Ontario Election 2007

Fear Passes the Post

By Ted Mitchell
Published October 11, 2007

Yesterday, Ontarians rejected a new, more democratic system that would enhance the power of voters.

Why? Fear. Fear of something new. Fear of something a bit too complicated for comfort.

All arguments put forward to defend First Past the Post and defame Mixed Member Proportional can be boiled down to fear.

This is yet another example of the current shameless trend of rationalization, or "truthiness", meaning thinking with your gut (or places south of it) and then dreaming up something pseudo-logical to defend that gut feeling. Mr. Bush's neocons perfected the art, and now Ontarians have borrowed a page from his book.

Some things you may have heard about MMP:

"It's too complicated."

Really? And you drive a car?

"Parties can appoint whoever they want, and we'll have hacks not accountable to voters."

Yes, they might, even though most parties have promised to elect candidates as they do now. But if you don't like that you can directly punish them at the polls, which today is not a clear option. Look at the rest of the world, has this fear been realized? No.

"Majorities will become extinct, and they are needed to force change."

If someone deserves a majority, like Danny Williams, MMP will give them one. Otherwise, minority governments will force the benefits of compromise, creativity and deeper analyses of issues. This is sure to be a better long-term strategy than the juvenile tactics seen today. Recall the actions of recent Ontario majorities, from wholesale Conservative sell-offs to private nepotism to the Liberal's wildly unpopular health tax. Are actions like this worth keeping?

Fear won today, and in the long run we all lose. Our children will not thank us for using our guts instead of our brains.

Ted Mitchell is a Hamilton resident, emergency physician and sometimes agitator who recently completed a BEng at McMaster University. He is fascinated by aspects of our culture that are harmful, but avoid serious public discussion.

15 Comments

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted October 11, 2007 at 09:43:07

The FPTP system will be incredibly difficult to change. Why? Because those who benefit the most from it are the ones with the power to change it.

A truly democratic system only benefits the smaller parties. Well, the people too, but really, who cares about them?

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By Frank (registered) | Posted October 11, 2007 at 10:43:45

Hey Ted!! I get to post on one of your articles! :D This time, I agree. I don't agree with Brandon though. Because we were given the power to change the system yesterday and didn't take it. Ted, I actually like the idea of minority governments for the exact reason that you stated. It forces the ruling party to think about things much more thoroughly before proceeding with legislation.

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By OLDCOOTE (registered) | Posted October 11, 2007 at 15:25:10

depressing...

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By Frank (registered) | Posted October 11, 2007 at 15:30:53

What about a 50% voter turnout? What the heck is that?!?

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted October 11, 2007 at 15:38:57

The government gets in with 40 something percent of the vote from 50% of the voters...

Our democracy sucks!

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted October 11, 2007 at 16:00:28

Frank,

We were "given the power to change it" in the sense that the choice was there, but how many people really knew about it? Were there any news stories explaining the differences between them? I sure as hell didn't see any.

I saw an editorial in the Globe explaining why it was bad (something about minority governments and smaller parties having a voice) but that was about it.

If the Liberals were serious about educating people, there would have been a lot more information out there. There could have been a banner of some sort at each booth explaining what the advantages of each are or something like that.

Call me a cynic, but when the party in power stands to lose the ability to have a majority government when they've only got 40% of the vote, pardon me for thinking they'll take their time about it.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 11, 2007 at 16:03:54

"we were given the power to change the system yesterday and didn't take it"

Yes, but a huge reason we didn't take the opportunity is because the majority of us didn't understand the options, and many didn't even know there was a second ballot at all, resulting in a lot of votes cast for "the first option on the page" as many of my colleagues have called it. Even the informed among us tended to be confused by it due to a lack of information.

