Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ontario looks at MMP

Speaking of electoral reform... the Citizens' Assembly in Ontario has decided that mixed-member proportional (MMP) is its preferred alternative to the current first-past-the-post (FPP) system. See DemocraticSPACE (who also designed an MMP system for the purpose) and Idealistic Pragmatist.

Prince Edward Island's electoral reform attempt also would have implemented MMP. B.C.'s option, on the other hand, was for the single transferable vote (STV). [That option, for those who don't know, got 58 percent "yes" votes when it needed 60 percent, so wasn't adopted, but will be back on the ballot.]

This is one of the best aspects of federalism--different jurisdictions experimenting with policy; however, it does wind up being rather uncoordinated. It's certainly possible that we could see 10 different voting systems for 10 provinces, not that there's anything wrong with that. But the clamor is growing in Quebec, where there are three major parties and two growing alternatives, and New Brunswick just had a "second place winner" election in which the Liberals won despite losing the popular vote, so there are certainly other provinces that might be exploring other options.

If Ontario adopts MMP, there will definitely be a lot of pressure on the federal government to at least examine the idea of PR. (Note: the NDP introduced a motion for consideration of electoral reform, which will likely be ignored. But I always wonder why the NDP doesn't make electoral reform their #1 priority in any support deal. Yes, the short-term gains are uncertain, but one would think the long-term survival benefit is way, way bigger than in any other area. ATM fees, for instance... seriously?).


mshugart said...

From the NDP point of view, which is more valuable: An immediate policy payoff for its constituents and voters for on the fence between them and the Liberals, or a more uncertain payoff of an electoral-reform process? The problem with the latter is that if there were another FPTP election in the interim, the NDP could easily be attacked as having held the country "at ransom" and all the worst stereotypes about PR would be engaged. And they'd have no policy rewards to trumpet before their own voters.

I am not aware of any change to PR ever resulting from a minority government making a deal with a support party. Ever.

Alex said...

I see the logic, but couldn't the party at least make a bigger deal of getting an electoral-reform process started? It seems to me, from my distinctly non-Canadian vantagepoint, that people inclined to support the NDP would back the idea of a reform process, and attacks wouldn't make much traction. It could certainly be defended against attacks on the grounds of allowing the people to comment on the system, couldn't it? (Or maybe not...). Admittedly, there would have to be art to the timing.

Anyway, it seems as though even when something happens with an electoral-reform motion (such as what just happened) the NDP doesn't even bother to publicize it as much as it could, and that is frustrating... back to borrowing votes at the next election.

As for "it's never been done," I am less convinced. I can recall only one change to PR in any developed democracy, since WWII, unless I am really forgetting something. :)

Either way I am optimistic that in 20 years, give or take, this issue will have been resolved happily, given current trends.

Anonymous said...

With the party vote MMP means that voters lose any ability to have an individual politician accountable. Voters have so little say in the Canadian version of democracy and we lack effective checks and balances found in other democratic system. As evidenced at the Ontario Provincial level by the disastrous privatization of utilities (companies do not run well where there is no competition and ultimately tax payers pay!) and the sponsorship scandal that exists at the federal level (politicians are immune to effective prosecution for gross misconduct).