How Would BMP Senators Be Chosen?

by Jason Scott

Canadians would determine the BMP Senate with their vote. Appendix A explains how the Senate seats would be distributed among parties and/or independents. But how would the individual Senators be selected? We think the best approach—simple and direct—is to appoint the strongest finishers in the general election for each province or territory to the available Senate seats. For example, if the Purple Party earned two Senate seats in a province, then the top two unelected Purple Party candidates would be named. Similarly, an independent candidate who finished a strong second could sit in the Senate.

In the 2015 election, 31 candidates including 17 incumbents finished second with more than 40% of the vote. In fact three incumbents earned more than 45%: Jack Harris, NDP, in St John’s East (NL), Costas Menegakis, CPC, in Aurora–Oak Ridges–Richmond Hill (ON) and Joan Crockatt , CPC, in Calgary Centre (AB). All clearly had strong support yet their supporters were rewarded with nothing by our FPTP system. BMP would appoint them to the Senate, where they could continue to contribute as their constituents evidently wanted them to.

Similarly, BMP would award seats to the best performing finishers from the smaller parties, as well as independents with sufficient support.

Alternatively, in a BMP system, parties could campaign on lists of candidates from which Senators would be chosen. A list can be closed—where a party nominates the order of their candidates—or open—where voters see each party’s list and can vote for or rank them individually. Personally, as described above, we prefer to choose the best performers in each province or territory, which is akin to an open list, but made up of those candidates running in the election, with voters determining the “list” order directly with their existing FPTP vote.

However, to give voters more say—especially those who prefer a local candidate but not their party of affiliation—BMP could use a more complex ballot that allows voters to choose their local candidate and their party preference separately, as is done in some MMP systems.