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Ontario Electoral Reform 2007

Created by dave. Last edited by dave, 6 years and 219 days ago. Viewed 1,340 times. #2
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(7 May 2012)

This page serves two purposes.

Firstly, I was asked by someone on Twitter about the proportional representation that was voted down in Ontario in 2007. You can read more about the details of the proposal on >>Wikipedia's page on the subject.

As you can see, this is a bit too long for a tweet.

I can't speak to the rest of Ontario's motivations, but my primary reasons revolved around accountability to the voters. One of the most powerful aspects of representative democracy is the fact that each member of the House (or Legislative Assembly, depending on the level) can point to a group of people and say: these people voted for me. I am here because of their affirmation of my candidacy. By polluting the legislature with politicians selected from party-supplied lists, you would suddenly get politicians who's first loyalty is to the party, not to any particular group of voters. These politicians would not necessarily be forced to be accountable to the voters.

I have a deep distrust of political organizations who's only purpose is to perpetuate their own short-term obtaining of power -- even at the expense of their own long-term existence (see Canada's federal Progressive Conservative party; the federal Liberal party; etc...) This opportunity to pad their own poor riding-by-riding results with what would essentially be un-elected patronage positions does not strike me to be in the best interests of democracy.

I also have the feeling that having a two-ballot process, where one votes for a local representative and then a more wide-spread party, smacking of hypocracy. We saw this in Ottawa (also in 2007, as it happens) when the city voters tossed out the mayor in favor of a rookie candidate promising to "cut taxes and kick ass" -- but at the same time sending back to council every incumbent who stood for re-election, creating largely the same city council that created the financial mismanagement mess in the first place. The message from voters was: Cut spending, but keep business as usual in my ward. So cut the spending in someone else's ward. Political hilarity did, as you can imagine, ensue.

One of the things I found most interesting was surveys in the pre-election period which showed that the more informed a voter was about the MMP proposal, the less likely they were to be in favor of it.


The second purpose of this page is an excuse to resurrect my blog posts on the subject from that time period. They start here.

Vote No On MMP

(7 August 2012)

Just a link to the website advocating voting against the Ontario MMP proposal: >>>>

Why do I think that we should defeat this proposal? Four reasons:

  • making the ballot a two-vote operation makes things unnecessarily complicated when a single vote will do
  • the fact that the parties will end up using these lists as another form of patronage
  • the fact that the parties can stack the composition of the lists, leading to a practical inability for the public to remove some individual politicians
  • the fact that these members selected from the party lists don't have any direct constituency except the party that placed them on that list
Don't do it. Just because the system is broken is no reason to break it further in favor of the parties.

Conservative Think-Tank Against MMP

(3 October 2007)

>>The Canadian Center for Policy Studies, a conservative-oriented group, has issued a study >>examining the case for MMP.

Supporters of MMP or other variations of proportional representation will argue -- again, not without reason -- that no system is perfect. But once more, this begs the question: why should voters be asked to accept flaws in other systems when they are being told that they cannot tolerate flaws in their own?


No to MMP, the home stretch

(9 October 2007)

Election/Referendum day is tomorrow. <strong>Get out there and vote</strong> whatever way you feel is best (or even officially decline the ballot if you genuinely feel that there are no good options). Naturally, I'd prefer that you <strong>Vote No on MMP tomorrow</strong> but the important thing is that you get out there and participate.

Polling seems to indicate that >>MMP only has the support of about 30 to 40 percent of decided voters, which means that if these numbers hold true through the referendum, MMP will be defeated. However keep in mind that low voter turnout, plus the likelyhood that MMP supporters may be more likely to vote given their traditional feelings of disenfranchisement.

Meanwhile, there's an opinion in the Globe:

>>Gunter: Good on paper -- but only on paper

Lorne Gunter, National Post

Whenever I hear someone making an earnest pitch in support of proportional representation (PR) -- including mixed-member proportional representation (MMP), the version Ontarians will be asked to vote on in a referendum tomorrow -- I am reminded of Dennis, the muck-tilling peasant from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The article is kind of snarky but in an entertaining way.

Wrapping Up MMP

(16 October 2007)

It's been a week since the referendum, and perhaps time to stamp some thoughts on the matter before we all forget about it and get on with the upcoming Christmas season.

One of the bottom line results from this exercise is that Mixed-Member Proportional is dead. Not just postponed, but stomped-on-dead. When 66% of the voters vote against you, and you only win a handful of ridings in the province -- that pretty much effectively kills whatever you are proposing.

And the self-styled intelligencia don't get that. I have read many opinions over the last week claiming that this referendum merely teaches the reformers lessons for the future. We'll know better for next time, claims one professor. If we educate people better, MMP will win next time around.

Well I'm sorry professor, but no. MMP is dead and finished in Ontario. Besides, there are polls showing that more people were opposed to MMP the more they learned about it.

The thing is that due to the bad phrasing of the referendum question, we can't know for sure what Ontario really thinks about electoral reform. The question that was supplied was a use system A OR system B question, one that didn't really let the electorate speak about their satisfaction with the current system. Some people have claimed that a third option neither of these (or perhaps more politically continue seeking some other option) would have let people press for electoral reform.

I think that there should have been some method of measuring people's interest in continuing the discussion. There are far better systems to examine.

However the politicians see this vote as an endorsement of the current system. John Tory supports the current system; Dalton McGuinty has said that his government isn't going down this road again as we've already had that discussion. And frankly, who cares what the NDP or the Greens think since they will not get a position to do anything about it.

My final thought is that this result is the best possible from a bad situation. First past the post is a flawed system and there are better ones. But the referendum was proposing replacing a flawed system where the voters were in control with one which could be blatantly manipulated by the parties, and that just wasn't a good idea.

It is a pity that we are not continuing the conversation, but it is better than MMP. Even if we had chosen MMP, we would be stuck with it for at least eight years -- once to try it, and then a second time as a referendum is held on it's replacement. MMP was not the opening of the floodgates to electoral reform that some claim it would have been.

Electoral reform is coming. But not today. For now we should continue the discussion, through blogs and universities and other avenues, and build the foundations for the next exercise.

Rome wasn't built in a day.

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