I've been watching what has turned into quite the blog war over the Ontario MMP
referendum with fascination. I'm fully aware that most people in the general population probably aren't very interested in the debate but, if you're reading this blog, odds are you're a political geek, in which case, West Wing reruns aside, you probably love nothing more in life than debating electoral reform (unless you stumbled across this by mistake on a weird google search
).Does Ontario Need Electoral Reform?
In general, I do think electoral reform is a good thing. Fixed election dates, more openness
and transparency, maybe a preferential ballot...I can generally get behind a lot of moves aimed at "democratizing" the system (whatever that means).
But do we need to change
the system? I dunno. First past the post has given Canada, and Canadian provinces, pretty good government over the past 140 years. Yes, there are some problems with a lack of diversity among elected officials, representation not directly related to vote totals, and low voter turn-out rates. For me, I think the system can be fixed with tinkering but I can at least see where people are coming from when they say that change is needed.The Effect of MMP from a Practical Perspective
OK, so you're one of those people that wants change. But we could change the system to anything from a Monarchy to a philosopher king - there needs to be reason enough to believe that MMP
would be an improvement. So what can we reasonably expect MMP
Well, the smaller parties would get more seats, for starters. That's good news for NDP
and Green supporters. It would also mean perpetual minority/coalition governments - whether that's good or bad is debatable. As for fringe parties, they'd need to pick up 3% to get seats so it only changes things if you think the "abortion party", "jewish
rights party", or "NDP
" could reach that threshold. My main fear is that there's no incentive to be a big tent party under this system. I could guarantee that the PCs would split within five years because it makes more pragmatic sense to have a PC party hugging the centre and a separate right wing party to bring out the hard right wingers.
As for being more representative, yeah, if the list candidates were appointed, you'd get more females and minorities for sure. Then again, if the list candidates were appointed, it could get consumed with patronage.
Then you get voter turn-out. I know the argument is that certain ridings
are slam dunks so people feel there's no reason to vote because their vote doesn't matter. If you think about things, the odds that one vote, out of five million province wide for 39 seats will make a difference is nearly non-existent
. Maybe there'd
be a psychological thing that would encourage more people to vote, but I'm a little skeptical myself.
Since I'm not a huge fan of minority governments and MMP
increases the odds of large parties fracturing, it doesn't do much for me from a pragmatic point of view.MMP from a Theoretical Perspective
Liking the system because of actual benefits it would bring is one thing. Liking it from a theoretical perspective could also be a good reason to bring it in. You know, all that feel good "fairness" and "democracy" crap people seem so attached to for whatever reason. And, having the percentage of MPPs
correspond to the percentage of votes certainly sounds fairer.
On the flip side, you have MPPs
being elected indirectly. Like him or hate him, Rob Anders does get directly elected by the voters of Calgary West so there's a certain legitimacy to him being in Parliament. That gets blurred a bit once you start talking about lists. I personally think STV
makes more sense from a theoretical perspective than MMP
but I guess that's a preference thing - Coke or Pepsi, Marianne or Ginger.
The very least I can see where MMP
supporters are coming from when they talk about it from a theoretical perspective.ConclusionsMMP
would be an interesting experiment but I just don't think the problem is big enough or that the solution would improve things. And I'm saying this fully aware that MMP
would mean a lot more Liberals, both federally and provincially, elected in Alberta. For a counter-point, here's a good post on the New Zealand experience
Labels: electoral reform