Thursday, October 4, 2007

Minority groups weigh in on electoral reform published this article today by reporter Mike Adler: "Minority groups weigh in on electoral reform; New system would better reflect diversity of population"

Here's an excerpt:

The new voting system called MMP will make Ontario's government look more like Ontario, representatives of Toronto's ethnic communities are saying.

In the dying days of a campaign where the Oct. 10 referendum on mixed member proportional, or MMP, has taken a back seat to other issues, several groups said the present electoral system forces women and minorities to take a back seat at Queen's Park.

"If we're constantly being represented by people who don't look like us, what kind of country are we trying to build together," Andalee Adamali, program manager of Council of Agencies Serving South Asians asked this week.

The council and other organizations say the city's women and ethnic minorities find it harder to get the money required to run for an MPP's post and the result is fewer female or minority MPPs.

The proposed MMP system would still elect most MPPs from ridings, but would choose some from party lists based on province-wide support; it's these lists that would give women and minorities more chances as MPPs to address issues important to them, such as childcare or poverty, said Adamali and others.

This week, Dr. Joseph Wong, founder of the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care, announced his support for MMP at a press conference hosted by Chinese-Canadian groups in Toronto.

"The existing system has been unchanged since 120 years ago and the world has changed a lot," Wong added later in an interview. While MMP isn't perfect and all political systems come with risks, what's being proposed in the referendum is "quite a bit fairer" than the system Ontarians now have, he said.

David Poopalapillai, spokesperson for the Canadian Tamil Congress, said the present system "shuts out the newcomers" and MMP is not as complicated as many people think.

MMP will bring more people into politics and lead more people to conclude that "my voice can be heard," which will be good for democracy, Poopalapillai argued last month.

Representatives of other groups expressed doubt that facts about the referendum were getting through to their communities, some voicing disappointment with government information on the subject.

Poopalapillai, however, suggested MMP was being promoted and discussed in the city's Tamil media to inform voters.

"We are trying our level best," he said.

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