Category Archives: ontario referendum on mmp

TVO Election Battle Blog

TVO has asked each of the four major parties to blog on their site throughout this provincial election, dealing with several specific issues/questions each week. I’m blogging on behalf of the Green Party of Ontario, beginning today. I’ll crosspost everything to here, but the back-and-forth between myself and the other bloggers will happen on the TVO Election Battle Blog.

Today’s Question: “What do you think will be the most important issue of the 2007 Ontario Election campaign?”

Of course, absent a crystal ball it’s impossible to know what the most important issue will be in this election, and most campaigns end up taking unexpected twists and turns. So far, funding for religious schools has probably played most prominently in the media, and I know several people plan to vote based on that issue alone. From a strictly selfish/partisan point of view, I wouldn’t mind if that stuck. With the Liberals and NDP supporting the status quo of one religion receiving funding to the exclusion of all others (in opposition to most Ontarians’ sense of fairness, as well as two separate United Nations censures for religious discrimination), and with the Conservatives’ wildly-ridiculed and unrealistic plan to divert money from the public school system in order to fund all religions, the Green Party of Ontario’s plan to create one, publicly funded and cost-efficient school system is clearly the most reasonable, and, according to polls, enjoys the support of most voters.

I think a more interesting and important question, however, is what should be the most important issue of this campaign. Or, in other words, when we look back at the end of the next government’s term, what will we wish we’d spent more time debating? In that case, three things come to mind. First, for those of us familiar with the science of climate change and the fact that it’s accelerating far more rapidly than climatologists predicted, it’s hard to consider that any other issue could be more important than meeting our green obligations to ourselves and the world. When we’re talking about climate change, we’re talking about the uncertainty that our planet will continue to be able to support life as we know it via clean air, drinkable water, and fertile soil. And we are no longer talking about “the world we leave for our grandchildren;” The IPCC says we only have 8 years to make the significant changes that must be made. By the time we have another provincial election in 2011, half of that window will have passed. Therefore, it’s critical that our provincial government makes the right decisions in the next 4 years in areas where they can make a difference, like, for example, energy policy.

Which brings me to the second issue I think voters should think carefully about: the Liberal/Conservative plan to spend $40 billion dollars on nuclear power. If in the next 30 days we decide to go down that path, we will have made a mistake with a million-year legacy. The reasons to oppose nuclear power are many, and I’ve outlined them in detail on my blog. For now, suffice it to say that nuclear is extremely fiscally irresponsible, and, despite expensive PR campaigns, is ineffective in addressing the climate crisis. The last nuclear plant built in Ontario went 270% over budget, and we’re all still playing down the debt from those plants. Do we really want to add another $40 billion to that debt, to say nothing of the environmental or health concerns, or the fact that nuclear takes 12 years to build, and we’re in an energy crisis now?

Finally, and somewhat ironically, the most important issue in this election may have nothing to do with which party or candidate you vote for. October 10th is not just a provincial election, it’s also the date for a referendum on electoral reform. In my opinion, the most important vote I’ve cast in my lifetime will be to vote for Mixed Member Proportional (MMP), as recommended by the 103 randomly-selected citizens who worked on our behalf. MMP is not a perfect system (nothing is), but by a vote of 94-8 the Citizens’ Assembly concluded that it’s better than the one we have now. Under MMP you’d get to cast two votes: one for your preferred candidate, and one for your preferred party. It would also mean that a party that got 40% of the vote would get 40% of the seats (not 60%), and that more women and minorities would be represented in the legislature. For more information, visit

Where’s The “Yes To FPTP” Campaign?

The ballot question for the October 10th Ontario referendum on electoral reform will ask voters to choose between “The existing electoral system (First-Past-the-Post),” and “The alternative electoral system proposed by the Citizens’ Assembly (Mixed Member Proportional).” A number of grassroots campaigns have sprung-up to argue that MMP is the best voting system for Ontario, including Vote For MMP, Equal Voice In Politics (women for MMP), Liberals for MMP, and more.

So, where’s the campaign to argue that FPTP (the current system) is the best for Ontario? It doesn’t exist. Instead, we get this, the “No MMP” campaign. Some of their criticisms are legitimate (no one ever said MMP was a perfect system), others are intentional distortions of the truth. (Isn’t there a word for when someone intentionally distorts the truth? I’m sure I’ll think of it later….) What the campaign doesn’t do, however–because it can’t–is defend or advocate for our current system, which the majority of Ontarians and Canadians acknowledge is no longer serving us well. If we actually had a province-wide discussion that pitted the merits of MMP against the merits of FPTP, MMP would win hands down. The “No MMP” folks know this, which is why they’re instead basing their campaign on fear of the unknown and misinformation.

By the way, who are the “No MMP” folks? We don’t know. While Vote For MMP and other progressive referendum campaigns are comprised of grassroots citizens and politicians of integrity from all political parties, the No MMP campaign has decided to remain anonymous (they announced their campaign through one unknown spokesperson, and have placed no detailed “contact” or “about” information on their site). How much credibility should they therefore be granted? Until they can demonstrate that they’re a legitimate group with at least some popular support and backing, next to none.

Update: Cam helpfully points out that the above sounds to him as if I’m saying that individuals who don’t support MMP lack credibility. That’s absolutely not my intention. (As I do mention above, some criticisms of MMP are legitimate.) I am, however, suggesting that we deserve to know what kind of support and membership the No MMP campaign has so that we can assess their credibility as an organization.

The Long And The Short Of It

Yesterday saw another intellectually dishonest attack against MMP (following Claire Hoy’s earlier misguided missive), this time published in the Globe and Mail. My letter to the editor in response to Christopher Holcroft’s column, which was not published, reads as follows:

In attempting to argue against the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) recommendation arrived at by our peers in the Citizens’ Assembly, Christopher Holcroft provides no evidence to back-up his four main arguments. In fact, all existing evidence points to the contrary. Countries that currently use MMP such as Germany and New Zealand have seen increased accessibility and engagement (there are more representatives to answer public concerns), fairer election results (40% of the vote means 40% of the seats), more responsive government (making every vote count encourages all parties to compete for all votes in all ridings), and more voter choice (Ontarians would vote once for a candidate, and once for a party).

I can agree with Holcroft on one point, however. He writes that, “Ontarians [must] learn as much as possible about a proposal that would mark a historic change in the way we govern ourselves.” The 103 randomly selected members of the Citizens’ Assembly spent eight months doing just that. And after learning almost everything there is to know about all of the advantages and shortcomings of both our current system and the proposed alternative, they voted 92% in favour of recommending MMP as being the best voting system for Ontario.

Instead, today’s paper contains one letter in opposition to Mr. Holcroft’s column from Janek Jagiellowicz in Wellesley, Ontario, which reads, in its entirety:

A long-time Liberal activist is against electoral reform in Ontario? Hmm. That’s all the proof I need: I’m voting for electoral reform.

Brevity counts, my friends.

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.