My Mini-Controversy

Thought you might want to know about something that’s been keeping me busy and occupying more than its fair share of my mind space these past few days.

Last week, I made a post to Torontoist explaining the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly’s proposal to change how we vote in Ontario, and outlining their reasons for making that decision. As you know, I tend to agree with them, if for no other reason than the fact that now that we’ve conducted this lengthy, democratic, and open consultation process to find out what Ontarians want, it would be pretty unwise to ignore, well, what Ontarians said they want.

I was going to let you know about that post anyway, but what followed was a combination of frustrating and amusing, and seems worth sharing as well. You should check out the chain of comments to my post yourself, but in summary:

  1. I was accused of being in a conflict of interest, because, not only do I support MMP, I also belong to organizations that support MMP. (Scandal!)
  2. The editors explained that I’m not in violation of the site’s conflict of interest policy, since I disclosed my interests in the post. Also, the policy actually only deals directly with people writing about their “professional” lives, which is a bit of a stretch since I’ve never been paid so much as a dime by any Green Party or Fair Vote organization.
  3. Andrew Potter (an author and MacLean’s contributor who once described MMP as an “electoral system for losers”) argued that Torontoist was obligated to let a guest contributer represent the “no” side.
  4. Other commenters pointed out that not only does MacLean’s not follow that standard, Torontoist is a blog (a blog!) with a clearly stated editorial point of view policy. Also, any Torontoist contributers who want to write in support of the “no” side are free to do so, but none have expressed interest.
  5. Other commenters briefly attempt to actually discuss the merits of MMP itself (including people who oppose MMP), but have to fight for space with this other meta-discussion.
  6. I’m accused of spreading “green party talking points” (as is later pointed out by someone else, all I’ve actually done is communicated the thinking of the Citizens’ Assembly) and participating in “political interference.”
  7. I’m accused of “hijacking” Torontoist, and using it as a “puppet” to spread “propaganda.”
  8. The same commenter (who isn’t using his or her real name) complains that there is “no room for dissent,” marking their third post to a page which is now more full of “dissent” than my original post.
  9. The same commenter calls for Torontoist to “give this site back to the people!” A friend of mine following the discussion IMs me: “When did you stop being a person?”
  10. I’m accused of being an “operative,” whatever that means.
  11. I’m again accused of being a “parrot…in the employ of the Green Party.”
  12. Andrew Potter complains about the whole thing on his MacLean’s blog. Demonstrating a brilliant understanding of irony, he frets that we’re not allowing for divergent viewpoints while writing on his own blog which doesn’t allow comments.

The important lesson I take out of the whole thing is that when people don’t know how to argue about the actual issues, they attack the person instead. Also, for some reason, the lower the stakes (again, we’re talking about a blog), the nastier things get.

Tonight I’m off to Midland to represent Fair Vote Canada at a referendum choice meeting there. The more we all talk about this the better. As the Citizens’ Assembly process proves, a randomly selected group of Ontarians that understands the issues will always choose MMP over our current system by a wide margin.

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