I got an email from my mom that looked a lot like another I had seen making a lot of arguments against the MMP system. Some of the concerns were valid but a lot of it was simple scare tactics with not much to backup what was being said. So here is my reply.
First, blame for the lack of education on this referendum falls clearly on the shoulders of the current government. I agree that education on the issue has been very poor. Given that the Liberals do not want the MMP side to win I would take the argument about people not knowing and turn it around. I think they are hoping that most people do not understand the question so vote to keep the current system.
A change in electoral system has been asked for. Many groups have raised this issue with the government asking for them to take a look at a change. B.C. faced the same question. I expect other provinces and the federal government will also be looking at the issue. Our current system is old (215 years) and outdated when it comes to the diversity that Canada and especially Ontario have. It is an important cornerstone of our democracy and is probably worth reviewing every 100+ years or so!
I don’t believe in the conspiracy theories about the Citizen’s Assembly. This was done by a Liberal majority government that does not support the proposed system. Take a look at this to see what these people did in 8 months time. TVO Doc. They have done their work. Now it is up to you to take the time to understand what they are proposing and go vote.
I totally disagree with assessment that the shift in power away from the people of Ontario. In 2003 the Liberals received only 46% of the vote yet got 70% of the seats. In a parliamentary system that translates into a huge majority and 100% of the power. So with FPTP 46% of the voters got all the power while the 54% (a majority) were left with opposition representation or in a lot of cases no representation at all. How can a system that creates false majorities be considered good for giving power to the people.
The FPTP system also attracts a lot of strategic voting. Voters end up voting for a candidate not because of the party platform or candidate but because they think they have the best chance of beating someone they like less. In the MMP system this can still happen in the local riding races but not in the party vote. It will provide a much closer result to what people in the province think the priorities should be.
In response to the party hacks making up the list, this would be political suicide for a party. Each party will have to choose how their lists are made up. Call it a judgment of each parties character. Will some parties just have lists made by the leader, possibly yes. If that happens I highly encourage the voters to vote against that party to send a message that this is not acceptable. This is however no different then how parties choose to nominate local candidates. Some will hold a local candidate nomination so that local members of the party get to pick the local candidate to represent the party. However there are cases of the party leader picking candidates to run in specific ridings, sometimes with the strong objection of the local members. Neither FPTP or MMP systems are responsible for this, hold the parties in either system accountable for how a local candidate is selected and how a list candidate is selected.
I encourage you to get involved in a party and make sure they select candidates in a fair manner. I can describe how several parties in New Zealand will pick the list members. Two lists will be created one of potential male candidates and one of female candidates. The party membership will be asked to look at each person on the two lists and rank the candidates on each list from 1 to XX. The party list will then take two lists sort by the overall ranking of the candidates and merge them together, zipper merge. This means the party list will have an equal number of male and female representation, interleaved.
Women are horribly underrepresented in the legislator. Currently only making up 24%! Check out links below for the reason why.
Given that Ontario has the highest MPP to voter ratio, 1:110,000, in all of Canada maybe it is time to add a few more seats. This will increase representation not decrease. We have supported much more seats in the legislator, this was reduced in 1999. Yes there is added cost but nothing that is going to break the bank. Currently the cost of salaries and benefits is less then 1% of the budget. Is extra representation worth the cost?
I think there is a myth that list members will do nothing at the local level. This is not true. In New Zealand most list members will setup an office in the area they live or in a riding that their party did not win the local seat. The idea is to give people in that riding another member to contact to have their ideas heard and have local issues addressed. Also there are so many issues that are not local to a specific riding, for example think of this election so far: environment and education funding.
With FPTP you get one representative. My riding has been Liberal both provincially (since 1971) and federally (since 1933) since I have lived there. I don’t feel that I have someone representing issues I feel are important at either level of government. Try send a letter asking for support on an issue that is against your MPP’s party’s platform and you will see what I mean. The MMP system in this case would provide you with an alternative to having to go through your local candidate. You would be able to contact any list candidate from a party that supports your views and ask them to represent your opinion a the legislator.
FPTP is a great system when you only have two parties. I don’t believe the diversity of ideas in Ontario would be well represented by just two parties (think United States) and thus FPTP does a disservice to this diversity.
I feel that the best test of an electoral system is how well it represents the will of the electorate. In this respect I believe that MMP does a much better job then our current system. I see it is a good balance between a pure PR system and maintaining some riding based representation.
There is no such thing as a perfect electoral system. I really encourage you to do some research about the two systems. Figure out what is important to you (fair results, local representation, …) and pick the system that best fits.
Here are bunch of links that you should take a look at:
(some are clearly for or against one system, it is worth reading both sides)
- Elections Ontario
- Your Big Decision
- Citizens Assembly
- Vote for MMP
- Fair Vote Canada
- No MMP
- Representative Democracy
- Equal Voice in Politics
- Wikipedia Voting