This is the third of three posts concerning the the Ontario Citizensâ€™ Assembly on Electoral Reformâ€™s recommendation that Ontario vote yes to adopt a Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) voting system in the October 10, 2007 referendum. The first two outlined the need for change and described what is MMP.
There are very powerful and convincing opponents of voting yes to MMP. In fact, as a general rule the people who are in power now do not want this renewal to succeed, because, as a general rule, people who are in power now have benefited from the system that put them there.
Knowing what we do about MMP, in some ways a “no” vote is a vote against more elected women and minorities, and against what most Ontarians and Canadians perceive as “fairness” in our voting system. Regardless, you’ll hear many arguments against. Here are some of the more common ones, and my responses to them.
MMP will give fringe parties lots of power.
Not true. First of all, only parties that pass a threshold of 3% of the vote will be able to win any proportional seats under the MMP system. In the last Ontario provincial election, no parties other than the Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, and NDP passed this threshold. Second, even if a party receives 5% or 10% of the vote, they will still have only a small number of Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) compared to other parties. True, they may be a player in a coalition government, but their level of influence will be determined by how many seats they have, which is determined by how many votes they get. Finally, if you have a problem with a party who has received 10% of the vote getting 10% of the seats, then I’d suggest you have a problem with some basic principles of democracy.
MMP will result in unstable, minority governments.
Also false. It’s easy for us to forget that there’s a big difference between a minority government–where parties jockey for position and attention and the governing party does everything it can to secure a majority–and coalition governments, where political parties form formal alliances and agree to cooperate, for the common good, based on their common ground. The former is what we have now, the latter is what many of us would love to see more of from our politicians.
But countries who use Proportional Representation have unstable governments.
Some countries that use a pure list PR system have had some trouble with unstable governments, most notably Italy. However, a pure list PR system is quite different from the MMP system we’re considering adopting in Ontario. The most prominent countries using MMP are Germany and New Zealand, which have had very positive experiences.
MMP makes ridings bigger, which means people will lose representation.
Yes to the first part, no to the second. Ontario’s proposal would make ridings slightly bigger, but would also introduce another level of proportional representatives, meaning that each Ontarian would be represented directly by their riding’s MPP, and also by a group of list MPPs. The increased riding size is not so severe that it will interfere with an MPP’s ability to serve his or her constituents. At worst this argument could be considered one of the “trade offs” for acquiring the enhanced features of the MMP system, but if so, it’s certainly a minor and worthwhile trade-off.
MMP means that some Members (MPPs) will be appointed by parties instead of elected.
In fact, MMP means that the make-up of the legislature will more accurately reflect how people vote. The above argument refers to Members who will be elected from party lists, but since the number of list Members that get elected is determined by voters, it’s disingenuous to claim otherwise. MMP means voters have more say when it comes to who’s representing them, not less.
MMP is too confusing for voters.
It’s really not. You cast one vote for your local candidate of choice, and one vote for your party of choice. It’s that simple. There may be a slight learning curve, but if we don’t think voters can figure out how to mark two X’s instead of one, then why are we letting them decide the fate of our province? Let’s give voters some credit.
Our current system is traditional and has stood the test of time.
I’ve explained what’s wrong with our current system in a previous post. Allow me to add here, however, that 90% of the world’s parliamentary democracies have already abandoned our First Past the Post voting system in favour of some form of Proportional Representation like MMP. Our current system worked really well when there were only two main political parties and it was generally acceptable for only white men to be elected. Times have changed. We’ve matured, and so should our democratic systems.
MMP threatens the unquestioned political supremacy of white men.
There. Now you’re getting it.