Thursday, June 07, 2007

Why MMP is wrong for Ontario pt. 1

This is going to be multi-parted as I've said. I don't know how many parts yet but here's a start. Let's start with principles. What is our democracy about? What is the goal of our legislature? There are two basic positions you can take on this: it is about electing the best representatives who will represent the views of the people or it is a means of reflecting the momentary popularity of various parties at a certain time. If you take the former view, as I do, it is difficult to argue for a system which awards seats based on party popularity. However, even if you take the latter view it is necessary to debunk a popular myth before continuing. It is generally assumed that the aggregate of the votes of one party's candidates is equal to its popularity. This is a poor assumption. Let's take a couple of recent election results to show why:

Please remember that 2003 saw a Liberal landslide province wide and subsequent by-elections have seen the Grits lose seats and popularity.

Here are the 2003 results for Toronto-Danforth:

Marylin Churley (NDP) 47.14%
Jim Davidson (L) 31.63%
George Sardelis (PC) 16.95%
Michael Pilling (G) 3.53%

Here are the 2006 by-election results for Toronto-Danforth

Peter Tabuns (NDP) 47.8%
Ben Chin (L) 38.9
Georgina Blanas (PC) 10.0%
Paul Charbonneau (G) 2.1%

The seven percentage point jump in Liberal support can only be explained by the candidacy of Ben Chin. It is not reflective of party popularity at that moment. The party was getting into a lot of trouble over the placement of the new natural gas plant so close to this environmentally conscious riding but Chin was able to get voters out to support him. In short, local candidates matter. They shape voting behaviour. An even more demonstrative example is the recent elections in Parkdale-High Park. Here is 2003 and here is 2006. The popularity of Gerard Kennedy and Cheri Di Novo is clear. People like Fair Vote who take aggregate vote totals and call it the percentage of seats a party 'deserves' are ignoring the local factor. Thus, we should reconsider exactly how 'broken' our system is. In later parts I will try to show why even if you think the current system is a disaster you should vote down the proposed change.


Matt said...

You ignore the fact that the current system forces voters more often than not to vote strategically (ie. against what they really want) in order to stop a more unprefferred candidate. Voting for Churley in 2003 in Toronto Danforth was the safest to vote against the Eves gov't as she was the longtime MPP. The byelection in 2006 provided a less popular NDP candidate, and yes the Liberals were able to run a great candidate and give him tonnes of money (unlike in 2003 when the central party all but ignored Jim Davidson's candidacy and offered zero support - I know because I worked on that campaign). Plus in 2006, the Tories had a very weak local effort in Toronto-Danforth, while in 2003 their provincial numbers overall at 35% gave candidates a slight boost where they didn't deserve it.

In byelections people are free to protest without effecting the balace of power.

hswerdfe said...

yes candidates matter some. becomes some people consider the local candidate when voting.
However the single data point shows that most voters do vote based on party and leader.
as most of the NDP had virtually the same 47%. and even the liberals only rose from 32% to 39%.

almost everybody else voted the same way.

People in Ontario vote largely based on party and party leader. they weigh the local candidate less when choosing who to vote for.

They do this because, they are smart and they recognize that the individual local candidate has much less power then the party and the party leader.

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