Friday, September 7, 2007



News Release/Communiqué

Originally issued September 7, 2007

TORONTO - A grassroots group of Ontario Liberals who support the proposed Mixed Member Proportional system released today their Manifesto to other party members and the public in advance of the October 10th referendum on electoral reform.

"We're a group of ordinary Liberals who got together this summer to organize efforts to convince other Liberals and all Ontarians to support the new, Citizens' Assembly proposal before voters," says Kate Holloway, Ontario Liberal candidate in Trinity-Spadina and the official spokesperson for Liberals For MMP.

“Our current voting system frequently produces legislatures that bear little resemblance to how people actually voted. Currently, voters who don't back the winner in their constituency find their vote is wasted because it has no impact on the make-up of the legislature. Plus, in recent decades, First-Past-The-Post has handed the second place party a victory in 6 out of 10 provinces, including Ontario,” says Holloway.

The Mixed Member Proportional recommendation fixes the flaws of First-Past-The-Post, ensuring the legislature more closely resembles the way people actually voted.

Under the proposed Mixed Member Proportional system, Ontarians will continue to be represented in local constituencies by 90 representatives. Ontarians will also benefit from an additional 39 representatives elected province-wide. The Citizens' Assembly recommended leaving it up to individual parties to decide how to pick their province-wide candidates.

Should MMP pass this October, we are proposing the Ontario Liberal Party choose its province-wide candidates using the following principles:

1. That the party undertake the most democratic and transparent process possible to select its province-wide list, convening regional party conventions and/or primaries to choose nominees.
2. At least 20 out of 39 province-wide candidates should be women.
3. The list must have regional balance, alternating between Ontario's regions accordingly, starting with a nominee from Northern Ontario. The party must ensure that there is balance between rural and urban nominees on the list.
4. The party will ensure that Ontario's diversity be well-reflected, with members of minorities historically excluded from the Ontario legislature well-represented.
5. All Liberal list members will open local constituency offices in the regions they were elected to represent.

"If MMP passes the referendum next month, Liberals For MMP will lobby strongly within the Ontario Liberal Party to ensure these proposals become party policy," says Holloway. "This Manifesto is meant to continue a discussion inside and outside our party on the issue of electoral reform in advance of this October's referendum and beyond."


For more information, please contact:
Kate Holloway, Liberal candidate in Trinity-Spadina
and Liberals For MMP spokesperson


Kyle G. Olsen said...

Woah, this is a little far...
"Liberals For MMP is also calling on the Ontario Liberal Party to adopt a rule that any formal majority coalition agreements entered into by the party leadership under MMP must be approved by a majority of party members. If the party members disapprove of the formal coalition, it will be considered a vote of non-confidence in the party's leadership."

That would make most coalition collapses the responsibility of the liberal party. Are you saying that there should be automatic leadership reviews upon the forming of a coalition government then?

I find the idea that a popularly elected government would be felled by a minority within a party to be in direct opposition to the principles of democracy you purport to move forward.

The MPPs are the peoples representatives. Why would you deny them there duty to represent the people in the best way they find possible.

Your proposal ignores the realities that within a party the back channels are effective at communicating displeasure, and you move that to the public eye.

Your want and need for structure to overcome a non-shortcoming in the MPP system is harken to the early days of the Reform Party, with recall elections and such.

This proposal is nothing more than a recall election where not everyone can vote.

Matt Guerin said...

All Liberal leaders face a leadership review after every election in Ontario, Kyle. What we're proposing is not radical at all. It will ensure the party leadership doesn't enter in formal majority coalition agreements lightly or irresponsibly and are beholden to party members for their actions. This would further democratize the Liberal Party, if implemented.

Greg said...

The 5 principles for list candidates are all sensible and achievable. However, this condition:

"Liberals For MMP is also calling on the Ontario Liberal Party to adopt a rule that any formal majority coalition agreements entered into by the party leadership under MMP must be approved by a majority of party members. If the party members disapprove of the formal coalition, it will be considered a vote of non-confidence in the party's leadership."

