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How Did The Citizen's Assembly Go Wrong?

Created by dave. Last edited by dave, 16 years and 134 days ago. Viewed 2,031 times. #2
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How Did The Citizens Assembly Get It So Wrong?

It would seem reasonable that if you randomly selected 103 people from across the province, one per riding (plus the chair), and adjusted for age and sex, that their conclusions would be very close to those that the population as a whole would arrive at. And yet, the general population soundly rejected their proposal for mixed member proportional (MMP). How did they get it so wrong?

Let me begin by giving a big thank you to all those people who sat on the Citizens' Assembly. They did a lot of work on our behalf. However, they were far off the mark on what Ontarians wanted. In the dieing days of the referendum, members of the Assembly were speaking out that the reason voters were rejecting their proposal was because the government failed to provide an adequate education campaign. However, polling data showed that those most opposed to MMP were also the ones who knew the most about it; and conversely, those most in favour of MMP were the ones who knew the least about it.

From near the very beginning of the Assembly's work, one of the "guiding principles" for the Citizens' Assembly was, "Fairness of Representation". They defined this fairness, in part, as, "parties hold seats in proportion to the votes they receive". By accepting that definition of fairness the outcome was predetermined to be some form of proportional representation. And I believe that is where they got off track.

You see, that has never been a big issue with the majority of Ontarians - and the referendum helped prove that. Many political scientists have been bothered by that, but my personal experience has been that many political scientists support parties that would benefit from MMP (i.e.: NDP, Green Party, etc.) There is another interesting analysis that goes along with that. There were only five ridings where a majority of voters supported MMP. Of those five ridings, the NDP won four. The fifth has been described by political commentators of all stripes as a natural NDP riding with a popular Liberal MPP.

So it was inevitable that the Citizens' Assembly would pick some form of proportional representation. What they should have spent their time on is finding reforms that one could clearly demonstrated had majority support. Instead they went through a political science project that resulted in reforms the public never asked for, never supported, and ultimately rejected.

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