Monday, July 30, 2007

Apocalypse Not: It's just electoral reform

Check out this good Globe & Mail article on the ongoing electoral reform debate in Ontario written by Liberals Peter Macleod, Caitlin Townsend and Howard Brown.

The authors don't necessarily write in favour or against Mixed Member Proportional, but they do remind us all of the need to keep excessive, over-the-top rhetoric to a minimum as we debate this important issue.

That's good advice, regardless of how you feel about electoral reform.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Ontario's rare chance to revamp democracy

This great article by University of Toronto professor Lawrence Leduc ran in the Globe & Mail this week.

Here's an excerpt:

Some criticisms of MMP that have been advanced don't stand up to close scrutiny. It's probable that one or two more parties will gain representation in the legislature than under the current system. But this is what should happen when significant numbers of voters support them. It's also probable that there will be coalitions, at least some of the time. Governments that do not have to compromise become arrogant and unaccountable, but, under MMP, all parties will quickly learn that it is their job to make the legislature work, not merely to hurl insults or plot election strategies.

Germany, which has the longest experience with MMP, has consistently had stable and effective coalitions. A CDU-FDP coalition was in office during the 1980s and 1990s, and was replaced by an SPD-Green coalition in 1998. In 2005, a “grand coalition” of CDU and SPD came to power. All those governments were led by pragmatic, centrist leaders: Helmut Kohl, Gerhard Schroeder and Angela Merkel.

In Scotland, a Labour-Liberal coalition was recently replaced by a single-party Scottish National Party minority government. New Zealand, which adopted MMP after a 1993 vote, has had stable coalitions since 1996.

The idea that MMP will empower extremists or produce unstable governments is a myth, largely promulgated by those with a vested interest in the existing system.

The fact that MMP was recommended by the Citizens' Assembly gives it considerable credibility and legitimacy. They recommended a model constructed with Ontario's needs clearly in mind. This body of 103 men and women arrived at their recommendation after eight months of study, debate, discussion and public consultation. They did not come to their task with preconceived ideas about electoral systems but ultimately recommended MMP by a 94-8 vote. This has been a consistent pattern in other debates on electoral reform.

If Ontario voters examine the system carefully before they vote, MMP will surely pass. Its opponents will offer hoary clich├ęs about Italy or Israel, or conjure up highly improbable scenarios about extremists. But if the voters are smart, as I believe they are, they will seize this rare opportunity to empower themselves.

Democracy at Work: The Assembly's Decision

Friday, July 27, 2007

Equal Voice urges reforms to elect 'more Janes'

Members of Equal Voice, including former Liberal cabinet minister Elinor Caplan and 'Liberals for MMP' member Tricia Waldron, joined former colleagues at Queen's Park yesterday to voice support for the proposed Mixed Member Proportional system. Check out their coverage in the Star here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Liberals For MMP Manifesto and Action Plan to be Launched Soon

The 'Liberals for MMP' founding meeting took place last Wednesday July 18th in Toronto and it was a huge success. As many as 15 volunteers took part either in person or via conference call, including Dr. Carolyn Bennett, Member of Parliament for St. Paul's and a longtime supporter of progressive democratic reform.

Our group has decided to draft up a 'Manifesto' that will describe why we think Liberals in Ontario should support Mixed Member Proportional in this October's referendum. Our Manifesto will also put forth a position on how we think the Ontario Liberal Party should draw up its list of 39 province-wide candidates should the MMP proposal pass and become law. If you would like to contribute to this manifesto, please email the blog administrator at mattfguerin@yahoo.ca.

The Ontario Citizens' Assembly, when drafting its MMP proposal now before voters, decided to leave it up to political parties to decide how to draft up their province-wide list of candidates. While the Ontario Liberal Party is officially neutral in this referendum, we think it's important to start the discussion now and therefore our proposals will address the issue of list MPPs shortly. Stay tuned.

