Saturday, October 06, 2007

Vote to Keep Our Existing Electoral System

This marks my 29th post on the subject of this referendum. It will also be my last before election day. So, here we go 10 reasons to vote for FPTP and against MMP:

10. Stable, effective government. Governments in ONTARIO which fail to get a majority rarely last longer than a couple of years and have difficulty executing a coherent agenda. Majority government allows for long term strategies instead of short term placating. We need to be able to make tough decisions. We can do that under FPTP, we can't under MMP.

9. Small parties should not control the agenda. I don't want a situation like that which exists under MMP systems where small parties control the agenda in spite of voter preference. I would rather have a parliament where a party that receives 40% of the vote has a majority than have a legislature where a party that receives 3% of the vote has the majority of the power. If you want a point of reference look at the power of New Zealand First in the first MMP coalition government or the influence of the Green party on Germany's insane energy policy.

8. Vote for the system you understand. I don't just mean that if you haven't done your research. I am talking about the large number of things we just don't know about MMP. The exact means of list selection is still among them. Does "democratic" mean Democratic Republic of Congo "democratic"? Sorry, not good enough, not by a long shot. Do you understand the process for a recount under MMP? No? That's because there isn't one. Understand what happens if a list MPP crosses the floor? No? That's because there's no provision for or against it. Ontarians don't understand MMP not only because Elections Ontario has failed them but also because there is a lot nobody understands.

7. Ballots should be easy to vote on and easy to count. Neither applies to MMP.

6. All of Ontario matters. Not just Toronto. I say this sitting in Toronto. A one member one vote system of choosing party lists would guarantee Torontonian dominance in the legislature. Voters will vote for who they want first. They won't be thinking about the look of the overall list. With the concentration of population and party members in the GTA, GTA candidates would have a major advantage under MMP.

5. Don't give more power to political parties. They are too powerful as is. Elections should be decided on election night by the voters of Ontario, not a month later by party elites in a Toronto hotel.

4. We are not threatened by nationalism. The boundaries that face minorities have nothing to do with the electoral system. We don't need MMP. You want First Nations politicians? How about Todd Russell? Tina Keeper? Nancy Karetak-Lindell? All in our Parliament today because of First Past the Post. There are more. There's a riding in the 905 where every single candidate is Muslim. Both the Liberals and the NDP have met their targets for increasing women in the legislature. Expect those targets to go up next time around. Our current ministers of health and education are openly gay. The Premier of Orange Ontario is Catholic. Let's look how far we've come before we look at how far we have to go. We don't need MMP to artificially solve our remaining problems.

3. Our electoral districts are too big, don't make them bigger. This is true not only in Northern Ontario where MMP would make a riding larger than France, but also in the GTA where a burgeoning population makes ridings harder and harder for independents and small parties to cover.

2. Our legislature at its best when it is a representation of Ontarians from across this province. I call this blog All Politics is Local because I believe in the importance of community based politics. Today's media based politics have wounded our local politics, we do not need MMP to finish the job. We should be working to restore our local democracy. This is crucial if we are to increase our voter turnout and diversify our legislature.

1. Related to the point above, list MPP's are accountable to absolutely no one. They are not accountable to the whole province as pro-forces claim. They are also not accountable to the people who voted for that party. This is an absurd argument that assumes that voter preferences on election day stay the same the rest of the term. Accountability is crucial. We need to be able to throw out the bums. It is the foundation of our democracy. We must preserve it. For all of our MPP's. We need to reject MMP and keep FPTP to do this.

Vote for our existing electoral system (First-Past-The-Post)


Linuxluver said...

10) Minority governments under MMP can't be compared to minority governments under FPTP. MMP provides no "bonus" to one party for rushing to the polls. The record is clear for those who care to actually LOOK at it (the NO crowd don't): governments under MMP are just as stable as any FPTP government. As for "tough decisions", it is the countries with PR systems who have adopted the 1990 carbon targets for Kyoto and the gutless weasely governments elected by FPTP who are still trying to pretend the problem doesn't even exist.

9) Small parties under MMP do NOT "control the agenda". Last time I checked the math, no party with 5 MPPs could outvote the other 124. For any small party to be relevant AT ALL, they need the support of one or the other BIG Party....and thus able to compose a majority (that darned democracy thing). Folks who claim 5 can out-vote 124 are just dumb....and can't count.

8) Candidate selection is a hot-button issue ad rightly so. The same was true in New Zealand in 1993, prior to that country adopting MMP. Because MMP effectively introduces market forces to politics by lowering the barers to entry to the political "market" (all you need is 3% of the vote), this had a profound efect onhow political parties behaved internally. The same would be true in Ontario. Already, just the *threat* of MMP has seen the leaders of the 4 largest parties respond to concern about candidate selection and commit to democratic candidate choice. As happened in NZ, this is a promise their own party members will force them to that 3% threshold means those people have OTHER options open to them if this promise is not kept. Party members and voters won't and don't have to put up with funny business under MMP....precisely BECAUSE there is real competition (unlike the present system).

