9.20.2007

vote mmp

Vote for MMP

In a few weeks, Ontario voters have a chance to do something historic, and to increase democracy in our province, and in Canada. (I wish I could vote!)

In the provincial elections on October 10, there'll be a referendum on the ballot, asking if Ontario should retain its first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system, or change to a form of proportional representation called Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP).

MMP is more democratic, offers more choice, and results in governments more representative of voters' preferences.

One of the best FAQs I've seen on the subject is from Vote For MMP. It addresses all the major concerns about the MMP system, which are largely based on myths and misunderstandings. For example:
Won't the new system lead to perpetual minority or coalition governments that won’t be able to get things done?

Since a majority of voters seldom support a single party, fair election results mean that seldom will a single party have majority control of government. Instead, two or more parties will have to negotiate, compromise and cooperate to form government and pass legislation.

Under the current voting system, minority governments are always unstable because parties know they can gain majority control with as little as 40 per cent of the popular vote. A small shift in voter preferences is enough to collapse a minority government under first-past-the-post, so stable and cooperative working relationships among parties are seldom formed. Mindless bickering and confrontation are more typical.

Under proportional voting systems, parties know they will gain no more or no fewer seats than deserved. The incentive is to find long-term coalition partners and work productively within a culture of negotiation and compromise.

But what about Italy and Israel?

Critics often point to these two countries as "proof" that proportional voting systems create political chaos. Let's apply some perspective. With 81 nations using proportional systems, critics can find only these two extreme examples. To say Italy and Israel are typical political cultures under proportional representation is like saying Zimbabwe and Nigeria are typical political cultures under first-past-the-post. Critics don't like to talk about Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, or the many dozens of stable governments and healthy economies with proportional voting systems and coalition governments.

In fact, a landmark comparative study on effective government demonstrated that countries using proportional systems readily match and often exceed the economic and social performance of nations run by single-party governments (usually false majorities). This is not surprising, as proportional voting systems create governments that are more representative and accountable.

Can't a small party dictate policy because it holds the balance of power – doesn't it let the tail wag the dog?

The reality is almost the exact opposite.

Research has shown that coalition governments tend to be better than single party governments at producing legislation more in line with public thinking. But that's only logical. Coalition majority governments are formed by representatives of the majority of voters – unlike Canada's "majority" governments put in power by only 40% of the voters.

Generally, two or more like-minded parties, who together represent a majority of voters, agree to form a coalition government. Their compromise agenda will generally focus on areas of policy agreement, not the most radical positions of the smaller party. If two parties representing a majority of voters have common policy interests, that often indicates majority public support for those policies.

Another important safeguard is that any major party or political leader adopting an agenda out-of-step with its own support base will be severely punished at the next election. In fact, the logic of coalition-building is the opposite of the tail wagging the dog. It's more like the dog choosing the tail that fits.

If you have questions about how MMP works, what changes would likely be seen from its adoption, and whether or not you should support it, I recommend Vote For MMP and Vote for MMP's FAQ page.

If that sounds too biased, the Ontario Citizen's Assembly was a representative group of voters charged with studying the province's electoral system. They spent months gathering information, deliberating the issue from all sides, and considering several different options. Their recommendation: Mixed Member Proportional. Click here for a simple, straightforward explanation of their recommendation, or here to see the full report.

The Citizen's Assembly has an excellent website with FAQs and videos that explain the issues very clearly. (The videos may be easier to access from the Vote MMP site: click here.)

Bloggers for MMP has some badges, banners and other resources you can use to help spread the word.

Here in North America, we are all accustomed to an FPTP system. Most of us never questioned this, because we never knew there was any other method. When faced with new choices and possibilities, many people cling to the familiar. "We've been voting this way for hundreds of years. Why change now?" But tradition alone is not enough reason to maintain the status quo when there are better alternatives.

Between now and October 10, I hope my neighbours throughout Ontario will take the time to educate themselves, and take care to keep their minds open. And I hope they'll go to the polls - and vote for more democracy.

Vote for MMP

17 comments:

Mark Greenan said...

Great post Laura - we're lucky to have you here in Canada.

Thanks for spreading the good word about MMP.

L-girl said...

Thank you! How nice of you to say that.

Nikolas said...

Oh how I wish I could vote! Sigh...

I blogged about this too (yes, yes, I have started to not neglect LWB again) and it's fascinating that this is the first referendum to vote in for over 50 years for some people

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Thou rockest mightily. :-)

loneprimate said...

