Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Why MMP is Wrong For Ontario pt. 4

Well, back to it boys and girls. Today we discuss who is advantaged and disadvantaged by MMP. The answer may surprise you. Let's start with the obvious. The most popular party that has traditionally benefited from FPTP will be disadvantaged. You can debate the merits and demerits of that all you like. The second and third place parties will be advantaged. Practically, this means that the Liberals and PC's win if they lose and the NDP, barring a Hampton government, always wins. Who else loses? Well, everyone else in politics. Okay, so maybe the Greens get one or two seats from the lists but what is the Greens' goal at the end of the day? To become an official party (where the real money is) and eventually someday form a government. This is unlikely under MMP and here is why: the ridings are bigger. If the referendum passes, Ontario will get the largest ridings in Canada by population. Larger than the federal ridings. How much more difficult will it be for a fourth candidate to win in a riding of over 120,000 people? The Greens may be ecstatic at the prospect at getting into the legislatures but they might find that their fortunes stall there. Maybe getting into the legislature and subsequently into the debate will make the Greens a force to be reckoned with. I can't say. I can say that big parties with lots of money and lots of volunteers are going to best suited to run in these super-ridings. The problems in Southern Ontario relate to population, in Northern Ontario, geography is the problem. The largest ridings south of 60 will get a little bigger as they shrink from 11 to 9. That means more money needed by local candidates to go out to canvass their constituents.

The people most disadvantaged by the system are independents. Now, you can make an argument that independent MPP's are rare and ineffective. I don't dispute that. I support a party. However, it is an essential characteristic of our democracy that ANYONE can become a member of provincial parliament. Not only are independents shut out completely of 39 of the 129 ridings, their chances of winning in the other 90 just went down significantly. It is important to note that only about 3% of Onatrians carry party memberships. That means that 39 seats can only be filled by 3% of the population. This might happen anyway in the current system but the point is that now 97% of Ontarians cannot win those seats. It would become harder and more expensive for an average person to get elected. I don't see that as an improvement to our democracy.

A quick response to Clear Grit's reply to my first three posts:
  • First of all, the argument that the system should be changed to coincide with what people believe the system to be is absurd. The fact that people believe that seats are allocated based on party popularity is a failure of our democracy not a cry for reform. If people are confused by our current electoral system, God help them with MMP.
  • Safe seats change as yesterday's by-election in Calgary-Elbow demonstrates.
  • The level of accountability that a list candidate will be subject to compared to our current candidates is laughable. Yes, the nomination process is the same, but there are no voters to tell a party to go to the devil when they choose a poor candidate. Instead, we rely on voters who only kind of understand our current electoral system to pay attention to the nomination process of each party and analyze all 39 candidates on all four major party lists to detect poor candidates. I doubt politics-junkies like me will have time to look at all the candidates let alone the average voter.
  • The current system is not on the ballot. I do not support the current system. I wrote a submission to the assembly advocating change. My choice, majoritarian run-off, is about as popular as the plague but it doesn't matter. The question before us is whether or not we want the system proposed by the citizens assembly. If it is not right for Ontario, we should not simply make a leap of faith to get away from the devil we know. The grass is not always greener on the other side.
  • It is folly to expect our political culture to change overnight because our electoral system has. The last coalition government (note: coalition NOT minority) in Ontario lasted about two years. The lure of a majority government has not led the Italians to the polls on an almost yearly basis for the past fifty years. Sweden has avoided going to the polls every year by turning their 7 parties into two coalitions which can form majorities. Swedish politicos are panicking at the prospect of the rise of a non-coalition party which may cause the Riksdag to become unstable.

7 comments:

Josh said...

Againsberg,

Would you be comfortable if I cross-posted this, in entirety, to www.mindfulreform.com? A No campaign is in the works.

Many thanks

aginsberg said...

absolutely and keep me posted on the no campaign

hswerdfe said...

you said: "The current system is not on the ballot"

This is not correct. The current system IS on the ballot both literally and figuratively.

The question has just been released:

Which electoral system should Ontario use to elect members to the provincial legislature?
* The existing electoral system (First-Past-the-Post)
* The alternative electoral system proposed by the Citizens’ Assembly (Mixed Member Proportional)

So as you can see the current system is now literally on the ballot. But it has always been figuratively on the ballot. as if it is opposed. we would not be going back to the design stage. It would simply be the end of electoral reform for the next 20 or so years.

jim r. said...

and exactly why do we need politicians anyway? they are an anachronism back from the dark ages when people had little education and worked on farms and needed people to represent them. not so today. any reasonably well-educated person of majority age with a computer and a modem has the right to vote on any issue for themselves. my choice on the ballot is: "none of the above".

aginsberg said...

Mea Culpa... I didn't expect Elections Ontario to so blatantly disregard the citizen's assembly's recommendations and put that question. I was expecting the yes/no question proposed.

Michael Ufford said...

Also organizing to defeat MMP

Daniel Josph Xhan said...

I take the point of having larger ridings: how is a politician supposed to properly represent that many people? Even if a tiny fraction of the people show up to ask questions, the poor politician will be utterly swamped.

But this problem, I think, can be solved by an even more novel system: move away from a unicameral legislature. Have as many ridings as before (or more, perhaps). MPPs elected in ridings go in one house, at-large members go in another. Primary legislative responsibility goes to the directly elected MPPS.

That would help alleviate that problem.

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