7) I have voted in 4 MMP elections. It's dead simple: One vote for the local person you prefer and one for the party you prefer. Done. Counting these is as easy as 1, 2, 3. I have counted votes in an election, too. The claim that this is in any way complicated is absolute nonsense.

6) Having voted in 4 MMP elections, I know swing voters DO look at who is on the list to see which party will best represent them. People who always or usually vote for the same "team" do take it on faith that their party will choose good people. This is no different to how things work now. I can't see how anyone can credibly argue against one person / one vote. That is the guts of democracy itself. Using the FPTP voting system to rig and enshrine special privilege is an excellent reason to NOT vote for FPTP. I've for for MMP simply BECAUSE it takes us all back to one person / one vote. Scaring people with Toronto is purile. The reality is that a huge chunk of the population lives in Toronto. Taking their votes away isn't NOT the way to address regional concerns.

5) Firstly, it is FPTP that gives 100% of the power to just ONE party that most voters didn't vote for. Using your own argument, the present system regularly delivers what must be your worst case scenario. Secondly, the who PURPOSE of elections is for voters to confer proxy power upon representatives who sit in the legislature on their behalf. FPTP does a terrible job of translating votes into fair representation, with the consequent issues of illegitimacy for the actions taken by the one minority that has all the power....but most people didn't vote for.

4) This argument about nationalism is utter nonsense. MMP is about fairly converting votes into representation. End of story. No one promoting MMP has done so on the basis of nationalism. This point doesn't even make sense...and must be filler as you struggle to find 10 reasons.

3) The easy way to fix large ridings is to have more MPPs. The Harris government created the preent problem and MMP is a great way to start fixing it. If the MMP system proposed had 157 MPPs, (107 local and 50 list / 70:30) there would be NO reason to change ridings at all. This argument relies on a sleight of hand that tries to ignore the simple fact that MMP provides for improved representation by returning the legislature of 129 MPPs. Those additional MPPs will be very busy. In New Zelaand, they assumed the list MPPs would have less "local" work to do, but quickly found out that often have MORE local work to do than a local MP, imple because their voters from all over the country called them, while the local MP only had to take calls from one riding. The list MPs often have to work much harder than local MPs - especially in the smaller parties as they try to cover much larger areas with fewer MPs. But at the end of the day, voters will find they have more MPPs who are willing to listen to them and many of those will be the list MPPs. This is because those list MPPs will be working hard to win more PARTY votes....and ths more seats.

2) MMP will improve local representation because there will be more MPPs to serve voters AND each of the parties will have to pay attention to voters EVERY WHERE because those all-important party votes that define the share of the seats count EVERY WHERE. This is how it actually works in places that use it. I've seen it first hand. I do not need to imagine it. MMP also preserves the (so-called) "strong local representation" via the 90 local ridings. Smaller parties that win no local seats will also seek to represent voters all over Ontario in order to improve their share of the vote, so local representation of a more diverse kind absolutely WILL occur. I've seen it. Le's also remember that the MMP party vote lets us all - for the first time - vote as ONTARIANS with a vote that has effect right across the province for the party we prefer. This is FPTP + more. It's better. It's more powerful for voters.

1) MMP makes entire parties accountable in a way they are not today. Voters are able to vote separately for the local person they prefer and the party they prefer. This is much more accountability than we ave now. List MMPs are accountable to all Ontario voters directly in a way that local MPPs are not. Under the present system, only ONE MPP is accountable to any single voter. Even then, they can still keep their seats with 35% of the vote if the other 65% of voters can't agree on their replacement. The party vote under MMP has no such escape hatch. If the share of the party vote falls, the share of all the seats falls....and list MPPs will lose their seats in droves if their party loses a big chunk of votes. I've sen it first-hand. NZ First got 13% of the vote in 1996 in NZ, but after displeasing their supporters fell to 4% in 1999....and lost 13 seats....very one of them list MPs. If voters aren't happy with just ONE of a party's candidates / MPs, then those voters should either join that party or at the very least make their feelings known. The simple rule about list candidates is this: "Assets go up the list and liabilities go down - or of - the list". NO PARTY will keep as a candidate an MPP who is widely unpopular. That wold endanger the fortunes of the whole party. In this way, each ovter is able to hold to account not just one local MPP, but ALL the list MPPs for the party they favour (or not). That is more than we can do under the present system.

MMP is absolutely MORE accountable than FPTP. Especially as MMP allows voters across Ontario to vote *directly* on their entire party and separately for their local representative. How anyone can claim this is worse is franky bizarre. It is FPTP hat limits accountability to just ONE candidate (not even the MMP) in just one riing our of 107. Your vote under FPTP as NO EFFECT anywhere else....and as we well know, the majority of those local votes elect no one at all.

The summary here is that the ten reasons for opposing MMP are either based on upside-down logic (It's FPTP that gives 100% of the power to one party most poeple didn't vote for) or simply wrong (voting in MMP is simple and easy and MMP has noting whatever to do with "nationalism").