I'm a little dubious about the whole 90/37 split or whatever it is... fewer ridings, and yet we still wind up paying more MPPs? How convenient... But that said, I guess I've had my fill of elections where some clown gets 2/5 of the vote and 100% of the power. Okay, I'm in. I'm voting for MMP. Oh, and my MPP. :D

L-girl said...

Oh my, thank you I/P.

L-girl said...

I guess I've had my fill of elections where some clown gets 2/5 of the vote and 100% of the power. Okay, I'm in. I'm voting for MMP.

WHOO-HOO!! Way cool.

Thanks for keeping an open mind. Not that I would expect anything less from our resident Primate.

M@ said...

I was initially opposed to changing the FPTP system. Then a co-worker of mine hit on the tactic of appealing to my inner nerd, and challenged me to show in any mathematical way how STV was a less accurate representation of the people's will than FPTP. I'm such a sucker for that tactic -- lucky I quit, eh?

Anyhow, I got myself educated, and a reformist was born. In fact, I would have preferred STV to MMP, but positive change is better than status quo.

But I'm really pleased to report that I've been able to talk to three people who were undecided on the issue, and make the case for MMP.

The fact is, there are drawbacks to every system, and I'm happy to point out and discuss the drawbacks of MMP. But by being educated and engaged enough to talk about the proposed system, with all its benefits and faults, has been enough to get a few more votes for it.

Jello Biafra counselled, way back in 1990, to "become the media" -- that is, be educated, and be unafraid to try to educate others. It's basically the same thing as your "Each one, teach one". And there aren't a lot of issues I'm actually an activist on, but by being minimally informed and minimally engaged, we really can effect change in our world.

Here's hoping that, TorStar's campaign notwithstanding, we'll see a Yes referendum in October!

L-girl said...

Anyhow, I got myself educated, and a reformist was born.

Yay!

But I'm really pleased to report that I've been able to talk to three people who were undecided on the issue, and make the case for MMP.

That's very cool. My "whoo-hoo!" in response to LP above was because he originally opposed pro-rep of any kind.

I'm proud to know so many open-minded Canadians!

loneprimate said...

I'm proud to know so many open-minded Canadians!

Oh! I always thought we were wimpy, accommodating, and indecisive. I like "open-minded" much better. :D

L-girl said...

Oh! I always thought we were wimpy, accommodating, and indecisive. I like "open-minded" much better.

There's an upside and downside to almost everything. Americans' confidence breeds arrogance and egocentrism. Canadians' self-effacement also brings flexibility and a willingness to listen. After a lifetime of one, I find the other very refreshing.

M@ said...

I'm good with there I stand on election reform, but for me the bigger battle is to educate others. I'm sure I've gained a few votes for the MMP side. It's not often I see myself as an activist but I hope I've made a difference.

I agree that the flexibility and willingness to see all sides is both a plus and a minus. Better to err on the side of indecisiveness than on the side of Decidering, though, I think.

L-girl said...

I agree that the flexibility and willingness to see all sides is both a plus and a minus.

I think the flexibility and willingness to see all sides is only a plus. Perhaps the indecisiveness or lack of confidence in one's decisions is the negative side of the same trait, if that makes any sense.

Better to err on the side of indecisiveness than on the side of Decidering, though, I think.

No argument here. Just look at the results.

L-girl said...

And M@, cheers to you for making educating others a goal.

I think you're more of an activist that you might realize. As I learned you are more of a leftard that you might have previously admitted. :)

loneprimate said...

A friend of mine in the provincial archives is fond of saying that while the US has a revolutionary form of government, having made a real break with the Mother Country, that Canada has an evolutionary form of government. By slow, careful, plodding, even retarded steps, we've advanced our constitution. We don't yet even have an elected Senate. But, several provinces now have schemes to ensure a more equitable return of legislators with regard to the actual vote of the electorate. It's taken centuries to get this far, and despite everything, Ontarians can still be markedly conservative in some aspects... but I hope we carry the day.

L-girl said...

A friend of mine in the provincial archives is fond of saying that while the US has a revolutionary form of government

Your friend is incorrect on this basic assumption. The US government is set up in a highly conservative fashion. I could point out dozens of ways this is true. The Electoral Colllege is but one example.

L-girl said...

Further to that...

I can understand the impression that the US has a revolutionary government because it was birthed by revolution, kicking out the British. But once they had control over their economic lives (which is what they wanted), the Founders set up a highly conservative system designed to make change difficult (although not impossible) to accomplish, and then only by small increments.