Let's inject some electoral facts of life into the Toronto Star's campaign against the raw deal Toronto gets from Ottawa.
Who is worse served by our skewed voting system, Toronto's voters or Vancouver's?
In the 2000 election, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) had 41 MPs, while the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) had 16 MPs. In the coming election, after redistribution, the GTA has 45 while the GVRD has 19. In the GTA, that's 22 from Toronto City, 12 from York and Durham, and 11 from Peel and Halton.
But how well do these MPs speak for the voters?
In the GTA, 59% of voters voted Liberal, but got 100% of the seats. Only one voice is heard in Ottawa. By contrast, the GVRD has 10 Conservative MPs, four Liberals and two New Democrats.
If 41% of GTA voters felt the government was arrogantly ignoring Toronto's needs, they had no one in Parliament to say so. That's because our winner-take-all voting system often means many voters cannot elect an MP to represent their views.
In other words, 1,003,682 Liberal voters got 41 MPs. That's only 24,480 Liberal votes per MP. But 309,311 Alliance voters, with 18% of the vote, gained no MPs. Neither did 248,148 PC voters nor 126,786 NDP voters.
In the GVRD the 33% of voters who voted Liberal got 25% of the seats. In other words, 248,694 voters elected four MPs, 62,173 votes per MP. Another 355,573 voters voted Alliance -- 46% -- and got 10 MPs, 35,557 votes per MP, over-represented compared with the other parties. The 90,560 NDP voters got two MPs, 45,280 votes per MP.
The 58,169 PC voters got no MPs. Other than that, the result happened to be quite competitive. Federal politics in Vancouver was alive and well. But the only reason this happened was a lucky distribution of votes.
Suppose Canada had proportional representation. Whether we use regional lists, or a mixed member system with local MPs plus regional top-up lists, or local MPs plus "best runners-up" top-up MPs, the numbers are the same.
With the four new MPs, and if GTA voters voted just as they did four years ago, the GTA would have 27 Liberal MPs, one for each 37,173 votes. The united Conservatives (If they could get all the PC votes) would have 15 GTA MPs, one for each 37,164 votes. The NDP would have three GTA MPs, one for each 42,262 votes.
Under the mixed member system used in Germany, New Zealand and Scotland, that might be 26 local MPs and 19 regional "top-up" MPs. Breaking them down, in Toronto City that would be 14 Liberal MPs, six Conservatives, and two New Democrats. Peel - Halton would likely have six Liberals, four Conservatives and a New Democrat. York - Durham would have seven Liberals and five Conservatives.
But of course voters wouldn't vote as they did four years ago. If every vote counts, there's more point to voting rather than staying home to watch TV, as more than eight million Canadians did in the last election. We would have seen a lot bigger turnout.
Instead of "negative" votes -- voters holding their nose as they vote for the lesser of two evils -- we would have seen a full spectrum of results, and maybe a Green Party MP. Surely the NDP would have had an MP from York - Durham.
Everyone's vote would count. Everyone's voice would be heard. The landscape would be very competitive. The government would be more accountable.
In Vancouver, on the same basis, the GVRD would not look so different. It would have six Liberal MPs, one for each 41,449 voters. The united Conservatives (if they could get all the PC votes) would still have 10 MPs, one for each 41,374 voters. The NDP would still have two MPs, one for each 45,280 voters. It's hard to say who would have gotten the 19th seat since the Greens didn't run in five of those seats in 2000, but maybe the Greens would have gotten it.
Notice that in Toronto, on these figures from the 2000 election, it would take only 37,173 votes to elect a Liberal MP, while it would take 41,449 voters in Vancouver. How come? Because more voters voted last time in Vancouver, while discouraged Toronto voters stayed home.
With proportional representation, we can be sure of one thing: Toronto would have had the competitive political scene that Vancouver was lucky enough to get despite our skewed voting system.
That's a serious discredit on our existing Parliament and the way it was chosen, especially in the eyes of Toronto Star readers and other Torontonians.
In 2000, the 41 GTA MPs included 22 from Toronto, 9 York - Durham, and 10 Peel -Halton. As well, the GTA Town of Caledon was a good chuck of Dufferin - Peel - Wellington - Grey, but is not included in these figures. In 2004, again Caledon is not included, forming just under half of Dufferin - Caledon. York - Simcoe riding is included although almost half of it is in Simcoe County. This is offset by the fact that Wellington - Halton Hills is not included although almost half of it is the GTA municipality of Halton Hills. The result was 22 Toronto, 12 York - Durham, and 11 Peel -Halton, total 45. It would be more precise to say that the GTA will have almost 45 and a half MPs: 44 whole ones, and almost three halves.
In 2000, the 16 GVRD ridings do not include West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast, nor do the 19 2004 ridings include it. That's because than less than half of it is in the GVRD: 55% of it is north of the GVRD. On the other hand, at least 31,272 people in Dewdney - Alouette are east of the GVRD but are included in these figures, offsetting the fact that West Vancouver has been excluded.)