Ontario Referendum


On October 10, there will be a provincial election in Ontario as well as an Ontario-wide referendum. I’m mentioning it for a number of reasons:

  1. I was not completely pleased with the result of the last referendum in which I took part; as a result grad students at UW don’t have bus passes =(
  2. The referendum has to do with changing the voting system and in my Game Theory course I am going to be talking about some theoretical limitations of voting systems… so as a student pointed out, the referendum would be a cool “applications” topic.
  3. You should go out and vote!

Now, I don’t actually have any mathematical ramblings regarding the two systems, at least not yet. I have only proto-ideas on the two systems. The two options are called first past the post and mixed member proportional; you can see brief and not-very-informative description here, or a precise long description with examples here.

  • In FPTP, which is used currently, you make a local vote for a candidate in the riding you live in; in each riding, the candidate with the most votes wins a seat; then “usually” the party with the most seats “is asked to” form a government.
  • In MMP, there will be 90 riding seats determined in the same way, and 30 more list seats. The list seats are essentially determined by having each voter make a party vote in addition to the candidate vote. A formula is used to determine, for each party P, the number of list seats L(P) that it won, as a function of the party votes; and to determine who fills the list seats, each party prepares a public ordered list of candidates before the election, and the top L(P) non-riding-winning entries from P‘s list get list seats, for each P.
    • So, in an “average” scenario a party obtaining x% of the list vote will get x% of the seats, see p. 161 of this for a non-“average” scenario

My preliminary thoughts on the new system:


  • more people will be willing to vote for independent local candidates
  • under new system, a party supported by 49% of the public gets at least 30% of the seats, compared to a theoretical minimum of 0% now
  • local candidates who actually do good work will probably be rewarded even if their party is unpopular


  • more people will be willing to vote for independent local candidates
  • new system wastes twice as much ink and is somewhat confusing
    • e.g., the vote that everyone is used to (the local vote) is less important than the party vote
  • if I like the first 10 list candidates for a party but not the 11th then I have to estimate everybody else’s vote before determining how I should vote

Too bad ranked voting is not an option, although that would waste even more time & ink.


One Response to “Ontario Referendum”

  1. Thanks for mentioning the referendum. Most people don’t know yet that it’s happening, and it could change the way we do politics in Canada forever!

    To find out more about this, here are some important links:

    My blog: http://voteformmp.ca/node/361

    The Vote for MMP campaign: http://voteformmp.ca

    The final report of the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform:

    Find out who these people are, what they are actually recommending, and why.

    Vote for MMP on October 10.

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