Monday, July 02, 2007

New Zealand, Germany and Scotland or Why MMP is Wrong for Ontario pt. 7

Proponents of MMP often point to its "success" in other countries as a reason to support the new system. Let's review our potential electoral siblings and see exactly how similar we are:

New Zealand: Often touted as a good example, our Commonwealth allies are not as similar as we may think. One of the biggest problems I see with MMP is that it puts us in a situation of perpetual elections. New Zealand did not have this problem. New Zealand has had elections every three years for the last 93 years (with two wartime exceptions). No-confidence motions do not trigger elections. While MMP has led to more coalition building, there is no threat of constant elections. Furthermore, New Zealand faced a different crisis in 1996 than Ontario does today. New Zealand had become a two party system where new parties could not be created. Ontario does not have that problem. We have a three party system with room for more. The failure of the Greens to win election does not represent a failure of our electoral system, it represents a failure of the Green Party. Twenty years ago you may have been able to argue that our system had stagnated after forty years of Tory rule. However, all three parties have governed since then and new parties have always been able to emerge in Canada's electoral system. Both federally and provincially.

Germany: So if you were setting up a democracy after 13 years of totalitarian rule, how would you do it? Well, you'd start by designing a system where one party can never control the entire government and ensure minorities have a say in the government. MMP's inability to produce stable majorities is exactly what Germany needed. Ontario is not recovering from Nazism. We don't need perpetual minorities. Unfortunately, coalition building can leave citizens in the dark. As it did in 2005, where it took weeks after the votes were counted to be sure that Angela Merkel would actually be Chancellor. Merkel had to cap in hand (or at least carrot and stick in hand) to smaller parties in order to secure her election victory. All those in favour of backroom politics?

Side note: Germany counts list votes differently than we will. Similar system, yes, same no.

Scotland: So you're the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. You have this crazy desire to keep that Kingdom, well, United. On the other hand, the Scots and Welsh want more power. So you decide to create national governments. But wait! The Scottish Nationalists have been winning seats in the House of Commons for years. It didn't matter once the rest of the country was factored in but if you isolate Scotland... So, what to do? Create a system whereby they can never get a majority and therefore never call a referendum and never separate. Phew! Problem solved. Mantario aside, does Ontario have a separatist movement? No? So why do we need a system designed to thwart it? Oh and by the way, the Scottish system isn't the same. Instead of a nation wide list they employ a much more sensible regional list system. They don't quite trust parties to provide regional balance.

Fun Electoral Reform Fact: The Citizens' Assembly recommended a yes/no question on MMP. Elections Ontario has chosen instead to have an either/or referendum between MMP and FPTP. What else will change when the Citizens' Assembly report turns into law? Maybe nothing but it's not a promising start.


Anonymous said...

It is nice to see that proportional representation helps countries, regions and competing political parties get along with each other.

It is noteworthy that almost all of the countries of the European Union now use proportional election systems.

For reference:

Elections in Scotland & Wales: 1999, 2003, 2007

New Zealand elections: 1996, 1999, 2002, 2005

Germany: 16 MMP elections starting with 1949.

Referendum question: A government bill, passed by the legislature, made the "referendum question" the prerogative of cabinet. Its responsibility was to create a "clear, concise and impartial" question.

Raymond Lorenz

Anonymous said...

The issue that needs to be fixed first is making all ridings have the same population, so that Toronto in particular gets the weight in the Legislature which it merits based on population. Voting in MMP with the current unfairly weighted distribution of representatives would amount to endorsing this skewed distribution and making it even harder to change in the future.

MMP should be rejected if it doesn't also include one person one vote.

Linuxluver said...

R A: If you want one person, one vote, then you very much want MMP. MPP is a proportional system. Seats are won by each party in proportion to their share of the party vote. Each vote - one by one. All of the same value, provided the party vote for exceeds the 3% threshold (in the Ontario model). It's important to understand that under MMP, the party vote is the more important of the two. This becomesobvious when we consider a Green or NDP voter. Their local vote most likely won't elect anyone at all, but their party vote almost certainly will. So they have little actual se for the local vote except in seats where they have won traditionally or frequently. I know of many minor party voters in New Zealand who don't even bother casting the local vote as the most likely winner of from a party they don't support and their party vote is the one that lets them elect representatives of THEIR party. Others vote tactically locally, choosing the major party candidate closest to the vision and values of their own party.

MMP also makes the idea of swingers in marginal seats obsolete. Under MMP *every* party voter is a swing voter, no matter where they live. Because every vote is equal no matter where it is cast.

Paul Nijjar said...

Your claim about confidence votes in New Zealand is misleading. It is true that votes of non-confidence don't necessarily trigger elections in New Zealand the way they do here, but it is also the case that this situation has never come up because the big-tent party makes sure it has enough "confidence and supply" support to beat non-confidence motions.

In addition New Zealand did have three parties under FPTP. In 1993 the Alliance won 18% of the vote (but got only 2 seats). In 1984 the New Zealand Party got 12% of the vote and no seats (while Social Credit got 7% of the vote and 2). These other parties existed, but they could not win their fair share of power, just as the NDP has been getting shut out by riding boundaries ever since 1990.

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