In the mean time, we're expanding our network. If you're a Liberal or generally vote Liberal and you support fixing Ontario's antiquated electoral system, we'd like to hear from you. Shortly we will be adding a list to this blog of all Liberals who support MMP (not just those with high profiles). If you'd like to be included in our network, please email the blog administrator at mattfguerin@yahoo.ca. We'll also be launching a 'Liberals for MMP' group on Facebook soon.

We look forward to hearing from you and working with all Liberals to ensure Ontario dumps its antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system and gets a better democracy!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

New Zealand in 1993: Sounds like Ontario in 2007


On the right, you'll see a pro-Mixed Member Proportional poster from the 1993 referendum campaign in New Zealand, available at this website.

Just juxtapose the numbers to Ontario to read "I'd rather live in a democracy with 129 MPPs Than a Dictatorship with 107."

For more on the New Zealand experience switching from first-past-the-post to Mixed Member Proportional, link here.

John Lennard: Conceptualizing electoral reform

Liberal blogger and Queen's Park staffer John Lennard has posted an excellent, intelligent piece on his blog entitled Vote for MMP: Conceptualizing electoral reform.

This is the first in a series that Mr. Lennard will be posting on the important issue of electoral reform.

Here's an excerpt:

"As voters, we rightfully expect that our votes will help determine the philosophical direction our province takes. Most of the time, this is not the case. Most of the time, majority governments are formed by political parties which have received a plurality of votes in most ridings, but far less than a majority of votes overall. Most of the time, a majority of Ontarians are governed by a minority of Ontarians whose votes happened to be more efficiently spread throughout the ridings. Most of the time, most Ontarians have no real say in shaping our public policies.

And so, what's the solution? As I said earlier, our system needs to reflect the twin relationships the voter has with both the representative and the party. Local representation must remain a key feature of any new system. But party preferences need to be included as well. Just as every voter deserves a local representative to fight for local needs, every voter (insofar as practical) deserves a philosophical voice in the broader public policy debate.

The Mixed Member Proportional representation model proposed by the Citizens' Assembly achieves both goals."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mushroom: Six Good Reasons to Support MMP on October 10

Liberal blogger Mushroom has posted Six Good Reasons to Support MMP on October 10.

Here's an excerpt:

Under the present system, a party with a majority government has the power to implement most of its agenda, with LESS than 50 per cent of the vote.

Detractors will argue that clear positions taken by political parties will become muddled in the forming of coalition governments. This has proven not to be the case in other political systems in which MMP is the norm.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Excellent column in today's Niagara Falls Review on MMP

Check out this excellent column by University of Victoria professor Dennis Pilon in today's Niagara Falls Review, "Ontario can make history with new voting system".

Here's an excerpt:

"The back-story to this historic vote is the legacy of ridiculous election results produced by Ontario's traditional voting system - single member plurality. Remember the NDP 'majority' government that gained only 38 per cent of the vote? Or how about the 'strong' government of Mike Harris, another regime that was rejected by a majority of Ontario voters twice, but nonetheless won a majority of seats in both contests.

Or how about the postwar dominance of the old provincial Conservative party? This party was 42 years in power, but never with the support of a majority of the voters. Such results make a mockery of one of key tenets of democratic government - that the majority should rule. But with plurality voting, Ontario is almost always dominated by a minority of its voters...

...A host of newspaper columnists have speculated this new MMP system would balkanize the province, possibly allowing religious extremists to gain election, while others have raised concerns about the role of the politicians who would be elected from the list of extra seats.

But most of these concerns are empty and uninformed. It's not like PR is a new voting system, untried in the western world. In fact, many western countries similar to Canada have been using PR for a nearly a century. MMP specifically has been used in Germany for more than five decades, with excellent results. There is little evidence, either from voter surveys in Canada or comparative experience with this voting system, that supports these absurd predictions.

The adoption of MMP would be an historic triumph for the people of Ontario and the quality of their democracy. In the months ahead, we can only hope our politicians and media serve the public interest by helping citizens with this important question."

