First run of 2017 BC results under SNTV

This is a first run of what the 2017 British Columbia provincial election results might have looked like under SNTV. Though if we change our system the votes would understandably change, by necessity I am using the results exactly as they were and presuming that most voters would opt for the same party even if the candidate were different. I believe this latter assumption is fairly reasonable, given the polarization of recent BC elections and the fact that when polls show that voters increasingly rate party policy and leader personalities as stronger reasons to support a party than the local candidate.

This is a quick-and-dirty version, but I’m working on a more involved version that looks a bit more carefully at what candidates were running in 2013 and 2017 and looking at what difference popular incumbents might make. At one point I wasn’t even going to publish these results, but so far it’s not looking to be too much different than these numbers so I’ve decided to publish these.

Please refer back to My post on proposed SNTV ridings for how I’ve grouped these. And without further ado, here are the numbers:

So that you don’t need to scroll to the bottom to get the totals, here’s what I came up with on that score:

Candidates run 54 (Liberals) 49 (NDP) 22 (Green)
Seats won 37 (Liberals) 38 (NDP) 12 (Green

That result would be very proportional, with only 1 seat too many for the Liberals, 3 too many for the NDP, 2 too few for the Greens. Since STV and MMP are typically not implemented in perfectly proportional ways either, that’s actually approximately as proportional a result as a made-in-BC MMP or BC-STV result would be.

There’s no representation in this model for the BC Conservatives whom were a big player in 2013, but failed to even run more than a handful of candidates in 2017. However, had they run a larger slate of candidates, they probably would have earned some representation in this model.

These numbers fit into the narrative that adding the ranked ballot (that converts SNTV to STV) doesn’t actually add a lot of proportionality. And it’s not actually clear to me that it was intended to, the ranked ballot adds a lot to STV if you value the idea that parties and candidates seeking 2nd and 3rd (and 4th, and 5th, etc.) rankings on the ballot may lead to a more civil discourse. But if you either don’t believe that would happen, or don’t much value it, then SNTV seems to offer a huge proportion of the value that STV offers, but in a far simpler and easier to explain form.

Now onto the ridings, and the assumptions I made.

Riding #1 – Abbotsford-Chilliwack

This is a riding in the East end of the Fraser Valley that elects 5 MLAs. In 2013 it was five Liberal blow-outs, so they might run all of their incumbents again. In the first-past-the-post (FPTP) election of 2017 the Liberals again swept all five seats, but if the NDP ran two candidates and the Greens ran one, those candidates would have won in 2017 making it:

Liberal 2, NDP 2, Green 1.

If the Liberals ran fewer candidates they probably could win 3 of the five seats here, but I’m factoring in a degree of overconfidence for the Liberals, and an underestimation of the Green surge (the Greens approximately tripled their support from 2013 to 2017 across this area). The Liberals probably would anticipate a 3 Lib – 2 NDP result, or even a 4 Lib – 2 NDP result, depending on how things broke down, and the Green surge here likely would have surprised all of the above.

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#2 Greater Okanagan

These are the more rural parts of the Okanagan (I grouped the cities into another riding). In the 2017 election the Liberals won all three. In 2013 this area produced two Liberal blow-outs and third convincing Liberal win, so they’d probably run all three incumbents and two of them would win. The NDP and Greens would probably look at their poor 2013 results in the area, each would run 1 candidate, and the NDP candidate would win.

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#3 Burnaby-New Westminster

In 2017 the NDP won all five seats in this area. In 2013 the result was 2 huge NDP wins, 2 close NDP wins, and 1 close Liberal win. 1 NDP incumbent didn’t run in 2017, so they might choose to run all their incumbents again, and three of them would win. The Liberals would pick up 1 seat, and the Greens would surge to win 1 seat as well.

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#4 Cariboo

In 2013 and 2017 the Liberal won both the seats up for grabs in the Cariboo. In 2013 one was a close Liberal win and the other was no contest, so the logical result would be the Liberals fielding two candidates and the NDP and Greens 1 each. It’s likely that one Liberal and 1 NDP would win.

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#5 Kootenays

The Kootenays produced 2 Liberals and 2 NDP in 2017. The combined 2013 results show 36.84% Liberal, 50.18% NDP, and 6.75% Green. So the Liberals might run 1-2 candidates, the NDP 2-3, and the Greens 1. However, the Green vote jumped from approximately 4K to nearly 12K, and that vote tripling would likely give them a seat. That may actually leave the NDP running too many candidates and seeing their vote diluted, leaving it a toss-up whether the Liberals win 2 and the NDP 1, or the other way around. It’s unlikely that the NDP vote would be somewhat unevenly distributed amongst their three candidates, giving them 2, the Liberals 1, and the Greens 1.

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#6 (I haven’t given names to every single riding yet, for fear of coming up with something that the locals feel is regionally inaccurate and/or insensitive)

This is the riding with Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Maple Ridge, and some surrounding environs. In 2017 this six-seat area went five NDP and one Liberal.

