Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Riddle me this?

So, there's a lot of debate as to how the lists will function in MMP. I think the other side of this debate is talking out of both sides of their mouth on a couple of points. I heard Marilyn Churley on TVO make one of the mistakes. And now the Liberals for MMP site is making the other one. Here are the two problems.

1. Are the lists democratic or representative?

They cannot easily be both. If the lists are set in the same way local candidates are nominated now (as the NDP and Tories have suggested), how on earth could we expect more women/minority candidates then get elected today (same system=same results)? In fact, the cost of running a province wide campaign to get on a party list would prevent these historically disadvantaged groups from being nominated. It is far more likely for someone with strong ties within the party to be successful in a one member one vote system. If you do guarantee representativeness how is that democratic? The answer given by proponents is that because the lists are available for public scrutiny, parties will be encouraged to make their slates representative. Aside, from the obvious Rousseau-like general will fantasy this would require in an open democratic nomination process and the fact that people don't seem to care about this point in the current system where the province wide slates are available for public scrutiny, it opens up the second can of worms.

2. What exactly is the second ballot for?

This may seem simple but bare with me. Yes, the second ballot is technically to represent party preference and guarantee proportionality. However, if you buy the argument that the lists will be shaped in whole or in part by public pressure and that only strong candidates will be named to the lists you are essentially arguing for a very different system. If the people on the list matter, if they are not generic partisans then the second ballot is not for the political party at all. It is in fact for the candidates on the party list. This would significantly weaken the claim of party-based proportionality. If people are voting for a party's list in whole or in part because they like or dislike the people or one of the people on the list, it is no longer a party-based vote. For instance, there is little doubt in my mind that if this system existed today, Randy Hillier would be on the PC party list. Now, there are a lot of farmers out there who really like Mr. Hillier. They may be inclined to vote for him and the PC Party instead of voting for one of the more fringe right wing parties. Conversely, there are a lot urban Ontarians that think Randy Hillier is an extremist and would never vote for him. It may prevent them from voting PC because of the knowledge that their vote would get Mr. Hillier elected. Thus, they may vote Liberal or Green to avoid this problem. What happens in this scenario is that people are not just voting for party, but for people which completely destroys any sense of party support.

In other words, you cannot say that on the one hand the lists will be representative and accountable and on the other say that they are democratic and proportional. In my view, they are so little of any of these things that they become worthless.


Lizt. said...

There are people in New Zealand that are not too happy with MMP now, and want a referendum. My penfriend frpm NZ hates it and she has from the beginning , and she is very level headed.

Anonymous said...

Litz - you are correct. A lawyer in my small town wrote a letter to the editor of our local newspaper setting out how bad it's going in New Zealand and how they are NOT happy with it.

I wish I'd kept the article - I could have set it out for you.

I've also heard the story of "gridlocks".

Andy said...

Certainly there are interesting implications of lists being identified with the list candidates rather than with the parties as a whole. One is that parties are going to have to be very careful not to put any potentially controversial candidates on their lists, since one guy making a politically incorrect comment during the campaign could turn voters across the province off the party's list altogether (since his name is on it -- whether a party can remove someone from the list partway through a campaign is one of the zillions of unanswered questions about MMP). So I would expect a lot of really bland list candidates and furious efforts by the various parties' war rooms to dig up dirt on the opposing listers in order to taint the opposing parties' list.

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