Thursday, August 2, 2007

Canada and the Democratic Deficit: MMP is the answer to our flawed FPTP system...

Liberal blogger Ryan Davey has posted an essay detailing his support for Mixed Member Proportional (MMP). It's a thoughtful and thorough exploration of the issues involved and should be required reading for anyone looking to fairly assess the strengths and weaknesses of the current First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system, as well as the proposed MMP alternative.

Here's the link to Davey's essay. I've included excerpts below:

"...The FPTP system has many drawbacks, causing many electoral scholars to feel the costs outweigh the benefits. Firstly, it produces highly disproportionate results, by being generous to the leading plurality and cheating the smaller, more diffuse parties. Since 1945, Canada has seen some of the most skewed electoral results among established democracies. For example, in the past federal election of January 2006, the Liberal Party in Ontario achieved fifty-one percent of the seats with only forty percent of the popular vote, while in the same province the smaller New Democratic Party (NDP) received just eleven percent of the seats despite attaining twenty percent of the vote. More dramatically, In Alberta, the Conservative Party won all the seats with just sixty-five percent of the vote, leaving thirty-five percent of the electorate unrepresented.

"In FPTP, when there is a multi-party structure as Canada has, a majority of voters are usually left unrepresented in government, their votes disregarded. The disproportionate allocation of seats, while frequently producing a majority government, means the winner often only receives a minority of the votes. The majority voters’ representatives, as opposition to the government and in a minority legislative position, are powerless against the minority voters’ legislative majority. They have no alternatives such as negotiation and compromise, and are left only to attack the government, thereby promoting an adversarial legislature.

"Representation among minorities and across regions is also a problem. Parties lean toward candidates with the broadest possible appeal, making access for women, aboriginals, and minorities difficult. Canada’s levels of female and minority representation are behind many other Western democracies. Parties will also naturally focus on areas where their chances of winning are greater, promoting regionalism and exacerbating regional conflicts in Canada. This can lead to regions of the country being highly, if not completely, unrepresented in government, such as Alberta previous to the last election and the Greater Toronto Area today – two regions that frequently conflict with one another...

"...Mixed Member Proportionality has few faults. There are the necessary challenges of conversion, education, and administration of a new and different system for candidates and the electorate. There is also the need for additional spill-over seats on occasions when parties win more seats than they are proportionately entitled. This can disrupt the proportional balance across regions, though only to a small degree and for a temporary period. Finally, as a more dynamic system, it is more complicated for the average voter.

"The benefits, however, are compelling. Seat allocation is more proportional, reducing the regional focus of FPTP. One-party majorities are rare, replaced with minority governments who have to build coalitions with other parties. This ensures that all votes have meaning and the majority of voters’ views are included in legislative development. The adversarial nature of FPTP is usurped by the need for cooperation. Diversity of representation also improves, as quotas can be enforced on party lists to ensure representation of women, aboriginals, and ethnic minorities. FPTP lacks the democratic principles of inclusiveness, majority-rule with minority protection, cooperation, and representation. A Mixed Member Proportional system addresses these shortfalls and improves on the democratic deficit. It also pays dividends through its impact on the system of government."

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