All things environmental

Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

What if Canada voted German style?

with one comment

MMP 2015

Germans vote using something called Mixed Member Proportional, or MMP, as opposed to the First Past The Post (FPTP) approach used in Canada. Had we used their system, there would have been a minority government in these elections, as well as in 2011, as the table above shows. Smaller parties (the Greens and the Bloc Quebecois) would have had more representatives in Parliament.

To calculate these results, I used a simplified version of MMP. I took the number of members elected from each party (eg, 184 for the liberals), and then added to that number the result of multiplying the vote percentage by the total number of seats (eg, 39.5% of the vote for the liberals means 39.5% of the 338 seats, or 134). I divided the result by two so as to be able to compare directly between the two systems.

This is a simplified version of the MMP used in Germany, and also now in New Zealand (a more in-depth description of MMP can be found here and here). The Germans selected this system after the war as a compromise between the FPTP approach (which can be unfair when a party gets in power with fewer votes than its nearest rival) and the pure proportional system, which is what the pre-war Weimar republic used, and which led to government instability.

In Germany, with its long track record, the main impact of using MMP is that no party ever gets a full majority and governing coalitions need to be created. Now some canadians, used to FPTP, may blanch at this idea; compromising with the enemy is a betrayal of principles, isn’t it?

Germans don’t see it that way. After all, politics is the art of the possible, and compromise is not a dirty word. But the creativity that comes with a coalition of several parties means that the government can sometimes accomplish more than with a FPTP. Also, there is more respect for the work of the government – and that, despite the fact that Germans are famously cynical.

A poster for the Greens for the European parliament elections. "Europe, don't forget about the young!"

A poster for the Greens for the European parliament elections. “Europe, don’t forget your youth!”

For instance, it was a coalition government that created Germany’s Energiewende, the envied program that made the country a champion of renewable energy and energy conservation. Since the start of the program in 2000, Germany saw its economy grow while its carbon emissions have decreased, showing (for the first time) that decoupling economic growth from emissions is possible. How did that happen? Because of Germany’s MMP system, Greens first entered parliament in 1984 and, while a small presence, there was now a voice for environmental concerns. Step forward to 2000 and the Greens have enough seats to support the Social Democrats of Gerhard Schroeder, who promptly enacted the Renewable Energy Act which gave rise to the Energiewende.

Look at it a different way: we got medicare in Canada under a minority government: a de-facto coalition of Liberals and NDP. Using MMP would only foster more situations like these.

The Greens, the NDP, and belatedly the Liberals have all said that electoral reform is needed, so let’s hold them to it. And then we may see governments pass needed legislations, energiewende-style, as opposed to wasting time in partisan disputes. That is my fervent hope.



Written by enviropaul

October 20, 2015 at 4:35 pm

One Response

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  1. […] guess they have to: like its federal counterpart, the political system here has been mixed proportional since the end of the war. That means government by coalition, where being attuned to the public is […]

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