WHY FIRST-PAST-THE-POST IS BAD FOR ONTARIO - PART TWO

Ontario has the opportunity on October 10th to vote to dump our antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system and replace it with Mixed-Member Proportional (or MMP), a system that guarantees representation at Queen's Park closely matches the way people actually voted.

Ontario suffers when the threat of Quebec separatism raises its ugly head. First-past-the-post has actually helped promote the cause of Quebec separatism.

Thanks to first-past-the-post, the PQ won a majority in 1994 with only 45% of the vote, one percentage point ahead of the Liberals, and plunged the country into the 1995 referendum on Quebec sovereignty.

In 1998, the PQ won another majority, but this time with fewer votes than the Liberals. For those who say first-past-the-post promotes economic stability in Canada, how did five extra years of separatist rule benefit Ontario's economy?

Forty-three percent support for the PQ won them 61% of the seats, despite being the second choice of Quebec voters.

1998 VOTES
LIBERALS 44%
PQ 43%
ADQ 12%

SEATS
PQ 76 (61%)
LIB 48 (38%)
ADQ 1 (1%)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

WHY FIRST-PAST-THE-POST IS BAD FOR ONTARIO - PART ONE

Ontario has the opportunity on October 10th to vote to dump our antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system and replace it with Mixed-Member Proportional (or MMP), a system that guarantees representation at Queen's Park closely matches the way people actually voted.

Stay tuned for future posts on this subject, as well as more good reasons Liberals should support MMP.

ONTARIO PROVINCIAL ELECTION 1990

After a tumultuous campaign, the NDP garnered 37.6% of the vote, just five points ahead of the Liberals at 32.4%. The Tories got 23.5% and other parties won a total of 6.5% support.

However, our first-past-the-post system over-inflated that NDP vote and gave that party a big majority government for which it clearly was not ready. As a result, Ontario got five very long years of disastrous government and the Ontario economy suffered greatly.

We ask supporters of the status quo: How did first-past-the-post promote greater 'stability' in this instance?

Prior to 1990, few believed that support under 40% for any one party could translate into a majority government, but first-past-the-post proved them wrong.

1990 VOTES
NDP 37.6%
LIBERALS 32.4%
PC 23.5%
OTHERS 6.5%

SEATS
NDP 74 (57%)
LIB 36 (28%)
PC 20 (15%)
OTHERS 0

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Liberals For MMP Gearing Up for Campaign

Liberals who support the proposed Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system are gearing up.

The inaugural meeting of 'Liberals for MMP' will take place on Wednesday, July 18th, 2007 at 7 pm in Toronto.

The meeting location is at the 'Vote for MMP' headquarters in downtown Toronto at 215 Spadina Avenue, 4th floor, Alterna Boardroom.

Any and all Liberals who support MMP are encouraged to join us and get involved.

Those Liberals who can't attend the meeting in person in Toronto are more than welcome to participate via conference call.

For more info, please contact Matt Guerin at mattfguerin@yahoo.ca.

We look forward to hearing from you and working with all Liberals to ensure Ontario dumps its antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system and gets a better democracy!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

SITE COMING SOON

Ontario has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this October 10th to dump our antiquated, 'first-past-the-post' electoral system and replace it with a system of proportional representation called MMP (or Mixed Member Proportional.)

This blog is designed to provide Ontario Liberals with information on MMP and why they should vote for it this October 10th.

Any MMP supporters who are active in the Liberal party, or are party supporters, are encouraged to contact Matt Guerin: mattfguerin@yahoo.ca. Matt will be convening a meeting later in July to discuss formation of the 'Liberals for MMP' group to help spread the word among fellow Liberals about voting for MMP. The meeting will likely take place in Toronto, but anyone who would be interested in connecting by conference call, or would like to be part of this network, should also contact Matt.

Please return for future updates.