As is often the case, the NO arguments amount to the cynical trying to mislead the ignorant....using the cynicism the PRESENT system creates as a weapon to divert people from voting for a system that would actually FIX many of the sources of that cynicism.

Anonymous said...

Yet the cynic who wishes to keep the FPTP system remains...

What about the costs of implementing MMP? Forget about New Zealand. I care about the cost to the Ontario taxpayer.

MPP salaries, pensions, costs of more elections, etc. Who will pay for this?

Jordan Grant said...

Why We Should Vote FOR MMP
By Jordan Grant

There are really two key questions facing Ontarians in this Wednesday’s referendum: “Do you trust democracy?” and “Should politicians collaborate more and snipe less?” If the answer to both these questions is “yes” then you should vote for MMP.
Under our current “first past the post” system, the outcome of elections is rarely a true reflection of people’s votes. We often have majority governments holding 100% of the power elected by a minority. Most citizens end up with a smaller voice in the legislature than the number of their votes would warrant, and some significant groups, such as Green Party supporters, have no voice at all.
If we believe in democracy, why are we afraid of electing legislators in proportion to the number of votes each party receives?
Some supporters of the status quo say that the party lists could include unqualified “party hacks”. But the lists are to be published in advance - why would any party reduce its attractiveness to the electorate by putting up unqualified or unsavoury people?
There are many accomplished individuals who would make great legislators or cabinet ministers, people with proven leadership talent who the public would welcome on the provincial or national stage. But under our current “first past the post” election system they are not prepared to throw their hat in the ring because they have no aptitude or desire to do the glad handling that it takes to get elected as a local constituency politician.
Under the mixed member proportional representation system, there will be an opportunity for such people to be recognized by the leadership of the various political parties through their inclusion in the party lists. The parties would have every incentive to put on their lists the most respected and qualified talent they can come up with, including more women and representatives of key issue-based (as opposed to geographically-based) constituencies.
The number of such candidates to be elected for each party will be based on its province-wide vote, so that in the end, each party has approximately the same number of legislators as their province-wide popular vote would dictate.
Instead of every Member being concerned first and foremost with what’s good for their local constituency, there will be a sizeable contingent whose primary concern will be the bigger picture – what’s good for Ontario society as a whole.
Once elected, under the MMP system, we will almost certainly have minority governments. Defenders of the status quo say such governments won’t be able to take “bold initiatives” or make “hard choices.” These are code words for making unpopular decisions. If a government is unable to get enough other parties on side to command a majority in the legislature on a particular issue, do we really want to empower them to pass such legislation? The end result of the current system is vast policy swings as we pass between majority governments of different persuasions.
I, for one, have enough faith in citizens choosing their elected representatives, to believe that if we put in place a structure requiring political parties representing a majority of the voters to collaborate; the result will be decisions that are in the best interest of Ontarians.
Some people who acknowledge the current system needs fixing say to vote “no” because there is a better alternative than MMP. But the MMP system was arrived at after eight months of deliberation by a diverse group of randomly appointed citizens from each riding in the province. The Citizens’ Assembly had the benefit of top expert advice, studied electoral systems worldwide and consulted broadly. In the end they voted overwhelmingly to recommend the MMP system.
Our choice on Wednesday is not between MMP and some other unidentified “even better” system. It is between MMP and retaining the status quo, with its adversarial structure and only locally-rooted politicians. For those who believe in democracy and want positive change, voting “yes” for MMP is the obvious choice.

Andy said...

Why would the list MPPs be especially interested in "Ontario society as a whole"? If they are from really small parties, like the Greens, they are going to be pushing the interests of their own party and nothing else. If they are from big parties, they will spend their whole time in office trying to ingratiate themselves with a particular riding, since their tenure as list MPPs may well come to a quick end if their party does better in the next election and their only way to stay in politics is to win a riding at that time. Either way, I don't see anyone taking the broad interests of Ontario into account.

I don't share this deference to the Citizens. Their proposal is a really bad one, and imputing some sort of quasi-oracular power to them doesn't change that.

Mike said...

Ah the voice of another Liberal apparachik hopeful, not willing to see a time when his party does not have majority power with minority support.

Jason Cherniak must be so proud.

son, when you have voted in more than one or two elections, come back and read this and see how silly you are sounding.

Andy said...

What is "majority power", though? As I understand it, it's the sort of power that one holds when one holds a majority of seats in the legislature, i.e. ~100% power. Why, then, should MMP supporters be completely happy that a government should hold 100% power with 50% of the vote? There is no principled reason that I can see for setting the bar at 50% support for 100% power. Moreover, Ontario MMP does not actually require 50% of the party vote before one can have 100% of the power -- typically 100% power would be attainable with 46-48% of the party vote under the MMP proposal, not to mention that there is no requirement that a party gain a majority of the riding vote.

Why not simply say that a party gets to implement its program when it shows a broad base of support across the province, e.g. when it is the leading party in a majority of the province's geographical districts? That seems pretty reasonable to me. Not to mention easily understood and costing zero to implement, given that it's what we already have.

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