Thursday, November 29, 2007

Electoral reform redux: Revisionist history from the Toronto Star

As this site has stated previously, the recent Ontario referendum on voting reform was nothing short of a fiasco. Ontario did not have a full debate on the issue as Dalton McGuinty promised in 2003. In fact, as most objective observers now agree, the 2007 referendum process was greatly clouded by the noise of the Ontario election campaign, among other manipulations.

The McGuinty government failed in the run-up to the referendum to adequately inform voters that the process was even taking place. When the referendum officially began in September, public awareness of the Citizens' Assembly process and its proposed Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system was dismally low. The former Minister for Democratic Renewal, Marie Bountrogianni (now retired) has admitted the process started too late in the government's first mandate.

The McGuinty government also undermined the process by burying public information on the Citizens' Assembly. The final report from the Citizens' Assembly (paid for by Ontarians) was not widely distributed and the government stopped printing information on the Assembly altogether before most voters even knew what was going on. Sadly for many Ontarians, the first they heard of the Citizens' Assembly was when they saw it mentioned on their referendum ballot on October 10th. Voters were rushed into this decision with little time for considering the question.

Instead, there was too much misinformation spread by mainstream media outlets including the Toronto Star and supporters of the status quo. The Toronto Star misled its readers when it used the loaded word "appointed" in news stories to describe how some MPPs would be elected to the legislature under the Mixed Member Proportional system. This misinformation was compounded by Elections Ontario's woefully inadequate education campaign, which can now be considered one of the most ineffective (and expensive) communications campaigns in recent Ontario history. Instead, the government should've used that $6.8 million to fund both the 'Yes' and the 'No' sides, which struggled to get their messages out to a confused and bewildered electorate.

In response to this press release yesterday from Fair Vote Ontario, the Toronto Star today published this editorial, the latest in the paper's cynical attempt to spin the issue of voting reform in favour of the Toronto establishment's favoured "Winner-Take-All" status quo. If the Star can't be trusted to be truthful about electoral reform, on what other issues will it choose to misinform readers?

In spite of all listed above, the Star still claims that, "Electoral reform proponents had a fair opportunity to make their case." Perhaps the editorial writer failed to read this Toronto Star piece penned by George Thomson, who served as chair of Ontario's first Citizens' Assembly, entitled, 'Bad timing undermined exercise in democracy.'

The issue of electoral reform is certainly not dead in Ontario or Canada. An unjust system like our "Winner-Take-All" system cannot and will not be tolerated forever. As we know, British Columbians have another opportunity in 2009 to vote on their version of proportional representation called Single Transferable Vote or STV. That's because over 57% of B.C. voters endorsed the proposal in a 2005 referendum, but the government refused to implement it because of its imposed 60% threshold. This STV system would provide for results that closely match the wishes of voters, while guaranteeing all representatives are directly elected by the voters in multi-member constituencies. In many ways, it's better than MMP. If B.C. passes this system in 2009, it will be a huge victory for electoral reform in Canada, keeping alive the issue right across the country.


Linuxluver said...

Like you, I was very disappointed to witness the lengths the Toronto Star was prepared to go to in order to mislead people about MMP. Their total disregard for the evidence was evident to anyone who was informed about the issue and who understood the Citizens' Assembly case for reform. I think the Star has failed to appreciate the impact, over time, of having been so clearly and demonstrably dishonest no this issue. As you say, how can we trust them on ANY thing given how they handled this very important issue.

Better democracy clearly has two enemies: the current dysfunctional voting system and the media conglomerates who support it.

We can deal with both over time. I've been thinking about a law that prevents anyone fro owning more then one newspaper or radio stattion or TV station...and none in the same market. If this is the only way to restore integrity - or least some diversity - to the media, let's do it.

That all the Metroland Media and Sun Media newspapers opposed MMP was informative. For that to happen, they ALL had to disregard the evidence as considered by the OCA. The unanimity of the opposition to change by these two media groups, flying in the face of the evidence, can only be attributed to a political bias deep, wide, pervasive.....and dishonest. We are poorly served by them.

Greg said...

I have concluded that democracy in this province is a rigged game and have therefore decided to boycott the process. Let the turnout get to 30% and then we can see how the Star spins that (especially if a Tory "majority" is elected).