2013 was quite different, with 3 Liberal wins (1 convincing, 2 closer ones) and 3 NDP wins (2 blow-outs and 1 convincing win). I expect the Liberal would re-run their three incumbents and cross their fingers. It’s likely that the NDP would have run four candidates had all three of their incumbents run again, but with only two incumbents running again they may have gone more conservatively and run only three. In either scenario, it’s likely that under SNTV it would have been a 3-3 split between the NDP and Liberals, which would be drastically more proportional than what we actually got in 2017.

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#7 North Island-Sunshine Coast

The drama in Courtenay-Comox is all over if it’s part of a four riding mix! In 2017 all four of these went NDP, clearly nothing close to a proportional result.

In 2013, this was three NDP (2 blow-outs, and 1 close) and a one close Liberal win. It’s likely the Liberals would run two candidates and win 1. The NDP would probably run 3-4 and win 2. The Greens would have run 1 and they would have won.

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#8 Central Vancouver Island

In 2017 this went 2 NDP, 1 Liberal, and 1 Green. Surprisingly, that’s exactly the result that I would expect under SNTV too. The Greens earned enough votes that they could potentially have won 2 seats in some scenarios, but it’s incredibly unlikely based on the 2013 results that they would have been confident enough to put up more than 1 candidate for 2017.

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#9 Lower Mainland-South

Likely my most controversial riding, I grouped together several communities in BC’s Lower Mainland along the U.S. border, which have a somewhat lower population density than the rest of Greater Vancouver. Agree or disagree by leaving a comment!

The 2013 result was 4 Liberal blow-outs, 1 close Liberal win, and 1 win by a right-of-centre independent candidate. It’s likely that the Liberals would run all five of their incumbents. That said, the number of votes the NDP won across the five 2013 losses might have given them the confidence to run 2 candidates. The Greens would run 1.

The likeliest result is 3 of the five Liberals winning and the 2 NDP candidates winning. The popular incumbent in Delta wasn’t running for re-election, and even though she threw her support behind another independent I didn’t see that candidate earning enough votes outside Delta to counteract the Green surge so I see the Greens winning the 6th and final seat.

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#10 Greater Victoria

This 7 seat riding went 5 NDP and 2 Green in the 2017 election. 2013 was even more lopsided, with 6 NDP and 1 Green (a huge deal at the time, their first ever MLA). Under SNTV I imagine a drastically more proportional result than either of those.

Despite the Liberals being wiped off the board in both 2013 and 2017, if they reined in their ambitions to 2-3 candidates they have enough support here to win 2 seats (if they ran 3 seats, there’s a chance that the dilution would mean only 1 would win, whereas if they won 2 they’d be almost guaranteed to elect them both). In 2017 an NDP incumbent chose not to run, and the smart move for them would be to run only the 5 remaining incumbents at the most. It’s possible only 3 of them would win. After the disappointment of only Elizabeth May winning despite a huge effort on Vancouver Island in the 2015 federal election, the smart move for the Greens would be to run only 2 candidates to help guarantee a multi-seat breakthrough here. They would probably run only 2, but if they did run 3 they actually earned enough votes in the 2017 Green surge that probably all three would have won. That said, I think the likeliest result would be 3 NDP, 2 Green, and 2 Liberals, but I say that with the asterisk that it could be as many as 4 for the NDP, as many as 3 for the Greens, and as few as 1 for the Liberals, depending on how strategic the parties are with their candidate nomination.

Of all the multi-member ridings I created, this one is the hardest to predict. Would the Greens be conservative in their candidate nomination, or be aggressive with it? Would the Liberals nominate many, or few? And what’s the significance of two party leaders running here? A challenge for both the NDP and Greens would be to find ways to help their supporters resist the temptation to vote for their party leaders.

I know this area well so I’ll use it as an example of how parties might divvy up the ridings. If the Liberals ran two, they might split it up between North and South, having one candidate knock on doors exclusively in the Saanich Pensinsula, and the other spend their time exclusively in the Southern half of the riding (Victoria, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, and the Western Communities).

The NDP would probably largely stick to the borders of the existing ridings, adding portions of Saanich South to Saanich North (to counteract the strong Green and Liberal showings on the north end of the peninsula) with most of Andrew Weaver’s Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding to the neighbouring riding added to Saanich South to make up for it (and small portions of it being added to the two Victoria ridings).

If the Greens went with three candidates it would be Adam Olsen covering all of the Saanich Peninsula, Andrew Weaver adding half of Victoria to his catchment area, and a third candidate doing the other half of Victoria plus Esquimalt and the Westshore. If it were two candidates, then a similar process except probably all of Victoria going to Andrew, with Esquimalt, the Westshore, and the Juan de Fuca electoral area all going to Adam Olsen.

This is why the bigger ridings of which people speak of with STV and SNTV aren’t as big as they seem, as the parties would divvy them up between their candidates in ways that seem strategic to the parties given historic voting patterns and how they intend to focus their resources. The more candidates a party runs, the smaller the riding might effectively feel to a supporter of that party.

