Ontario Election 2007

Panel Discussion Examines Ontario Voting Referendum

By Ryan McGreal
Published August 30, 2007

Canadian Policy Research Networks and Ryerson University have published a summary of a recent panel discussion [PDF] on the upcoming referendum to change Ontario's voting system.

Titled "Getting Ready for the Referendum: Food for Thought", the report does a great job of outlining the implications of a switch from today's first-past-the-post electoral system to a Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system with a 70/30 split (90 seats and 39 seats) between geographic constituency representation and proportional representation.

The Ontario Government created the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform a few years ago and randomly selected 103 voters to investigate whether and how to change the current system. They came back and recommended the MMP system.

Under the current system, a party can win a majority government with less than 50 percent of the votes. A common complaint is that some votes count more than others, and voters feel pressured to vote strategically rather than for the party they most support.

The panel discussion examined how the new system might affect public policy processes: how political parties operate, form policies, how the provincial legislature develops legislation, and so on.

Among the points raised are that:

The panel also noted that changing the electoral system alone is not enough to shift the culture of government or the parties, but that it may stimulate pressure for other needed changes.

Futher Reading:

(Thanks to Mike for sending me the link to the panel discussion.)

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted August 31, 2007 at 11:20:55

"These at-large representatives are elected from provincial lists of candidates nominated by each party in advance of the election. Voters can judge these at-large candidates, as well as local candidates, and vote accordingly."

What does that mean? when they say "vote accordingly", do they mean that you have to judge all of a party's at large candidates as a whole and then vote for that party? Or do you vote for a local candidate, and at large candidate and a party?

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By ventrems (registered) | Posted August 31, 2007 at 11:39:52

My understanding is the list candidates will be selected by the party before the election, presumably in some sort of ranked order.

Voters will vote twice. Once for their local MPP and once for a party. The local MPP is elected by the first-past-the-post system. The total votes the party receives in the province is used to determine how many of the list candidates get seats.

The judgment of the list candidates comes before the election, and I expect the media to play a very important role here to educate everyone about the list candidates for all parties. Voters can evaluate the quality of the candidates before hand, before choosing which party to vote for. For example, you might vote for a liberal MPP, but may choose the NDP party because they present "better" list candidates. This allows you to still vote for the best person to do the job locally, but also for the party who you think should wield more power provincially.

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By beancounter (registered) | Posted August 31, 2007 at 22:15:25

Proportional representation seems like a great idea with many advantages as outlined in the above article.

Before endorsing this system by casting your vote in favour, however, I would highly recommend you read some of the articles written by Lawrence Solomon on this topic. He is the executive director of the Urban Renaissance Institute on this topic. He gives many sound reasons for continuing with the current system.

Just as an example, what comes to mind when you consider a country like Italy in terms of political stability? They use PR.

You can find these articles on Google or go to the website www.urban-renaissance.org.

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By Richard Lung (anonymous) | Posted September 07, 2007 at 16:30:59

MMP is (oligarchic) PR only for parties. Every other group has to rely on the parties patronage in composing the Lists. Party activists decide the order of their election, instead of the whole electorate with a preference vote proportionly counted, which is the (democratic) STV system that the BC CA chose.
I agree with Canadians United for Representative Democracy.
Richard Lung.

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