TVO Battle Blog: MMP Winners

Crossposted to Today’s question: “Who has the most to gain if Mixed-Member Proportional representation goes forward?” (400 word limit)

For me, the most important thing to remember about the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) recommendation is that it was designed by people, not just politicians. 103 randomly-selected Ontarians worked for eight months on our behalf studying, consulting, and deliberating on which voting system is best for Ontario. They were not beholden to any political party or special interest—they were just everyday Ontarians trying to make the best decision they could. And in the end, by an overwhelming vote of 94-8, they decided that it’s time for change.

It’s also interesting to note that MMP is supported across the political spectrum, by Conservatives like Hugh Segal, Liberals like Carolyn Bennett, and New Democrats like Ed Broadbent. Therefore, we must conclude that the people most likely to benefit from this new system are voters themselves.

Here’s what I mean by that. Under MMP, we would each get two votes: one for a local candidate, and one for a party. So, we could decide to vote for a good candidate but not her party, or vice versa. In this way, MMP gives voters more choice. Then, the percentage of the vote each party wins determines how many seats they get, so that 10% of the vote would mean approximately 10% of the seats (unlike our current system). In this way, MMP produces fairer results. Finally, voters would be able to hold every party accountable or go to any party’s “list MPPs” with a request, since the fact that every vote counts forces parties to work hard for every vote in every region of the province. In this way, MMP provides for stronger representation.

Of course, no system is perfect. Opponents of MMP are quick to point out its flaws, conveniently ignoring all of the flaws with our current system (most notably that a party can, with less than 40% of the vote, get 60% of the seats and 100% of the power). They also ignore the fact that no group of people is more familiar with the advantages and flaws of both our current system and MMP than the Citizens’ Assembly that recommended the change.

What’s worse, some opponents of MMP resort to fear tactics and distortions, making claims about MMP that are not substantiated by any examples from countries that use the system (New Zealand, Germany, Scotland, and Wales). They do this because they know, as we learned from the Citizens’ Assembly process, that when Ontarians learn all of the facts about MMP, they overwhelmingly favour it to the status quo. October 10 is an exciting opportunity to make democracy better.

7 thoughts on “TVO Battle Blog: MMP Winners

  1. MMP will elect a few Green list MPPS but it wont give the voters the power to prefer candidates of all parties or none, say, against more nuclear power plants, planned by both the Liberals and PCs.
    Indeed MMP entrenches two main parties in the single member constituencies, judging by Germany (not to mention the illogic of a contrary mix of systems that is MMP).
    The awful truth, seeing it is not a present option, is that if you really want to empower voters, then STV is the way to go.

  2. Richard,

    I’m not sure what you mean by your first point, and I disagree with your second (parties who govern in countries with MMP have to be very responsive to the will of voters). Either way, however, it’s important to note that we only have two choices in this election — Status Quo or MMP. If you want change, and you think MMP is at least somewhat of an improvement over the current system, then that’s how you should vote. If not, it’s very unlikely we’ll get the chance to vote on STV anytime soon.

  3. I’m not trying to make the referendum choice for Ontarians. I’m just hinting that MMP isnt going to solve the problem of accountable government, and it is as well to know, while people are paying attention, that there is a system much more likely to do so, namely STV.
    My site specialises on voting method. Ive done web pages on both the British Columbia and Ontario Citizens Assemblies and on several other reports from my own country.
    Good wishes.

  4. Yet STV does a worse job of solving other problems, including lack of proportionality and lack of fair representation for women and minorities. The question before us is not “which of the world’s voting systems do we want to use?” More simply, it’s “is MMP better than the current system.” I think that’s a clear yes.

  5. I’d like to see MMP get defeated for the simple reason that it will keep the Green Party forever on the sidelines and will build alliances that are hard to shake with the NDP, eventually leading to the demise of the Green Party. The Green Party doesn’t even have that much in common with the NDP; they (Greens) are more like Conservatives with ideas. How many parties are there with the guts to admit they are against public housing, but would try to increase density through tax policy? If you’ll take the time to study MMP and the small parties it spawned, it always worked against such parties in the long run.