... is probably not workable. Most often, formal coalitions are not created until after the election (because only then is it known what two parties have enough seats to form a coalition government). It make take a few weeks to form a coalition (I would recommend that we revise the fixed election date from October to a day between mid-May to mid-June, so that the coalition can be formed over the summer break). But to then have to wait for each of the parties to organize a referendum on the coalition is simply unrealistic. Can you cite an example elsewhere in the world where this happens?

Matt Guerin said...

Thanks for your comment, Greg. Approval from party members could potentially come in the weeks or months after such a formal majority coalition is struck. The rule would make it clear if such a coalition is entered into by the leadership, it would be put to a vote of party members at a later date. The coalition could go into effect immediately at Queen's Park, however it would have to be approved by party members at a later date, otherwise there would be problems for the leadership. It is a check on the parliamentary wing of the party. The leadership would have to be conscious of how the party would react to any formal coalition agreements it considers.

Matt Guerin said...

p.s. further to my previous post, there is a precedent in Saskatchewan where a coalition majority agreement wasn't approved by the party members and subsequently led to disaster for the Sask Liberal Party. In 1999, the Liberal leader entered into a majority coalition with the NDP under Roy Romanow. Liberal leader Jim Melenchuk and Ron Osika got plum posts out of it. But the party rebelled against the leadership in 2001, toppling Melenchuk as leader. As a result, Melenchuk and Osika joined the NDP, but were subsequently defeated in the 2003 election. The Liberals got crushed in that election, the new leader David Karwacki failing to win his own seat. Clearly, entering into majority coalition agreements without party support can be disastrous.

Greg said...

Matt -- but as you said, the leader faces a leadership review after every election anyway. You might simply revise your text to say, "Should the party enter into a coalition that is not supported by the membership, the party leader would be held accountable at the customary leadership review (which takes place after every election, as is the case today)." That way Liberals understand that MMP doesn't give the leader any more power than today i.e. it is still responsible to the membership. The text, as written, gives me the impression that the coalition must be approved by the membership (implicitly before it goes into effect; if it is at some point after the fact, you are just talking about the customary leadership review, as your Sask example shows).

Matt Guerin said...

We don't specify a timeline, just the general principle that a vote by party members on the formal majority coalition agreement must take place. Leadership reviews can take place months if not years after elections. Two years later like the Saskatchewan example proved to be far too late as the damage had already been done.

calgarygrit said...

So what happens if party membership votes against a coalition government? Wouldn't that leave parliament in an unworkable situation and the party in dissaray (without a leader if it's non-confidence in party leadership)?

The only way MMP would work is if coalition governments are the norm and this step would make that a lot harder to happen. It's also a bad idea to have Liberal Party members making decisions for elected Liberal MLAs. It'd be the same thing as asking the party members to approve a budget or decide if the party should vote non-confidence in the government or something like that. Once MLAs have been elected, they should not be tied to the party members for deciding something like what coalition to form since they were elected by all Ontarians, not the 1% who are LPC members.

Matt Guerin said...

Calgary Grit, our proposal is a general principle, nothing more. How the party leadership canvasses the party membership before agreeing to a formal majority coalition is yet to be determined. Our point is it should happen.

We are moving from a system where such coalitions are rare to one where they could become very frequent. The party could go through an election, then join up with another party, adopt an entirely new platform which they didn't run on and sign an agreement for four years and nobody could say anything about it until the next leadership review 2 years later? That was a disaster in Saskatchewan in 1999 to 2001 and the Sask Liberal Party has never recovered. Had Jim Melenchuk gotten approval from his party before joining up with Roy Romanow in 1999, he might still have a political career today. We do think we need some kind of check on the leadership before going into majority coalitions.

This proposal has nothing to do with votes on budgets or pieces of legislation in a minority situation.

Are you saying we should we give leaders a blank cheque to form coalitions at whim without any regard for the party?

We don't think so.