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.