One has to wonder why the options weren't presented more thoroughly? Why was the media focus mainly on the funding of churchy-schools? Is that really that big an issue? Why wasn't MMP in the spotlight at all? Why did nobody know about it except the hardcore political citizens? Could it be because the big guys who had our attention did not want to mention it too loudly for fear of rocking the boat that they all share? The only people who mentioned it were the "fringe" parties that the majority of voters don't give a shit about.

Not to mention, the people who would want MMP the most -- those citizens so disgusted by the current system that they don't even bother showing up to the polls -- didn't get their views represented because the referendum was tacked on pretty quietly to "just another pointless provincial election".

What a mess.

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By peter (anonymous) | Posted October 11, 2007 at 16:42:46

i worked the election yesterday and i can tell you that approx 80% of the electors either didn't know there was a referendum, or were confused about mmp. it's a shame.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted October 11, 2007 at 17:15:34

The biggest shame is that now the Liberals, Conservatives and the MMP opponents can now roll their eyes and say "We gave them a chance, obviously no one was interested".

Back to business as usual.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted October 12, 2007 at 10:09:29

Call me Cassandra.

I'd post the link, but apparently that makes me a spammer.

Anyway, the Star has an article today called "Let's hope this is last we hear of MMP" by Ian Urquhart, who takes the brilliant stance that MMP is bad because it's new.

First, supporters of MMP are referred to as "zealots". Wow, we're in for a rational discussion now, aren't we?

One of the main arguments appears to be that the party will list "cronies" in its "list" members. We all know that right now it's difficult to appoint cronies, isn't it?

Another argument is that it's complicated. Wow, how can you argue about that.

Argh.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted October 12, 2007 at 10:11:00

Hey guys...I understand that people didn't know enough about it. But living a democracy we have to take some responsibility to educate ourselves as well. I got the pamphlet in the mail, I read it. I also looked it up online. Government shouldn't have to hand feed people on things. If you go to buy a car, you rarely get a complete look at the car whether it's good or bad without doing your own research including looking at reviews and plain old asking people. Why are people so lazy and always first to blame someone else? Perhaps the part of the responsibility is the governments but I'm sorry, 80% of ppl not knowing there was a referendum? Where do they live? It's been all over the radio, in the papers, even in your own mailbox. Time for people to get their heads out of their own you-know-whats and educate themselves instead of waiting to be fed handouts. I also believe that the reason we have a liberal government is for that same reason. Barely anyone educated themselves on the real issues and voted basically the same as last time... Another four years of fun my friends. Hopefully Andrea Horwath and Tim Hudak and the other Hamilton MPPs can speak loud enough to be heard over the something like 28 MPPs that TO has. Our government, regardless of party, has to be held accountable and looking forward, hopefully we do that. Unfortunately, we just taught politicians that they can lie to us and take our money, give it to their friends and we approve of it.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted October 12, 2007 at 10:13:17

Hey Brandon, if you post the link without the h t t p : / / it should work.

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By OLDCOOTE (registered) | Posted October 12, 2007 at 10:52:05

It's a cop out to complain that there was a lack of info about MMP. If people cared about the system, they'd find out about it. Simple as that. The only people to blame are the indifferent.

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By Gump (anonymous) | Posted October 12, 2007 at 20:08:42

Doesn't it seem odd to anyone, that we never heard of the proposed referendum, or a good, comparison based explanation of it until immediately before the election? That can only be because it was planned that way. (imho)

I think our system is ripe for change, but by rejecting this last minute proposal, I don't think it'll hurt us, it'll make us discuss the issue in depth, and perhaps come up with a better system. The 3% proposed I'm definitely not in favour of, it's too low. I believe the standard in the other countries that have adopted this system us 5%.

We have 4 years to analyze, discuss, change, improve.....let's hope we seize the opportunity.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 13, 2007 at 02:37:27

When MMP comes up again, it needs its own separate vote; it's own time and place completely removed from any other election. Only then will the issue get the attention it needs -- especially from those who have written off the current system as essentially useless (all 48 percent of them).

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