Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dalton McGuinty should publicly state his position on the referendum question

Three out of the four major party leaders have, for the most part, let Ontarians know where they stand on the proposed Mixed Member Proportional system before voters on October 10th. NDP Leader Howard Hampton and Green Party Leader Frank de Jong have come out in favour of the proposal. Conservative Leader John Tory has criticized it, going so far as to spread misinformation about it and hinting he might appoint Tory backroom cronies to his province-wide list of candidates if it passes.

But the exception on the issue continues to be Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Liberals For MMP have praised the McGuinty government for keeping its word to put the issue of electoral reform in the hands of the people. The McGuinty government initiated the Citizens' Assembly process in 2006, which has resulted in this referendum. 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).

But as voting day approaches, it seems that many Ontario voters remain uninformed about their choices in the referendum.

Yet Premier Dalton McGuinty thus far has refused to let Ontarians know his position on the referendum question.

On Tuesday, when asked why he hasn't taken a position, the Liberal leader said he made a "specific commitment" that he would not "attempt to influence the outcome of this debate."

All candidates are free to express their personal opinions on where they stand on the question, the province's Chief Electoral Officer John Hollins has said.

"This is not something that's going to be decided by the premier or the cabinet or the government caucus or (elected politicians). It's up to the people of Ontario," McGuinty has said.

Yet if public understanding of the question runs as low as 12% and as high as 40%, it begs the question how can Ontarians make an informed choice?

Recently, a provincial Liberal official, who asked not to be identified, reportedly said, “It's not our responsibility to educate people on this.”

The government decided before the referendum campaign to stop printing any more materials on the Citizens' Assembly process (even though the Citizens' Assembly is specifically mentioned in the referendum question before voters.) Materials on the Citizens' Assembly are still available online and can be accessed here and here. Yet many Ontarians don't have access to the internet.

At the very least, voters deserve to know where all the party leaders stand on this issue.

It's time Dalton McGuinty let Ontarians know which system he thinks would be better for the province.


billg said...

I'll probably end up voting Liberal again...but honestly...if McGuinty said he was for MMP how could anyone in their right mind actually believe him?? Dalt's on cruise control right now...the next 2 weeks is all about saying nothing.

Scott Tribe said...

Well.. I'd be satisfied to just hear him come out and state that the Liberal Party would democratically select their list candidates if this passes.

Jason Bo Green said...

You are absolutely correct.

Personally, I am profoundly disappointed in the McGuinty Liberals overall right now, but failure to commit for or against an electoral reform after campaigning on electoral reform - that's just silly.

Jason Bo Green said...

Totally none of my business, but I wish your facebook group supporting MMP was non-partisan - I'd love to join, but don't want to affiliate my support for MMP with any specific party. And besides, an all-stripes group supporting MMP just gets more people paying attention. None of us are as strong as all of us. ;)

Matt Guerin said...

Thanks, Jason, for the comments. There is already a non-partisan Facebook group in support of MMP simply called "Vote For MMP."

Jason Bo Green said...

Hey, cool! I had no idea. I'll join it.


Davey's Politics said...

McGuinty has nothing to gain by speaking out on this matter. He's in the middle of an election and he's the Premiere, so quite frankly, I don't think he should be saying anything on this. This is up to the citizens of Ontario to decide and they shouldn't be swayed by the Premier's opinion. I think if he came out in favour of MMP it could as much damage as good. Also, his party isn't unanimous on this issue and it's not an election issue, so again, there's nothing for him to gain politically on this. Ultimately, he has to let the people decide and then say he will abide by the will of the people. I'm a Liberal and I'm ok with that.

Robyn said...

As a university student, I think it is interesting that campaigns in support of MMP are hitting university campuses so hard. I think it is great that people are talking about electoral reform, but I am wondering when electoral reform became a higher priority than public education, health care, and the environment.

Dalton McGuinty's party has a mixed opinion of the new system and therefore I am okay with him reserving his comments on it.