Friday, September 21, 2007

Leaders' debate moderator ignores referendum before voters, but allows question on 'recall'?

It's too bad last night's leadership debate moderator Steve Paikin (and the mainstream media team organizing the debate) saw fit to allow a question on the long-dormant issue of "recalling politicians" for breaking promises, but completely ignored the actual democratic renewal question before voters on October 10th. The debate would've been an excellent chance for the referendum question to get some much-needed limelight.

Concerns about the lack of information before voters on the referendum continue to increase.

There's a great article on the Globe & Mail website today by writer Ivor Tossell on the inadequacy of the public education campaign being conducted by Elections Ontario on the referendum entitled, "What's that second question on the ballot?"

Tossell writes that Elections Ontario's campaign is a, "studiously even-handed affair, but it fails to do the two things it needs to do: first, making the proposed system as plain as day, and second, communicating why the Assembly thought it was a smart enough idea to recommend.

"Instead, what we get is a presentation that's so dreary and neutral it says almost nothing. You can hunt around to find some paragraphs of small print explaining Mixed Member Proportional, or you can watch a strangely off-kilter video that bogs down in the mechanics of the referendum itself, before blowing past the new system with a perfunctory explanation. Neither will leave you with a clear picture of what's being proposed here.

"Worse, it doesn't satisfactorily explain the critical "Why?'s" - like why should we support MMP? At first blush, it makes sense that the government should remain neutral. But this high-minded approach manages to imply that the Citizen's Assembly came up with two equally valid systems of government for us to consider. In fact, the Assembly decided that Mixed Member Proportional was the better way to elect MPPs, and that our current system should go out the window.

"This referendum is really a ratification of their decision. To make an informed vote, we don't merely need to know how MMP works; we need to know what made the Assembly think it's such a great idea compared to the status quo. And that's where this site falls down: To give a complete picture, it needs to broadcast the results of the process it set in motion, and it doesn't. By hiding behind a neutral stance, the Ontario government has hung its own election reforms out to dry."

The Vote For MMP campaign is also alleging dirty tricks on the part of status quo supporters in this referendum campaign.

"In an e-mail this week, the Vote for MMP Committee told supporters it was starting to run into "active resistance" from "old-guard politicians, and their hangers-on and the sponsors behind them, especially the private media owners.

"The old guard, its excessive power imperilled, is now spreading black propaganda, misinformation and confusion about MMP," says the e-mail, signed by Larry Gordon, Vote for MMP's campaign manager.

"It warns that the old guard's "hysteria and dirty tricks will increase as MMP gets closer to victory," adding: "It may resort to negative TV ads."

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