Thanks to Dalton McGuinty, Ontarians have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on October 10th to vote to modernize our electoral system.
The referendum on October 10th is the final step in a unique process of citizen-based, deliberative democracy that began with the Citizens' Assembly.
In Ontario, the Citizens' Assembly was a group of 103 ordinary Ontarians selected at random by Elections Ontario (one person from every riding in Ontario, plus chair George Thomson.) They were asked to take a very close look at our current First-Past-The-Post voting system and consider possible replacements.
After months of study, they decided that our First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system should be replaced with a made-in-Ontario form of Mixed Member Proportional (MMP). Now the question is before all Ontario voters this October 10th: Do you want to keep the antiquated system we've had since 1792 or do you, like the Citizens' Assembly, want a new, modernized, more proportional voting system?
The current voting system is inherently unjust. It frequently produces legislatures that bear little resemblance to how people actually voted. For example, under our current voting system, it's not infrequent for a party which wins 45% of the popular vote on election day to end up with 60% to 70% of the seats in the legislature. Furthermore, many votes cast under our current system are wasted as they have no impact on the make-up of the legislature.
The opportunity to change something as deeply rooted as our inherited, First-Past-The-Post system has been truly rare indeed. This is the first time since Confederation that Ontario voters have had the opportunity to change it.
The process leading up to this referendum was unique because it was citizen-driven. The proposed alternative system had to come from ordinary citizens, not politicians who are inherently biased.
That's why Dalton McGuinty, in his wisdom, set up the Citizens' Assembly in 2006. A set of principles governed their deliberations: Legitimacy; Fairness of Representation; Voter Choice; Effective Parties; Stable and Effective Government; Effective Parliament; Stronger Voter Participation; Accountability; and Simplicity and Practicality. Now the Citizens' Assembly's proposal is being put to voters.
To suggest that this unique process of citizen-driven reform can simply start over again at some point in the future and come up with a better alternative defies credibility. More than likely, most naysayers would view a defeat for MMP as a mandate to keep First-Past-The-Post for the foreseeable future.
Of course, we're betting that Ontarians will agree with us and vote for Mixed Member Proportional in overwhelming numbers on October 10th.
And Ontario will finally get rid of its archaic First-Past-The-Post system and enter a new era of more representative, accountable and effective government, where every vote counts.
Matt Guerin is a longtime Liberal party member from Toronto, ON