Category Archives: ontario referendum on mmp

Do You Trust Your Fellow Citizens?

People on both sides of the MMP debate (as well as those who are undecided) have spent a lot of time over the past months dissecting the details and nitpicking at specifics of Mixed Member Proportional. That’s somewhat appropriate, since we obviously need to ask tough questions before we can make up our minds. In doing so, however, we’ve lost sight of the big picture. So while I fully encourage everyone to learn as much as they can about the referendum, the ballot question can actually be distilled as follows. Do you believe that, as a collective, the citizens of Ontario can be trusted to make the right decisions for our province?

I say that because, as you hopefully know, the recommendation before us was created using a process of unprecedented (for Ontario) transparency, openness, and democratic engagement. 103 citizens were randomly selected and represent the diverse makeup of our province. In addition, they held public consultation meetings across the province, and solicited written submissions though their website. They worked for eight months to become the authoritative group on electoral systems in Ontario. They took their jobs very seriously, and I was extremely impressed and humbled whenever I had the opportunity to meet with one of them. (As the joke went, “you mean we randomly selected one person from each riding and we didn’t put them in charge of the province?!“) In the end, they voted 94-8 in favour of recommending MMP as better than our current system.

While I can find fault with the system they recommended (no system is perfect), I can find almost none with the process that was used to create it. While you may not agree with every detail of what they’ve done, I can’t imagine how we would get a better recommendation that would serve all voters. Especially when one considers the obvious truth that democratic systems, by definition, must be designed by the people through democratic means.

That’s why this is really a vote on democracy itself; not because MMP is more democratic than the status quo (though I think it is), but because if we believe that citizens, as a group, will make the right decisions for our province, then we must recognize that that’s what the Citizens’ Assembly has done in recommending MMP.

If we don’t believe that, on the other hand, then we are faced with something very troubling. If we don’t believe that citizens, as a group, make the right decisions, then we shouldn’t be letting them pick governments in the first place. We’d need to rethink democracy itself. And I, for one, am not prepared to go there.

Those Status Quo Folks Are Hilarious

“No MMP” just put out the following in a press release:

While the No MMP campaign’s organizers agree that they have more public support leading up to October 10th vote, they are also aware of the fact that more support does not necessarily translate into more votes. They point to past elections where political parties with fewer members won surprise victories over larger parties.

Wait, WHAT? Got a problem with the results of past elections, huh? Not sure they accurately reflect voter intention? Interesting point. Perhaps we should strike some kind of Citizens’ Assembly to explore the issue and report back with recommendations.

They go on to complain that “many voters are either apathetic or confused about the upcoming referendum on October 10th.” Yeah, um, do you think that might have something to do with the fact that you guys blocked the distribution of materials from the Citizens’ Assembly explaining what they’re proposing and why? Think it might have something to do with the mass-circulation of anonymous emails that paint MMP as a mysterious government-driven plot? Just maybe?

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.

To learn more or get involved with the campaign, go to

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.