Saturday, September 29, 2007

All MPPs, both local and province-wide, will be elected by voters under new system

As Mark Twain famously observed, a lie can go half way around the world while the truth is still putting its boots on.

The lie in this referendum debate we've often heard from supporters of our antiquated voting system is that the new province-wide Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) under Mixed Member Proportional will be "appointed" or "selected" or "chosen" by party leaders.

In fact, all province-wide MPPs will be elected by voters. Even Elections Ontario, the unbiased referee in this referendum, states on its website: "If a political party is entitled to more seats than it won locally, 'List Members' are elected to make up the difference."

Under the new system, voters will have two votes: one vote for their local representative (just like now) and one vote for a political party.

Political parties will be required to present their list of nominated province-wide candidates to the public well in advance of election day through Elections Ontario, and explain what process they undertook to elect them. Parties will likely ensure their nominees are very representative of the province's population and regions, including rural and Northern Ontario. If a party nominates only urban nominees, this will hurt that party's electoral chances in rural regions of the province. It's foolhardy to suggest a political party would deliberately alienate all rural voters by nominating an all-urban province-wide list.

Parties will rank their lists in the order nominees are to be elected. For example, if the Liberals win 60 riding seats, but their popular vote means they should have 62, the first two from their province-wide list are therefore elected.

The voters determine who and which number of province-wide candidates get elected with their party votes.

Some say these new members won't be directly elected by voters. But in reality they are directly elected by voters as voters will know who's on the list and in what order before they cast their ballots for that party. Some say these new members won't be accountable to voters as they don't represent a constituency. In truth, province-wide members will represent all Ontarians, not just one constituency like now. The entire province will be their constituency.

Under MMP, when we vote for the party, we're essentially voting for that party's province-wide list. The province-wide list is a party saying to voters, "Here is our team, vote for our team." If you don't like the people on the party's team, you can vote for another party, or no party at all.

This is better than our existing system where you only get one vote in one riding for one local candidate. You don't determine who those local candidates are, the parties do. The parties sometimes appoint those local candidates. Your vote today has no impact across the province, only in your local riding (and only if you vote for the winner.) You can't vote for the leader of the party, you can't vote for the party as a whole. If you want to vote Liberal, but you hate the local Liberal candidate what do you do? Under MMP, you can vote for a strong local candidate of any party, and still cast your ballot for another party.

The Ontario MMP proposal is a mix of members & proportional systems. Some proportional representation systems have only lists, no members (Netherlands). Some have half and half. Ontario has 70% riding, 30% list. This is one of the highest percentages of local reps under any mixed system.

Coming soon on this site, "Why Backroom Cronies Won't Make It Onto Province-Wide Candidate Lists..."


Joanne (True Blue) said...

Are you trying to say that all parties will democratically elect the list candidates?

Matt Guerin said...

Joanne, that too. Hampton, de Jong and even Tory this week said they would pick their province-wide candidates democratically. Sadly, McGuinty hasn't commented on this issue yet. I'm hoping this week he does...

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Why do you suppose he's holding back on that?

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

But Joanne, it's more than that. What's being said is that it doesn't even really matter how the parties choose as their candidates (any more than it does under our current system that is, where they often aren't elected in a democratic fashion to stand as candidates for the party) because the candidates will face the electorate and MPPs will be voted into the legislature by citizens in an election. While it would be great if parties chose their lists in a democratic fashion, and most probably will, since voters will be voting on the lists in an election, it doesn't really matter because the ultimate control is in the hands of the voters. Voters will be shown the teams for each party (AND how they were selected) and the voters can still make up their minds in the election, just like they can now, and choose the team they want to support (honestly, just like most people do now, as most voters vote for the party indirectly through the candidate, so they don't really care much who the person is. They're voting for the party TODAY under FPTP, it just doesn't often do them any good).

Just because one vote is for a person individually, and indirectly for a team of people, and your second vote is for a team of people, and indirectly for those people individually doesn't make the second vote any less a democratic vote. Nor does it make those elected in the second vote any less elected, as anti-MMP people try to scare us into believing.

Why opponents to MMP can't understand this is beyond me. (I suspect many don't WANT to understand it, because understanding it nullifies their most scary (and disingenuous) argument against reform). All over the world there are democracies that use only proportional representation and party votes to fill their legislatures. Where everyone votes for the slate of candidates the party puts forward, rather than for individual candidates one at a time, and candidates are elected to seats based upon the support that their party receives in the election. According to the arguments of some in the anti-MMP crowd these places (like the Netherlands) aren't really democracies at all, and their legislatures aren't really elected. Well, I don't buy it. A direct vote for a party that's an indirect vote for individual people is no less legitimate than a direct vote for an individual person that's an indirect vote for the party. As long as you know who's on the parties' lists and how they were chosen before Election Day you're electing those people at the provincial level (or regional level, should the legislation be written that way, which it might) every bit as much as you're electing single individuals at the riding level. True, you won't know how many of those individual list candidates will end up getting seats until the votes are counted, but you don't know whether your local riding candidate will end up getting a seat before the votes are counted either. Anti-MMP types hold up the inability to see into the future and to know who's going to get elected from the parties' lists before the votes are counted as some sort of indication that the people on the list aren't really elected to the legislature, which is nonsense. The fact that we have to wait until the votes are counted before we know which list candidates will win seats is a function of the nature of the space-time continuum, not some indication that the election of those members is somehow illegitimate, any more than the fact that many voters don't even know the name of their local candidates until they read it on the ballot in the voting booth is an indication that THEIR election is illegitimate.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

To your second question Joanne, on McGuinty, I'd guess it's simply because no one's called him on it yet. Tory held back for quite a while, but reporters finally called him on it because he was going around talking about how MMP would somehow put more power in the hands of "party bosses" (b.s., but anyway) as though he wasn't a "party boss" with control over how his party selects candidates. I think most of the Party leaders have avoided this as long as possible, because under FPTP they can often appoint candidates without much fuss, because there's no need to be open about how candidates are selected under our current system (Under our current system, all that is required to run as a candidate for a party in a riding is for that party's leader to sign your endorsement forms. That's it.) Now, very rarely (Outrement recently for Dion for example) there's a bit of a stink when "party bosses" (or the party boss) appoint a candidate to a riding, but it's only really a big issue when PARTY MEMBERS in the riding complain. If the party's riding association likes the appointment, there's rarely ever even a ripple from the grassroots, so it's a non story.

Under MMP, for the list candidates (though sadly, not for the riding candidates, who will still be treated as they are today) the parties will need to publicize how they selected the candidates before the election. So they'll need to publish through Elections Ontario "Selected by leader fiat" for all the electorate to see, even if the party faithful are happy with the selection (though, I do imagine they'll either find a better way to say that, or they'll stop appointing candidates... to the lists at least).

I'm not at all surprised that party leaders are hesitant to give up their unfettered ability to appoint whomever they please to run as candidates for election in any riding they choose, which they currently have. I'm QUITE surprised that many Ontarians don't seem to mind.

I imagine someone will pin Dalton down on this soon. They just got to Tory first because he was the one out there talking to everyone about what terrible things people like him might do if given the opportunity to appoint candidates for election, as though he didn't already have the unfettered power to do just that under our current system.