Thursday, July 12, 2007

Why MMP is Wrong For Ontario pt. 9

There is an old expression that "the devil is in the details." In the case of MMP this is particularly disturbing because of the number of details that remain unknown. There are two categories of unknown details: those left unspecified by the Citizens' Assembly and those that may be changed when the proposal is changed into legalese and then implemented (as has already happened with the referendum question). In both cases devils may abound. So what don't we know?
  • We don't have a clear picture on how MPP's from the list would be replaced. The report dictates that the next name on the list should be taken. Could parties alter the list set on election day, if three years later? This would be an excellent way to get a new leader (e.g. John Tory) into the legislature.
  • How does this system deal with changing demographics? Is the number of seats set or will it grow with the population? If it does grow, would it be necessary to maintain the proportion between list and riding seats?
  • What is the protocol for recounts of list votes?
  • In a related topic, how are counted ballots filed? Okay, this is technical but bear with me. Currently, counted ballots are placed in envelopes corresponding to the candidate with spoiled and rejected ballots kept separately. Under MMP two different votes would be counted from one ballot making storage and recount difficult.
  • This leads me to believe that Elections Ontario may prefer to have two ballots instead of the one proposed by the Assembly. I am not sure what implications that has but surely they proposed one ballot for a reason.
  • Are party lists available for reference at the voting booth?
  • How will parties select their list candidates? Will they emphasize diversity or democracy? I recognize that these possibilities are not incompatible. However, if democracy is emphasized (i.e. parties use a one member one vote system for all spots) how do you guarantee the increased diversity MMP advocates are boasting about? Conversely, if you emphasize diversity and appoint a set number of women and minorities or set aside spots that only women or minorities (I'd love to see the definition of minorities on this one - do religious and sexual minorities count or just visible?) could win, how is that democratic?
  • How will list MPP's get paid? Surely they don't get an allowance for a constituency office but how else does their pay/staff differ?
  • On a related note, how do list candidate funding rules differ if at all? What are their campaign restrictions? Can all list candidates campaign everywhere? Put up lawn signs in all ridings?
  • Minor point but how are list candidates adressed in the legislature? Most members are adressed by their riding name. Are we getting rid of the convention against names in the legislature?

There are more, I am sure. Especially, when you consider that the changes that are possible in drafting and implementation are almost infinite. Yes, I would expect the spirit of the recommendation to be followed through but almost everything else is up for grabs. The point of all this is that we have not done our due dilligence. I do not believe it is appropriate to vote on something that is not established. This is a flaw in the citizens' assembly process really. They are not lawyers trained in drafting legislation. They are not administrators with experience in running elections and therefore their proposal is not final. Even if you don't like First Past the Post, you at least know what you're getting.


Raymond Lorenz said...

"I would expect the spirit of the recommendation to be followed through, but almost everything else is up for grabs."

I would like to add that there is not only a "spirit" to the recommendation, but a "spirit" to the process.
1. Public consultation
2. Research & Learning (of how things are done in similar jurisdictions, advice from a variety of experts)
3. Non-partisan guidance (Elections Ontario)
4. Multi-party guidance (all-party committees)
5. Semi-judicial, public processes (citizens' juries, assemblies).
6. Public debate & consensus building.

Following these types of principles, I am confident that the "details" that you have described will be handled appropriately.

Paul Nijjar said...

This is a good list of things that the OCA did not specify explicitly. In the defence of the Citizens' Assembly, they were not given a whole lot of time to come up with all of the details. It is an achievement that they were able to finish the process at all, and I think they did a good job given time constraints.

As far as the representation of minorities on the list we all crow about: the argument is that parties need not be explicit about setting aside seats for there to be more diversity. The people who choose party list orderings (which are likely to be party members if experience in other countries hold true) will be reluctant to select white male after white male to the list (or Torontonian after Torontonian) to the list because it will appear to be too homogenous. This will provide an implicit incentive for the lists to be more diverse.

I don't have citations backing this claim up, but I think research exists on this.

Andy said...

But won't the lists be full of riding candidates anyway? How can the NDP leader (for example) put people who aren't making the sacrifices involved in a riding race on the list ahead of those who are? If I'm an ambitious half-decent NDP prospect that the party would like to put out there to try to win an NDP-marginal (real) seat, my price is going to be a pretty good place on the list as well.

The internal party fights over who gets on these lists and where are going to be party-destroying, even if they are somewhat "democratic" fights.

Anonymous said...

Your questions are excellent, but aren't so much why MMP is wrong, but rather represent a number of issues that need to be resolved if our advanced, modern democracy chooses to change an electoral system that has been in place for generations.

Voting for MMP should not be taken lightly, but neither should we blindly consider standing still when we have such an excellent opportunity for meaningful change!

Andy said...

It's meaningless change until these issues, and many others, are resolved.

Saskboy said...

It's not meaningless change, because it forces a lot of old farts who have fixed the system we've got in their favour, to adapt. It also forces people new to the system to learn about their political system.

It works elsewhere, so we can do it too. Your reasoning sounds like Americans chest pounding that their health system isn't the worst in the world. Just because it's not the worst, doesn't mean we shouldn't initiate change toward something known to be better.

Andy said...

It also forces people new to the system to learn about their political system.

Yes but the problem is that, as far as this proposed system goes, there doesn't appear to be much that could be learned prior to voting, as the details and practical implications seem not to have been worked out by the proposal's proponents.

I'm not sure why Ontarians generally ought to consider voting for a pig-in-a-poke electoral reform plan.

M Laplante said...

Suppose there is a by-election or someone crosses the floor, and that a minority party gets an extra seat. Then we should kick the minority party's last "list" member out of the legislative assembly and replace them with someone from the party that just lost a member, in order to restore the seat percentages.

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