Friday, October 5, 2007

If we don't improve democracy now, when will we get another chance?

Thanks to Dalton McGuinty, Ontarians have a unique opportunity next week to vote to modernize our electoral system.

The referendum 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).

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. 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 Ontarians will vote on the Citizens' Assembly's proposal next Wednesday.

This randomly-chosen group of citizens, free of partisan bias, chose the Mixed Member Proportional proposal over our existing system by a vote of 94 to 8. If we don't take the Assembly's advice now, when will Ontario have another opportunity to change its system?

More than likely, naysayers would view a defeat for MMP in this referendum as a mandate to keep First-Past-The-Post for the foreseeable future, despite their many admissions that the current system is greatly flawed.

If you support electoral reform, you should vote with the Citizens' Assembly and against the existing First-Past-The-Post system on October 10th.


Jason Bo Green said...

Thanks to Dalton McGuinty

This is likely the only chance we'll ever have for electoral reform - I agree with your post, Matt.

But thanks to Dalton McGuinty?

Most of Ontario has only just realized there's a referendum coming up. Whose fault is that? It's the Premier's - the same Premier who promised us some kind of electoral reform.

Dalton McGuinty prefers FPTP - it's what keeps him as powerful as he is, and will continue to be. This whole thing is a sham, a ruse created so that Liberals and PCs for the next century can shrug and say, "Well, we tried electoral reform, but Ontarians told us, "No, we prefer the current system we've been using for generations," and we listened. We got your message, Ontario!"

So I don't think there's any thanks owed to McGuinty on this one.

I sound nit-picking, but this was a very good post overall.

Matt Guerin said...

Thanks, Jason, for the comment. I agree that Dalton and his government have done little to help this reform pass. They've seemed half-hearted about electoral reform ever since they got elected. But I do give Dalton credit for proposing the Citizens' Assembly process in the first place and following through on it. Now we're voting on a real change. But I agree the government has mostly sabotaged this effort at electoral reform with the 60% threshold and failing to educate the voters on the new option and why the Citizens' Assembly chose it over the existing system. Stay tuned for my full analysis after the votes are counted.