    Mike, I’m confused. You think MMP will keep the Green Party “on the sidelines?” If so, how do you reconcile that with the fact that Greens have participated in coalition governments in countries with MMP, while in Canada we haven’t elected anyone to the federal or provincial level? And what does it matter anyway–the point is not how this will help or hurt any individual parties, but rather that it will create fairer results and give more choice to voters. -CT

  6.’s Battle Blog of Sept. 17 asks Who’s Afraid of MMP? Who has the most to gain and who has the most to lose if Mixed-Member Proportional representation goes forward?

    All the bloggers got it wrong in my books. They saw it in terms of which parties would win and lose. Voters will decide that in a province-wide vote.

    It’s about voters winning. And the anti people are afraid of us. The NDP and the Green should be afraid of us too, especially if they start thinking that politics is about what’s best for them. I liked your answer Chris.

    Voters win, that’s the answer. All voters count.

    In the current system, half or more of Ontarions cast votes that didn’t elect anyone. So they are represented solely by an MPP they did not vote for. This creates winners and losers in a riding. Someone will say, ‘this riding is sooooo Liberal, or soooo Conservative, or NDP,’ and when they say it they feel disempowered. They support another party different to what the largest minority in the riding does. They skulk around sometimes, not wanting to admit their politics. And yet, the riding that is sooooo ‘Whatever’ – maybe 55% of the people didn’t vote for the ‘Whatever Party’.

    Candidates and parties win and lose. Voters are not losers, and every vote should have equal weight. The 3% bar is an exception to that, but it makes sense to make a party work hard enough and get enough broad support to be serious.

    MMP gives voters more power. We can turf parties, we can keep their good local representatives at the same time. We can reject bad MPP’s, while continuing our support for the party.

    We can vote together province-wide on the party vote. We don’t have to be clumped in arbitrary ridings with our neighbours, god love ’em, whom we love but don’t have the share the same politics.

    We don’t have to conform to the ‘winners’, we don’t have mix our loyalties, we don’t have to vote for weak candidates to support our party. Every party and candidate will have to work harder for our vote. We’ll be forced to pay more attention.

    And this is what the NO side is afraid of. They’re afraid of US. They don’t think we can understand the ballot, they think we’ll elect radical parties, they think we’ll accept list MPP’s that are unaccountable, they think we can’t handle representation of who we are. They think we need to be lorded over by false majorities to ensure ‘strong government’.

    As I read your blogs, I see the problem. Everyone answered in terms of what’s better for parties (with an exception or two). This poitical culture we have is in part created by FPTP.

    Those afraid of MMP are afraid of voters. Voters Win in MMP.

  7. It wont do to assert that STV fails women and ethnic minorities. If you said any voting system but STV fails all social groups but the parties, that would have been true, because only STV uses a proportional count for individual representation, instead of a merely party proportional count. Traditional societies like Ireland and Malta follow a church that has discouraged public life for women. Unscrupulous critics have used this coincidence as a stick to beat the STV system.
    The Electoral Reform Society persuaded the British National Health Service to change from first past the post to STV. They noted as a result that the General Medical Council changed from a monopoly of white male general practitioners to the proportional representation of women, immigrants and specialists. No other system but STV has this ability.
    The Northern Ireland assembly’s last STV election included the UK’s first ethnic chinawoman. When the Richard Commission, on the Welsh assembly, sent a member to one of these elections, he found that the voters readily understood STV and all the parties agreed it it was fair!

    And as to a previous comment that MMP “sidelines” small parties, that’s right. The fewer and bigger single member constituencies are even harder for all but two main parties to win. That’s just one of the many perversities of MMP that doesnt know whether its a simple majority or a party-proportional system and ends up by variously being both and neither.
    As already mentioned – no kidding – I have studied voting method, including the Faustian bargain of MMP, many times over, on my website: Democracy Science for theories of love, political economic democracy and an all-purpose electoral system…

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