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#11

This went fully Liberal in both 2013 and 2017, and a less proportional result is hard to imagine. Despite that, the 2013 election was approximately 24K NDP and 33K Liberal, so far closer than the result suggests. The Greens were nowheresville and probably wouldn’t be strongly considered by the Liberals and NDP in candidate selection. For those reasons I suspect the Liberals would run 3 candidates and regret it, as the Greens and NDP would likely nominate 1 candidate each, and the numbers suggest they’d both win one. If somehow the Liberals anticipated the Green surge (remember, Green votes approximately doubled province-wide from 2013 to 2017) then they’d be smart to run two candidates and that would make it 2 Liberal and 1 Green, but I’m guessing they wouldn’t anticipate it meaning the end result would be 1 Liberal, 1 NDP, and 1 Green. Remember that prior to 2017, the Green vote always collapsed by election day. 2017 was different in that for the first time in Canadian history strong Green poll results held strong right to the ballot box. But I acknowledge other possibilities here. And one thing to remember with all of these predictions, is that the parties would have distributed their dollars quite differently. Previously safe seats under FPTP might get more attention (money, leader visits, etc.) under SNTV.

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#12 – Central Okanagan

A terribly non-promotional result, this went 4 Liberals in 2013 and 2017 both. It’s likely that this would have ended up 3 Liberals and 1 NDP under SNTV.

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#13

The Netchako Lakes and Stikine area returned 1 Liberal and 1 NDP in 2017 under FPTP, and that’s likely the result that we’d get under SNTV too.

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#14

The North Coast and Skeena area elected two Liberals in 2017 under FPTP, but almost certainly would have returned 1 Liberal and 1 NDP under SNTV.

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#15 North/West-Sea to Sky

This went 3 Liberals and 1 NDP in 2017 under FPTP, but would probably have been 2 Liberal, 1 NDP, and 1 Green under SNTV. I expect the Liberals would run 3 candidates, the NDP 2, and the Green surge messing up their projections somewhat.

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#16 Peace River

The Peace country regularly elects nothing but Liberals, and I think the same would happen under a two-riding SNTV result.

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#17

Prince George and its surrounding environs returned two Liberals in 2017 under FPTP, but that would probably switch to 1 Liberal and 1 NDP under SNTV.

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#18 – Richmond

The four Richmond ridings elected four Liberals in 2017, but if the parties were strategic they might run 3 Liberal candidates, 2 NDP, and 1 Green. The NDP overperformed in this area which might have ended up with a 2 Liberal, 2 NDP result.

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#19 – Surrey

This 7 seat riding (with the southernmost 2 Surrey ridings merged with Delta and Langley in my ridings) elected 6 NDP and 1 Liberal in 2017 under FPTP. In 2013 a very different result with 3 Liberal blow-outs, 3 NDP blow-outs, and 1 close Liberal win, though. I think the NDP would run 4-5 candidates, and win 4 either way. If Liberals ran only 3 candidates, they could have win 3 seat. However I think they Liberals might overestimate their chances (they significantly underperformed in Surrey in 2017) which would dilute their vote enough that the Greens could come in and win 1 seat. So my prediction is 4 NDP, 2 Liberal, and 1 Green, and that would be a very proportional result.

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#20 Vancouver-West

This is the wealthier half of Vancouver, if property values are anything to go by. This 6 seat riding was split in 2017 under FPTP, with 3 NDP and 3 Liberals. SNTV would probably be more proportional, with 3 NDP, 2 Liberals, and 1 Green.

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#21 Vancouver-East

The eastern half of Vancouver was a five-seat NDP sweep. A more likely result under SNTV would be 4 NDP and 1 Liberal.

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So there you have it. SNTV doesn’t lend itself to strategic voting, as most voters can be confident of electing someone, but parties will do best if they do strategic nomination. This isn’t a black mark on the system IMO, it’s a strength as the parties nominate few “no hope” candidates. Even under MMP, there could be hundreds of “no hope” candidates nominated by parties in the constituency seats. Almost every candidate could win, so every candidate becomes important. This should mean we get nothing but strong, serious, and seasoned candidates. It also means parties have to be careful with so-called “star candidates” giving them relatively small geographic areas since they will probably pull votes from all over a region no matter what parties advise voters to do.

Having spent a bunch of time with SNTV now, I’d summarize it this way: It can deliver very proportional results, it makes things complicated for the parties but simple for the voters, and gives independent candidates the ability to contest every seat. I’m not sure any other form of proportional representation can make all those claims, so I think it deserves to be part of the discussion.

My apologies for any formatting inconsistencies, I’m finishing this up before racing off to an electoral reform conference in Vancouver, and I haven’t even so much as proof-read it yet! I may circle back and clean up the presentation later. Either way, I’ll continue working on a more detailed version (that considers a few other factors such as the advantages that incumbents have).

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