The following was released today from Fair Vote Ontario:
TORONTO: November 28, 2007: As the 39th Ontario provincial parliament prepares to sit, Fair Vote Ontario is calling on all parties to address the unfinished business of electoral reform.
“On Thursday we will hear the throne speech from yet another phony majority government, elected by just over forty per cent of the voters in an election with the lowest ever turnout,” said June Macdonald, President, Fair Vote Ontario. “The only ‘mandate’ such a government should have is to immediately launch a better-funded and fairly managed citizen-driven electoral reform process.”
Fair Vote Ontario rejects the claim that the government honoured a pledge for an open and informed public debate on electoral reform.
“While using a citizens’ assembly and referendum for electoral reform is the right approach, that process must have adequate time and resources to allow for an informed public debate and decision,” said Macdonald. “Whether intentional or not, the poor management of the process over the past two years made a mockery of the exercise.”
Fair Vote Ontario cited the following problems:
- The Citizens’ Assembly was not convened until late in the last government’s term, unduly reducing the time it had for deliberation and consultation and for the subsequent referendum.
- The referendum was triggered by a recommendation by the Citizens’ Assembly, but neither the Assembly’s report nor summary brochure were distributed to all voters. In fact, the government ceased printing the Assembly brochure in late summer.
- Due to poor government promotion and media coverage, about half of the electorate had very little understanding of the role and mandate of the Citizens Assembly.
- When voting in the referendum, only about half of the electorate had even a rudimentary understanding of the MMP system proposed by the Citizens’ Assembly.
- At least a quarter of the electorate had no idea a referendum was being held. In some polls, very few voters knew about the referendum.
- The Election Ontario public education program left most voters bewildered and uninformed – e.g., the official public education campaign would not tell voters the reasons for the Assembly recommending the MMP system or how key aspects worked.
By setting an unfair 60 per cent threshold, under-funding and misdirecting the public education program, the government created a widely shared impression that the whole process was cynically designed to fail.
In his 2003 election platform, Dalton McGuinty said: “I find it unacceptable that [my children’s] generation may be so turned off by our political system that they will virtually abandon representative democracy. We cannot let that happen. I will not let that happen.” A poll take just days before the referendum found that more than 60 per cent of young voters, ages 18-34 were in favour of the proposed reform.
“We call on Premier McGuinty to put democratic renewal and citizen-driven electoral reform back at the top of the agenda where it belongs,” said Macdonald. “As the Mr. McGuinty said, we cannot afford to let the status quo continue.”
Fair Vote Ontario is a program of Fair Vote Canada, a national citizens’ organization for electoral reform: www.fairvote.ca.
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Contact: June Macdonald at 416-962-8181 or Larry Gordon 647-519-7585.