Friday, June 08, 2007

Why MMP Is Wrong for Ontario pt. 2

So you think the old system is like a broken clock: right about twice a day? MMP is still wrong for Ontario. MMP entrenches power in the hands of Ontario's political elite and takes it away from the average citizen. How? Well, simple it adds 39 seats awarded to political parties who decide who will go into the legislature. Nearly a third of the Ontario legislature will be parachuted in by partisans. Now in theory this could be a democratic process but with the ridiculously low membership numbers that provincial parties boast, this becomes a decision of the few. A closed list is less complicated but it is also less democratic. By asking political parties to put forward their lists before the election you deprive them of the most democratic way of making their lists i.e. using the election results and putting in the candidates who lost close races. Even assuming that parties use the most democratic means at their disposal, a one member one vote of their party membership, how many people are choosing are MPP's? How many members does the Green Party of Ontario actually have? I sincerely doubt it's anywhere close to the 100,000 people that choose each and every MPP in the legislature today. Of course, this assumes the best from our party leadership. If a leader or party president (time to figure out who those people are because they are about to become very powerful) chooses, they could make someone an MPP without any public consultation whatsoever. While the process must be transparent, there is no requirement for it to be democratic. I don't see a party being punished to severely for having a less than fully democratic nomination process. Outside of the chattering classes no one will care or even notice.


Anonymous said...

Not quite if Germany and Scotland are any indication, MMP would mean the party memebers decide on how the list vote will look. The higher your vote cound, the higher up you will be on the list. This is no different from the nomination process.

Matt said...

Party members currently decide in a flawed process who wins nominations in all 103 ridings. The process is closed off from the public, unaccountable. Most of the time the central party manipulates the process to favour one candidate over others. Sometimes the leader even appoints candidates. Then when the party with the momentum surges forth, all kinds of people who got their nominations unfairly find themselves in the legislature elected as MPPs. The current system is broken big time.

Lists will be very public, as will the process to draw up the lists. Parties will draft lists trying to put forth a positive and representative face, taking into account regional, gender, ethnic, occupations, etc. The system works so that most list MPPs will in fact be in opposition.

Most people vote for parties and leaders, not local candidates.

Drew Adamick said...

Living in British Columbia, and looking at the whole debate in Ontario about the Citizens' Assembly choice for MMP, I can definitely see similarities with the referendum in BC.

The biggest problem that many people saw with the BC-STV system was its perceived complexity. I personally didn't think it was complex at all (at least not for the voters, anyway) and I am in favour of BC-STV, because I like the concept that it puts emphasis on the candidates rather than the parties (all candidate in the STV ridings compete against each other for votes- even candidates from the same party), it allows for greater voter choice (you can vote for a preferred candidate) and less wasting of ballots (the 1-2-3 preferential transfer of ballots). However, I also saw that while there was desire for electoral reform, many were simply not comfortable with the details of STV (especially true where I live- in the North-Central Interior- because of a fear of loss of seats to Greater Vancouver).

Now, personally, I'm not a big fan of MMP. And for the closed-list MMP system proposed, I would vote "no" for it if I live in Ontario. My main problem with it is the legitimacy/accountability of the list candidates. While I am sure that all efforts will made to ensure that the nomination of list candidates is held in an open and transparent manner, there is still the possibility of party control over who gets to be on the list/or who on the list becomes an MPP/MLA. It is also difficult for list candidates to be held directly accountable by voters since they owe their positions more towards the party and the list nomination process rather than through direct election in a riding by constituents.

I would be more inclined to support MMP if it was an open-list system- that is the party puts forward their list of candidates but all voters, not just party members, have a say in the rank/position of list candidates. So, for example, on the proposed MMP ballot, when you cast for "party" vote, you cast your vote for the party and beside the "x" box are the party's list candidates- for which you can choose your preferred list candidate. By voters not having a say in who their list MPPs are, the list MMPs, in my opinion, have less legitimacy than those MPPs directly elected in ridings.

aginsberg said...

The difference between traditional nominations and MMP is simple: there's no check on party power. In the current system if a party puts forward an unpopular candidate, the public can say no. If, as you say Matt, people vote for party and not people, then they will elect whomever the party puts forward.

Aamir said...

I think the statistics work out to be something like 60% of people vote based on party policy, 20% vote based on party leader, and the remaning vote based on local candidate.

What I like about MMP is that those things aren't mixed up. If I like a party but hate it's candidate in my area I can choose both seperately and vice-versa. That's extra power to voters that is sorely needed and will allow people to vote based on both important issues and not have to hold their nose and on one note when voting for the other.

The closed list is very different from what we're used to but one nice thing about it is that it'll really show what a party stands for. In our current system the excuse is that the party has to elect the 'strongest candidate to win a riding' which most of the time ends up being an established rich white guy. The reality of the electoral system riding-by-riding forces parties to create a slate of candidates that doesn't reflect what Ontario really looks like. Now under MMP if a party offers a list for the entire province that is 80% full of rich white guys at the top... well that party is making clear what it stands for and voters can make their choice accordingly. I am sure there are plenty of Ontarians who would be very comfortable with that kind of a list and plenty who wouldn't be. The judgement would be ours to make.

Plus from what I know about how MMP works in Germany and New Zealand almost all the list members of parliament run as local candidates as well and so they have to establish a positive local presence and provide good service to that area. Which is one of the biggest changes from our system as Members of Parliament from different parties will actually compete to provide service to the same constituents. This is completely different from the current system where each riding citizen is dependent on how lazy or not their MPP is, and in stronghold ridings lazy MPPs keep on getting re-elected just because the party brand name is so strong there.

Check out this quote from a local Scottish Member of Parliament about the competition list members were providing after the first MMP elections there (they switched to it from FPTP in 1999). "It makes my day-to-day work much more demanding and pressurised. However, it also makes me work harder and improves the working of democracy in my constituency. Good for the people, bad for the politicians"

Definetly different from our current system for sure.

And uh yeah, I'm a pretty big supporter of MMP :).

Aamir said...

Also just a quick note regarding party power.

The proposed system has a pretty low threshold (3%) so in that system if Ontarians choose to vote for alternative parties not dominated by elites, then the 3 party oligarchy will be broken. Now we're pretty staid in Ontario so that might not happen (except the Greens will probably get in for sure), but parties will need to always be vigilant of a grassroots split in MMP. It makes parties much more vulnerable to voter dicontent then our current system with its extremely high barrier of entry.

btg said...

what hasn't been discussed here is the undemocratic nature of the referendum this fall - ian urqhart just wrote about this int he toronto star.

there are no official "yes" and "no" committees - there will be an "education" campaign that will describe the new MMP system, but which will not talk about the ramifications or real shortcomings of the proposal.

on the yes side, the ndp, the green party, and fairvotecanada will push for a "yes" vote - there is no organisation on the "no" side - the liberals don't have an official policy on it, the conservatives don't like it but don't want to touch it, and so there will not be a fair airing of the issues because there is no "no" side and there is no budget allotted, and the system isn't inviting public involvement. my fear here is that people will vote yes without knowing the resons why it might not be a good idea, because if they have heard anything on the issue, it will only be from the people supporting it.

if anyone knows of anyone trying to organise a committee, please email me at

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