MMP, Inaccuracy

Somewhere, there must be opponents of MMP who are able to argue their case without resorting to misleading statements and inaccuracies. The Sudbury Star’s Claire Hoy does not appear to be one of them. In yesterday’s paper he writes a frustratingly irresponsible attack against MMP that contains numerous fallacies which beg to be corrected.

First, he claims that MMP would result in “considerably more politicians.” What he doesn’t say is that under MMP Ontario would still have fewer representatives than we did before the Harris years, and still less political representation per person than any other province or territory in Canada. Either way, most Ontarians will recognize stronger representation as a positive thing.

Second, he makes the equally inaccurate but often repeated claim that the list representatives under the new system would not be elected, but would rather be chosen in secret. In fact, it is our current system which allows parties to choose candidates in back-rooms without any transparency; the new system requires them to open up the process so that voters can make informed decisions. Parties will nominate their list candidates as they nominate candidates under our current system, but they’ll also be required to make public the process by which their list is chosen, making it all but impossible for “party hacks” to control the list in secret.

Third, Hoy inaccurately claims that MMP leads to minority governments. In reality, countries that use MMP (like Germany and New Zealand) experience coalition-majority governments that have proven to not only be stable (Germany has had exactly the same number of elections since adopting MMP as Ontario has had in the same time period), but also to do an extremely effective job of reflecting the will of the electorate.

Finally, Hoy feels the need to mock the Citizens’ Assembly itself, which is most objectionable. The Citizens’ Assembly–103 every-day Ontarians chosen at random from each riding–worked for eight months on our behalf learning, consulting, and deliberating about all of the world’s many electoral systems, including our current system and France’s system that Hoy favours. This represents an unprecedented exercise in democratic engagement for our province and should be applauded. The citizens who made up the assembly know more about the advantages and faults of MMP than any other group of people in Ontario, and yet they voted over 90% in favour of recommending MMP as being the best system for Ontario.

Of course, Mr. Hoy is free to disagree with them. However, he should do it using facts, and with a respect for the overwhelmingly democratic process that was used to arrive at the conclusion that Ontario should vote for MMP.

8 thoughts on “MMP, Inaccuracy

  1. Like you, I believe a mixed proportional system would improve our democratic system. I however do not like the notion of the PR seats going to a list prepared by the parties, regardless of whether done openly or not. I prefer the Danish system where the PR seats go to people who have run in the first past the post competition and, although not winning in their individual riding, have done the best in their party at garnering votes among the “losers”.
    This means that they have subjected themselves to the judgement of voters.
    In addition the seats are divided into groups so that there is assurance that their will be people from every major party representing every region.

  2. Hi Allan,

    I actually told the Assembly that I liked that “best loser” system as well, and that I had hesitations about allowing parties to form their own list. I still believe ,however, that the proposed MMP system is a vast improvement over our current system, regardless of the tweaks and changes I would make to it if I were in charge.

    In BC, some supporters of proportional representation campaigned and voted against their proposed alternative system because it wasn’t perfect, and they hoped to get another chance. That backfired; they’re lucky enough to have a second vote, but it’s on the same system. Supporters of PR in Ontario can’t make the same mistake. Once MMP is in place and we’ve tried it out for a while, changes like the one you suggest will be possible. If we vote it down, any suggestions of any kind of electoral reform will be close to impossible.

  3. Denmark does not have individual ridings, and it does not have a best losers system. It uses a two tier open list system. A complete description of the Danish electoral system is available here:

    Candidates on a closed list have certainly “subjected themselves to the judgment of voters.” With a party vote, we get to vote for a party as a package. That package includes the platform, the leader, and all of the candidates. The only reason for a candidate to be on the list is to attract votes to the party, and whether they are elected or not depends on their ability to attract those votes.

    The strength of a closed list is that it provides the strongest mechanism and incentive for a party to put forward candidates who are balanced for gender, come from all regions of the province, and represent the diversity of the populace. Other systems will not do as much for women and minorities. That, and the added simplicity, is why the Citizens’ Assembly opted for a closed list.

    But all of this is just details. Any proportional system is vastly better than what we have now, which is a voting system under which the people we vote for do not get elected and the government that is elected is not the one we voted for.

    There are only two choices on the ballot—MMP and the status quo.

    Vote for MMP on October 10.

  4. I still think voting for MMP is better than current system, but I think it has no chance of passing and I think that there is a clear solution to the “closed list” vs. “open list” problem.

    What’s really silly is the “closed list” with complete control of those lists was an easily predictable flaw and had been evaluated with a simple solution that eliminates at least 2/3 of the complaints against this version of MMP:

    All MMP List Members would be selected from using the “best runner-up” method on a percentage basis from each parties losing ridings. My sister though of the same thing that was propsed in 1976 in UK as on Wiki:

    It states:
    Proposals for elections in the United Kingdom

    In 1976, the Hansard Society recommended that MMP in a form different from the German be used for UK parliamentary elections, but instead of using closed party lists, it proposed that seats be filled by defeated candidates, on the ‘best runner-up’ basis used by the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg.

    This would mean that not only would all of the members in parliament actually run in the election, but they would be the ones that people most wanted in (on % basis) and it eliminates the patronage for the List Members and takes the parties out of that selection process…it would entirely be based on the peoples votes.

    An additional benefit is that you would feel more comfortable voting for candidates in a riding where the incumbent was likely to win if you liked the other candidate and their party as they would have a chance of being a List Member.

    This would also mean that these List Members to be re-elected would have to run in some district every election. Thus all decisions (except for candidate selection) would be directly in power of the people.

    Take a look at all the websites analysis and against proposed MMP and most of the arguments go to vapour with this single change that doesn’t require an “Open List” system.

    Yeah, I actually encouraged the Citizens’ Assembly to consider that specific model, and urged them not to give control of the lists to the parties. For some reason, though, not everyone listens to me all the time. -CT

  5. Chris,

    Were your suggestions or others for the “best runner-up” method for the Party Lists Members captured in their report?

    Not that I’ve seen, no. Though I know they at least considered it in their deliberations. -CT

    I only saw mention of “open list” vs. “closed list” and zero discussion of why they wouldn’t use a “best runner-up” list method.

    Rick Mercer also just attacked MMP as the Fringe Party Control system (sad) and the people answering the phones for MMP are giving misinformation. (They told someone I know that they couldn’t vote for a different party Local Candidate then their Party Vote)

    Media “analysis” has been either near zero or as bias against MMP as the U.S. run up the Iraq War coverage was. CBC has no corporate excuse for this…maybe political influence though.

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