Project Title: The proportionality of the Canadian electoral system: theory and calculation

Project Title:      The proportionality of the Canadian electoral system: theory and calculation                                         

Supervisor:   Stanley L. Winer, Canada Research Chair Professor in Public Policy                  

Unit:  School of Public Policy and Administration and Department of Economics

Description of project:

Electoral reform is in the wind. The new government has already struck a committee of the House to decide on the nature of reform. One of the major claims behind the push for electoral reform is that the existing single member district, plurality rule system (SMP) is not ‘proportional’. Proportionality here means that the number of seats won by a given party in the election is not proportional to its votes in the general election.

The issue of proportionality is not new. There is a substantial literature on the importance of proportionality (at a point in time versus over time), as well as debate about how best to calculate it for a given electoral system.

The objective of the proposed research will be two fold: (a) to review and synthesize both the normative and empirical literatures on the issue of electoral proportionality; and (b) to apply and calculate the main proportionality indexes proposed in this literature for the Canadian electoral system from 1867 – 2015. The calculations will make use of a data set consisting of the complete record of all regular elections at the constituency level that has been assembled by Professor Winer and his associates. The calculations will use various definitions of political parties in Canada and employ the Stata statistical package.

Number of students required: 1

Research duties:

Literature review and synthesis; writing of Stata code for calculation of indexes of proportionality; sensitivity analysis to definition of a political party. Likely 65 hours over the fall term, distributed in a manner convenient to the student.

Learning and reflection activities:

Three outputs: (i) a review of normative literature (8 pages); (ii) a review of the empirical literature (summary of a recent review article – 5 pages; (iii) Stata code and calculated indexes. At the discretion of Prof. Winer, these items may serve as inputs into a co-authored research note on the calculation of proportionality for Canada.

Learning outcomes:

How to research and write a review of literature. Use of Stata and large Excel data base. Substantive knowledge of a key issue in current electoral reform debates.

Evaluation Criteria:

A mark will be given for each of the three components listed above, with an average constituting the mark for the term. The three parts will be completed in sequence, one roughly every month beginning mid September. Deadlines (subject to adjustment by mutual agreement): Oct 15, Nov 15, Dec 9.

Skills or knowledge required:

A course in statistics or econometrics is a prerequisite. Familiarity with Excel. Some familiarity with Stata or similar statistical package. Willingness to learn to write programs with Stata.

Any required health and safety training: NA

Other considerations:

Applications will be considered beginning July 20th, 2016, and until the position is filled

Application instructions:

Participants are selected on the basis of merit and fit with the research project. Please submit a CV, transcript, and cover letter indicating why you are interested in and qualified for this research experience to the undergraduate administrator of the unit listed above. The application deadline is normally April 30th (for IPAF 4900 opportunities in the summer or fall term), August 15th (for fall and winter term opportunities) and November 15th (to take IPAF 4900 in the winter or summer term).  Only students with a GPA of 9.5 or higher and at least third year honours standing will be considered.

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