Appointed Politicians

Imagine a voting system where politicians or “party hacks” can be appointed in back rooms by other politicians and be practically guaranteed a spot in the legislature, regardless of what the voters really want.

Stop imagining. That’s the system we have now. When it comes to how parties appoint their candidates, there are almost no requirements for transparency. And, if party bosses decide they’re going to parachute a candidate into a “safe” riding, local people have nothing to say about it. Possibly even worse, at least some people will feel like they have to vote “strategically” for that candidate even if they don’t like them or object to how they were appointed, because they’re too afraid of who else might get elected.

Now, imagine a system where parties are required to disclose the process they use to nominate their candidates. A system where the make-up of their candidate list (gender balance, regional balance, ethnic diversity, etc.) as well as the democratic (or not) process they used to create it becomes an election issue.

Stop imagining. That’s just one of the advantages of MMP, the new voting system proposed by the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly. And, since voters get two votes (one for the candidate, and one for the party), they’re able to reward or punish parties and candidates accordingly. For example, if a party foolishly nominates unpopular candidates to their list, voters can punish them without needing to vote against their preferred local candidate. On the other hand, if a voter is happy with a party overall but dissatisfied with their local candidate, they can express that with their vote (by voting for the party but not the party’s local candidate). In that way, parties and candidates are even more accountable to voters.

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3 thoughts on “Appointed Politicians

  1. This morning’s Globe editorial says “better to create some clear-cut nomination system, preferably broken down by region so that members would be accountable to a defined pool of voters rather than floating at large.”

    But I expect the Globe’s editorial board doesn’t know that’s exactly what happens naturally.

    Even little New Zealand, with only 4 million people, is too big to have major parties nominate so many people at once. In the last New Zealand election the governing Labour Party held six regional nomination processes to nominate their 65 “at large” candidates: 22 in Auckland/Northland, 10 in Waikato, 10 in Central North Island, 8 in Wellington, 10 in Northern South Island, and 5 in Otago/Southland. Then they fold the six lists into one.

    Five is the minimum number of at-large candidates to be nominated in a region for women to get fairly treated, but a larger number is better. The NZ Labour pattern would satisfy any women’s group I know of.

    So in Ontario if a party chose to nominate only 70 “at-large” candidates — and since the majority of them are likely to be local candidates who might win a local seat and be crossed off the list, they would need at least that many — it would make sense for them to use about nine regions.

    “Permitting dual candidacy recognizes that there can be only one winner in local ridings under a Single Member Plurality system. Candidates who lose can actually have more support than other candidates who win” say the Citizens. In 2003 the winning candidate in Oshawa received 37% of the vote. In Pickering Janet Ecker lost while receiving 44% of the vote.

    Nine regions would mean nominating 14 people from the 18 new ridings of Toronto, and 7 people from each of the eight other regions each of which would have nine new ridings. Then the lists would fold together like a charm: every tenth name from one of those eight regions, and every fifth name from Toronto. Since the Ontario PC Party already has nine regional vice-presidents, nine is a familiar number of regions.

    The regions might be:
    Toronto (double-size)
    Ottawa (including Renfrew, Leeds-Grenville and Lanark)
    Kingston – Peterborough – Durham
    York Region – Brampton – Dufferin
    Mississauga – Halton
    Waterloo – Wellington – Huron-Perth – Grey-Bruce – Simcoe
    Hamilton – Niagara – Brant – Haldimand-Norfolk
    Southwest (including Oxford)

    Nominees are accountable to a defined pool. The NDP has already decided to nominate regionally, and the others are bound to do the same — how else could you manage it?

    Looking at the graphs in yesterday’s Globe, I see a point seldom noted about accountability.

    In 1999 they show 22 Liberal MPPs elected at-large. Would those 22 Liberal MPPs have been unaccountable? But in 2003 they show only 3, so all but 3 of those 22 would either have won a local seat or been out.

    Similarly in 1990 they show 18 Progressive Conservative MPPs elected at-large. Would those 18 MPPs have been unaccountable? But in 1995 they show only 3, so all but 3 of those 18 would either have won a local seat or been out.

    So an at-large MPP from the official opposition has to spend his or her term being a good shadow local MPP, if they hope to win locally when the tide turns in their party’s direction

  2. I invite everyone to log on to the New Zealand Members of Parliament website and note the following. It took the New Zealand Labour Party 3 months to negotiate agreements with the 4 fringe parties which prop up the the Labour Party All of these elaborate agreements go on for pages. Interestingly of the 12 fringe MPs 9 are male. The largest of these parties is the right wing anti-immigration party the NZ First party. It has 7 MPs ,all list members . Their leader .Winston Peters lost in his riding. he was also on the party list and became a MP. He also negotiated with the Labour Party and negotiated for himself the post of Minister of Foreign Affatrs. What a sweet deal.By the way 6 of the7 MPs are male. Be careful what you wish for.

    Not sure why you’re harping on this male thing, when you must know that, overall, female representation in New Zealand has increased significantly since the introduction of MMP. You wouldn’t be trying to disingenuously suggest otherwise, would you? -CT

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