might deal directly with the representative. US Congressional districts are on average about 7 times larger by population than Canadian electoral districts.

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Does Canada apply some sort of political science rule about the cubic root of the population as to determine the correct number of MP's? 35m cubic root is 330, more or less.

Here in Finland we have a population of 5.5 million and a parliament of 200 members, which is ridiculously large for a country of our size.

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29 minutes ago, -TSS- said:

Does Canada apply some sort of political science rule about the cubic root of the population as to determine the correct number of MP's? 35m cubic root is 330, more or less.

Here in Finland we have a population of 5.5 million and a parliament of 200 members, which is ridiculously large for a country of our size.

Yes, it is interesting comparing the size of various legislative assemblies with population. In your case you have an average of 27,500 citizens/representative. China has a huge legislative body, the National People's Congress has 2,987 members, but then that is 1 representative to 455,000 people. India on the other hand has 454 members in the House of the People, or 1 for every 2.9 million people. Those are on opposite sides of your cube root theory. I don't know any country that actually implements such a rule, from what I understand it was an observation made by Arend Lijphtardt based on a few select democracies. 

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It's likely the National People's Congress is not really a legislative body but a rubber-stamp to make it look good.  The USSR had a Congress of People's Deputies of 2,250 members.  But there was a smaller, bicameral Supreme Soviet that actually passed laws.  This was toward the end, under Glasnost and Perestroika.  I imagine in China, the real "lawmakers" are the Central Committee or Politburo.

Maryland has a population comparable to Finland (5,773,552 in 2010).  The state legislature (General Assembly) is bicameral.  Maryland is divided (or gerrymandered) into 47 legislative districts each of which elects one senator.  The electoral quotient for the state Senate is 122,813.  As for the lower house, the House of Delegates, I won't bother to explain, it's quite complicated.  And stupid.  I think our smallest state legislature is the Nebraska Legislature which contains about 50 "senators" (they actually abolished the House of Representatives in 1934, leaving them with the smaller state Senate.)  They divide Nebraska into 25 legislative districts with 2 senators, each having 73,054 residents.  Alaska has a 60-member state legislature, containing 20 state senators and 40 state representatives, with each representative having probably 17,756 constituents; each senator having 35,512 constituents.  Bicameral state legislatures are so pointless these days.

Is Finland's parliament bicameral?

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The Nunavut Legislative Assembly is fairly small with only 22 representatives, but that gives it a ratio of 1 representative to every 1634 residents. An interesting tidbit for all those continually whining about bilingualism in this country; along with New Brunswick and the federal government, Nunavut is the only other legislative body to have a bilingual Hansard (official record of proceedings). For the federal government and New Brunswick the official languages are French & English, but for Nunavut they are English and Inuktitut. 

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Wow.  As far as the assemblies of our territories, American Samoa has a 21 member of the House of Representatives and 18 in the Senate (together called the Fono).  The "senators" are actually chosen by the tribal chiefs of the various islands comprising American Samoa, whereas the representatives are chosen democratically.  Guam is also unicameral, with 15 members (senators) including the Speaker and deputy Speaker.  All are elected at large, somehow.  In the US Virgin Islands, it's also 15 senators, unicameral.  The Northern Mariana Islands legislature has 9 senators and 20 representatives (bicameral).  Puerto Rico's is much bigger, with 30 senators and 51 representatives, but it's not as sparsely populated as the other four territories (those are the five territories that are organized or populated enough to get non-voting delegates in Congress).  What the ratios are, I have no idea.

I imagine that Samoa does its business in Samoan (why it's named the "Fono" in Samoan language so I'm assuming here), and Puerto Rico probably does its business in Spanish.  As far as the Northern Marianas or our Virgin Islands, I would imagine English for the latter, but no clue about the Marianas.

And you abolished the upper houses in provincial legislatures years ago, right?

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I guess with the cube root, our lower house should be 3,200 members? That would make approximately 100,000 constituents to one congressman.  Unless, again, I'm doing that wrong.  I hate math.

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8 hours ago, JamesHackerMP said:

It's likely the National People's Congress is not really a legislative body but a rubber-stamp to make it look good.  The USSR had a Congress of People's Deputies of 2,250 members.  But there was a smaller, bicameral Supreme Soviet that actually passed laws.  This was toward the end, under Glasnost and Perestroika.  I imagine in China, the real "lawmakers" are the Central Committee or Politburo.

Maryland has a population comparable to Finland (5,773,552 in 2010).  The state legislature (General Assembly) is bicameral.  Maryland is divided (or gerrymandered) into 47 legislative districts each of which elects one senator.  The electoral quotient for the state Senate is 122,813.  As for the lower house, the House of Delegates, I won't bother to explain, it's quite complicated.  And stupid.  I think our smallest state legislature is the Nebraska Legislature which contains about 50 "senators" (they actually abolished the House of Representatives in 1934, leaving them with the smaller state Senate.)  They divide Nebraska into 25 legislative districts with 2 senators, each having 73,054 residents.  Alaska has a 60-member state legislature, containing 20 state senators and 40 state representatives, with each representative having probably 17,756 constituents; each senator having 35,512 constituents.  Bicameral state legislatures are so pointless these days.

Is Finland's parliament bicameral?

No, we have a unicameral 200 member parliament which is ridiculously large for a country of our size if you ask me.

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3 hours ago, JamesHackerMP said:

I guess with the cube root, our lower house should be 3,200 members? That would make approximately 100,000 constituents to one congressman.  Unless, again, I'm doing that wrong.  I hate math.

Cube root of American population is just under 700.

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IIRC the Irish constitution states that the ratio between MP and the number of inhabitants may not exceed 30000. They recently reduced the size of their parliament from 166 to 158.

I guess their constitution didn't allow them to reduce it more as their population is around 4.7m. A meaningless gesture really.

If there is a problem of too large parliament such reduction means nothing. If they stick to their 30000-rule they probably will have to increase the size of parljament at the next election.

A different story in Hungary. Their parliament consisted of 386 members. Many much bigger countries don't have such a large parliament.

They finally realised that their parliament was too large and changed the constition to allow to reduce it to 199 members which is a more sensible number for their country.

 

 

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As I said, math sux.  I had to retake statistics.  And college algebra.  God knows how I got through high school math classes with my sanity intact. 

So I guess you have an MP for every 27,500 citizens then, eh? That's actually not bad.  How big do you think it should be? How many citizens ought to be represented by one MP? Are they single-member districts in Finland or do you use some other method of election?

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Proportional representation in 12 multi-member electoral districts. There used to be more of those districts but some have been merged because they were so small.

The smallest district in terms of seats but geographically the largest is Lapland which returns 7 MPs. Funnily exactly the other way round, the smallest geographic district in Soithern-Finland returns 35 MPs, by far the largest number.

Our parliament is also very fragmented, more so than in any other European country I know of. The largest party gets almost every time only 20-22% of the votes. 

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Wow.  how long does it take to form a coalition after an election, usually?

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